Michele Teboul   25 October 2018

Afro hair

Your hair offers you a wonderful way to express who you are – it’s an extension of your own unique self. And yet for well over a century black women have felt pressured to conform to how others think they should wear their hair. They have felt compelled to spend time and money straightening and chemically treating their hair, in order to ‘fit in’ with a more Western look.

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Not many people talk about hair bias, but it remains a real problem affecting millions. Even this year families have had to take legal action, both in the UK and overseas, for the right to have their children to attend school with their natural Afro hair. Discrimination is everywhere and it can really affect people’s job prospects, education and wellbeing.

  • 1 in 5 black women feel social pressure to straighten their hair for work
  • Only 37% of women feel comfortable wearing dreads or an Afro to a professional event
  • 78% of people instinctively prefer smooth hair

Over time taming these gloriously natural Afro locks has become a huge money-making industry. In fact, in the 19th century, the industry grew to such an extent that black entrepreneur Madame CJ Walker, who sold hair products for the African-American market, was recorded as the first self-made millionaires in the US.

Only in 2014 black hair care was estimated to be worth about £530m ($774m). That’s big business!

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Natural hair is fighting back

When in its natural state, black women’s hair grows into a magnificent Afro. During the civil rights movement in the 60s and 70s, a lot of black women wore their hair this way as a symbol of rebellion, pride and empowerment. Then it fell out of fashion again…until more recently.

Today the Afro is having a real comeback and is popular again along with hair extensions (weaves) which offer a number of styles such as braiding. Other natural styles include updos, twist outs and buns.

Models, celebrities and actors are all wearing natural styles again. Take the Oscar-winning Viola Davis, wearing a fabulous Afro at a number of awards ceremonies over the last few years.

And that’s not all. As the natural hair community grows and more and more women say goodbye to chemical relaxers and hair straighteners, there’s so much advice support to be found about natural hair care. Check out a few of the growing number of hair care blogs here.

A recent Netflix film on the subject has even been recently released. ‘Nappily Ever After’ starring Sanaa Lathan has really opened the door for more conversations around natural hair - in the workplace and amongst friends of different ethnicities.

To big chop or not

For those who decide to go back to more natural hair and stop chemically altering it, there’s a choice. You can either transition to natural hair – which can take weeks or months – or more dramatically go for the big chop!

A brave choice – one which has a number of pros and cons.

Pros

  • One texture
    You instantly have only one texture to deal with. It may be short, but it’s a lot less hassle.

  • Easy care and a time-saver
    With super short hair, your styling routine will be cut down to mere minutes.

  • No weather worries
    There’ll be no worrying about rain again - because your hairdo won't suffer when it gets wet.

Cons

  • Dislike of short hair
    Not every woman loves short hair. Some feel that their heads are too large or not the "perfect" shape for such a short snip.

  • Few style options
    When your hair is super short – there aren’t a lot of style options. But it’s a good time to experiment with make-up and accessories.

  • Negative feedback
    When you cut your hair super short – everyone has an opinion – some of them negative. But stay strong– it’s your hair and you’re on your way to a more natural you.

What are you waiting for?

Learning to love your natural hair is not just about your appearance – it’s about embracing your unique self and your culture. It’s not something everyone wants to do. But if you are considering doing the big chop or transitioning, just know there’s a natural hair community out there ready to help with advice and support. Everyone’s hair is different and so is their journey back to natural hair. So take your time and get to know your hair again.

And whatever you decide to do, just be you.

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