Google Header -->
Skip to main content
Curly Nikki

Decoding Black Hair Product Advertisements

By January 27th, 202163 Comments

Crystal E. writes:

Hi ladies,

I am completing my masters in Mass Communication, and for my research, I am undressing hair product advertisements in Essence and Ebony magazines. I am interested in knowing how you all view the following ads. Any response you provide, short or long, is appreciated!
Some questions you may think about when viewing the ads are:

  • What does the textual message say to you?
  • What message do you gather from the models’ pose?
  • Do you find the ad acceptable?
  • What does the name of the brand mean to you?
  • What does the ad say to you about black women, hair, and beauty?

You do not have to answer these questions specifically. I just wanted to prose a few for your thoughts!

There are 4 ads:

Long Aid- 1980s

2 & 3) African Pride ads- 1990s

4) Dr. Miracle’s- 2000s.

Thank you, and I look forward to reading some of your thoughts!

(Click to Enlarge)

Decoding Black Hair Product Advertisements
Decoding Black Hair Product Advertisements
Decoding Black Hair Product Advertisements
Decoding Black Hair Product Advertisements


  • Anonymous says:

    Amen to what Tonya said, true and well said!!

  • topie says:

    Hi Nikki/Crystal,

    I LOVE your site. Will you please send out the citations for the ads? Have you come across any historical ads? I am a Professor of Management and I've just begun researching identity, hair, beauty standards. I also started a blog: I'd love to get everyone's thoughts and personal stories. Thanks! Please keep up the good work. I would love to see our generation embrace our natural hair.

  • Unknown says:

    Hello Nikki, would you happen to have the citations for the magazines that the African pride ads were taken from? BTW I am totally fascinated with your site, I'm so glad someone thought of coming up with such a healthy uplifting approach to embrassing natural hair in a safe forum.

  • Anonymous says:

    it is so funny that all those hair products for African american people are the same products that continued to break my hair off and restrict my hair from passing shoulder length. for me it seems like the hair products directed towards Caucasian women are the main products that work for my hair and have helped me receive awesome hair growth:)

  • karinova says:

    Agreed; the "Dr. Miracle" ad is the worst. The others are the same old crap I've been seeing since the 1980s. But the Dr. Miracle one… it's straight up offensive. I'm not even a natural hair militant, but that one really bugged me. It actually shocked me a little bit! And the thing is, I know that the "before" of a before-and-after is always exaggerated, but in this case, they didn't confine the before-ness to their hair. Sweet baby J, look at the expressions on their faces! The message is obviously "you are a HORROR" unless your hair is "miraculously" made to be straight and downward. They're not simply women whose hair doesn't look its best; everything ABOUT them has gone ugly.

    Seriously, I've seen a million ridiculous B-n-A ads in my life, and I've never seen anything like this (except maybe for the cheesiest online weight-loss scams). Remember when FrizzEase came out? I clearly remember the ads; they featured a blonde/curly woman, and she SURE wasn't giving a gas-face like these in her "before" shot. (I wish I could locate it online for comparison, but alas.) She had a neutral expression and frizzy hair. That's it. These women look… monstrous! And THAT'S offensive.

    Oh, and that second African Pride ad makes me ill. You can ONLY get the feeling of confidence/pride/power with… a relaxer? Way to exploit our insecurities EVEN MORE. You might have THOUGHT you felt confident, but AP is here to tell you that without some calcium hydroxide, pride is not POSSIBLE. Message: "The way you were born ain't nothing to be proud of." What the..?! How do these people sleep at night!?? Oh, that's right, the company is run by white people, and the soul-crushing message they're pumping out was crafted specifically for us. Not them. So what do they care!

  • Anonymous says:

    I find the Dr. Miracle ads especially offensive. The others are what I'd expect: staight hair+ our product= fantastic

  • Anonymous says:

    I can tell you why Carol's Daughter and other companies don't advertise in magazines like Ebony and Essence. It takes big bucks to advertise in these magazines. Ads literally range from $10,000 to $50,000 for full page ads in these magazines. If you're a small start up company trying to cover the costs of running your company, how are you going to come up with that kind of money, when you're trying to meet payroll? Carol's Daughter might be able to, since she has Jada Pinkett Smith and Disney backing her.

  • Anonymous says:

    Most of these products say to me that black women are starved for hair growth. I heard an elderly couple cracking up in Sally's one day and as I got closer I could hear the old man reading "'Doo Gro' haha haha ha 'grow long'hahah hahahah" it was sad but when you think about it a lot of the wording (probably from an Asian) are really stupid.

  • Just me says:

    Just a note about the Dr. Miracle ad.
    I know that girl – the end result model – I went to high school with her and she rarely wears her hair that straight – she doesn't even wear a relaxer. She has huge beautiful curly hair = it's really tragic that they used her to perpetuate this message.

    Who is "Dr. Miracle" anyway? Why is it so difficult to find the history of this product and figure out who is behind it?

  • Portia says:

    YAY Crystal!

    The 1st African Pride ad makes me feel like I should have soft and shiner relaxed hair to be sexy. I also find it contradictory because it states, "Be proud to be original." But if everyone gets a relaxer, then you're not being original.

    The 2nd African Pride ad is empowering and makes me proud to be a black woman. I know that having relaxed hair is not the only thing that makes me feel great about myself, but the words are uplifting nonetheless.

