Is there a Natural Hair Generation Gap?

by Jor-el of ManeManBlog.com

During the holidays I was visiting with my mother and we had some discussion about MANE MAN and the whole natural hair community in general. I found that even as a young guy, I have become very connected to the community and I discovered that my mother had not been exposed to a lot of the information that I had about natural hair, transitioning and different product ingredients and their effects. As we sat there in conversation all I could wonder was, is there a natural hair generation gap?

I think it’s probably fair to say that there have always been women who have worn their hair natural throughout history. However, in the most recent years we’ve seen a huge trend of many more young women embracing not only natural hair, but a more natural lifestyle and this trend has largely been bolstered by the internet and social media. Just look around on Twitter’s hashtags #naturalhair or #teamnatural and you’ll connect to thousands of folks discussing the phenomenon of natural hair. Unfortunately, it seems that the lack of exposure to many of these internet based resources has been keeping people like my mother and others in her age group from making more informed decisions about chemical treatments they have used for years. I spent some time introducing my mother to some quality natural hair care sites in hopes that she will continue her exploration further. While her initial reaction was strongly receptive, I’m worried that without the regular support of the community she may not take the next step in her journey. People in my mother’s age group aren’t used to spending hours per day on the computer using Twitter and Facebook to receive new information like we do so my question is...

How do we get them involved?

31 Weigh in!:
sasha said...

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Anonymous said...

I was thinking that as well. There is so much misinformation about natural hair and internalized disdain. I always wonder to myself how my mother and aunts would react to the idea of going natural if they knew what I know and saw what I see via the internet on a regular basis. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post and I agree!

hairscapades said...

You know, my mother got a Jheri Curl for years and she didn't need one. We used to be on her all of the time because she kept her hair shaved/tapered in the back and, when it would grow out, she had these gorgeous curls! My sisters and I were teenagers then and it was the late 80s. I went natural in 2000, my youngest sister in 2001 and my mom in 2002 as my best guesstimate. There was some info out there (because my sister had a blog on geocities back then [remember geocities?!?] and there were forums ... but it wasn't ANYTHING like it is now).

Okay, that was kind of a ramble, but I wanted to put some context around this. My mom is 59 years young and has been natural for 10 years ... she actually uses the internet ... but really has limited interest in spending time using it to look up hair related stuff. So, my sister and I give her information when we see her and talk to her. That is what I think is the key. My mom experimented with henna to cover her grey because of me ... I gave her 3 boxes on Mother's Day last year and then she ordered it from Mehandi.com (ultimately she didn't stick with it because it wasn't covering her grey ... I still wonder if she was using it right). She tried DevaCare No Poo, One Conditioner and DevaCurl Set It Free, because I gave it to her as a Christmas gift last year. She really likes the Set it Free to refresh her curls and will buy that again.

So, ultimately, I think it is up to us, their natural children, to help them along on their journey, if the internet and spending time on product research is not their biggest concern (are we surprised;). Give them products as gifts, talk to them about things that work for you. Show them techniques. E-mail them links to articles (not too many) that you think they'll actually read. They just may pick up a thing or two too:).

Shelli

(And this reminds me, I wanted to do a natural hair interview with my mom!!)

Meowmix said...

Great question. I got my mom The Science of Black Hair for Christmas. Books still matter:)

Netta Dee said...

When I told my mother I was going natural. She loved the idea. She said she put a relaxer in my hair because I'd gotten to the age where she couldn't style my hair with ponytails. So the relaxer was her only choice because she thought that the straightening comb was frying my hair. She didn't realize the chemicals from a relaxer fried my hair also. So far I've told her that if she would've known what I know now she would have put my long natural hair in a braid/twist/bantu knot out. I believe all of our mother had "taking care of our hair" down to the knitty gritty, but the styling just wasn't there. Thank God, for those who have studied the science of our hair and created products and styles. Now I have no intentions of relaxing my daughter's hair. I tell her she has beautiful black girl hair, and she is convinced.:)

Anonymous said...

