Melan contributor Yemi Bello has been working her way through some of our favourite Black-owned British hair and beauty brands and shares her top three brands for the best shampoos.
Gone are the days when we had to accept being an after-thought in the hair and beauty industry. Today, there are numerous Black-owned British brands offering quality products created for us, by us.
As an avid product junkie, ambling through the aisles of a hair shop, gawping at new product packaging and probing ingredients lists brings me more joy than could ever be considered normal! Unsurprisingly, I have spent many-a-pound on hair products. What’s become increasingly apparent, over the years, is that most of those pounds were being spent disproportionately outside the UK Black community.
“Today, there are numerous Black-owned British brands offering quality products created for us, by us.”
The UK Afro hair market has been heavily reliant on products from non-Black owned brands as well as imports from the US until very recently. With the advent of the natural hair movement, an increasing number of Black women are taking over the reins of this market both in the States and now in the UK.
As we become more conscious of our spending habits, it’s important that the consumer demographics are fairly represented in the demographic collecting the profits. So, in that vein, I embarked on a challenge to exclusively purchase products from Black-owned British brands for an entire year. To date, I’ve tried shampoos and cleansers from brands such as Afrocenchix, Nylah, Almocado, Big Hair + Beauty, Charlotte Mensah, Flora & Curl, Bourn Beautiful Naturals and Jim + Henry. I tried out each shampoo over a period of weeks to months and for a minimum of four washes before forming my opinions.
There are definitely a few more I’d love to try but here are my top three so far.
Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil Shampoo
Renowned hairstylist, Charlotte Mensah, released the Manketti Oil product range in 2016. From packaging to experience, this is a brand that oozes luxury. The shampoo is a pearlescent liquid with a woody cologne-esque fragrance. It’s a sulphate free formulation which incorporates a blend of plant oils including citrus oils and the star ingredient, Manketti oil. As you massage it into your scalp, it quickly forms a rich but soft lather. Post-rinse, your hair is left feeling cleansed yet hydrated. At £24 per 250ml, it’s the type of product many would stash away for those extra pampering washdays.
Nylah: Strength and shine shampoo cream
“Creamy” is the first word that springs to mind when using this cleanser. It’s a pH balanced shampoo featuring great ingredients such as shea butter and pea proteins. It’s lightly fragranced with refreshing citrus notes. As you work it in, it releases a rich and creamy foam which is really fun to use. The end result is hair that feels clean but not stripped. A great plus is that the shampoo is both vegan and Halal friendly which generally reflects the community-centred and ingredient-conscious vibe the Nylah brand exudes. I bought a 200ml tube for the discounted price of £9 at an educational event hosted by Nylah which I felt was good value for money.
Afrocenchix Swish Sulphate-free Shampoo
Afrocenchix is a trailblazing brand which is unapologetically designed to cater to the needs of Afro hair. Their shampoo, Swish, is powered by non-sulfate cleansers and is infused with hydrating ingredients such as aloe vera and glycerin. Blended with a mix of grapefruit, lemon and orange essential oils, it gives off a pleasant citrus scent. It lathers into a lovely soft foam and leaves the hair feeling clean, hydrated and revived. With their genuine enthusiasm for science-based formulations, ingredient-safety and improving hair education, you’re buying much more than just a shampoo. At £14.95 per 250ml bottle, it falls into the average price range too.
Other notable cleansers
My research included a number of excellent cleansers such as ‘Clean’ by artisan Afro hair brand, Big Hair + Beauty. Clean is a sulfate free shampoo with a fresh citrus scent. Like the Flora & Curl shampoo, it has a gel-like consistency which I enjoyed working with and is a feature which sets it apart, a little, from the other shampoos.
Jim + Henry’s ‘Nine’ is yet another cleanser which stood out for me. The brand’s ethos is around minimalist yet effective formulas and, in fact, they name their products after the number of ingredients used to create each one. The cleansing agent is a liquid soap and I found this shampoo worked quite well on my hair. It lathers instantaneously and a little goes a long way.
In essence, all the shampoos I tried do the basic job of cleansing well. The typical price point was around the £14 mark for a 250ml bottle.
Some of the defining features for me included: the feel of my hair during and after washing; and details such as packaging, overall customer experience and the availability of key product information. Something I did find was that my hair felt a little less supple and slightly matted during the wash process with some of the cleansers. This would generally resolve after rinsing out the product and certainly did not remain an issue once conditioner was applied. As someone with the type of hair that needs little encouragement to entangle itself, an ideal shampoo for me is one that has a touch of detangling power alongside the basic cleansing action.
“I look forward to seeing the sustained growth of these companies, more innovative product formulations and to seeing Black-owned brands continue to bag a share of the market.”
It’s great to see this growing selection of UK Black-owned products that affords us with the comfort of being able to select reliable products from brands that are more attune to our community and those that align with our personal values whether it be a Fairtrade ethos, vegan-friendly products or ‘clean beauty’ vibe. As such, there are lots of products that I have yet to try from exciting brands like Curly by Nature, The Sheabutter Cottage, SuperFoodLx and Root 2 Tip. I’ve really enjoyed watching how quickly the scene has evolved. I look forward to seeing the sustained growth of these companies, more innovative product formulations and to seeing Black-owned brands continue to bag a share of the market.
This article was written by Yemi Bello