    The Dr. Miracle ad seems to convey the message that mainstream media always tells us. Black women are "prettier" with straight European hair. I think ads like this help deter black woman from going natural even when their hair is damaged because they think they'll look ugly.

    But this is just my opinion. If you ask someone like Angela Croc (addicted to the creamy crack and proud of it lol)what she thinks about the ads, she'll probably have a completely different point of view.

  • Anonymous says:

    It's the Long Hair *Care* Forum. I left out a word above.

  • Anonymous says:

    All the responses have been very interesting to read, but overwhelmingly similar. I hope the person doing the study/research paper tries really hard to balance it out with responses from black women with relaxed, weaved or texturized hair. Someone mentioned the Long Hair Forum. That would be a very good place to start if the moderator will let you post it there. I know you want a good balance to be objective and not look as if you have an agenda or an interest in tilting the results a certain way. Let's hope the women on that forum also jump with as much gusto to share their thoughts.

  • Unknown says:

    When I saw the women hand in that dudes face I damn near fell off my chair. lol!! It makes me think, "I ain't got time you. Too many of these dudes tryin to holla cause my of my relaxed hair" The African Pride (#2) is saying black women can not be taken seriously in the workplace unless you have relaxed hear. Of course Dr. Miracle ads tells us in order not to look like a hot mess use our product to be accepted.

    I can not believe just 2 yrs ago I would choose which relaxer to try by these ads on the box. LOL!!! I have seen the light. 🙂 Not to knock anyone who relaxers their hair but we all , relaxed or natural, is more focused on HEALTHY HAIR… period. Great job Crystal E. 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    What does the textual message say to you?

    The message, specifically number 2(the first one) says that straight hair is the goal and if you do not have that you should "want" it or you should get that.

    What message do you gather from the models' pose?

    The pose in all four ads say that I am happy and confident with my relaxed hair. Particularly, ad 4 shows people hair prior to Dr. Miracle which is otherwise nice if it were styled properly but since it is "nappy" it is hair that is undesirable and the models appear to be uneasy with their hair in its natural state.

    Do you find the ad acceptable?

    I find the ads acceptable for the target audience, relaxed women. However I find these ads unacceptable for african-american children or any child with kinky curly textured hair. This is not what we as adults should want our children to believe beauty is.

    What does the name of the brand mean to you?

    Long aid says African-american's hair does not grow on its own, African pride is a contradiction and Dr. Miracle says that African-american women need a miracle to maintain their hair.

    What does the ad say to you about black women, hair, and beauty?

    The ad says that black women need some type of aid in order to manage their otherwise unruly hair. It also says to me that black women appearance conscious so any product that will help them "enhance" their beauty is beneficial.

  • Anonymous says:

    These ads cannot be farther from the truth. They prohibit women from having the courage to actually feel FREE, GIDDILY HAPPY, CONFIDENT, even INTIMIDATING, and truly BEATIFUL….just the way our Creator made us. He doesn't make mistakes.

  • Anonymous says:

    Why does the ad have to promise sexier, more confidence, POWER? It DOESN'T even say that it will make your hair "straight".

  • NikNak says:

    Well, I've never even heard of Long-Aid. These ads look cheap, and somehow I equate cheap w/ 'ghetto', NOT classy or mainstream.

    I don't have any desire, nor have I ever had a desire to use these products. I'm not even against relaxers.

    I feel like the ads aren't supposed to be talking to me, but those people who frequent flea markets and look for men at night clubs.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am not sure what to think..I mean, if I permed my hair all my life, I probably would not find anything wrong with it. But knowing what I know, 2 things stand out.

    1. The false promise of being sexier and added confidence is a little disturbing. I mean really it comes in a box!?
    2) With the exception of one add, it did not list the adverse effects that can happen to your hair or scalp. The drug companies are now mandated to let you know all that can happen to you BEFORE you obtain a prescription. I think, these companies should show and tell EVERYTHING that can happen. Not just the minor skin irritation or "some breakage." How about mentioning the sometimes burns that lead to permanent damage or that your hair will never reach your behind? or better yet, if you are on certain medications or certain conditions, you want to talk with a professional first. (not just a strand test)

    I'm Just saying…LOL

  • Anonymous says:

    My question to everyone who brought it up….why does "light-skinned" and "mixed" have to be an issue…I didnt see that at all when I looked at the ads…so maybe thats ur issue…….?

  • MsCrystal says:

    This is Crystal E.

    I am very pleased with the responses!

    Miss Malorie, since you are the last one that responded, I must say I love how you ended your post, and that is exactly the key to my research. I have no problem with women wearing relaxers or a natural. My focus is on media and to highlight that many advertisements (I also did a content analysis of non-hair product ads) choose models with straight hair that support that the notion that when considering hair for African American women, beauty shines through a straight hair texture while your natural texture is not quite as beautiful. While marketing and advertising will always be what they are (and they do work), there will always be social, political, and cultural statements that lie underneath the message even though we still may purchase the product.

    And thank you B. for the other suggestion!!

  • M says:

    Many answers have already been given, but my two cents won't hurt 🙂 I did a project my last semester of college in which we focused on images of Black women in the media, and hair ads were a very important part of my project 🙂

    The first one: the first thing I notice is that she and ol' dude are light-skinned (the reason why this is relevant is because in most ads, the women are pretty light skinned)… and her damn clothes and hair are ugly lol.

