Hey! I’m Imani. My girlfriends know that I’m passionate about femtech, meaning industry focused on solving women’s wellness and self-care issues with tech-based solutions. Like many Black women, I have experienced hair care mishaps. I’m fully invested in the health of my hair. I was curious about how technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) are being used to care for our unique hair health needs. So, I decided to find out.
To get the 411, I spoke to style-conscious people exploring these options, and to Black start-up founders who are pairing modern innovation with the entrepreneurial spirit of Madam C.J. Walker. I was surprised to learn how our hair care journeys may benefit from the offerings of sisterpreneurs using tech to fit wigs, analyze strands or help to find the perfect product. It’s happening!
I was surprised to learn how our hair care journeys may benefit from the offerings of sisterpreneurs using tech to fit wigs, analyze strands or help to find the perfect product. It’s happening!
My Mane Findings
Tress distress: There are few things less flattering than a bad wig — one that screams fake, fits baggy or — gasp! — shows lace. Looking one’s best means nailing fit, color, quality, texture and style. This can be hit or miss, especially when shopping straight off the shelf, on the internet or even at the local wig shop. This can frustrate those of us looking to give a natural style a break from heat damage; cover up medical-related hair loss due to chemotherapy, alopecia and pregnancy; or just switch up a look for fun.
High-tech hair helper: Parfait Tailored Hair leverages artificial intelligence (AI) such as computer vision and machine learning (ML) to fit clients for the perfect wig. The client is asked to place a business card on various points of their face as they strike a pose and snap the image with a web camera. The AI uses visual data to fit the client with a wig in basic black. It can be purchased as is, if it’s working for you, or further customized in color, length and style.
Boss-lady backstory: “It took the founders two years to develop the technology,” says Erwin Hernandez, lead customer advocate. “There’s a lot of wig companies out there, but they don’t have the technology that we have. We used AI before its current popularity.”
Isoken Igbinedion, cofounder and CEO, was fed up while aiming to give her natural hair a break. She couldn’t believe how difficult it was to find a ready-to-wear wig that met her needs: a perfect fit, a flattering style and one that didn’t require additional styling after purchase. She tapped her sister Ifueko Igbinedion, now co-founder and CTO, to help her disrupt the way we shop for wigs. The sisters formed a team of Black female founders with expertise in business and computer science. Cherry on the sundae: They received funding from Serena Williams.
My verdict: Shopping with Parfait felt luxurious and personal. While I have shopped with friends for wigs before, I have never shopped for myself. I enjoyed the AI technologies’ ease of use and appreciated the variety of wigs available in authentic-looking natural textures and styles. With a range of colors showcased on a color spectrum of beautiful Black models, I was able to see myself represented, and a wig in my future.
Keep in mind that wigs start at $405, and gain in price by the hundreds with each customization, due to add-on costs of materials and meshing. Wig enthusiasts like Zawditu Kumordzie, a Houston-based lash technician, thinks it’s worth every penny.
“A good wig is well worth the investment. For girls like me who wear wigs consistently, you’ll have to replace cheaper wigs every few months,” says Kumordzie. “With a signature style that you know looks great and is of the best quality, you know it will last.”
My product pick:
NATURAL BLACK • 14" • CLOSURE
Starting at $640
Tress distress: Our strands’ condition is constantly in flux due to external changes like weather and internal ones like menopause. It can be hard to pinpoint at a particular stage what one’s crown really needs. Experimenting with random products has at times damaged my hair or drained my pockets, with the wrong choices ending up in the trash.
High-tech hair helper: I was excited to learn about Myavana’s HairAI, a digital service designed to offer instant hair analysis and customized hair care guidance and product recommendations. To set up a free hair profile, I uploaded a photo of my flat-ironed coils and answered questions. Based on my goals, the app generated a hair analysis, summarizing the state of my hair affairs and offering care recommendations. It was accurate enough to catch the texture of my roots:
“Type: Straight 99.51%, Type Coily: 0.49%, Texture: Fine 99.27%, Texture: Medium 0.70%.
Bulk up straight hair with a protein shampoo and conditioner. For textured hair, defrizz with smoothing shampoos and conditioners, deep treatments help with style memory.”
Boss-lady backstory: The app was the brainchild of CEO Candace Mitchell Harris, an alumnus of Georgia Tech, after lamenting over the state of her own hair. It was dry, brittle and overprocessed. I can relate!
Determined to take the stress out of caring for textured hair, Mitchell Harris says, “I started Myavana 11 years ago to transform the hair care industry through science and technology. Your hair is as unique as your fingerprint. … Data tells us what will make it healthy and eliminates the guesswork of finding the right products.”
My verdict: Myavana’s paid memberships and analysis kits give customers access to services such as hair coaches and recommendations for professional stylists in their vicinity. I could have really used this when I moved across the country and no longer had access to my favorite stylists, products or hair care routine.
I had fun playing with HairAI, although the experience was not without a bug or two — common with new app offerings. After reading my report, I felt I could benefit from a more in-depth analysis. I learned that I could buy a Hair Strand Analysis Kit, which includes a prepaid envelope to send a hair sample to the Myavana lab, where it will be analyzed under a microscope for elasticity, texture and porosity. The company says the service is especially helpful after major life events such as pregnancy, menopause or living in a new city.
