Not too long ago, on TikTok, videos sharing the benefits and results of people using Amla oil and Chebe powder blew up. With this new exposure, Amla oil and Chebe powder started flying off the shelves. But what is Amla oil and Chebe?
Amla, also known as Indian Gooseberry, are small berries that grow on a flowering trees native to southern Asia. For centuries, it has been used by southern Asian people in countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In fact, it has a spiritual significance in the Hindu religion.
It is known and used for its highly rejuvenating and antimicrobial properties. For the hair, it has been mixed into oil and applied to the scalp, rubbed into the hair, and made into a paste used as a shampoo. All “parts of the Amla plant were used in Ayurvedic medicine, including both dried and fresh fruit.”
Source: Bhumija Lifesciences
It cannot be emphasized enough that it has been a part of Ayurvedic medicine and Indian culture for forever. So even as South Asians have immigrated to the United States, they have brought this aspect of their culture with them. Amla is available for purchase and consumption in the U.S., so those living here have better access. The knowledge and use of amla did expand outside of Asian communities to other ethnic groups and to the natural hair community. However, with the resurgence of popularity beyond Asian communities due to popular TikToks, we have seen the price increase, it being sold out, and people complaining about it.
Chebe is a finely milled powder used by the women of the Basara (or Bassara) tribe in Chad and is known to be the secret to their long hair. There are some discrepancies between what Chebe actually is in the Western world since, technically, it wasn’t meant for us.
One source says the powder is “a mixture of cherry seeds, cloves, lavender crotons, stone scent and resin tree sap.” And another states that the recipe used by the Chadian women is “Shébé seeds (Croton zambesicus/Croton du Zambèze), Mahllaba soubiane" seeds, "Missic" stone to scent, cloves, "samour" resin, scented oil, and hair grease or pomade”.
What it's made from doesn't really matter because it still became known to the natural hair community as a miracle ingredient around five years ago after one woman, Miss Sahel, shared footage of women in Chad applying it to each other's hair. Her video was shared all over Facebook. Millions of views later, natural hair enthusiasts bought the powder, making their own version of the paste. Rising to popularity again late last year on TikTok.
The problem with ethnic products trending is that people who do not need them indulge in it. Now prices are increasing, people's hair is falling out and products are in little to no supply.
This directly relates to how products on TikTok are becoming popular but then becoming inaccessible to the original people they were intended for. There is also a valid and genuine fear that the companies will no longer cater to the groups they were meant for as white people “discover” them and their market expands. Ethnic products are being gentrified and whitewashed.
This is not to blame the new groups that want to try new things but instead capitalism and greed itself. Many businesses should be trying to keep in mind why they were well-loved in the first place instead of losing themselves in the money they are receiving.
Take Shea Moisture as an example. They were originally a black-owned brand that made natural hair products for black people. After they were sold, their formula and brand direction started to change to expand and bring in a new customer base (white people), and they seemed to virtually forget about the people who they were originally made for and who were loving and supporting them.
Source: Pure Wow
It’s happened to Carol’s daughter and now again with Mielle. We don’t want to see it happen to Chebe, Amla, and more, as they are beginning to get more attention. There must be a compromise when brands can expand and attract new customers without dropping their old ones.
Attention needs to be paid when changes in consumerism occur. This problem expands far beyond hair and beauty products. It has been happening on a large scale and is now trickling down. Will these products remain relevant after they've been gentrified or is this the next TikTok hair fad? Only time will tell.