    The second ad: I remember this one specifically from my mom's magazines growing up, because I always liked the way it looked. This ad doesn't bother me like some others… yes, she does have chemically altered hair, but practically everyone in these ads does, so that's not remarkable. The wording though is troubling if you take the time to look at it… apparently, this perm will leave your hair "softer, shinier, and sexier…" soooo my straight hair is sexy and all other kind of hair isn't? Hmmm….

    Third ad: Her pose is made to make her appear to be a boss of whatever she does… clearly, this woman takes no mess, and that's fine… she's light-skinned again, and her hair is straight and voluminous… looks familiar. I do think it's hilarious, however, that the brand is called "African Pride," since I would think African Pride would be in embracing your natural texture… just a thought. Lol.

    Fourth ad: the WORST! I remember seeing these in magazines and thinking, Dr. Miracle, for real? It's like that? The examples are ridiculous. Two light-skinned chicks with hair that looks dry, but other than that, their hair looks fine… and then the darker skinned chick in the middle not only has an unfortunate face, but her entire expression is just… a mess. And her hair looks like it needs a combing and moisturizing, but other than that, what's wrong with it? And then, Miss Fly on the right with her sunglasses and bone straight hair… *sigh* We really have to be careful about what ideas we're picking up from the media. To me, it doesn't matter whether your hair is relaxed or natural, because it's not like I wasn't permed for my entire life prior to this new wave in my life. But the problem is that the message (to not only Black women, but other women as well) is that straight is sexy. And everything else is somehow not right.

  • b. says:

    Crystal E,

    You asked about another site that caters to women with natural and relaxed hair. The Long Hair Care Forum may work for you. I think there are women there with relaxed hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great topic and lots of thoughtful posts. But am I the only one who finds it odd … if not hypocritical … that a site dedicated to curly hair is running a banner ad for a product that promises "Smooth, straight hair"?

  • Anonymous says:

    It's almost no need to comment any further. I feel everyone else has said it best. These ads are negative, do no promote or encourage natural hair as beautiful. These are the very type of ads that keep most black women brainwashed with the unfortunate european standard of beauty. It's either these types of ads or watching Beyonce bounce around on stage with a long, blonde straight weave, and feeling like we too should look like that, or our man likes us better with hair like that. But I have a great feeling. Why? Because more and more each day I see natural hair more than ever. I feel that in the far future, natural hair will outnumber the weaves and relaxed heads. What was once considered ugly, more black women are catching on and realizing that this is OUR hair, and there's nothing wrong with it! Our hair is just as beautiful and carefree as everyone elses, and can be just as celebrated. There is no need to blow-fry, creamy crack, and torture our hair to achieve a look that is entirely of a different race, not ours. Our coils, kinks, waves, are beautiful indeed.

  • Anonymous says:

    1. Use this product and you can achieve whatever type of look you want. You'll be fighting men off. This product will help your hair grow longer. I don't have any problem with this ad other than I doubt that the product it can do everything it promises.

    2. Relaxed hair is most desirable. Use this relaxer and you will feel more pride in yourelf. You will be sexier. I don't know what they are the original of and shinier hair is a boldfaced lie.

    3. Using this relaxer will make you powerful. It may even help you get ahead in your career. But be careful. I think this is harmful because controlling your hair does not give you control over the world. It sounds like the thinking of someone with an eating disorder: I control what I eat/keep in my body so I can control my world. Also, one does not need a relaxer to "control" their hair.

    4. Big curly hair is a problem. Long, straight hair is a beautiful miracle. This relaxer can give you this without breaking your hair off like bad picture #2. This ad is just straight up anti-curl and I find that offensive. Also a relaxer is not the "miracle" dry or damaged hair needs. #1 needs some moisturizer, #2 needs scissors, and #3 needs moisturizer and to avoid any more chemicals (I mean they basically just said put relaxer on top of bleach–cardinal sin of hair chemical treatment). Just a boldfaced lie once again.

  • Anonymous says:

    Lol…I guess I always saw the message because I have NEVER even considered purchasing any of those products…African Pride with a cartoon on the box…come on. And Dr.Miracle….CMON SON! But…..again I have never wanted the LONG BONE STRAIGHT look. I relaxed to have a managable texture so I could get nice roller/curly sets(go figure). So I think they're geared to people who want that hair…and make them think that their product will give it to them…..

  • Anonymous says:

    The things that stand out about the ads is the message that to feel and look beautiful,confident, powerful you need straight hair. Also, in the last ad if you don't use their products, you'll look like a hot mess with unruly hair, scowl and all. I find the ads to be patronizing and playing on black women's "hair issues."

  • samurai says:

    But I think the more important thing to realize is that companies are in the business of making money, and the way these people make money is to *literally* make people feel like they aren't good enough to live life w/o this product. That goes for any race, any sex. Men are emasculated pansy boys if they don't drive a Dodge Charger (a la the Super Bowl Commercial), women are fat if they wear anything above a size 8, black women have to have straight hair to fit in, black men aren't men if they dont have 5 hoes & rims, pale white women with thin flat hair are monsters compared to the tan blond with that pantene pro v bounce, etc lolol Everybody gets their turn. It sucks, yeah, but realize that if everyone tomorrow decided that natural was in, there would be a sudden turnaround of an abundance of products to "fix" that problem.

