First African American invented black hair care products is widely talked about today. Madam C. J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove in 1867 to enslaved parents. She worked as a poor washerwoman for many years before becoming famous and wealthy by inventing a hair care product for Black women. Walker was a skilled salesperson who frequently changed the story of how she developed her goods. Now understand she was driven by her own hair loss or a desire to serve other African American women.
Walker began to lose her hair in the 1890s. Her occupation as a laundress most certainly exacerbated the illness by exposing her to caustic lye soap, grime, and hot steam. She was, however, far from the only Black lady experiencing hair loss at the time. Because many households did not have indoor plumbing, regular shampooing was impossible, and diseases like lice and pollution went untreated. Inadequate nourishment also made maintaining good hair challenging.
First African American Invented Black Hair Care Products
Furthermore, many of the products used by Black women, such as an ox marrow preparation, are likely to have damaged hair and scalps. Some ladies donned head covers to conceal their bald spots, but Walker was not one of them. For one reason, such clothing would signal her inferior social rank at a time when she was attempting to promote herself. It was also normal to want a full head of good hair. Instead, she set out to find a remedy for her hair loss.
Walker was residing in Saint Louis when she decided to do something about her hair loss. Her brothers worked as barbers in the city, so she could ask them for advice on hair maintenance. They weren't specialists on women's hair and scalp disorders, so she tried some home cures as well. She also relied on her previous expertise as a washerwoman and what she had learned about the qualities of cleansers such as lye soap. Walker had another resource in the form of products she could buy. However, few of them were customized to the curls and texture of Black women's hair at the time.
But Annie Turnbo's Poro hair care line was unique. Turnbo was a Black lady who had come to Saint Louis ahead of the 1904 World's Fair to advertise her hair treatment goods and practices. Walker began using Turnbo's products, such as the Great Wonderful Hair Grower, in 1903. Walker's hair issues appear to have improved as a result of this treatment. She went on to become a Poro sales representative.
First African American Invented Black Hair Care Products History
Precipitated sulfur, copper sulfate, beeswax, petrolatum (similar to petroleum jelly), coconut oil. A violet extract perfume were used to mask the sulfurous odour.
Walker once said that her hair grower's formula came to her in a dream: "God answered my request because one night I had a dream in which a large Black guy appeared to me and told me what to make for my hair. Some of the medicine was grown in Africa, but I ordered it, blended it, applied it to my scalp. Within a few weeks, my hair was growing back quicker than it had ever before. I tested it on my friends, and it worked for them. I made the decision to start selling it." Walker, on the other hand, might have simply adopted her previous employer's formula.
Her product was named Madam Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower, which was similar to Turnbo's Wonderful Hair Grower, and both contained sulfur, which was intended to cure dandruff and other scalp disorders. Turnbo was enraged enough to warn buyers to "beware of imitations," but there was nothing she could do. "If you look at medical publications, this mixture of petrolatum and sulfur had been there for a hundred years.
First African American Invented Black Hair Care Products Facts
None of these ladies truly developed this formula," Walker's first products, in addition to her hair grower, were Glossine (a pressing oil) and a vegetable shampoo. She advised consumers to shower more frequently and to use her "Walker System," which included the use of a hair grower, oil, and heated combs to develop healthier hair.
Despite the fact that she pioneered hot combs for straightening hair, Walker's purpose was not to change the look of Black women's hair. "Let me address the mistaken idea that some have that I claim to straighten hair," Walker once said. "I despise such a notion since I've always presented myself as a hair culturist. I'm a hairdresser." Walker's product line expanded to include lotions and soaps, but Walker's main focus has always been on the health of her customers' hair. It helps them feel good about themselves and their looks.
Walker rose to prominence as one of the most well-known African Americans, and the Black press loved him. Her profitability allowed her to live in homes that were far apart from the one she had grown up in; when her sister gave her Manhattan apartment in the 1920s, it had become a salon for Harlem Renaissance participants. Vertner Tandy, a Black architect, designed Walker's rural estate, Villa Lewaro, in Irvington-on-Hudson.
About Madame C.J. Walker
Walker's success as an entrepreneur was only rivalling by her reputation as a philanthropist. She formed clubs for her staff, encouraging them to volunteer in their communities and paying them with incentives when they did so. She fostered female talent at a period when employment for Black women was few, even mandating in her company's charter that only a woman may serve as president. Generously giving to educational causes and Black charities, sponsoring Tuskegee Institute scholarships for women and giving to the NAACP. The Black YMCA and hundreds of other organizations helped shape Black history.
Madam Walker died of hypertension on May 25, 1919, at the age of 51, at her rural house in Irvington-on-Hudson. After her death, her designs for her Indianapolis headquarters, the Walker Building, were carry out and finish in 1927. She is known today as a trailblazing Black female businesswoman who inspire many via her financial independence.