Ethnic Hair Care in Arcata


By Troi McDonald
Flapjack Chronicle staff

There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings when it comes to caring for African-American hair textures.  In general, the hair contains less water, grows more slowly, and breaks more easily than Caucasian or Asian hair. Product labeling can often be confusing and may lead African-American women and others with similar hair texture to purchase something that’s too heavy or just not appropriate for proper hair care.

Black women have traditionally been more apt to change their hairstyles from day-to-day than other women which increases the demand for constant styling and product manufacturing. While the African-American population in the U.S. is growing in both size and spending power, ethnic hair care marketers recognize the importance of international markets. Companies both large and small have knowledge of the intricacies of the black consumer and will help them develop the innovative hair care products for African-American women to achieve healthy hair.

Although many African-American women identify with their natural hair, others prefer to add heat and other style products to achieve their desired look. Most recently, hair extensions and perms have been the two most bought hair styling accommodations. In most places such as Los Angeles, the demand for hair extensions, weaving tools, and ethnic hair care products is constant, and therefore always available. Typically speaking, there are beauty supply stores located nearly every 2-3 blocks away from one another and central to each community it services.

In low diversity areas, such as Arcata, Calif., the demand for ethnic hair care services and products are high but because the percentage of African-American women in the area is low, these accommodations for locals and the students are very limited. African-American students who attend Humboldt State University refer to tending to their hair care needs as a “struggle” when trying to find a stylist and also products in Arcata’s local stores to accommodate their styling needs.

Journalism major Denita Turner, 17, discusses how she styles her hair on a day-to-day basis and what it takes to maintain it in Arcata’s moist weather.

“I usually don’t do my hair,” Turner says. “I put it in a messy ponytail or wear a hood. Some days I might put a little more effort into it and slick it down but not too often.”

As for myself, handling and caring for short course, and thick hair can be strenuous and stressful. It simply becomes easier to let the hair navigate into its own style, which in turn, promotes healthy hair by way of staying free of heat damage and over styling.

Turner and I moved to Northern California from Los Angeles County, where finding a hair stylist is both affordable and local. In comparison to Arcata, there are very few African-American stylists’ and therefore the majority of Arcata’s local African-American women who have hair styling needs will then simply go without getting their hair done. Speaking from experience, most women that I’ve grown up with prefer to have either been recommended to a stylist or to personally know them. Most women will not trust others to style their hair as they desire and would rather go without it being done. From my recent studies, I have found that most of Arcata’s growing African American women population and Humboldt State University students have and will continue to go without getting their hair done unless recommended by a personal friend. The demand for more African-American hair products, supplies and stylists in this small town is growing.


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