    Additionally, some ppl like perming their hair. Some ppl think they look better that way. Am I offended that the ads feature women with straight hair w/perms? No. Get it how you live it =)

  • samurai says:

    I think the first long aid ad is ok. I dont see anything that i would find negative in the image or the written part. The african pride series of ads, well the first one, I dont *really* find much wrong with either. The point of an ad is to try to get someone to buy a product, and in this case, it seems like theyre saying the same thing any other hair product says "Our product will give you hair that looks as good as this model's" I find it interesting though, that in the second african pride ad the copy mentions the woman "controlling" her hair and her world. Very interesting! Though I think the conclusion can be drawn that they're talking about taming the naps, I also think thats something that transcends race. I think a lot of ppl period believe that in controlling certain things about themselves, they can control the world around them. As far as the whole "proud to be original", I see that as them trying to brand themselves. I'm not sure but theres probably a bunch of other hair companies that are calling themselves "african" something, and they're just trying to separate their product from the rest of the pack.

    And, ad #3 sucks in regards to the image it portrays. Especially the 2nd one. The model seems to have hyper exaggerated features. Additionally, (and this is a personal thing I noticed) the angry face expressed by the other two models kinda struck me. I recently talked to my granny about dating and she mentioned to me that I should smile more b/c men from other races already think we're (black women) mean and that we'll yell @ them (that's just my grannys opinion, but one i take to heart b/c, you know, its my granny lol) Then yesterday @ work I had a customer I was speaking to who caught me in mid chew of my sandwich. So he was being nice & telling jokes, and I wasn't really smiling b/c I was trying to chew my sandwich, though I was talking to him. Afterward, I finished and finally smiled and the man told me he thought I was mean b/c I wasn't smiling. Which was weird b/c though I wasn't smiling, I was being incredibly polite while talking to him.

    ANYWAYS, I say all that to say this, the 3rd ad strikes me as perpetuating yet another stereotype of the "angry black woman" in addition to the "anti nappy/curly" message being sent.

  • Anonymous says:

    The one that really sticks with me is the second african pride add. It says that they use a unique combination of African ingredients and I am sure if you read the ingredients list I would bet money there are no so called unique African ingredients. I hate when marketing thinks that the sure fire way to get black women to buy their product is to label something "african" with un-named "unique African" ingredients. Really when you think about it these companies create products that will eventually break down and damage the hair ie. relaxers and then create products that are supposed to correct the problems that result from using the relaxers in the first place. It's a terrible cycle from which these companies profit. None of these companies promote or even mention healthy hair yet your power comes from altering the original state of your hair at risk of loosing an eye and damaging your scalp which can be irreversible.

  • kayla says:

    That last ad is very anti-curly, isn't it? It reminds me of that Garnier Fructis commercial where a white woman, wearing an afro wig, pouts, and furrows her eyebrows, while an announcer asks, "Are you tired of frizz?"

    The first ad is terrible. It doesn't make me want the product at all. It's like it's trying to appeal to that stereotypical black woman that fusses at her man, wears gaudy clothing, and talks loud. Why is her mouth open and why is she shoving her man in the face? Not me.

    The second and third ads? What's with the WIGS? And this "African Pride" mess is ridiculous. Those women ain't bit mo' African-proud.

  • Stephanie says:

    There are a lot of great comments so I will just give you my first impressions of the ads.
    1. Why does he have a process? Impulsive? don't think so. Her pose is impulsive. Her hair is two hours at a hair salon.
    2. and 3. Both of the African Pride ads strike me as contradictions. When I think of African hair I think of kinky, curly, dark, different. The women in the ads look like they are wearing wigs. The hair looks fake. And not African.
    4. This makes me angry. Curly, nappy hair is ugly. Straight, Latino or mixed hair is good.

  • Anonymous says:

    Over the decades African- American women have been building this ideal that straight, relaxed hair (more like white people), is what is acceptable. The Dr. Miracles ad just reinforces that straight hair is what is preferred. The "miracle" in all of their ads is getting flat, bone-straight hair. This ideal is sending messages that if you wear your hair this way, you will be more successful. Many African-American women want long hair but do not want to sacrifice permed hair to get it, because many do not think their natural hair is beautiful. They want to "fix" their hair so that it fits more with other Americans. African- Americans have the most unique hair texture and in an effort to blend in with the rest of society, this is the solution we have come up with. Now many people who are breaking this ideal, are looked at and questioned or even scrutinized. In a way wearing your hair natural could be seen as rebellious, as it was in the 70's. Naturals, weather aware of it or not, are standing out and sending a message that they are different and not shameful of their texture.
    On another note, African Pride is confusing to me. Where is the African Pride in their advertisement if none of their models wear their hair in a natural state. What is so "African Prideful" about relaxers?

  • Anonymous says:

    From what I see looking at these ads as a whole is what is believed to be the mindset of the black woman or the only motivating force in our lives: men, have your hair done, and lighter skin is better.

