Various hair products on a purple background.

Beauty supply vending machines would help Black students care for their curly or coily hair, contest-winning entrepreneurs say

When Ashleigh Chiwaya was a freshman at an all-girls boarding school in Wellesley, Massachusetts, she realized that Black students there had a unique challenge — limited access to hair care products.

Black people’s hair, according to the American Academy of Dermatologists Association, has a unique structure and is especially fragile and prone to injury and damage. It is essential to moisturize the hair well to prevent breakage.

Chiwaya, now a second-year student studying psychology and data science at Northeastern University, told her teachers that students like her needed to make regular trips to beauty supply stores.

“So from freshman year to senior year, we always had those kinds of trips to go to hair stores,” she says. “But the closest ones were 30 minutes away. … So that was a convenience and accessibility issue.”

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Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University