Home News The Beauty Products Formerly Incarcerated Women Bought Upon Release

The Beauty Products Formerly Incarcerated Women Bought Upon Release


The CIW representative showed Allure a copy of items currently available at its commissary. These included lipstick and gloss available in neutral hues, brown and black mascara, eye pencil and shadow, hairspray, shampoo, curl activator, plus a braid and lock twist gel.  

Research published by the nonprofit Essie Justice Group, a collective made up of women with incarcerated loved ones, finds that 1 in 4 women have a loved one who is currently in prison. “When we talk about access to personal care products, we are talking about access to basic hygiene necessities that are crucial for people to feel human and maintain their dignity,” says Gina Clayton-Johnson, founder and executive director of Essie Justice Group. “The fact that incarcerated women often struggle to access necessities such as soap, shampoo, hand sanitizer, tampons, pads, and toothpaste is part of this dehumanizing design. This is simply a human rights issue.” 

Dorotik used to dream of what fresh foods she would eat upon release, after decades of enduring the same “bland and processed” (According to a 2020 national survey conducted by the criminal justice reform nonprofit Impact Justice, most states spend less than $3 to feed prisoners a day,  and 75 percent of formerly incarcerated people surveyed said they were “served spoiled or rotten food while in prison.”) Now that Dorotik is out, she likes to add raisins, cheese, beets — just about anything fresh and delicious — to her salads. Similarly, these days she likes to spend time trying out beauty products from hair dye to face creams. It’s a small, but meaningful, reminder of liberation.

Allure spoke with four other formerly incarcerated women to talk about what types of products they were most eager to buy once they were released.

Zakelia S.

Zakelia, who asked that her last name not be used, was incarcerated for 8 years. She posts about her experience at @prisonbaee on TikTok and @theonlybaeee on Instagram. Zakelia is 28 years old and works as a hairstylist.

Zakelia S. 

Courtesy of Zakelia

People in prison cut our hair off a lot. I hated it, because I would go to visitation and my mom’s like, “Are you a boy?” A lot of people also dye our hair, because we want to stand out as opposed to other people. We already all wear the same color suit, but we would have peroxide and we would dye our hair. I did more braiding for people, braiding and locs. It’s easy to maintain. I would restart people’s locs for them, or retwist them, or braid them. In the store, they only have this little, short, three-inch black comb. Sometimes I used a pen to part hair.

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