  • Anonymous says:

    The ads to me say, "in order to be beautiful, in order to be powerful, in order for men(or women, whatever floats your boat. lol), you need to have relaxed hair." Because relaxed hair, meaning european looking hair is beautiful, sexy, and accepted. You don't want to be ugly and unattractive. So, don't walk around with ugly, unruly, unattractive hair. You need this relaxer to get the hair, so you can get job, get the man, and get the envy of all other black women. Especially darker skinned black women, because all of the women in the ads (except for the dark skinned woman in the Dr. Miracle's ad with the jacked up weave)are lighter skinned. And if you can't be lighter skinned, at least you can have beautiful hair like light skinned women.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think I was most offended by the "Miracle" ad. Why is the result of the "miracle" long , flat,limp, straight hair worn by a bi-racial model?

  • Anonymous says:

    To me these ads say: straight hair is the epitome of beauty and acceptance; the dr. miracle grow ads have an underlying message that natural, nappy, textured hair is not…they all play on the theme straight is great and nappy is unhappy…

  • Anonymous says:

    The only "miracle" is that we haven't lost our collective minds, as well as all of our hair over crap like these ads. Well, at least SOME of us!

  • Anonymous says:

    long aid made me feel like the target audience is IMPULSIVE, and this multi purpose goop will meet the needs of your ever changing desires for different hair.

    african prides marketing has always been a joke, i cry a little for the black models in the ads and the unfortunates who buy the product. I could never bring myself to try one of there products even if Madame CJ walker advised me to do so her self. i just cant it worst than any joke that makes fun of products like this be cause its real.

    Dr. Miracles actually cracks me up from time to time… but i always notice in the adds like this one. its only the lights skinned chick with 3 b ish hair that can have the miracle.

  • Anonymous says:

    I just love the natural community… I am SO happy that more of us our embracing our natural beauty!! I've been natural for a year now and ya'll still make me so proud!!

    Anywho, I just wanted to post the ingredients for the African Pride herbal grow grease: PETROLEUM , African Pride Oil Complex , Paraffinum Liquidum (HYDROCARBON WAX)… then there is a list of tons of herbs I omitted for space… then- Fragrance – Parfum , Methylparaben , Ethylparaben , Propylparaben , Isobutylparaben , Phenoxyethanol.

    And I think we all know Dr. Miracle is Mineral Oil based. I have white friends who chop off their ends/hair when it gets too damaged. They don't hang on to it for dear life life some of us do because they know the truth is this: once your hair is damaged… There is NO WAY you can repair it. You can coat it, and medicate it, and soothe it, but it will never be the same. Maintaining healthy hair is the only way to maintain healthy hair! PERIOD.

    To brainwash black women into thinking this magic growth complex will even be able to penetrate your scalp in a base of vaseline and wax muck is crazy!

    I have cousins who have "enviable" relaxed hair. It's soft and 'long' – but it never gets past their shoulders… ever. They look at me like wow she's "sooo different" when they are the ones who are different. My cousin ran out and got Dr. Miracle after she saw the ads. In her mind, any hair out of place, or not slicked down is unkept, dirty, and unsexy.

    Try as I might to educate her, her mind is made up. She keep relaxing and though her hair is long it's thin as paper. I hope to convert her one day!

  • Susan says:

    The message in all the ads is the same: the woman is NOT WHOLE until she uses the product being advertised. It will give her better hair, therefore enhancing her beauty, making her more confident and attractive. What I found interesting was the little warning label on the African Pride ad:It acknowledges that using the relaxer could result in skin and scalp irritation EVEN eye injury! It reminds me of the warnings on cigarettes that smokers see yet they continue to smoke, though of course for most it's an addiction

    The Dr. Miracles ad I have never liked. They go out of their way to portray the unrelaxed women as very ugly, unhappy and in deep angst about their hair. All in all, I think this is symptomatic of the whole beauty industry, they try to make us believe that it's the products that will make us better.

  • Crystal E. says:

    This is Crystal E. again….thank you for your responses!!

    I'm trying to find a blog that a lot of "non-naturals" refer to so I can gather their thoughts…I do not know of any though. (Were any of you members of any other blog before transitioning?)

    I am almost done with my research!!!! After I defend, I will provide Nikki with the quantitative data.

  • iChontoldu says:

    I really like this research topic, I hope you do well. I think all of these ads are interesting because they only focus on one hair type-straight hair. Only the first one makes mention of natural hair, yet all give the message that if your hair is not straight then your some how not sexy or pretty. The last one is the most annoying of all the ads! Why when it comes to black women and their hair you have to pull off some type of marical for them to look "acceptable." It all plays into this narrow construt of what's beautiful. I am sick of it!

    I would love to know how this project turns out and how your peers and professors react to it. Good luck!

  • Anonymous says:

    Oh,and the name of this product would be NATURE'S BLESSING.

  • Anonymous says:

    These ads are funny and sad at the same time. Someone should create a "counterinsurgency ad" for a natural hair care product to combat this madness . . . Mmmmm, something like this . . .

    Photo of a GROUP of beautiful curlies with various hairstyles in various outfits (i.e. casual, formal, professional, military). The caption should read " Are you tired of scalp burns, skin burns, broken hair, thin/damaged mess of a rat's nest on your head? Tired of hiding/running from the rain? Tired of having your man complain about that chemical smell on your head? Tired of weave tracks falling out in the middle of that important business meeting?
    Try this product to luxuriate in your NATURAL beauty and accentuate the confidence you ALREADY have shown by embracing the beauty of who you are." There could be a picture next to it with frowning relaxed, weaved and texturized women in all the unhealthy states we know exists as a result of chemical damage.