Great post! It doesn't help that most, if not all of the natural hair websites/blogs out there are very youth oriented in terms of issues, content and even jargon. I can understand why a more "mature" audience may not feel engaged.

Anonymous said...

Great points!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering this myself after I recently overheard my 70 year old mother tell a friend "natural hair is for young people". I was saddened but just a few months earlier shed been mocking me and telling people when it got hot enough "my hair would get nappy and I'd want to do something different." So at least the older generation is coming around.

DrChuck24 said...

Excellent post. Good question. I guess it. Just depends. My mom is natural and so is my aunt. More so for other reasons than actually wanting to do so though.

janubie said...

As someone who went natural and went about four years before accessing the online community, I feel that we cannot forget the importance of old fashioned face to face social interaction. When I first went natural there were only a handful of us on campus, and luckily two of those handful of women were my best friends. They definitely "kept me" through those rough patches. We shared all kinds of information (and probably mis-information lol) from our own experiences. Even though we had three distinctly different approaches (one straightened, one didn't do anything to her hair but condition, and I tried all kinds of different things), the support was vital.
I say all of this to add a +1 to hairscapades post. Talking and sharing information the "old fashion way" is the best route for reaching those who are not plugged in to social networks.

Anonymous said...

It really depends on how open the elder is willing to change and grow. Contrary to what many think, there are plenty of older folks out there who are open to trying different things, even those suggested by younger people. Sure wish my (70-something) mom was one of them...

She's actually been natural for over 20 years but aside from changing her leave-in and her comb, and keeping her hair TWA-short, her regimen is exactly the same as it was when she had the California Curl. She only gets her hair washed when she goes to the salon -- every 3 weeks -- and the rest of the time she spritzes, combs, and goes. Nothing any of us says gets through to her -- we are ALL natural BTW -- and now she's experiencing hair loss. She's just not willing to accept that maybe we know more than her stylist does. And she uses the Internet but isn't interested in anything hair-related. The best I and my sisters can do is serve as examples, really.

Mauve_Avenger said...

i like what janubie said. face to face is always going to be the best form of communication. when i'm with family or friends we can gab forever about hair and what product works best and how to style natural hair. if you know any women with natural hair (doesn't matter how old they are) invite them to hang out with you and your mother. maybe encourage them to have a product swap so your mom can figure out what works best on her hair. make it a party with snacks and everything. in fact, i think i'm going to do that myself. it sounds like fun.

Anonymous said...

As a 50 something women I want to see more examples of mature curlies on the Internet. Yes I do use the Internet (now). I want to see their hair regimens and what products work for them. I'm no scientist but I'm quite sure that 50 something natural hair is quite different from 20 something natural air and that different methods and products are used. Five years ago I tried to go natural. But it got to be so much that I didn't know how to care for it and I couldn't find a natural hair salon near me any where. So I gave up and used a texturizer. So sorry that I did because my hair hasn't been the same since. I wish someone
was around back then to school me about natural hair or point me in the right direction. I might have some hair by now.

Crosecle

Anonymous said...

Why do our parents need to be educated on natural hair? i am confused. weren't they ones who pumped their fists, wore their afros and said black is beautiful?

what the hell happened?
SAY IT LOUDER, I'M BLACK AND I'M PROUD!!!

Our parents dropped the ball.

Shones said...

My mom went natural a few years ago. The older naturals I've met seem to respond best to seeing that it's simply feasible for their lifestyles... which, interestingly, is also true for a lot of younger new naturals. People just want to know if they can achieve it, and if it will work for them. Once they figure out it's possible, if they want to go natural, they'll just do it, minus Twitter and FB.

Mane Man (Jor-El) said...

Thanks for the feedback everyone. I'm definitely going to try some of your tips and see where it goes. Keep the suggestions coming!

Queenesquire said...

