This is Texture Talk, a column that celebrates and deep dives into the dynamic world of curly hair, from crowns of curls that are free flowing to strands that are tucked away in a protective style.
The male grooming industry has blown up to become a multi-billion dollar trade, but through its soaring success, much of which is due to the beard movement, the industry has failed to recognize one particular customer with incredible buying power — Black men.
Whether located on their heads or face, the needs of Black men’s afro-textured hair is unique, yet product lines directed at them across mass and prestige markets are hugely underrepresented. It’s rare to find catered primping solutions on the shelves of major retailers, especially high-end, and whenever you do, the products are usually assigned to a separate, dingy section.
Aaron Wallace is on a mission to change that narrative. The British barber-turned-grooming-brand-founder has his own eponymous natural hair and beard care range for Black men, a line that was born out of his South East London barbershop. “How I came into the Aaron Wallace brand was simply through having conversations [with clients]. Cutting hair day in and day out, you become not only someone’s barber, but also like their hair doctor,” shares Wallace.
Through these chats, Wallace says that he noticed that many of his Black male clients were dealing with the same hair issues, like constant dryness and receding hairlines. Aware of the lack of products on the market that properly catered to their needs, and uncomfortable recommending most of what was out there, the hair pro decided to take action with a four-piece, paraben-free line (which is now officially available in Canada via international shipping) that easily fits into any grooming routine no matter how simple or extensive it is. “I just found that there was such a need for my customers – and for myself. [Being a barber], I thought I was in the best position to find a solution for this.”
Since launching the Aaron Wallace brand, the entrepreneur has closed up shop to focus solely on his hair and beard care range. “The goal has been to produce products that are multi-functional and of a quality premium feel,” he says.
We recently caught up with the ex-barber virtually to chat hero ingredients, building his brand and the grooming industry at large. Read on for what he shared.
On building his grooming brand and landing on the right hero ingredients and formula:
“The first thing I did was look into the key differences between afro hair and other hair types. By doing research into the fundamental makeup of afro-textured hair, I was able to find ingredients that were really good for addressing afro-hair needs. For example, with textured hair, one of the main issues we’re very prone to is dryness because of the curl patterns, especially when you’re living in cooler countries. So once I had the issues I wanted to tackle, it was all about hero ingredients. I found that mango butter [is great] for maintaining hydration in the hair and that black seed oil is one of those almost mythical ingredients: It has so many holistic health benefits in terms of cleansing the hair and [promoting] hair growth. Mango seed butter and black seed oil ended up being the two staples I wanted to work with.
After that, I became the guinea pig. I tested all other ingredient ideas on myself and tested different formulations until I got to a point where I liked it. I then took products to customers and other Black men and ran a few focus groups to get their thoughts and feelings on what they thought could be improved. From there, we started to do the manufacturing.”
On his full Aaron Wallace product line-up:
“Our focus has always been on the solutions to healthy afro hair. I found that in order to really grow and maintain afro hair, you need to cleanse and preferably with a natural cleanser that doesn’t strip the hair too much of its natural oils. Then you need to condition with, again, a natural conditioner that helps to strengthen and improve the actual condition of the hair strand. Then it’s about locking in moisture. So we started with our shampoo, conditioner and hair moisturizer, and the final step was my hair and beard oil, which helps to seal in all that moisture you added in plus adds extra nutrients.”
On what still needs to change in mainstream grooming to better serve Black men:
“One of the key things we’re big about is accessibility. When I started out, there were barely any products on the market that were made for Black men. In the UK, it was a big quest to go and find afro-hair shops to begin with, and when you did find one, most of the products were tailored to women. I just felt Black men were really underserved. When I go to a large supermarket to do my weekly shop and I see hair brands on the shelves, I should be able to find something catered to my hair texture as well.”
On the brand’s most popular markets worldwide:
“The UK is our top in terms of sales, and second is the US. Almost half of our Instagram followers are from the US. I’ve also found that the issue of being underserved that many Black men were facing in the UK [was also the experience of] many in other parts of the EU as well, so we have a lot of customers from countries like Germany and France. They say the same thing: There isn’t anything there formulated for their hair types.”
On his biggest grooming tip:
“When it comes to any haircare, it’s important to know that there are two sides to the coin: the internal and external. The internal is about making sure that you’re eating and sleeping well and avoiding as much stress as possible by keeping those cortisol levels down. With the external, it’s important to remember that it’s all about consistency and a routine. I always compare grooming to going to the gym. If you go and work out on Monday you’re not going to see real results on Tuesday. Working out is a thing you have to continually do, and if you maintain a routine and stay consistent, you’ll see results. It’s the same thing with haircare.”
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