Black British Girlhood: The Hair Shop Edition

Picture this: you’re 9 years old. It’s Saturday morning and your mum is running her hand over the soft fuzz that’s developed from your plaits. Being 9, you’re not particularly bothered by the fly-aways. Your mum, however, can’t have you out there like that and frankly, this hairstyle has seen better days.

So it’s time to get your hair done, but before this ritual goes down, you and your mum have to take a trip down to the hair shop. All you really want to do is play in the garden then watch reruns of your favourite show (shout out to Sister Sister and Moesha), but there’s a chance that going along can be in your favour.

No matter which hair shop is your staple, they all seem to follow a similar feng-shui: single-file rows of shelves stacked with products overpromising hair growth. Being ushered along the stuffy aisles was not and still isn’t my idea of a fun Saturday, which is why I gave myself this golden rule early on: never go to the hair shop without knowing exactly what you want.


With that being said, here’s a shopping list of some of the things I can remember my mother picking up on those trips to the hair shop:
  1. Just for Me relaxer:
    ‘No-lye’, no problem, right? Wrong! That chemical burn was not the one and I was always pressed that the result rarely stayed looking as good as the girl on the box.

  2. Luster’s pink hair lotion:
    If my hair was dry, my mother let it drink from the fountain of Luster’s Pink Lotion. She swore by this holy grail item on school mornings.

  3. JR Lip Shiner:
    Like I said, going to the hair shop could sometimes work in my favour. Copping one of these always made me feel grown af. New lip gloss, who dis? You couldn’t tell me anything when I had a fresh relaxer and slick JR Lip Shiner. When Lil Mama released Lip Gloss back in 2007, I felt that someone had finally understood the power that roll-on tube had. 
  4. Dax hair pomade:
    Shiny hair, greased scalps and slicked down flyaways – this product did not come to play.

  5. Motions conditioning shampoo:
    A staple in the home and the hair salon, every new hairstyle began with this yellow-and-purple combo.
  6. Multi-coloured rubber bands and assorted hair bobbles:
    My go-to hairstyle was inspired by the rapper Da Brat, which meant there was always a tub of hairbands and grips to mimic her signature twists.

  7. Dark and lovely styling gel:
    This product always reminds me of a glass of coke. Why was it this colour? Why did it flake so quickly? Why did we put up with this? So many questions. 

  8. Razac body lotion:
    This heavily-perfumed lotion brings back memories of older black women throughout my life. Special occasions meant I was allowed to use this too.  

  9. Off-brand, baby-scented vaseline:
    No day could ever really begin without my mum giving me a once-over with the petroleum jelly, sometimes twice if it was an extra cold day.

  10. Sulfur8:
    The smell jumped out at you didn’t it? This grease coupled with freshly-done hair left your scalp tingling for what felt like days. If you know, you really know.
What are some hair shop essentials from your girlhood?