Sunday, 3 August 2014

Dear Dark & Lovely...


Or perhaps, more accurately, this open letter should be addressed to L'oreal, as the parent company of Dark & Lovely. 

A month or so ago, Dark & Lovely ran an advertising segment on a local radio station marketing, among other things, their new range of natural hair products soon to be released in East Africa: Dark & Lovely Au Naturale. The adverts blew my mind. And not in a good way.

Natural hair is the new cash cow of a multi-billion dollar industry, with black women at the fore-front (as usual), so it's no surprise that companies like L'oreal are keen to get a turn at the milk pail. As a consumer, I really don't care what the motives are; the more products out their with good (or at least, not horrendous) ingredients available at our disposal, the better. The price margins on natural-friendly hair products as they stand are pretty steep, and, although the beauty industry giants lumbering in on this niche market may well sound the death knell for existing kitchen industries, anything that keeps pockets fatter is an A+ for many naturals.  

Dark & Lovely has traditionally held court as one of the better known black hair brands. Once I went natural, though, and subsequently started learning about ingredients, I realised that many so-called 'black' hair products were full of ingredients that did hair more harm than good, with petrolatum and mineral oil being key antagonists in most of these products. Don't believe me? Go have a look at your treatments, hair sprays, moisturisers and 'hair foods' (really dudes?) from your relaxer days. 

So when I heard Dark & Lovely were releasing their Au Naturale range, I was sceptical how good the products would be but determined to keep an open mind. Here comes the disclaimer: I have never used any of these products and have only done minimal research on them. There aren't a ton of reviews of them online and those that do exist are a mixed bag anyway so I was still very much on the fence. 


I heard.

 The radio ads. 

I don't remember the station. What I do remember is the presenters doing that scripted banter thing when they're pushing a product. They started talking about women who finished cooking in the kitchen only to proceed to the bathrooms to start cooking for their hair. It's a standing joke among naturals that we basically move our kitchens into our bathrooms on wash day so I wasn't overly concerned but my attention was piqued. The presenters went on with their back and forth, laughing about women wasting time and precious food that they should be eating when they could simply unscrew a tub or bottle of whatever relevant Dark & Lovely product they were promoting. 

I was quite shocked the first day I heard it but when it carried on the rest of the week, all I could hear by the end was the derision with which the advertisement was delivered. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm no DIYer; I'm far too lazy. While a small element of mixing comes into play in my hair care regimen, for the most part, I'm a 'break-seal-and-apply' kind of girl. I get the message that was trying to be delivered. But to mock a practice that the vast majority of your target market, myself included, indulges in voluntarily or otherwise, seems rather like biting the hand that feeds. 

In the natural community, there is already great suspicion surrounding companies that produce relaxers that are now producing natural products. To further alienate potential buyers by poking fun at them, well, that just cray. Especially when there already exist a number of strong natural brands.

Many naturals have a sound understanding of the power of natural ingredients, and incorporate these regularly in their regimens, with great success. It makes more financial sense to tap into these practices rather than mock them. I would much rather buy a product concocted in someone's bathroom that has great natural ingredients than a commercially made product with an ingredients list a mile long that promises the world and delivers smoke and mirrors. 

I've been sitting on this post for a while because, quite frankly, any publicity is good publicity but I've decided the heck with it. I'm going to put my two cents out there and hope someone's listening. #MarketingHeadsShouldRoll #SomeoneTellLoreal #ConcoctionHasThreeCs!!

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