Two women featured in Shea Moisture’s controversial ad, which the company announced it was removing.
Photo: Shea Moisture
Photo: Shea Moisture

Why black women are criticizing Shea Moisture’s new ad, compared by some to Pepsi’s gaffe

This story has been updated.

A new promotional ad by hair product line Shea Moisture criticized for abandoning its primary market — black women with natural hair — will be removed from the campaign “immediately,” the company announced Monday evening.

» RELATED: #BlackTwitter can’t stop fangirling over Michelle Obama’s natural hair

Shea Moisture first shared the ad on its Facebook page Friday and by Tuesday morning, it was viewed more than 600,000 times.

Part of its broader #EverybodyGetsLove campaign, the 60-second promo produced by VaynerMedia  was captioned with “Break free from hair HATE. See how these women have finally learned to embrace hair LOVE,” and prominently featured a diverse group of women, but mostly white women, sharing their experience with hair hate.

But many people, including hundreds of black women and men with natural hair, commented on the ad or took to Twitter to share their frustrations, some comparing the gaffe to Pepsi’s flop.

“I just want to let you all know that you have essentially lost the segment of the market that put you on top. Not another dime will I give to this company. Black women are sharing this video in natural hair groups and we are not happy,” one Facebook user wrote.

Following the initial controversy, Shea Moisture shared a company statement with, writing that their black-owned family business does not take any of their community for granted.

“When large conglomerates ignored women of color and simply marketed products to them vs. making products for them. We were there then – serving women who had historically been undeserved in the beauty industry – and that will never change,” the company wrote.

» RELATED: Why these two black women in the cockpit together just made Delta history

Shea Moisture added that its new innovations are aimed at serving all women and not a chosen few.

“As a company, we have chosen to take a more thoughtful and specific approach to our products that is based on those needs – whether hair that is 4c, 3b, 2a, thick, thinning, damaged, dry, coily, curly, wavy, straight…or skin that is dry, oily, or distressed by psoriasis, eczema or any number of conditions – we’ve created a product for it. We make no apologies for solving for and speaking to our community as human beings and not as data points.”

But the response wasn’t good enough for critics and the video’s controversy loomed through the weekend, leading the company to officially announce its removal.

“While this campaign included several different videos showing different ethnicities and hair types to demonstrate the breadth and depth of each individual’s hair journey, we must absolutely ensure moving forward that our community is well-represented in each one so that the women who have led this movement never feel that their hair journey is minimized in any way,” the company wrote.

» RELATED: Photos: Prominent black women who rock their natural hair 

Unfortunately, despite the apology and ad removal, many black women continue to criticize the brand, some declaring a boycott of all Shea Moisture products.

“We already have few Black businesses in beauty. I think that it is a mistake to abandon a brand that has served and continues to serve because of a Facebook post. Look at our track record, look at what we've done, we are a business that is trying to grow and we need that support,” Sundial Brands CEO and founder Richelieu Dennis told NBC BLK.

Dennis said that with the rising competition of more and more brands servicing women of color, “we have to grow the business.”

And some Twitter users agreed with Dennis — it’s just good business.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.