I noticed more than a few Instagrammers expressing concerns about giving up their strands due to cultural superstitions and DNA privacy concerns. Myavana reassured customers that DNA is never collected from samples and that hair is disposed of immediately after analysis. Prospective purchasers like Vanessa Leggard, a social media strategist, thinks it may be worth the perceived risks. “I know that doctors are using AI to analyze skin. I just had that done and it was very detailed, so I am open to giving a sample for a hair treatment [plan].”
My product/service picks:
Myavana Digital Assessment
Myavana Hair Strand Analysis Kit
Regular price $99
Keep It Tight
Tress distress: As many of my 4C girlfriends will attest, sisters with tightly coiled tresses are underserved by beauty brands that tend to cater to straight styles or looser textures.
High-tech hair helper: OurX, like Myavana, offers data-driven hair-care plans. This company develops products specifically for tightly textured curls and coils.
The free quiz asked if I exercised outdoors, and how often I traveled. My Puerto-Rican “roots” reflect a mixed heritage and grow various textured strands: Half of my head is 3C, the other 4A. But my answers also included concerns about strength and breakage. I wasn’t surprised by my recommendation, which included a bundle of four restorative products for $95.20 every six weeks, or $112 for a one-time purchase.
OurX subscribers get hair care tips in their inbox and via SMS, along with a free hair coach to help with the journey.
Boss-lady backstory: Ceci Kurzman, a veteran music industry executive who has served as a board member to Revlon, founded OurX after finding a gap. “Presently, hair care remains segregated in the beauty and personal care industry, with solutions for those with textured hair remaining separate and unequal,” she said in a recent press release. Meghan Maupin, an MIT grad, is the current CEO.
My verdict: I was impressed to learn that OurX’s education team boasts celebrity hairstylist Johnny Wright, who has tended to the tresses of Michelle Obama and Tamron Hall. I also liked that products are affordable, starting at $24 and up to $150 for full regimens. “We wanted to ensure that OurX made premium hair care and education accessible to our community with tightly textured hair,” explains Maupin.
I also appreciate the well-designed packaging. The site’s community feels inclusive. Products are developed by dermatologists and are phthalate and paraben free.
“I’m always looking for quality hair care that doesn’t contain toxins,” says Drew Scott, a father of five. “I have children with varying degrees of natural texture, so I’m excited about this.”
My product pick:
Scalp Purifying Solution
Product shopping online or in a store can be overwhelming. I don’t often have time to sit and read labels. Knowing which creams and hair masks to use, and when, can get confusing —especially if you’re new to natural hair care, just did “the big chop” or are transitioning from chemical processes.
High-tech hair helper: Kakebi, a natural hair care brand, uses superfoods to nourish kinky curly hair. A code on each product label leads customers to targeted how-to-videos. Use your smartphone to scan the products that catch your eye to learn more while in-store or at home.
Boss-lady backstory: Teenpreneur Sky Bynum founded the company in 2020, when she was just 13. After noticing that her natural locks flourished when she used ingredients such as chebe, walnut oil and burdock root, Bynum quickly got to work. Customers were receptive to Bynum’s textured hair-positive products, but they still had a ton of questions about how to use them and when. After getting good feedback on her Instagram videos, Bynum had the idea to include codes on actual product labels that would bring products to life.
My verdict: Bynum’s videos are fun to watch and give customers a walk-through of the process of applying creams and masks.
“I love the addition of a code with step-by-step instructions!” says Tiisha Haynes, media director and NYC Realtor. “Written definitions tend to be limiting because they’re simplified for ease of use and short to fit on packaging.”
My product pick:
Search Is Over
Tress distress: Finding a stylist in your area with expertise in natural hair can be tough. If a stylist isn’t used to working with kinks, coils and curls, clients could leave that chair with hair damage or even a hot-mess ’do. “These days there are a ton of transplants and people living nomadic lifestyles, people working remotely who may live in New York for a month, then Chicago the next,” says Marquetta Riley, hairstylist/owner of M. Riley Studio in Seattle. “They are people of color, and you can’t just walk in anywhere.”
High-tech hair helper: Swivel Beauty is a digital marketplace connecting clients with vetted hair stylists specializing in natural textures, so you don’t have to book an appointment and then say a prayer. It also features hair care products recommended for natural hair.
Boss-lady backstory: Jihan Thompson, a former magazine editor, filled a real need by founding Swivel Beauty to help Black women find reputable hair care services.
My verdict: I loved how clean the Swivel Beauty website is, and I appreciated the ease of search. Users can search for “Desired Service(s)” such as braids, a haircut or a rod set. We can also search by “Hair Type” to locate a stylist with specific expertise, or by desired appointment time and price. I searched for box braids in New York City and got a ton of natural hair care salon results. Lots to choose from as Swivel lists stylists across 18 states and the District of Columbia. This will be especially helpful when I’m back east in New York. In the meantime, I’m holding out for my city. Swivel, come to Seattle!
My product pick from their recommendations:
ECRU New York Curl Perfect Defining Styling Potion
$32 on Amazon.com