5 Women Who Pioneered the Hair Industry

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Women’s History Month is a time when we reflect, honor and support women across the globe. Throughout the month women are recognized for their work in the sciences, activism, fashion, education and professional studies.

The Cut Life serves as a platform for women stunners of all ages, colors and flyness and today; we would like to celebrate those women who are pioneers in the hair industry.

Madam CJ Walker (1867-1919)

Madam CJ Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, had been a victim of hair loss and sought a treatment for the condition. The method of beauty culture she developed revolutionized black hair care. It involved the combination of scalp preparation, application of lotions, and use of iron combs and became known as the “Walker system.”

She distinguished her products from the hair straighteners advocated by white cosmetic firms, arguing that her treatment was geared to the specific health needs of blacks. She tapped into a market no one had even thought about at the time.

She sold her homemade products directly to black women, using a personal approach that won her customers and eventually a fleet of loyal saleswomen. On her own, she became the first African- American saleswoman millionaire during the first quarter of the 20th century.

Rose Evansky (1922-2016)

Rose Evansky was a British hairdresser who liberated women from the head-encasing domed dryer when she invented blow-dry styling at her London salon in the early 1960s. Rose was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany and set up as a hairstylist soon after WWII. She and her hairdresser husband, Albert, opened a small shop in a London suburb. One day on her way to work in 1962, as she was getting ready to face a day of chemical hair-straightening and tight curling, tasks she disliked, inspiration suddenly struck.

“I’d been wandering past a barbershop in Brook Street around the corner from our salon in North Audley Street, and I saw the barber drying the front of a man’s hair with a brush and a hand-held dryer. And this image — of the barber with the dryer — flashed through my mind and I thought, ‘Why not for women?’ ”she told W Magazine in 2012. 

She experimented on one of her clients. She used a spiky plastic hairbrush and a hand dryer and started rolling a wet section of the client’s hair around the brush, followed by warm air from the hand dryer held in her left hand. She wrote in a memoir, “In Paris We Sang” (2013), “The more sections of wet hair I rolled over the brush, the easier it became, and soon part of Mrs. Hay’s curly hair looked smooth as if it had been brushed through from a set. Exciting!

This instantly earned her a reputation as one of the top hairdressers in London and went on to become the norm in hair drying.

Olive Benson (1932-2005)

Olive Lee Benson was recognized as a premier hairstylist and an expert in relaxing and straightening hair. She received her diploma and certification to practice hairdressing and styling. In later years, she continued her professional training and education at schools including Vidal Sassoon in London, England, and Clairol in New York City.

In Benson’s first small storefront beauty shop in Chicago, her clients, mostly African-Americans, were women with extremely curly hair. She offered the most advanced styling and hair treatment techniques. Benson moved her salon business to Boston in the 1960s and with her success moved to two larger locations in Boston’s upscale downtown retail districts, before opening her largest enterprise in 1997 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

Women from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds came to Olive’s Beauty Salon to have their curly hair straightened and styled with the most up-to-date fashion. In 1976, Benson became the designer and coordinator for several industry publications that set seasonal trends for both ethnic and non-ethnic styling.

One of Benson’s lifelong dreams came true in 1996 with the creation and marketing of her line of hair products known as “Universal Textures.” It included a relaxer for all types of hair texture—which she calls a “universal relaxer,” a protein hair conditioner, shampoo and a leave-in conditioner. Her products are marketed under Universal Textures at her Chestnut Hill salon.

A holder of numerous awards, she received a citation and honor as the first black inducted into the Hall of Renown of the National Cosmetology Association and awards from the International Beauty Show. In 1996, she was the first African American to receive a North American Hairstyle Award.

Kim Kimble

Kim Kimble is a third generation hairstylist, having started as a shampoo girl for her mother at the family salon in Los Angeles. In 1995, Kim opened her first salon, Phaze II, in Los Angeles. Her work on B*A*P*S, starring Halle Berry, led to more jobs in the entertainment industry where she worked with Brandy on the TV movie Cinderella and Beyoncé on Austin Powers: Goldmember.

Kim serves as the primary stylist on all of Beyoncé’s movie, television and music projects in addition to working with celebrities like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Shakira, Mary J. Blige, and even the iconic Miss Piggy. Kim also works with up-and-coming stars like Zendaya and Iggy Azalea.

In 2000, she launched Kimble Beauty™, a full range hair care line designed to address the needs of women of color with various hair textures. In 2013 she developed K2 Beauty™, a line of professional hair care products designed to expand the Kimble Beauty™ brand. You can watch her in action on her reality show “LA Hair” on WETV.

Tymeka Lawrence, creator, and president of Hairfinity


Tymeka Lawrence and her husband, Brock Lawrence established Brock Beauty Inc. in 2004 when they spotted a gap in the hair and cosmetic industry. Under the parent company Brock Beauty, they created HAIRFINITY®. Hairfinity supplement encourages fast and healthy new hair growth and has become a brand known all over the world.

Tymeka discovered it was very difficult to find products that contained both safe and effective ingredients. While researching and developing the perfect formula for Hairfinity®, Lawrence found that women all over the world share similar hair issues. She also noticed how the health and appearance of a woman’s hair impact her self-esteem and found that most women are unaware that healthy hair starts with proper nutrition.

Celebrities that have endorsed it include Kim Kardashian West, Khloe Kardashian, Blac Chyna, Regina King, RHOA’s Porsha Williams And Keshia Knight Pulliam. For the last ten years, Tymeka and her husband Brock have helped men and women find the confidence they thought they’d never develop and remain active in the company with their daughter, Jasmine.

“When you try to do something different, people won’t always be supportive. They won’t always see your vision. But if you believe in yourself, it will be easier to pursue your dreams and make them a reality. Remember, social media is big today and if used correctly it can benefit your business greatly. Through social media, you can engage with your core audience.”- Tymeka Lawrence, via womaninthejungle.com

 We salute all you women this Women’s History Month! Who are your favorite hair pioneers?

All photos are from Pinterest.