Work & Wellbeing

Pantene takes on afro hair discrimination with Black Minds Matter and Project Embrace



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February 23, 2021 | 5 min read

Pantene has partnered with black mental health organisation Black Minds Matter and afro hair positivity venture Project Embrace to release a new campaign which aims to increase awareness of hair discrimination and common microaggressions in the UK, as well as stimulate long-lasting change to end discrimination against afro hair.

Black woman with afro hair

Forming part of the brand's ongoing Gold Series products, which launched in 2018, the ‘My Hair Won’t Be Silenced’ campaign kicked off following a research report which looks into the discrimination that people with afro hair in the UK face. The report found that at least 93% of Black people with afro hair having experienced microaggressions related to their hair, according to a 2020 report conducted by Censuswide.

Pantene launched the emotive short film, helmed by creative collective SXWKs, which features six Black British women talking about their personal and collective experiences of embracing and celebrating their hair.

Charles Olayinka, creative collective director at SXWKS, said: “For SXWKS it was great to work with a team that are passionate about making thought-provoking content and a brand like Pantene that wants to help raise awareness of an important conversation like hair discrimination.”

Hair has been shown to be key for boosting self-esteem, confidence and a sense of identity, which is why Pantene is on a mission to provide more great hair days for all. The brand strives to reduce hair discrimination in the UK by 2025 through the My Hair Won’t Be Silenced campaign and the Power of Hair Fund.

Pantene's partnership with Project Embrace, an initiative focusing on increasing representation of afro hair within advertising and the media, is helping to progress its mission to normalise and celebrate afro hair within its campaigns and the Gold Series. Research has shown that 70% of Black people agree they do not feel their hair type is represented in the media and/ or advertising.

Lekia Lée, founder of Project Embrace, added: “We cannot expect to enjoy the benefits of an inclusive society if the images we constantly see do not reflect diversity. Advertising is a powerful medium and we can use that power for good.

”This is why the Pantene campaign is so important, because we cannot be what we cannot see. By showing more images of afro textured hair in a positive light, it is giving Afro hair a voice that has been silenced for far too long. It is normalising its existence and creating the diversity we need to see. Diversity is not going away, and will never go away, so instead of wasting energy and time in fighting it, we should embrace it and benefit from it.”

Pantene will continue to work with Black Minds Matter, Project Embrace, and other partners to drive cultural debate focused on increasing awareness and education around unspoken hair bias, after finding that only 7% of people without afro hair experiencing regular microaggressions.

The Power of Hair Fund will support charity partners and community groups who share the common goal to end hair discrimination in the UK. And the campaign will include educational resources crafted by experts about microaggressions, the science and beauty of afro hair and ways to support the mission.

Pantene Gold Series was initially launched in the UK in January 2018 after 15 years of research with Black PHD’s and scientists to provide strength and moisture for women with relaxed, natural or transitioning hair. Pantene has focused on representing all hair types; its current brand ambassador, Somalian boxer Ramla Ali who herself has afro hair, has worked with the brand since 2019 to promote hair diversity and afro positivity.

Ramla Ali, boxer and Pantene ambassador:“My personal hair journey has been a real whirlwind; I have memories from school picture day, being made to feel less beautiful than all the other girls with straight hair, and even now hair stylists try and convince me to straighten my natural hair.

”There are deeply entrenched beliefs in society about what is deemed more beautiful and the small, often unspoken microaggressions that come with this. That’s why I’m so proud to be a Pantene Gold Series ambassador and see this campaign come to life. It’s so important to raise awareness of the issues and ensure that all types of afro hair are celebrated as beautiful.”

Katharine Joy NewbyGrant, vice-president for Beauty Care Northern Europe, said: “I am delighted to see Pantene take this step to help racial equality and overcome bias towards afro hair in the UK.

”At P&G, we are working to stamp out racism and promote equal opportunities for all, both inside our workplaces and in wider society. I am proud of our progress, but we can and will do more to embrace all our differences and create a more level playing field, so every person feels they belong and is able to unlock their full potential”.

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