A Field Trip and a Painful Memory: Mid K Beauty Supply Store

Today I went to a meeting in North Portland. It is well-known that it were the blacks of Portland congregate. The salon I have patronized is there and so is a big beauty supply store (BSS) that is aimed at the black populous. I wanted to stop in a see what they had, as it has been a long time since I have been into a black BSS. As an aside, for anyone who thinks that this is racist … please join me in the real world … there are BSSs that are aimed at blacks. They can be identified by their wall-to-wall hair extension choices and products that majority of whites would not dare use (e.g. Blue Magic, Dark and Lovely, etc.)

Anyhoo, I walked in and was impressed with how nice it was. There were the tell-tale wall-to-wall weave choices, the mandatory Asian behind the counter and doo-rags. I did not have a particular product in mind, I just wanted to browse and see what they had. I secretly hoped that I would be lucky and see some Alterna products, but that was a prayer gone unheard.

I walked down each aisle looking at what they had. Of course, they had Ambi products, fade creams and other skin care products aimed at blacks. I saw the requisite “black brands” such as Dark and Lovely, Motions, Just for Me, Queen Helene, Doo Grow, Dr. Miracle, Lusters Pink Oil, and even some New Era products. Then a horrible memory emerged: I had a New Era relaxer put in my hair in Spring 1996 (my sixth grade year) that took my hair in the front OUT! I had hair that was about APL in the back and a teeny weeny afro in the front! It was truly a mullet. I will never forget my friend saying that my hair had broke off. I noticed the tight coils, but I just thought it was new growth. I was right … IT WAS NEW GROWTH … and nothing more! My relaxed hair was gone! I remember having to wear my hair slicked back in headbands for months until it grew out into bangs! Lord, I remember having to wear my hair that way to my “quasi-date” with Jeff Davis (the boy I have had a crush on since 1995) to see Independence Day (ID4!) during our summer vacation! To this day, I think that my hair in the front was traumatized from that harrowing ordeal, which is why it grows so damn slow!

No product stood out at me, as black in the day (as I so affectionately call it), I would have jumped for products claiming to grow my hair out long and strong … all the while paying no attention to what ingredients were in these products. They had some Roux products, but the packaging looked very old, as the new logo looks very different. There were some deep conditioners that piqued my interests, but I had just bought some and was not going to spend money on duplicate items. I was very tempted to buy the Elasta QP Oil Recovery, as I had used that in the beginning of my journey and it was a product Jeanne recommended to me, but I just could not … as mineral oil was a third ingredient. I avoid mineral oil, petroleum, and lanolin like the plague. Unfortunately, most of the products that are targeted to blacks contain these very ingredients. I learned early on in my hair journey the dangers of these products early on when I started using Hawaiian Silky as my water-based leave-in and ended up with dry ends (read about that here (https://hairthereeverywhere.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/228/). My ends became dry and crunchy and they broke off pretty bad. From then on out, I have avoided them whenever possible.

After seeing there was nothing in there that I wanted to use at the moment, I asked an employee if they had jojoba oil. They had a mixture of oils and hot oil treatments, but I did not see any pure oils. After about 15 minutes, I had seen enough and walked out. My take away message from my trip is that I have outgrown the black BSS experience. Gone are the days where I would go with my friends to K-Wig (the Korean shop in my hometown of Lexington, NC), picking up dusty products to buy with blind faith – hoping that they would work for me. I will never forget my old stylist in Raleigh telling me about Alterna and Redken products. I was like “those products are for white people” in which she replied: “those products are for all people!” I have used these products for the better part of 5 years and haven’t looked back.

I felt a bit of tribulation as I disconnected from a huge part of my culture and past, but I had to. When its time to grow and move on, it’s time to grow and move on. I enjoyed seeing familiar products from yesteryear, but ultimately, I have to do what’s right for me and my hair.

But hey … at least I still have Sally’s!


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