Are Afro Haircare Products Essential During The Pandemic?

Personal care products are deemed essential purchases during the pandemic, yet black consumers here and abroad are struggling to buy afro haircare products on the high street

We posted Montreal-based Kelsey Walker‘s viral video on our Instagram account about her experience of shopping for afro haircare products during the pandemic.

While visiting her local Uniprix store in LaSalle, Montreal, Kelsey discovered that the afro hair section was closed off with green tape across the shelves housing the products with a sign reading ‘Section Fermée’ (which means ‘Section Closed’ in French).

Panning across the shop, it was obvious that the other sections for European hair were open for business. Calling across one of the managers, Kelsey discovered that the shop had received a ‘notice’ of what was essential and what was non-essential from the Uniprix head office.

Kelsey Walker’s viral video

Kelsey who is the CEO of Queen & Kings Give a non-profit organisation commented, “That notice literally said that coloured people (sic) were non essential, that we are non-essential… [you can] use these products instead. They [the shop] received a list—a list! That is mind-blowing to me. So you can come and buy everything else that you need, but you cannot get your black haircare products. That’s why they’ve closed the black hair stores, the black salons, because we are seen as non-essential.”

Peter Mudahy CEO of Pak Cosmetics that sells hair and beauty products primarily to black consumers, commented that black hair and beauty products are also not seen as essential products during the pandemic. “Black hair products stores across England are closed, while shops like Savers and Wilko that sell general haircare products are classed as essential,” he says.

In November 2020, the English Government announced that all non-essential shops , including electronics and clothing stores should close during the third lockdown. Peter Mudahy argues that the English government are asking councils to “use common sense” to decide what is essential or non-essential and such is the interpretation of the rules that one borough permitted Paks could open its store but banned them from selling hair dye, which the council didn’t deem as essential.

Local authorities are deciding what is essential and what isn’t. “Why is it every time we open the shutters at some of our shops the police are there in minutes?’ asks Peter. Last Sunday, a policeman told Pak’s owner Tanvir Hussain that “your customers can shop at Tesco’s if they need shampoo.”

However, the situation is different in Wales where the Welsh Government guidance allows food and drink retailers, newsagents, pharmacies, chemists, building supplies and hardware stores, among others, to remain open and amongst the list in Wales are: toiletries and cosmetic products, including toilet rolls and sanitary products.

At the start of the pandemic, Pak’s opened their store in Islington, limiting footfall to six customers at a time, with the result that a queue was stretching around the block. Peter Mudahy picks up the story, “Neighbouring Haringey council solicitors then wrote to Islington claiming that we should be closed under the 1968 Act – not the Covid Act.

Since the lockdown Pak Cosmetics has had six prohibition orders asking them to close their stores. “Last Monday a senior enforcement officer at Haringey called me to politely ask me to close our Wood Green shop, because it wasn’t clear to them if the goods we are selling are essential products.”

Out of 29 stores, only one Pak shop remains open. Peter explained, “We’ve closed our dedicated hair and wig shop and closed off the hair, wigs and electrical sections in all our shops. We are now only selling personal and hygiene products.”

After a heated debate with the the owner of the Uniprix store about the rights and wrongs of the non-essential ban on afro products, Kelsey Walker won a small victory when the owner finally agreed to remove the tape and the offending sign, allowing the sale of afro hair and beauty products.

Do you class afro hair and beauty products as essential during the pandemi? Let us know in the comments below.

More haircare products…


    • by LaraKane on 02/02/2021  11:51 PM Reply

      YEEES it is essential! thank you for talking about this Black Beauty mag.

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