    This is a great study. What also has me ticked about ads is how products which are marketed for those of us who have naturally dry hair most often say " For dry, DAMAGED hair " Ummmm, HELLO not all dry hair is DAMAGED or otherwise "broken" in some way. I would prefer to see more products marketed for naturally curly hair (which tends to be dryer to begin with) state "For thirsty hair", "A moisture assist for dry, parched hair", etc/ You get the message.
    Just my 2 cents!

  • Anonymous says:

    All I can say is:
    BLACK hair — always imitated, but NEVER duplicated!

  • Anonymous says:

    I think about what I always thought – pretty women in "Black mags" are rarely darker than a brown paper bag (I am one of those, so please do not take any offense) and the only way to be attractive to men is with straight hair. Straight hair is what men want and what women want to have and should have. You are also a stronger woman for it. Well – either you are cute and original, or straight faced and strong certainly cannot be both. But you CAN have better hair. The last ad ALWAYS offended me. I cannot believe women let themselves be portrayed as this! And look how LONG her hair is too! She looks like she has a bit of money, lots of looks and a head of amazing hair!

  • Yoli says:

    Ooohhh… I was a Sociology major, so this sounds like fun! LOL

    Ad#1 Long Aids
    • What does the textual message say to you? The message of this ad tells me that my hair is one way of expressing myself. I can reinvent my image and whole being, just by changing my hair. But from the name of the product, and the script, it also ads the message that long hair is more beautiful, versatile, and desirable.

    • What message do you gather from the models' pose? This model is telling me she is fun, happy, and irresistible to men without even trying. She is showing that her happiness, and the emphasis she put on her physical appearance wasn’t for the end game of getting a man—because she is leaning away from one and smiling—it was for the purpose of making herself happy. Even the design of the product itself—in it’s color choices, screams happy (pink, green, blue?)

    • Do you find the ad acceptable? Yes. I wasn’t immediately turned off from the message or content of the ad.

    • What does the name of the brand mean to you? Since I am only familiar with it from this ad, I would say length.

    • What does the ad say to you about black women, hair, and beauty? To me it says that hair is an innate part of a black woman’s identity. Hair can also be used to express mood, and create social status.


    • What does the textual message say to you? It says to me that black beauty is envied—but can be duplicated if you have the right hair style and clothing. It also says that every black woman should want the same look—straight hair and high fashion. The product design says boldly “African Pride” with illustration reminiscent of Africa in the background. Yet the models have straight European hair and high cheekbones, thin noses, slightly Asian eyes—once again sending the message that African Beauty is based in assimilating or copying the beauty of other races.

    • What message do you gather from the models' pose? The model looks self-confident, and slightly flirtatious.

    • Do you find the ad acceptable? No. I cannot be sold African Pride by a woman with bone-straight hair that isn’t natural. Even the slogan, “keep you head up” implies that beauty, confidence, and self worth come from maintaining a certain look, which does not come naturally to most women of African decent. The counterpart of the slogan says I should be ashamed if I don’t fit into this mold? Unacceptable.

    • What does the name of the brand mean to you? Oddly, I was much younger when African Pride first emerged. Back then I loved it, as saw it as a product line made for me. Today this line represents disappointment. It’s a black owned company that puts of the mask of representing African American women; behind the mask are a slew of unhealthy, cheap ingredients that produce less than thrilling results. I keep hoping they’ll improve—I want to support them if they do. However I am consistently let down.

    • What does the ad say to you about black women, hair, and beauty? This ad says that Black beauty should imitate other races and ethnicities to be beautiful. It says that black women are superficial, easily envious of one another. It also indicates a herd mentality—that the mass majority are followers. Specifically in regards to hair, it indicates that black hair is beautiful and to be desired—when it is straight.

  • Anonymous says:

    This sounds like it will be a great research project!! Mostly because it seems highly controversial and it highlights a certain standard of beauty in the black community that people continue to hold as "better" than natural hair. Overall I think these ads would be effective in getting women to buy them. Unfortunately this is because they used the right words. When I was relaxed, I would literally buy any product that had the words "long", "grow", or "African" on it. That was good enough for me, no need to research products or find out what the product would REALlY do to my hair as long as the women on the box or container had "pretty hair" to me.

    Now that I'm natural my entire mindset of what is pretty is completely different. I don't buy products because the model's hair is long. I don't buy products that claim one thing but have harmful chemicals in them. And I don't encourage people to get relaxers. So all the ads above would be inffective on me, but sadly thousands of other women that are relaxed would be likely to get these because of the promises contained in the text.

    1. The textual message says that this oil moisturizer is going to be effective and I'm not going to lie it sounds like it would work and is tempting my inner product junkie! I don't particularly like that it says "long aid" because I'm more interested in healthy hair versus long hair. I wish the billion dollar black hair industry had the same view and wanted black women to have healthy hair and natural products. The model looks confident. As for the ad being acceptable, I would say that it is. But not until it passes the ingredient list test – no mineral oil, no petrolatum, no alcohols that are non-fatty.