As a 40 something natural (11 years & counting), I totally see a generation gap. When I see younger naturals on YT talking about what they will and won't do with their hair or hair regimens, I laugh to myself and say, just you wait Ms. Thing (lol). As you get older, your hair texture changes, your body changes and you go grey! These natural changes influence your hair regimen and the products that work for you. I would love to see a blog or YT channel specifically for us "naturals of a certain age" - maybe I'll create it myself! In the interim, word of mouth and speaking with other naturals is the best way to encourage older naturals to take the journey. It definitely helps if they are computer savvy, which most are gradually becoming. Don't give up hope on your Mom and gently steer her to FB and YT channels. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

This. Is my mother. Though, I would not introduce her to any natural hair sites voluntary. She already thinks she knows "it all" about natural hair because she had an afro in the 70's, lol. And don't get me started on what she thinks I "need" to do to my hair...

Has anyone you loved ever made you want to hurt 'em (figuratively, of course)?

Mica Renee said...

I definitely believe it. If it wasn't for social media I wouldn't have had the resources to make my natural hair thrive. My mother... I love her but that woman is something of a know it all. It's freakin impossible to try to teach her new things.

Janel said...

It's not only a generation gap, it a technology gap. People who don't use the internet to look up everything don't really know about natural hair. It's up to me to share my knowledge with those who want to know or those that have no clue and would be enlightened from the info or links I have to share.

Anonymous said...

What a great article. I have a positive story . . . .it can be achieved ladies and gentlemen :) I noticed the same in my family. I am the youngest girl of six and there is around 20years between me and my other five sisters. We all followed my mothers shoes with having a relaxer.
I went natural and was laughed at, told to sort out my hair, you know the usual, but I was adament I was going to learn about my hair. Throughout my journey I was always talking about what I was learning about myself and my hair to my sisters and my mother. At first their eyes glazed over, but I was persistant. I kept showing them articles/books/videos, making them products, giving them products that I no longer used, buying them poducts that they said they liked, always being around when they had regrowth or taking extensions out and complimenting them on any signs of natural hair. I always spoke positively about my hair, I corrected negative comments and myths we were made to believe about natural hair, I dropped natural hair at the dinner table. You name it I done it :)
I have have been doing this with them for the past hmmmmmmm three years maybe.
May 2010 my sister started transitioning with wigs.
August 2010 my mother went natural.
October 2010 my oldest sister went natural.
January 2011 my eldest sisters best friend went natural.
November 2011 both my neices supported me promoting natural hair to their mums.
December 2011 my nephew (known for only liking straight hair)openly declared his like for natural hair.
These are all massive steps for my family :) They are not all as #teamnatural as me, but all in time (and well Im crazy about natural hair so I dont expect them to be as hardcore as me). All of them come to me for hair advice now. Slow progress, but it is happening. I think the older generation are stuck in routine and habbit. They are not going to look for change if they have no reason to think there is a need for one. We have to show them there is an alternative and then they can decide if they want to make that change. I think another big thing (in my family anyway being in London in the 60s and im sure many others have experienced the same) they were harrassed for everything that made them black to the point where they disliked those qualities about themselves. I have had to show that these qualities are beautiful and nothing to be ashamed of by being more confident in myself.
Okies I'll stop blabbing on now xx

MesaIsaGoddess said...

I loved this article. I honestly think that it goes beyond a generation gap. I also think that older women will only be informed by us informing them and the women most likely to join are the ones who aren't happy with their hair. Most women no matter what age will do whatever they can to make their hair flourish or to simply achieve a desired look. With that being said when most of these women began relaxing their hair it was to achieve the same look they seen entertainers they admired with. Once the Afro trend ended the straight look was in and never left. Now its still obviously admired, however today their are other influences that wear the natural look and many of us that loved the look went natural to achieve it.

Anonymous said...

Very good article and point you raised. I've been trying to convince my mother to stop relaxing my little sister's hair (and hers too) but like you said, she's not used to finding information like this on the internet and having to research for hours. I try to give her information that I've learned from the internet. I think a magazine would do well for this age group. ~KF519

Anonymous said...

