Team Natural: Why This Growing Haircare Trend Is More Than Just A Hashtag

AFRICANGLOBE – The decision to “go natural,” i.e. the
decision to wear one’s hair in its natural state free from chemical
straighteners, can be both empowering and daunting. What do I do with it? What
products should I use? How do I style it? The mere fact that even deciding to
wear one’s natural hair is regarded in some circles to be a revolutionary act
speaks to deeper issues of race, class and the idea of beauty.


 Chris Rock famously explored the history and politics of
curly and kinky hair in his documentary, “Good Hair.” The film was awarded a
special jury prize for documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, and
put the conversations that were once limited to street corner barber shops and
’round-the-way beauty salons out in the open.

 

Just last Fall, “The Talk” host Sheryl Underwood came under
fire for comments she made regarding “nasty, nappy afro hair” for which she
later apologized (but not before the Twitterverse exploded). And who can forget
that controversial cover of the New Yorker, in which First Lady Michelle Obama
is depicted sporting a large afro and army fatigues in an attempt to convey
“The Politics of Fear.” Or how so many people, most of them Black women, who
should have been praising Gabrielle Douglas‘ gold-medal winning performance in
the 2012 Olympics, instead chose to make nasty, derogatory comments about the
texture of her hair.

 

People with naturally curly and kinky hair have long relied
on straighteners, hot combs and chemical relaxers to achieve sleek, silky
tresses; arguably as a way to appear acceptable and polished. As Tiya Miles,
chairwoman of the Department of Afro-American and African Studies at the
University of Michigan told CNN in a recent article, “Historically, the
difference of Black hair texture has symbolized the inferiority of Black people
in the minds of some Whites and even some brainwashed Blacks. Naturally kinky
hair was viewed as dirty, unkempt and unattractive into the mid-20th century.”

 

But as millennial women have come of age, a paradigm shift
has taken place. More than ever, Black ladies (and gentlemen!) who have
everything from wavy to curly to kinky, have chosen to abandon the chemicals,
love the hair they were born with, and cross over to #teamnatural.

 

Recent data from global research firm Mintel backs up the
claim that natural just might be the new normal in haircare. The report shows
that chemical relaxers now account for just 21% of Black haircare sales and the
sector has declined 26% since 2008 and 15% since 2011 when sales reached $179
million, the only category not to see growth.

 

“The natural hair trend is driving an increase in sales of
styling products such as styling moisturizers, setting lotions, curl creams,
pomades, etc., but the increase has caused the relaxer segment to decline in
sales,” said Tonya Roberts, an analyst at Mintel, in the report. “A look at
expenditures from 2008-2013 shows steady growth in the Black haircare category
for all categories except relaxers/perms.”

 

From Lupita Nyong’o and her short cropped natural ‘fro, to
Melissa Harris-Perry delivering the nightly news sporting a variety of natural
braids and twists; and even Beyonce doing her signature surfboardt at the
Grammys with wet, natural ringlets; it certainly appears that natural hair has
gone mainstream.


Thankfully, for those who want to go natural but can’t
necessarily afford Queen Bey or Lupita’s stylists, leading the charge of this
movement are a group of passionate and web-savvy “naturalistas” who have become
beauty gurus in their own right. Many have nabbed product endorsements, book
deals, media appearances, and amassed hundreds of thousands of loyal followers
along the way.

 

Among this group is Jessica Lewis A.K.A MahoganyCurls™.
Vlogging since 2009, she has been invited to speak at beauty and natural hair
conferences and conventions as far away as London and the Bahamas and has been
featured inEbony Magazine as one of the top natural hair bloggers in the game. She
took some time to tell us why the natural hair movement is here to stay.

Q: What made you decide to go “natural”?

 

I decided to go natural because I didn’t like relaxing my
hair anymore. I lived in Germany at the time and it was very hard to keep up
with having relaxed hair. One day I was searching for a flat iron online and I
came across this website that focused on natural hair. I noticed the blogger of
the website would change her hair from curly to straight and it intrigued me.
Once I found out she was natural I made the decision to go natural myself.

 

Q: The majority of your growth has been organic through the
use of social media and vlogging. What made you decide to go the social media
route?


A month or so after my big chop, I decided to document my
natural hair journey on YouTube. I did this for myself so that I could keep
track of my hair growth. I also did it for support from other naturals. I enjoyed
it and my channel began to grow with the support from others.

Q: What are some natural haircare myths you’d like to
debunk? For instance, true or false: natural hair is really expensive? Only
women with a certain hair “type” can go natural?

 

Well, I would like to debunk the myth that states natural
hair does not grow. That is a huge misconception. Our hair can grow very long
with the proper care, regardless of texture. To the myth that natural hair is
really expensive: False. To the myth that only women with a certain hair
“type”can go natural: Not true at all


Q: What’s the weirdest question you’ve ever gotten about
your natural hair? How did you address it?


A family member asked me if I had a wig on my head. I
responded with a simple “no”, and explained that it is my natural hair.

Q: While many people think natural hair is strictly for
Black women, as in “I thought only Black women went natural,” lots of Latina,
mixed-race, even naturally curly or wavy White women have also embraced the
movement toward natural hair. What do you think is inspiring this?

I think it is the fact that women are seeing other women
embrace their curly hair with pride and it does not look messy, or extremely
frizzy, as it has been depicted in the past. Other women are viewing curly hair
as being beautiful.


Q: As natural goes mainstream, tell us what you thought was
a big moment for natural hair in recent pop culture?

I think the idea of seeing so many women on the red carpet
wearing natural hairdos. You would see natural updos, curly hairstyles, and
twas (teeny weeny afros) at formal events such as the Oscars.


Q: Some regard the natural hair movement as a passing trend.
What makes you think it’s here to stay?

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Team Natural: Why This Growing Haircare Trend Is More Than Just A Hashtag
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BOBSA is the premier national organization that provides African American’s the platform to demonstrate competitive leadership in the $9 billion dollar Black Hair Care & Cosmetic Industry Worldwide.