Puff Balls

Puff Balls

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cross-Cultural Hair Experience at Lush Cosmetics Part 2

Hello everyone,

As I mentioned earlier,  I had no idea that Lush takes its customer service so seriously.  A White saleswoman reached for my hair, my eyes grew large and I thought, "Wait, is she about to DO my hair?"

YES!!!!  Before I could jump up, she put her hands in my hair and began to scrunch the R&B product through my bangs.  As she scrunched, she said things like it will soften my kinky hair, make it smoother, longer, etc.  Wait, did SHE just call MY hair "kinky"?  Yes, I have kinky hair but that's for me to say not her, right?  Right?  Why in the world did I find that adjective so offensive when it came from her mouth?  My observant Mother was giving the saleswoman the side eye and looking at me as if to say, "No she didn't".  We walked out of the store with our sample in hand (still need to try it) venting about the saleswoman's gall to call my hair kinky.

Don't get me wrong, I think the saleswoman was an absolute sweetheart who was doing her best to educate me about what looks like a great product (White saleswoman, if you are reading this, please know that I am not hating; sorry, I really should have gotten your name!).  However, I do believe that such organizations should recognize potential pitfalls when working with different hair types and textures.  Specifically, I think their employees need to be sensitized to the fact that hair is intimately connected to identity and that identity is connected to ingroup (us) and outgroup (them) dynamics.  Because of this, outgroup members may accidentally set off identity landmines and be completely unaware that they have incensed a customer.

What do you think?  Have you ever experienced such an interaction?  Do you think that I should write Lush Cosmetics and have this discussion with their management team?

Curious to hear your thoughts.




  1. First I have to say that I think it's customary to ask permission before touching a person (or a person's hair).

    Your post did get me thinking though: if the tables were turned (like if you were white or of another ethnicity), how would you describe your hair? I think her use of the word "kinky" was a more of a description vs. value judgement. If she said your hair was dark in color, or short, perhaps it would not have been an issue.

    What if she used the word "nappy"? I imagine that would be an altogether different interaction. Of course, it's easy for me to say sitting here -- I don't know how I would have taken it. I'm also curious to see what others think.

  2. Hi Esther B,

    Thanks so much for your comment! I agree, I think she should have asked permission (maybe she did and I've just blocked that out given my shock?). Also, I have no idea how I'd describe my hair but I'd probably say something like super-curly, coily...I don't know, "kinky" just seems too close to the line. I do agree with you, I don't think she meant any harm at all. If she'd said "nappy" it wouldn't have been pretty! Have you had a chance to ask any of your friends? What do they think?