I grew up inside of the beauty stores that littered Madison Avenue in Oak Park. I have definitive memories of beauty and childhood: the first time my mother used a hot comb on my hair, my strange and strong desire to cut off my long thick locks (and the moment in which I actually did it), the first burn of a first relaxer. But none stick out so clearly in my mind as the beauty supply store, probably because, unlike those earlier experiences, going to the store was a ritual itself. This was not a one-time moment of trauma or fear; this was a homecoming every few weeks.
According to Essence’s 2009 Smart Beauty research study, black women spend $7.5 billion annually on beauty products, while paying 80 percent more on cosmetics and twice as much on skin care products than the general market. Reading this was affirmation of something I’ve always known: we want. We want to play and protect and hide and and comfort ourselves in the same way that a