Is Design Essentials Black-Owned? We Reveal All

Is Design Essentials Black-Owned?

Most of us have probably heard of Design Essentials. Our parents – or maybe grandparents! – may have used the early products made by the company’s founders, although under a different brand name.

The company’s longevity in the haircare world, as well as its loyal Black customer base, can be one clue to its success, but it’s time to get more details.

What is the story behind Design Essentials? What is the company’s history, and are they a Black-owned company today? Let’s dive into the facts!

Introducing Design Essentials

Introducing Design Essentials


The product display at your local salon can be a daunting sight. This towering wall of well-lit, smartly-displayed products boasts such an array of colors, styles, and promises; it can be hard to decide which, if any, is the right purchase for you.

When you buy a salon product, you don’t want to get one based on its cool bottle design, or the eye-catching hairdo of the model on the ad. You want to spend your money on a product meant for YOU. That will not only address the needs of your hair type and hair issues, but that will work with your lifestyle, too. For many, this includes buying from a company that reflects their values and ideals.

Design Essentials is a popular international brand of hair products sold through salons and online retailers. Their extensive line offers hair care for all hair types, but the brand has had a strong Black customer base since day one because of its history and high-quality products aimed at textured hair.

The History of Design Essentials

The year was 1973. A pharmacist by the name of Cornell McBride launched a new venture alongside Therman McKenzie, a classmate from his alma mater Mercer University. They are both Black men, and with their combined knowledge and creative talents, they debuted M&M Products Company, a business that made pioneering hair formulas for Black men and women.

Their first hit product was Sta-Sof-Fro. This product was groundbreaking in many ways. In addition to being the first hair product marketed specifically to Black men, it also was formulated to meet the needs of those who wore Afros.

At the time, the Afro wasn’t just a hairstyle, it was a strong political statement that could still be interpreted as controversial to mainstream America.  By creating a product designed for maintaining an Afro, McBride and McKenzie were making a declaration of support for natural hairstyles and Black pride.

In the coming years, M&M Products Company rolled out several other products, most of which were aimed at softening and conditioning the hair. They struck gold in the industry, eventually earning annual revenue exceeding $40 million. Their empire grew until they were among the world’s most successful Black hair companies.

McBride encountered a host of business challenges that set him back and led to him selling his company to Johnson products in 1989. But as anyone in business knows, failure is often just a call for reinvention.

In 1990, he founded McBride Research Laboratories. This new company drew on McBride’s expertise in chemistry to continue developing new kinds of personal care products, focusing specifically on the needs of curly and coily hair.  That company would eventually be the platform from which Design Essentials was launched.

Design Essentials Key Products

Design Essentials Key Products


Over the past decade or so, in response to new scientific research, environmental concerns, and customer requests, most hair care companies have started moving away from the use of synthetic additives and harsh chemicals. Design Essentials is no exception. Their product formulas have been updated over the years to be free of sulfates, alcohol, paraben, and petrolatum.

They are also a cruelty-free company. Their top-selling products feature natural, nourishing ingredients like plant extracts, nut oils, and herbal essences.

Their top-selling products include:

  • Curl enhancing Mousse
    • As Design Essentials’ top product, Curl Enhancing Mousse offers bouncy, shiny curls with no frizz and no crunch. With avocado and almond extracts, this product is perfect for defining and holding any curled hairstyle.
  • Moisturizing and detangling Leave-in Conditioner
    • Leave-in conditioners can make a big difference in hair’s manageability. Why suffer through painful detangling sessions? This product uses shea butter and other natural ingredients to smooth the hair cuticle and release tangles with ease.
  • Rosemary and Mint Stimulating Super Moisturizing Conditioner
    • Scalp discomfort is a common complaint, but few haircare lines address it. Design Essentials does!  Whether it’s dandruff, seasonal dry scalp, or tension from tight hairstyles, relief is on the way with this specially formulated conditioner. Refreshing mint gives this product a pleasant invigorating tingle as it stimulates the scalp and restores moisture and shine.
  •  Scalp and Skin Care Anti-Itch and Tension Relief
    • This product is aimed at men, women, and children who struggle with a dry, irritated, itchy scalp. Infused with aloe and peppermint extracts, it soothes and calms the scalp, moisturizing and offering much-needed relief.
  • Natural Super Moisturizing and Detangling Conditioner
    • Another winner from the Almond and Avocado Collection, this conditioner provides deep moisture to help reduce the detangling time for wavy, coily, and kinky hair. Great when used in conjunction with the Detangling leave-In Conditioner.

Who Runs Design Essentials Today?

Who Runs Design Essentials Today


The original founder, Cornell McBride Sr., is still the President and CEO of McBride Research Laboratories, the parent company of Design Essentials. His son, Andre McBride, is Vice president of Operations and his wife Harriet is the owner and secretary of the company.

Other key players at McBride Research Laboratories include Andrea Ichite, Technical Project Lead, and Kiana Glasper, Brand Manager.

Is Design Essentials Black-Owned? Final Thoughts

Is Design Essentials Black-Owned - Final Thoughts


Considering the company’s roots, it’s easy to say that Design Essentials is not only Black-owned, but a Black hair care family empire that continues to produce products that nourish both the body and the soul.

Many executives and employees on the McBride Research team are Black. In addition to this, the McBride family participates in community outreach and programs focusing on justice reform and financial education for underserved communities. 

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