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Black Hair Care Has Gone Through A Lot of Changes

February 4, 2020

1 Min read

Who better to innovate black hair care than black inventors themselves? From relaxers to the Jheri curl, walk through the evolution of black hair care below.

1898 – Lyda Newman Invents Synthetic Hair Brush Bristles

African-American hairdresser Lyda Newman invents synthetic hair brush bristles. Prior to her invention, brushes were made with coarse animal hair. Newman even created a detachable component on the brush to make for easy cleaning.

1905-1910 – Madam CJ Walker Sells Her First Product

Sarah Breedlove, or as the public knows her, Madame CJ Walker, began selling her first product called “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower.” She moved her company to Indianapolis where she built a factory, hair salon and training school. On top of all of this, she developed a specialized line of beauty products and education around scalp health and hair growth specifically for African American women. The queen of hair care would be a fitting name for her.

1920 – Marcus Garvey Encourages Natural Hair

Marcus Garvey, a black nationalist, urges his followers to embrace their natural hair and reclaim an African aesthetic.

1951 – Christina Jenkins Invents the Hair Weaving Process

The extremely popular hair weaving process that’s used today was actually invented back in the 1950s by Christina Jenkins. Before she invented the idea of sewing a weave onto the hair, people were just putting weaves on with hair pins placed on the scalp. Her invention made the style much more secure.

1954 – George E. Johnson Launches the Johnson Products Company

His debut product was Ultra Wave Hair Culture, a “permanent” hair straightener for men that can be applied at home. No need for a salon!

1965 – “No-Base” Relaxers Hit the Market

These relaxers left the scalp far less irritated while still straightening hair. This was a big benchmark in relaxer progression.

1980s – The Jheri Curl Makes Its Debut

Invented by hairdresser Jheri Redding, the Jheri curl gave wearers a glossy, loosely curled look. It was advertised as a “wash and wear” style that was easier to care for than other popular chemical treatments, like relaxers. Some well-known greats who wore Jheri curls include Michael Jackson, Ice Cube and Eazy-E.

1981 – Johnson Products Company Inc. Introduces a No-Lye Hair Relaxer

This no-lye hair relaxer was named Gentle Treatment, reflecting its lye-free formula. However, what the Johnson Products Company is best known for is manufacturing a line of hair care and cosmetic products for African American consumers, Afro Sheen and Ultra Sheen. The company was also a longtime sponsor of Soul Train.

1990s – Andre Walker Invents the Hair Typing System

Oprah Winfrey’s hair stylist, Andre Walker, invents the hair typing system, which groups straight, wavy, curly and coily hair into categories.

2000s – Soft & Beautiful Continues to Innovate

The company began to create hair relaxers for African Americans.

2006 – Black Hair Care Hits a Milestone

Black hair care officially becomes a billion dollar industry, proving what so many have always known, that black hair is remarkable and worth investing in.


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