Affordable Natural Hair Products Shouldn’t Be A Market Gap, Says Taraji P. Henson

Photo: courtesy of Saisha Beecham.
When I chat with Taraji P. Henson, it's clear from the get-go that she's a person with initiative. "I'm just sweating from this beating I got from my trainer— he's trying to kill me," she tells me. Henson is hosting this week's BET Awards and actively filming for the musical The Color Purple.
When she's not busy with acting and appearances (or at the gym), Henson works on the production and design of her beauty brand, TPH by Taraji. The label is more than a passion project, it's filling a gap in the market: Affordable hair and body products designed to meet the needs of people with natural hair who frequently transition between natural and protective styles.

On the importance of scalp care

I asked Henson why she created TPH by Taraji in the first place. "I saw that what I wanted didn't exist," Henson explains. "I didn't see anything targeting scalp, or any education on keeping scalp clean when you have a protective hairstyle — I didn't see that audience being targeted. That was important to me."
When launching TPH, Henson was thinking about the specific challenges facing a woman who wears a protective hairstyle. "When your hair is in a protective style, it's away," she explains, "but you have to take care of your scalp, you have to keep it clean. I just knew that education was off. Women didn't know. I could people-watch and tell that a woman had a dirty scalp — not in a shadey way, just from my own knowledge. I wanted to help people get a clean scalp, and educate on the benefits of [it]. I knew that women were just tucking their hair away, thinking it was going to grow. You still gotta love it. It'll get matte and brittle if you don't take care of it."
So, how do you care for your scalp on wash day? According to Henson — someone who personally transitions between weaves and wigs and her natural hair quite often — it's with her TPH products. She treats the skin on her scalp like the skin on her face, especially when she's transitioning out of a protective style and her scalp needs that extra TLC.
"I start with wet hair and wet scalp, section my hair to get to the scalp, and I start with the sugar scrub, Never Salty. It's an exfoliant for the scalp that gets all the debris, buildup, dandruff, dry skin, all of it off the scalp. Then [I] use the Master Cleanse to get the sugar-scrub residue out of [my] hair. Then I always finish with a conditioner for my scalp as well."
It's not until Henson is done with scalp care that she moves to her hair care, like the shampoo, conditioner, and masking. "It's a different process," she explains. "I use Honey Fresh Shampoo and Make It Rain Conditioner for my hydration. I might use Mother Earth Mask if I'm coming out of a protective style, because that helps get your curl pattern back."

Why affordability matters

As you can tell from Henson's routine, for many women with natural hair, it takes a lot of products to get the scalp clean and the curls healthy, which is why Henson wanted the cost per unit to be as low as possible. "It's always a challenge, but I'm adamant about it," she says. "I got a DM the other day and it said, 'Thank you so much for not forgetting about us and for making things affordable.' It's important. Everybody can't afford Oribe."

Inside the celebrity beauty space

Henson is one of many celebrities that are investing in beauty products, with the likes of Tracee Ellis Ross in the hair-care space and of course, Rihanna. But Henson sees it as a very individual experience, because every celebrity serves a different niche.
"When you get into the beauty industry and you're a celebrity, you really have to know your audience," Henson explains. "Rihanna's audience is different. She's a big mega singing star and her tickets aren't cheap, so she can drop a product that's $50 because people are used to that price tag. For me, I'm $20 at the movies. I know my audience and I can't ignore them. Will I ever come out with a luxury brand? Absolutely, that's where I'm headed. But you have to start somewhere and I want something for everyone." 
Moreover, Henson is of the opinion that there's no such thing as an over saturation when it comes to the natural hair-care market. "I did a panel with some of the natural hair-care founders and someone said that 70 percent of the world has textured hair," she says."That means that there's so much room." Which takes us back to the need for different products, specific to natural hair. "I've never just used one product," Henson adds. "So I want TBH to be a part of the regimen, a part of your life, even if it's just one product. I mean, you can buy the whole line and it still won't cost you $100."

"I did a panel with some of the natural hair-care founders and someone said that 70% of the world has textured hair. That means that there's so much room."

Taraji P. Henson

Small and BIPOC-founded beauty brands to support

Because I can tell that Henson is conscientious, I'm curious about what other beauty brands she supports and uses in her own life. "I like to support smaller brands," she says. "I have a friend who does my nails, she's done Beyoncé's nails, and her salon is called The Nail Suite, her name is Lisa Logan. She makes the most incredible handmade soaps, they are absolutely amazing. I start with her soaps, then I go into my regimen with TPH body products. I also love Paul Scerri, I've been using the pH Balancing Cream for over 20 years. Biore, I love. My favorite shimmer is a Body Lava from Fenty. I love what Rihanna has done with that line." 
Specifically for her nails, Henson loves doing her own manicures. She tells me she just DIYed a pink chrome set that was "so pretty and dainty." But she's also quick to show love to the incredible celebrity nails artists who make her job as a host or a presenter a little easier. "For the big professional stuff, like BET, I'll have someone else make me a set," she says. "Temeka Jackson is amazing. Plus, I have a lot of other things I have to think about."
Shop the TPH by Taraji line, below:
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