Target’s Best-Kept Secret Is This Black-Owned, Hip-Hop-Inspired Hair Brand

Target’s Best-Kept Secret Is This Black-Owned, Hip-Hop-Inspired Hair Brand
Photo: Allison Kahler

The natural-hair-care section of Target is, for lack of a better term, lit. From old favorites such as SheaMoisture and Carol’s Daughter to newer labels like Oyin Handmade and Mielle Organics, the gamut of products available appears to be wider than ever. But just when we thought we had seen it all, The Doux came along.

Although it’s been around since 2008 when founder Maya Smith opened her first natural hair salon, The Honeycomb in Germany, a recent viral tweet breathed new life into the brand’s visibility. Now, everyone—including us—want the tea on this beautifully packaged brand. For starters, inspiration for The Doux dates back to Smith’s early days in The Doux Salon (located in historic downtown Macon, GA), where she noticed that a majority of the products she used were categorized according to “straight” and “curly” textures.

“I served a multicultural clientele with a variety of unique needs. Some were naturally curly, others had straighter, wavier hair, but they all had one thing in common: They wanted versatility, curl definition, and frizz control,” she says to StyleCaster.

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“There didn’t seem to be one brand that supported my philosophy: Natural is about freedom. True freedom is about versatility. Chicks with real hair should be able to use one range to create any look that they desire, regardless of their style preference.”

So instead of continuing her search, Smith decided to put matters into her own hands and make that dream of an all-inclusive brand her reality. Sure, the move isn’t a novel one, given the number of natural-hair-care lines already in existence, but she believes The Doux brings an element of expertise back into the textured hair industry.

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“As a hairstylist, I’m in daily contact with women who wear their natural hair. Many have been underwhelmed with the performance of over-the-counter products and want to be able to maintain their fresh-from-the-salon look at home,” she says. 

“I know that women with texture are very diverse, and it’s been important to me to represent the girl who’s looking for simplicity, common sense, and on-point performance.”

Expertise aside, what really makes The Doux a standout on shelves is its vibrant hip-hop-inspired packaging, which Smith designed herself. For someone who started her creative journey in the late ’80s, when the musical genre had reached the first of many peaks, it was a natural fit.

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“My influences just tend to come out in my work. I know it can be misinterpreted as like a gimmick, but what you see is an authentic extension of who I am as an artist. The Doux is a reflection of everything that I love: hip-hop, street art, my trips to Paris, retro pinup style, and all things old-school.”

Anyone familiar with hip-hop history will immediately recognize those Smith counts among her favorite artists. There’s “The Light” Shine Mist, named after one of the biggest songs in Common’s catalog. Or perhaps you gravitated toward the “Bonita Afro Balm,” whose moniker alludes to the Tribe Called Quest classic “Bonita Applebum.” Smith has been listening to them, among others, since the ’90s, so in a strange way, it feels as though they’ve matured and expanded together.

Pharrell Williams is one of my entrepreneurial heroes. I’ve watched him break into so many other categories outside of music,” she says. “It can be difficult as an artist to show the world that you’re amazing in more than one art form. For him to be just as respected as a producer/musician as he is a fashion designer is something that inspires me.” 

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Of course, manning a beauty brand comes with a unique set of challenges. Although branding has always been “a piece of cake” for Smith, guarding her feelings is actually the tough part. Accepting praise and critique from a linear perspective will always be a challenge.

“I’ve learned to take nothing personally and to keep my chin up and my head in the game. There’s also the challenge of ‘switching gears’ between my left and right brain,” she says. “I can be in the middle of a painting, or working on a graphic design piece and have to force myself to break away to a conference call or a meeting with my accountant. Balancing creative intuition and business can be a challenge.”

Ultimately, what keeps Smith motivated is knowing that The Doux isn’t grounded in trends; it’s good, old-fashioned salon-performance formulas.

“Simply put, this is what we do. We’re not just chasing after what’s hot right now— everything that I produce is based on countless hours of real experience from behind the chair. The Doux brand is rooted in the science of how hair should be cared for. We just happen to make it fresh, fly, and fun.”

Shop The Doux at Target or the brand’s official website. You can also get updates on Instagram and YouTube.