Melanin Haircare Founders On Bringing Authenticity to the Influencer World

Photography courtesy of Melanin Haircare

“There’s now this need for shock value, which, yes, can be entertaining; but it can also be a lot like looking for negative things to say,” the Melanin Haircare founder says.

“I started my YouTube channel out of necessity,” says Boston-based YouTuber Whitney White, who is known as Naptural85 to her 1.3 million subscribers on YouTube and 700,000+ Instagram followers. In 2008, when she decided to forgo the use of chemical straighteners, relaxers and texturizers and grow out her natural hair, she figured she’d be able to fill in any gaps of knowledge about the process using online resources. But she quickly learned that those resources were few and far between. So she took matters into her own hands and began filming herself whipping up DIY concoctions with ingredients like flaxseed, apple cider vinegar and eggs.

“‘Influencing’ wasn’t a word,” she points out. “I was just growing out my hair and trying new things. I thought, ‘I’ll make videos about what I’m learning along the way because surely there’s somebody out there who has a similar hair type and they’ll find this helpful if and when they decide to go natural.’”

African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo, $27, and Multi-Use Softening Leave-In Conditioner, $31, Melanin Haircare.

At the same time, Whitney’s sister, Taffeta — who has a legal background — was managing the Naptural85 channel behind the scenes. “We’re like two different parts of one brain,” says Whitney. “I’m the creative side, and Taffeta is the analytical side. You need to have a business partner whom you’re not afraid to tell the truth to, no matter how hard that truth is. My sister and I know how to separate sisterhood and business. After a disagreement, we’ll say ‘OK, well that was business, but I still love you.’”

In 2018, in response to requests from their online community, the White sisters launched Melanin Haircare, a line of products made for curly, kinky, coily and wavy hair types. Available at Sephora Canada since last year, the brand is a testament to “the power of authenticity and community building within the influencer world,” says Taffeta.

In the 16 years since the launch of Naptural85, Whitney says she’s witnessed massive change and growth in the online beauty community. “Now, influencing is a career you can make a living from,” she says. “And there are so many people contributing to the conversation, which is great. There are a lot of positives to the industry’s growth, but there are downsides, too. There’s now this need for shock value, which, yes, can be entertaining; but it can also be a lot like looking for negative things to say. People go to extremes to get views.”

Social media qualms aside, the sisters were actually inspired by online platforms when it came time to name the brand. “It was 2015 and the word ‘melanin’ was really popping online,” says Whitney. “People were saying things like ‘I’m a melanated queen’ and ‘melanin-rich skin.’ I was like, ‘Taffeta, what about Melanin Haircare?’ And she was like, ‘Yup, that’s it!’”

Melanin Haircare
Twist-Elongating Style Cream, $27, and Plumping Deep Conditioner, $43, Melanin Haircare.

Whitney says that Melanin Haircare is their way of saying “We see you; this is for you.” Their online community now includes celebrities like Beyoncé, who featured the brand in her Black-owned-business directory on her site in 2020. Today, Melanin Haircare offers a range of products for textured hair — including shampoo, conditioner and styling cream — all made with nourishing, good-for-you ingredients like argan oil, rosemary, turmeric and cocoa butter. “Melanin Haircare is an extension of the Naptural85 DIYs,” says Whitney.

The White sisters may have scaled Whitney’s DIY curl creations into a full-blown beauty brand, but promoting healthy hair with nutritious ingredients is still at the heart of Melanin Haircare. “I hope our products communicate that we care about your hair,” says Whitney. “The goal is that the health of your hair will improve so much that you won’t have to worry about the styles you choose because your hair will have enough elasticity, strength and moisture to support anything.”

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This article first appeared in FASHION’s March 2024 issue. Find out more here.

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