UW-Eau Claire Second Annual Black Multicultural Hair & Skin Drive

Black-led student groups work together to create donation crive aimed at natural hair.

The+selection+of+Black+hair+care++products+in+stores+is+limited+in+Eau+Claire.+%C2%A9SamanthaMorrell2021

The selection of Black hair care products in stores is limited in Eau Claire. ©SamanthaMorrell2021

When shopping for hair care products, Black Student Alliance President Jasmine Rosario found that she tends to spend more money on hair care than those around her.

Throughout February, the annual Black Multicultural Hair & Skin Drive was held in the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Centennial Hall as a celebration of Black History Month. The donation drive was started in 2020 as a collaboration between two Black-led student organizations, the Black Student Alliance and the African Student Association, and is faculty-led by the student services coordinator of the Office of Multicultural Affairs Michael Thomas.

According to the Rosario, all the donated products will be going to men, women and children who are financially struggling and might not be able to purchase the products on their own. The donation drive is specifically looking for brands similar to Cantu Beauty or OKAY Pure Naturals; however, any products designed for curly hair that do not have sulfates were accepted.

“I remember going out shopping with my friends to go shopping for shampoos and things and they spend maybe $10 and I’m looking at $20-$25 on just maybe three things for my hair,” Rosario said. “It’s definitely more expensive and it’s also a lot harder to find as well.” Not only are the products more expensive, but Black hair care is much more time-consuming.

Curly hair is more prone to breakage, and simple things like using a hairbrush or even sleeping with a cotton pillow can split the shaft of the hair. To solve these, Rosario sleeps with her hair in a silk bonnet or uses a silk pillowcase as silk is much gentler to curly hair than typical cotton pillowcases. Curly hair can also be worn in protective hairstyles. Hairstyles like box braids or cornrows are traditional protective hairstyles meant to prevent breakage and can be left in for weeks or months at a time.

While Black hair care varies largely from other hair care, skin care has its own set of drawbacks. Skin care is not as separated into ethnicities as hair care is, but Rosario warned that the few skin care products aimed at Black skin often have skin bleaching products. Skin bleaching products are chemicals that, over time, lighten the color of one’s skin and are a major factor in colorism in the Black community.

Black people are more likely to experience microaggressions Rosario said.  

A microaggression is “A comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority)” defined Merriam-Webster.

These microaggressions are something that Rosario said happens to Black people on a weekly or even daily basis. They may be small things like unintentional comments about skin or clothes but are sometimes much larger instances.

“Every time I change my hair, (someone asks) ‘is that your real hair?’ which is a total microaggression,” recounted Rosario. “It’s just so embedded into society to assume so many wrong and hateful things just towards our hair.”