Sarah Breedlove, known today as Madam C.J. Walker, lived an extraordinary life, chronicled in Netflix's Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker. Walker became one of the earliest self made female millionaires and entrepreneurs of the early 1900s; her bread and butter was her revolutionary brand of Madam C.J. Walker hair products, formulated for black women struggling with hair loss, or simply looking to improve their hair care. Today, more than a century after she went into business with her Wonderful Hair Grower, you can buy Madam C.J. Walker's products at Sephora, now under the name Madame C.J. Walker Beauty Culture.
Per Biography.com, Walker began to lose her hair in the 1890s, likely due to the harsh chemicals she worked with as a laundress, as well as the general lack of nutrition and public health of the time. The only hair products available to black women back then also used ox marrow, which likely damaged their hair and scalps. So Walker embarked on a journey to create a cream that would heal scalps and encourage hair growth, and eventually her "magic formula" grew into an entire hair care empire.
Sundial Brands, the New York company that owns Nubian Heritage and Shea Moisture, purchased C.J. Walker Enterprises in 2013. Sundial CEO Richelieu Dennis met with Walker's great-great-granddaughter, A'Lelia Bundles, to discuss the direction of the line. They eventually relaunched Walker's products in 2016, teaming up with Sephora to offer products that range from gels, oils, and cremes to shampoos and conditioners.
They did a soft relaunch again in April 2019, and it appears they segued out their original line of 25 products for a more streamlined 15. The bottles have been redesigned for a more modern aesthetic, and have poppy names like On Point, Hella, Good Vibes, and Thirsty. They all range from $20 to $30 per bottle. Some Instagram comments on their page mourn the loss of the original products — which adhered more closely to Walker's original logo and creations — while others say the new line is always sold out at Sephora, hinting perhaps the reboot was successful.
Marsha B. at Naturally Curly had an overall "good experience" with the updated Beauty Culture line, noting her curls felt softer and had more of a sheen after using them. "The journey to finding natural hair products that work for your specific hair type can be stressful and costly," she wrote. "I found each product to be useful, collectively and independently."
With the upcoming release of Self Made, perhaps a renewed interest in Walker will spur the production of newer products, a return of the old ones, or at least more stock on the shelves.
"When you think of Madam Walker and what she did, it was amazing," Sundial's Dennis told Victoria at ClassyCurlies. "When you think about what she should mean to the beauty industry today, we have more work to do. She should be right up there with Estee Lauder, Coco Chanel and others who changed the beauty landscape."