In honor of International Women’s Month, we celebrate women in the hair and beauty industry. These are women who pioneered incredible hair and beauty innovations that catered to women in a world where women, more so women of color, were the minority in every way.
Of course, our list is not exhaustive as there are so many other phenomenal women who’ve created solutions that we use to this day.
We hope that this article will inspire you to go for what you want, breaking the bias. And with that, let’s get right to it!
Black hair products by Madam C.J. Walker
We can’t start talking about hair and beauty for women of color without mentioning Madam CJ Walker. Born Sarah Breedlove, Madam CJ Walker was extremely passionate about black hair care, mentoring dozens of women to become stylists or what she liked to call “Beauty Culturalists”. After suffering hair loss and not getting solutions fit for her needs, she decided to learn all about Black hair care and came up with solutions on how to care for it, maintain it and make it thrive.
She invented a famous line of products, namely Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, Temple Salve, Tetter Salve, Vegetable Shampoo and Glossine. CJ was also the first female African American millionaire.
The Modern Curling Iron by Theora Stephens
The 80s were an interesting time for black hair. Records, films and music videos show both women and men wearing intriguing styles. Big hair was it back then and almost everyone had either Jheri curls, perms, mullets, ‘Aqua-net’ bangs or anything big and flamboyant.
The legendary Theora Stephens was a hairdresser at the time. Seeing that more black people were in need of efficient and safer hair straightening methods, she invented and patented the modern pressing/curling iron. Her invention lives to this day and black hair care wouldn’t be the same without her contribution.
The Modern Hairbrush by Lyda D. Newman
The simple, modern hairbrush as we know it was invented by Lyda D. Newman back in 1885. She created this brush to cater for African hair as the brush’s dense and strong bristles would make for a fine brush through kinky and curly hair.
Her synthetic brushes were also more hygienic and easier to clean than conventional brushes. Newman did much more for the black community as she organised African-American women to join the movement to earn their right to vote.
Fenty Beauty by Rihanna
Decades after the invention of foundation, Rihanna created Fenty Beauty, a more inclusive foundation with over 40 shades. Rihanna’s line of makeup is inspiring as it includes all shades imaginable. This made it easier for women of colour to get the best type of foundation that enhances their beauty.
Apart from making incredible beauty products, Rihanna also founded the Clara Lionel Foundation, a non-profit that funds education and emergency preparedness in the developing world.
Are there any other women you know historically or in your life that are making phenomenal contributions to society? Tell us all about them in our comments!