Many people consider their hair to be a vital element that contributes towards a person’s overall identity. For both men and women, different hairstyles can be used as a method of self-expression. Different people of different races and ethnicities have different hair types and textures, ranging from Type 1 hair to Type 4 hair; being fine and straight to tightly coiled and kinky, respectively.
Many young women today are choosing to forgo the use of hair chemicals and relaxers, and are opting to embrace their natural kinks and coils to embark on what some people are calling a “Natural Hair Journey.” This is said to be a journey because black hair care, natural or relaxed, is said to be rather taxing to maintain, and is often stereotyped in the media to be constantly dry, hard and unkempt. However, despite the negative connotations, black women across the globe are showing off their locks in the form of afros, twist outs, Bantu knots, and dreadlocks as well.
Women are setting out on this Natural Hair Journey for many reasons. Hair relaxers are often said to cause many long-term and problems for black hair, including hair breakage, thinning, scalp burns and infections, and permanent hair loss. It has also been linked to the stunting of hair growth, and so because of this, some are going natural in order to dispel the negative stereotype that black hair doesn’t grow. Many women are also going natural in an attempt to dissociate themselves from what is believed to be European standards of beauty, which affirm that hair must be long, straight and silky to be considered beautiful. Others are taking this journey simply because of personal preference.
The media and fashion industry is also playing a major role in the gaining popularity of the Natural Hair Journey. Throughout history, African hair has received harsh criticism from all corners of the world. By the 1600s, black hair was used in America as a target tool to dehumanise slaves, often being referred to as “wool”. During Apartheid times in South Africa in the 1970s, the “Pencil test” was a method used for the classification of people into racial groups to determine whether or not a person had Afro textured hair, since a person’s racial heritage was not always clear. The media today also still critiques black hair, an example being when Giuliana Rancic, co-host of American reality show Fashion Police, made a joke about Zendaya Coleman’s faux locks possibly smelling of “patchouli oil or weed.”
Because of the negative history that has often been linked to black hair around the world, many women are deciding it is time to reclaim their roots, and remind the world that natural hair is beautiful too.
Black hair care has come a long way, and every day women fight to eliminate the stigma that comes attached with black hair. By wearing their hair natural, they are reminding the world that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and there cannot be one standard of beauty for everyone to live up to, particularly when attempting to maintain that standard can be hazardous to one’s health. With each passing day, the Natural Hair Journey gains more and more mainstream success, and natural hair has easily become an embodiment of freedom of expression.