    2. The text in this ad could be taken as offensive because it implies that getting a relaxer will leave your hair "softer, shinier and sexier. And who doesn't want that?" This makes the women reading this ad think that if there hair isn't straight like the model's, their hair isn't attractive. Also, this might be petty but the fact that her hair is short seems to perpetuate the stereotype that black women have short hair that doesn't grow. The ad says "I want her hair!" which leaves women aspiring for short hair when they can achieve longer hair. I'm not saying that there should be an unrealistic representation of long, weaved-out black females on products. However, women should know that our hair DOES GROW and doesn't have to remain short if that's not what you want.
    3. The reason I don't like this ad is because the text implies that our hair needs to be controlled and that relaxers help us to "manage our unruly hair" per say. The model looks confident and it seems like in order to have her confidence, you need to have straight hair.
    4. This is my least favorite ad of all. Apparently black hair needs a "miracle" in order to look presentable. It says that natural hair needs to be dealt with, which I have a problem with because there's nothing wrong or unproffesional about natural hair. The models on the left all look distressed with the state of their hair. It's like the first lady, who has gorgeous curls, needs a styling miracle because her hair is too big. But to me it looks like she would have amazing curls if she just had the right moisturizing products. And the last women with the fierce blond afro is advertised as needing an overall hair miracle. I just don't like what this ad says about natural hair. It says there is a problem with natural hair, and there isn't. Then it goes on to say that a relaxer will "fix" that problem and result in a hair miracle.

    So that's what I got out of these ads. I think you've got a great research project here! Hopefully I didn't bore you with my ranting … lol

  • K.M. says:

    I think the first ad starts off somewhat harmless. Yes, the model does have some kind of alteration to her hair, but it's not clear if it's relaxed, or maybe just a press and curl. I like the fact that it says the product is good for all hair types.

    The ones from the 90's are just laughable. As others pointed out, there is nothing "original" about getting your hair permanently straightened. Also, there is no sense of pride in being of African descent if you are meant to feel you need that in order to be sexy. A prideful African woman will in my opinion pass up those chemicals and feel proud to wear the hair God gave her. And those 2 ads imply that the women are not only more attractive, but also fit more in the professional world since their hair is straight. It also says that nothing can give you those feelings except for the relaxer kit. Imagine the damage this message has done to women, and young girls across the world. We were TOLD from these companies that we needed to chemically alter our hair, often to our own demise, just to be more acceptable. It even gives the warning that breakage and scalp irritation can occur. What other ethnicity is told to chemically alter their hair in such a drastic manner to be accepted? None. This just promotes a feeling of "I can't be natural because nappy hair is bad, and no one will accept me that way." This is why it takes some of us years to be able to accept going natural. It's from messages like this that brainwash us into believing our own hair growing out of our head is inherently undesirable. I don't even want to go into what other races reading these ads might think. Thus, the negative stereotype of natural hair continues.

    The final ad by Dr. Miracles is just a shame. The way the women on the left are portrayed is that they have no way to manage their hair, unless it is straight like the woman on the right. Clearly the woman on the right, is much happier, implying that it is because her hair is not "kinky, nappy, or otherwise unmanageable." What Dr. Miracles is not showing you, is the fact that the textured hair women just need knowledge of how to care for their curls, and they can be just as beautiful, if not more, than the woman with straight hair!

    These ads all disgust me, but especially the more recent ones. I'm glad other products supporting natural beauty and haircare are finally coming out also in these magazines.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am glad to see you addressing hair ads head on. The problem that I have with not only these ads but with virtually all hair ads (black and white) is the lack of real hair on the models. I don’t understand how a company could expect consumers to buy products that are displayed through weaves and wigs. Looking at an ad where it’s obvious the actual hair product was never used is sad but the even sadder part is how much money the hair industry is actually making off these phony ads. I wish more people would stop and ask themselves if the products actually work considering the counterfeit hair in the ad is not even a proper representation of the products promise. It’s crazy that we have to look at 20 year old hair ads in order to see a woman who has hair growing out of her own head and not glued or sewed on.

  • Tonya says:

    Not good enough…You are not good enough…you need help…your hair is a natural mess…come burn it down…flatten it at the risk of your eye sight, scalp burning because if not… you will not fit into society…why would you ever want to wear your hair…surely you must know that God never intended for black women to grow their own hair…wear it like those who have straight hair because they are good enough and you are not…
    WOW!!! What an eye opening topic!! That (the above comments) is what I now see (in the ads), BUT NEVER saw it for the last twenty years!
    But, let me ""straighten"" something out here:…we are good enough…our hair is a natural blessing…envied and admired by women and men alike of all races…debunk the myth self-hatred and wear yo natural hair…big…glorius…beautiful as it is…I think the devil has tried to make us feel less than about our hair by the hatred of other races…I think our hair intimidates others because it stands so tall and spreads so wide…what a privilege is ours to carry (wear) the message that ""natural black hair is manageable… wearable… and …cuteable…all by it's natural self""

  • Tiffany N. says:

    The makers of these products and the advertisers are profiting from the self-loathing that permeates the black community. These ads are reinforcing what many of us were told as children, i.e., our natural hair is unattractive, unprofessional, and we should be ashamed of it. I don't have a problem with the Long Aid ad per se, since it is aimed at all women and it at least features a woman with curls in her hair. The African Pride brand is aboout anything but "our" pride. The Dr. Miracle brand is the most offensive in that it the name itself suggests that it takes a miracle for a black woman to have good-looking hair, and until you "fix" your hair, you will be miserable and unattractive.

