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The Politics of Buying Beauty Products For Women of Color

Women of color have been leaders in setting fashion and beauty trends since the beginning of time. Many iconic hairdos, makeup styles and fashion looks originated with them. With this, it isn't surprising that black women were noted as being the largest consumers of the beauty industry for the majority of the 2000s with brown women being a close second. However, many bloggers and online commentators have stirred up a debate based on this data about whether or not black and brown women should boycott local beauty supply stores (often times not owned by people of their culture) and only buy online or directly from sellers who "look like them." 

What Are The Differences?

  As you likely already know, a locally owned and operated beauty store is one that you physically visit, pick out what you like, pay for it, and then leave. When shopping at an online store or buying directly from an independent seller, you visit their website or social media pages to make your purchase and get it delivered to you. 

One factor in your choice may be the level of immediate assistance that you will receive.  That is one of the reasons why many consumers prefer buying their beauty supplies and products from locally owned and operated beauty supply stores. They enjoy being able to ask a store associate any questions they may have right then and there without having to wait for a response. When shopping online, the online seller may have a customer service number that you can call, but you may find it difficult to get help with things that require the person to visually see you such as matching a foundation shade or suggesting a product to fit your hair type.  

The product selection is also something that you may want to take into consideration. While many storefront beauty supply stores do carry a large selection of beauty product and supplies, you may find that some stores are limited on space and can only stock so many. Buying online usually results in a much wider product selection due to them not being confined to a physical storefront! Also, it is very easy to simply visit another website if the online seller is out of stock on an item. A 30-second Google search can solve this problem rapidly. This is something that you cannot do just driving around town in your car (or on public transit) going from store to store with no guarantee they'll carry your item.

Why Does The Choice Matter?

With the widely spreading realization of the importance of supporting businesses that are owned and operated by marginalized groups, in this case black and brown people, people are making the active choice to put their dollars back into communities who need it most. Thus, because black and brown women are the largest consumers of the beauty, the powerful impact that could be made if more of them shopped from sellers of the same group is astronomical. Even if only 20% of black and brown consumers committed to only buying from other black and brown businesses, that would be an estimated investment of almost a quarter BILLION dollars back into the minority economy, given they spend an estimated 1.5 billion a year on beauty! Wouldn't that be amazing to put that money into the hands of people who look like you with similar life experiences and systemic struggles as you? It's something to think about.

While it would be unreasonable to expect every single woman of color to never purchase beauty products from anyone outside of their racial group, such as when making a grocery store run or picking up something from the pharmacy, it is possible to try to consciously buy from the community regularly. In fact, this should be something that EVERYONE makes a concerted effort towards. Not only does it help that individual, but it helps people of color as a collective! Given that people of color, especially women of color, face unprecedented levels of economic and financial hardship, societal oppression and discrimination compared to non people of color, your support of black and brown businesses can play a part in leveling that playing field. What will you decide?


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