I'm a 60-ish natural. I got tired of a lifetime of coloring and perming every 6 weeks and went totally natural a year and a half ago. I could not get any support or guidance from my hairdresser prior to that time, so I took to natural hair sites and Youtube (as I am totally computer and social media site literate)and am my own hairdresser and biggest fan. Finding CurlyChronicles, CurlyNikkie, Mae, Kimmaytube and countless others helped me tremendously. I really started to make progress after I realized that my hair was not like their (youthful) hair and adjusted my routine accordingly. One thing that will help with the generation gap is older women seeing women like themselves (me) wearing natural hair so they can see the possibilities. I get many compliments from mature and younger women and men and mature women often approach me for information and advice when they see me rocking my salt & pepper twist/braidouts. I agree with Queenesquire that a channel for "naturals of a certain age" would help to advance the cause also.

Anonymous said...

This is such a great post. I have to agree to a certain point. My mom/older members of my family are computer literate but they just don't know where to look for the info. What I did for my mom is bookmarked a few sites that would be helpful for her during her time of transition---that way she would have quick and easy access to the info she needed. I would also do little check-ins with her to see how she was progressing and to answer questions that she may have had. During Thanksgiving I cut off the last few strings of her relaxer and she is finally free! As much as she and others put me down during my transition she is now relaxer free, my sister is transitioning and I am currently helping my grandma find products to help her with alopecia. I think that with time and help from us (younger generation) that the elders will catch up if they already haven't.

hairscapades said...

Hi all, if you'd like a 50 years + hairstory to share with your mother, I posted my mom's HairStory today! Thanks again Jor-El;)!!

http://hairscapades.com/2012/01/03/my-moms-hairstory/

Shelli

MommieDearest said...

@Queenesquire,

PLEASE create that blog. I will read it! #Teamnaturalgrownandsexy

BlueCornmoon said...

I agree !! I find this thread interesting because I'm a 50+ natural ( since 2009) who wore an BA Afro in 60s & 70s.Then I went to curly perms. Back to natural again because I started getting some breakage & then noticed the surge in new products for natural hair. I'm also very computer literate & got my info from Natural hair sites & youtube. You'd think there'd be more women in my age group out in front leading the movement. What I do see,tho ,is a HUGE increase in the number of older women who've gone natural with TWAs,locs, & sisterlocs. I've been to class reunions,concerts,church services,etc & there are a lot of TWAs. HOWEVER !! It does seem to me there's more of a technology gap among some of them. Some folks,as they get older, either don't keep up with the times,or they DON'T WANT TO. I have a friend who absolutely WON'T

Matured Curly Geek said...

I'm always amazed when younger women/men automatically assume that anyone over 50 is out of touch with technology, close minded, and resistant to natural hair. I'm 60+ and consider myself a tech pioneer. I used computers long before PC's existed and I keep up with changes as they happened since I also teach technology. I was also one of the early adopters of the internet in the 1990s and I'm very engaged with social media. My MacBook Air is often on the go with me because I write/blog. My hair has been natural over 25 years - long before the current trend - and I do access online sites, bloggers and vloggers to keep apprised of new products and tools to keep my hair healthy and lovely. I'm the one trying to encourage younger family members and friends to let go of their weaves and straighteners. I would love to see a segment of the natural hair community that provides a niche for women like me.

Delnaturaldiva said...

How to get older women involved in natural hair???? Well speaking for myself, I became interested because of two issues. One my daughter is a natural and she just kept feeding me info that Ididn"t have t o"look it up on the internet". She told me about sulfates in shampoos and that she leans her lab sinks with sulfates and that nobodies hair is that dirty! that got my attention and interest. Then I realized the damage heat and chemicals did. Especially after watching the soda can in prem experiment on "good Hair". Next some of my natural sisters @ church started a natural hair club. we trade info and products once a month. So give her time and info. You can teach an older woman new tricks.

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