Home Style & Beauty Shea Moisture’s New Ad Raises Powerful Question: Is Ethnic Not Beautiful?

You’re pretty..for a black girl

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$1.3 Trillion. That is the current estimated buying power that blacks have which can be expected to increase to about $1.9 Trillion by 2019. In the cosmetic industry specifically, black women spend nearly 80% more on cosmetics and toiletries and about 2 times more on skincare than other races. So why is it that when it comes to proper representation in the beauty industry black women are almost invisible and only as of late can even find products that are catered to them? This is one of the issues that Shea Moisture took to address in their first commercial advertisement #BreakTheWalls. In the commercial, it is clear that Shea Moisture is advertising more than just products and wishes to evoke change in the undertones of the beauty industry as a whole.

When I first saw a video floating around on my Facebook timeline of Shea Moisture’s first commercial, I immediately mentally prepared myself to make an unnecessary trip to Target. What I was expecting was women whipping their well-moisturized curls over their shoulders and beautiful packaging that screamed “buy me now!”. What I got though was much more profound, much deeper than what I was expecting. 5 seconds in, I wasn’t sure if I was watching a commercial or some new PSA for beauty aisle “segregation”.

I myself, like many women of color have gone to a retailer in hopes of finding a product that what help me with my concerns and either find nothing or find myself in the “Ethnic” aisle looking through the dusty product selections, that might I add is not as large as the ones in the the aisle labeled “Beauty”. It has always been a sense of awkwardness that I couldn’t quite put my finger on when shopping in the “Ethnic” and even more awkwardness when I step over to “Beauty” to see what that aisle had to offer. It’s like I noticed that the distinguishment between “Beauty” and just “Ethnic”  but never consciously looked at the message behind that.

A woman of color who has taken a trip to any pharmacy’s beauty aisle may or may not understand the sentiments of the women in Shea Moisture’s #BreakTheWalls commercial. In all reality, a routine trip to re-up on some cosmetics can easily remind you that there is the “Beauty” aisle and “Ethnic” aisle. Or maybe you have simply ignored it and went about your day unbothered. We’ve come a long way from just occupying the small section within the beauty aisle but in regards to the beauty standard that has been internalized by us for years, we still have a long way to go.

In recent years, we seen more big name brands extending their product lines to include products specifically made for women of color. For many years, we’ve dealt with being totally missed in the beauty world which very often didn’t offer products to fit our skin tone or hair textures. Now, more than ever, we see black celebrities becoming the faces of brands that have historically missed women of color when it comes to their product offerings. As an article on Refinery29 suggested, “Brands are also increasingly marketing to Black women. But it’s not enough to slap Lupita or Kerry or Zendaya’s face on your ad and call it a day.” A quick fix just won’t cut it.

I can confidently speak for many women when saying that, yes, we are happy to have moved from just having a small selection of products to choose from they are catered to our cosmetic needs to a whole aisle dedicated to it but placement isn’t the issue. The problem lies in labeling one aisle “Beauty” and the other “Ethnic”; this is not an exaggeration but a very sad but true reality.

While some women may think that the Shea Moisture #BreakTheWalls commercial is an over analyzation of the purpose behind “segregating” the two beauty aisles, many others feel that the need to segment the beauty market is unnecessary and a bit offensive. As the founder of Carol’s Daughter Lisa Price stated, “The room for improvement is in breaking the cycle of thinking that there needs to be a separate shopping section for people of color.”

With the #BreakTheWalls commercial, Shea Moisture wishes to break down the wall between the “Beauty” and “Ethnic” aisle in hopes to show that beauty is universal and even with differences, shouldn’t be separated.

Thus far, people have been having mixed feelings about the #BreakTheWalls commercial. What are your personal thoughts on the message?

Check out the commercial for yourself below!


Ann-Marie Wilson April 14, 2016 - 6:57 am

Good post – thought provoking.

I’d assumed that because there is so little choice of products for women of colour (which in 2016, is shocking all by itself), that placing them in one area – a bit like the ‘anti-ageing’ section which I always seek out first, saves time from sifting through products that aren’t suited to them.

I wonder how I’d feel if aisles were labelled ‘young’ and ‘old’ though…


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