SheaMoisture's latest platform challenges the concept of "normal" hair.

Forget about Becky with the good hair.

On the heels of its #BreakTheWalls awareness platform to tear down the physical store barriers separating products by ethnic types, SheaMoisture is unleashing the next phase of its efforts to shake up the status quo. This time the Sundial Brands-owned skin and hair line is launching a direct challenge to the beauty industry’s concept of standardized ideals by posing the short, yet powerful, question: What’s normal?

In a short film, 30-second spots and behind-the-scenes footage, prominent beauty vloggers including Naptural85 and StyledByAle, and women who have made headlines for defending their hair in the workplace — such as Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs (who petitioned the U.S. military to change its policy banning natural hairstyles) and Rhonda Lee, a meteorologist who was fired from an ABC affiliate for responding to a comment about her natural hair — question what the terminology “normal” means. Many existing hair-care products using the words for “normal hair” on packaging.

“With SheaMoisture’s launch of #BreakTheWalls earlier this year, we furthered our 25-year mission to spark meaningful conversation and action toward true inclusion and a more empathetic mind-set in the beauty industry and our society, which includes bringing down both literal and metaphoric walls,” said Richelieu Dennis, founder and chief executive officer of Sundial Brands. “With our first iteration, we showed the physical walls coming down. With ‘What’s Normal?’ we are confronting the mental walls that encourage us to force-fit ourselves and others into falsely constructed beauty and ‘good hair’ ideals. Our forward track must focus on including everyone, embracing everyone and celebrating the beauty — and normalcy — of everyone’s differences.”

“What’s Normal?” continues to reinforce SheaMoisture’s focus on what it has coined as the New General Market, which is defined by inclusion and commonalities via need states. The New General Market approach has been instrumental in retailers reworking how they merchandise primarily skin- and hair-care items in aisles. SheaMoisture has partnered with retailers, as well as other brands, to lead the introduction of a problem-solution approach to the industry.

To complement “What’s Normal?,” SheaMoisture invested in the technology to build the first hair recognition tool of its kind on the market — “Good Hair Day” (amillionwaystoshea.com). The “Good Hair Day” tool lets users take a photo and answer hair questions to get “at-a-click” personalized recommendations to easily match their hair need with a specific product and quickly navigate the more than 150 hair items in SheaMoisture’s arsenal. In total, the company offers upward of 500 products made with natural, certified organic and fair trade ingredients to meet individual needs across body, face, shave, cosmetics, men, baby and hair.

“We are constantly iterating on our approach to what are considered ‘industry’ standards and what we hold as ‘our’ standards — testing, learning and growing as we work to serve her better,” Dennis said. “Even when we’ve conducted limited-run label tests using ‘normal’ on our packaging, the results have shown an overwhelming preference for need state vs. normal because of its exclusionary nature.”

Sundial executives added that in the coming weeks, the Perception Institute will separately release a first-of-its-kind national study measuring implicit bias linked to differences in hair texture. Perception Institute, a consortium of social psychologists and strategists who use research on how our brains respond to differences in race, ethnicity and gender to understand and disrupt harms linked to those identities, has conducted a hair study measuring the implicit biases linked to hair. Implicit bias, the automatic association of stereotypes or attitudes toward particular groups, is measured by taking an implicit association test, or IAT (implicit.harvard.edu).

Hundreds of studies over the last two decades have confirmed that many people have implicit biases linked to race and gender that are rooted in pervasive societal stereotypes. Implicit bias affects how we perceive and treat others, sometimes in ways that have serious consequences.

To date, no one has examined implicit biases linked to hairstyles worn by black women, according to Sundial. Leveraging insights from and images provided by SheaMoisture’s hair and beauty experts, Perception Institute created the first-ever “Hair IAT” to measure whether implicit bias against black women’s natural hair exists, as well as an extensive explicit survey to assess how the public feels about the beauty and professionalism of black women’s hairstyles. Findings from the study, which is based on a 4,000-person national sample, will be released in the coming weeks.

“Perception Institute’s study will be one of the most meaningful and extensive pieces of independent research to hit the beauty industry to-date,” Dennis said. “With increasing headlines around the world highlighting natural hair restrictions and intolerance in the workplace, schools and society at large, it is critical that as a society we understand hair bias and the role it plays in how we view others, the value we place on them and our expectations of them to fit into a singular view of ‘normal.’ My hope is that the insights gleaned from this seminal study will be a turning point in the beauty industry’s evolution from making people feel good about themselves to also transforming how they see — and thus treat — themselves and others.”

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