Black women’s transition to rock their natural curl is not a trend. It’s a movement. Now that Black women have reclaimed the pride of wearing their natural hair, the world has begun to take notice. How much so? Major hair product companies are launching more “curly,” “textured,” or “natural” lines with pictures of Black women smiling and dancing with their natural hair. A sector in the weave/hair extension market has emerged selling textured hair that will closely match your own curl pattern. Black women with haircare products are some of the fastest growing and successful entrepreneurs in the business sector. Conventional hair and cosmetic industry companies have had a double digit dip in profit, the first time in decades.
Natural hair is here and it’s here to stay. Yet, with the embrace of natural hair, there has been a new and controversial trend emerging within the natural hair community. I’m referring to the sometimes not-so-subtle preference for certain curl types.
As a natural hair newbie, I began delving into the world of natural hair blogs and YouTube to find out as much as I could. The majority of popular vloggers had a curl pattern comfortably in the 3 curl pattern range. There was only one YouTube vlogger with a comparable following who had hair with a kinky curl. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, and I decided to hang on to their every word. Then I would become frustrated when I would purchase the products promoted on a hair tutorial, and the results would not be remotely similar to the video. It eventually turned me off, now believing nothing worked, and I began to watch the videos to get ideas for hair styles only. I originated most of the techniques I developed to manage and style my hair, with a hint of inspiration here and there.
I noticed most of the authors for very popular blogs were lauded as having beautiful hair, and although true, similar adjectives were not used for women with kinky curl patterns UNLESS their hair was uber long…like down to their behind long. These authors tended to be featured more, thereby increasing their exposure and chance at popularity. On Instagram accounts, for every picture of a woman with an afro, there were ten celebrating a woman with a loose curl that was in the wet and wavy category. I heard men describe my type of curl as nappy and a curly woman’s as a “pretty natural.” This would lead to questions like “Are you mixed?” as if that was the sole cause of her pretty hair. And then, some of these men would find it astonishing if the woman’s answer was “No, I’m not mixed.”
With all of these (sometimes not-so-subtle) signs, I posed the question to myself, “Has the natural hair community created a new good hair?”
Has the natural hair community subconsciously created a hierarchy for curl types? And as a consequence, is there a natural hair standard of beauty that unknowingly demotes some women and celebrates others? The evidence is there. There are fewer successful bloggers with 4c type hair. There are few products marketed toward black women with natural hair that has a kinkily coiled hair texture. Instagram accounts that celebrate 4c type hair have significantly fewer followers compared to the accounts that highlight “all” curl patterns and sparsely feature women with kinky hair, unless it is a celebrity or a high fashion photo.
Going natural for most women begins a journey of self-discovery. You start to pay attention to what goes on your head and in your body. You make changes to improve your health through diet and fitness, and you start to focus on what makes you beautiful instead of your flaws. That’s what is supposed to happen, and most of the time it does. But when it doesn’t, the result is still as scathing as someone referring to another person’s hair as good, and by default, yours as bad. In our attempt to literally embrace our roots, we could be creating the same beast with a different hairstyle.