In the last 10 years, the natural hair movement within the black community has exploded in popularity. Around the world, millions of people are learning about the traumatic history of the black hair. They’re ditching damaging chemical hair treatments in droves and shifting towards a plethora of beautiful natural hair options. But like many social movements, there are a few weird things about the natural hair movement that still need to change.
- Ending texture discrimination
Texture discrimination has long roots deep in the depths of slavery.For example, in Jamaica, mixed race slaves were sometimes given privileges and social status. After the end of slavery, this type of discrimination continued and perpetuates to this day. The Perception Institute recently launched a Hair Implicit Association Test which confirmed that irrespective of race, the majority of participants show implicit bias against Black women’s textured hair. I believe this warped perception of darker skin and kinkier hair as being inferior to lighter skin and looser curls is an example of residual post-traumatic slavery syndrome. Nevertheless, it’s a real problem when women struggle to accept their own hair because they’ve internalised subliminal messages on what constitutes “acceptable” beauty from society.
Sadly there are no quick fixes to engrained problems that have evolved over 400 years, just the long hard road to internal validation and genuine self-acceptance.
- Embracing science instead of misinformation
After a lifetime of miserable and expensive visits to hairdressers around the world. I’ve experienced hair damage from perms, overuse of heat, poorly applied relaxers, scalp burns, wonky hair cuts, too-tight braiding, traction alopecia, rudeness, lateness..you name it…Many other have similar hair stories. So it’s understandable that many black people are reluctant to continue to put their trust and faith in so-called “hair care professionals”.
In this vacuum, along came YouTube and the bloggers, a few of whom amassed huge followings of hundreds of thousands of people as they imparted their experiences of their transition to natural hair. This in turn inspired more and more people to become natural, which is a great feedback loop. However, the dark side of this has been a growth of misinformation, “Chinese whispers” and the natural haircare equivalent of “fake news”. People were told that moisture comes from applying layers and layers of products, that you should never shampoo your hair because it strips the hair, finger detangling is a “thing” and henna can be used to colour hair without causing damage. Assertions that are all completely false, unsupported by the Science of Black Hair and can actually cause considerable harm to the health of your hair.
This is why initiatives such as the #30dayhairdetox are so important (Note: this is not sponsored) because it’s teaching women to embrace their natural hair in a way that is supported by science, so that they can embark on natural hair journey that is healthy and sustainable.
- Loving your own hair instead of your neighbour’s “unicorn hair”
Every natural hair group, blog, magazine, article can pretty much be rewritten and summarised as “what product can I use to get ‘unicorn hair’, please?” ….but clearly, this is the wrong question.
A better question would be to ask about the fundamentals of hair health (cleanse-condition-style), the products that work for us (and this does not require a cupboard full of products).
Rather than getting stuck at the first step of deciding to go natural, we need to consciously take the second step of the natural hair journey, which is to learn to love ourselves, our own individual hair, the styles work for us and forge our own paths.
Learning to love and accept ourselves, can be the hardest part of the journey.
[Featured Image by Devin Trent via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license]