  • Melinda says:

    ok, here goes, the ad for long aid is so retro that I cannot even relate, the "african pride" that I have does not come from a box, it appears to indicate that you would however, exude a sense of "pride" from using this product, a false sense that is. As for the Dr. Miracle ad, the model on the right is the one that needs the miracle. Needless 2 say I do not like any of their marketing advertisements.

  • G says:

    You get a chance to see that not much has changed since the 80s in regards to what and how products are advertised to us. How much confidence can you possibly have in using a product (African Pride) that also includes a warning that skin/scalp irritation, eye injury, and hair breakage may occur? The Long Aid ad is the least offensive to me, though. ITA with hamptonsfnst. Would love to see more ads from indie companies we've grown to love and support.

  • MrsCrystal says:

    Hi, everyone. This is Crystal E.

    Thank you for your responses…This is exactly what I am looking for!

    I totally agree with Diamondcurls and Hamptonsfnst…the only full page ad that I saw in a sample of appx. 300 hair product advertisements from Essence and Ebony was one for Carol's Daughter.

    There are ads like the first one, Long Aid, that indicate "if you are natural, straight, curly, or permed, you still can use this product." However, the hair texture of the model remains straight at large across 3 decades. Natural representation has increased in the latter part of the 1990s and into the 2000s, as the 1980s loved the "curly permed", which is still a chemical process to alter the hair texture.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with diamondcurls. That's the purpose of these straightening products; to market their products to people who want straight hair and that happens to largely be African/Caribbean Americans. What needs to be done is mass marketing for brands like Carol's Daughter, Curls, Karen's Body Beautiful. These companies need to utilize all facets of the media other than the few advertisements we see in magazines for African American women. Why hasn't Lisa Price produced a commercial yet for her line? She's already promoted on HSN or QVC. We need to support these independent companies so that more of these products will be carried in our local stores and not just online.

  • Janique says:

    These aids make it seem as if getting a relaxer is a matter of pride. "If you get this relaxer, you will have confidence." The women in the picture look classy and like professionals, which would indicate to some people that to be looked at seriously in this world, your hair must lay flat and straight. I always disliked Dr. Miracle's Ads because they talk about the hair needing a miracle. The relaxer is supposed to help damaged hair? I think not. They also never help the women who need the supposed miracle. It's always the lighter skinned, curly haired women who receives the relaxer and her long locks flow. She then exudes all this new found confidence because of their relaxer? The name African Pride is something that really gets to me. Originally in Africa, people didn't have relaxers. They were proud of their afro textured kinky hair. Now this relaxer is telling us if you want to be a proud African American relax your hair! The ads show the standard of beauty for successful black women is to have straight or chemically altered hair.

  • Maria says:

    African Pride huh? I know that this isn't an AA owned company so that right there is a big NO. The first picture is of a woman with an obvious wig. The ad is trying to tell me that softer hair (sans nappy) is sexier. the second ad is trying to tell me that having non-nappy hair will give me control of my life. Only non-nappy people have this type of control.
    Dr Miracles is the worst one of all. They show 3 models with "ugly" natural hair. Its a terrible message telling us that our natural hair is ugly and that European straight hair is beautiful.

  • MahoganyCurls says:

    Lol! LMAO!!!! This a great topic! I strated laughing so hard at the African Pride Motto…"Proud to be Original" "Their unique combination of ancient african ingredients…." As if! Wow, I am not knocking anyone with a relaxer, I just can't believe that I used to actually believe this stuff…my eyes have definitely been opened.

    What I get from the three ads is: You will look, feel, and be more glamorous with straight hair. Natural hair is unmanageable, and not attractive.

    Awesome job Crystal E.!


  • diamondcurls says:

    In general, these ads say to me that straight hair is healthy and beautiful. It tells the African American female that if you want manageable hair, it needs to be chemically altered. Then once when straightened you look and feel more beautiful (i.e. from the poses). It says nothing of straight hair being an optional way to wear our hair but the ONLY way. But, if they are marketing a straightening product, why would they not push it hard and hide the damage details in the fine print? You may not like it but the ads works which is why those products and products like them make so much money.

  • Anonymous says:

    What really made me laugh out loud was the African Pride Relaxer's motto "Proud to be original" There is nothing original or "African Pride" about getting a relaxer. These products are telling African American/Caribbean black women that chemically altered hair is beautiful hair and that it solves all hair problems. I'm not going to lie, if I hadn't done my research on hair for the past few months I would have fallen victim to these Ads. The impulsive ad's pose makes it seem that using that product makes all the men notice you. The second to last Ad provides all these characteristics that women can achieve without relaxers. For an African American woman who is probably frustrated with her hair and really doesn't know care for it, she will look this product as THE answer. Then the cautions on the bottom written in small print is hardly legible. The company is SO focused on appealing their products to customers that they would rather not let them know the damage it can do to their hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    Wow, this is a heavy one and a very good research topic. Actually none of the ads encourage natural African American hair texture. It is viewed as bad, ugly, non-manageable, sans beauty, and most of all, the first ad expresses the undertone of you will get more "eye-popping" attention from a man if you have "hair like this." So much as so that you will have to give them "the hand." Based on these ads, from 1980 to 2000, the message to black women is in with chemical straighteners and out with natural beauty, embracing and caring for your hair. And to beat it all, the ads don't focus on healthy hair. Finally, as we all know black hair "care" has become a multimillion dollar industry. I could go on and on about this hot topic!!!!

Leave a Reply