Natural Hair is so Much More Than Hair

Natural Hair is so Much More Than Hair

Black people’s hair has been a topic of discussion ever since it existed. Starting from its centuries-old beginnings in Africa to today’s worldwide billion-dollar industry, Black hair has long been rooted in celebration, bias, segregation, and miseducation. Black hair, despite its near-constant exploitation, remains an important staple in our culture. Natural hair is SO much more than just hair.

From Tradition to Trauma

Black people’s hair began as a sacred cultural and spiritual symbol in ancient African cultures. Braids and other decorated hairstyles were historically worn to signify marital status, religion, wealth, age, and rank in society.

When African peoples were brutally kidnapped and arrived in unfamiliar lands around the 1600s, they were stripped of their traditional garb, practices, and rituals unique to their ethnic groups. Their cultures were punished out of them and they were forced to go into survival mode.

From Anonymous to New Identity

Slave traders would shave the heads of the African people they captured to establish a systemic tradition of identity erasure. Once the hair grew back, Black people would adapt to new hair traditions out of survival. Cloth covers help protect the hair from the sun and bacon grease and corn meal were used to “cleanse” and “condition” the hair.

Hair texture and styling played an important role in the survival of enslaved Black people. Texturism, the belief that certain hair patterns are better than others, became widespread during the era of slavery. The texture of an enslaved person’s hair could determine their value and working conditions, which in turn might impact their overall health, comfort, and chances for freedom.


Eurocentric beauty standards dictated that tightly textured hair and dark skin were unattractive and inferior. This created the concept of “good hair.” Lighter-skinned, straighter-haired slaves were favored by slaveowners and selected for more “desirable” positions in the house. Many slaves would go to dangerous lengths to straighten their hair. This damaging mentality of “good” vs. “bad” hair has been passed down for generations. It still influences many people’s perception of Black people’s hair today.

In the 1700s, the Tignon Law forced Black women in Louisiana to wear head wraps because their beautiful, elaborate hairstyles were considered a threat to the status quo. Black women still shined brightly even in their beautiful head wraps, making it a common style tradition in America today.

I’m Black and I’m Proud

In the 1960s, the afro became a symbol of self-empowerment and activism. An afro is a style option that involves combing tight curly hair.

Institutional bias against Black people’s hair still exists today. As of 2019, the Cosmetology curriculum still excludes Black people’s tightly textured hair. In educational facilities and workplaces, Black hair is viewed as unprofessional and is subject to prejudice policies.

The CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) is the first legislation in U.S. history to ban discrimination based on Black people’s hair styles and texture. The journey toward inclusivity, acceptance, and appreciation of all hair types continues as we find comfort in having uncomfortable conversations.

Natural hair is so much more than hair…

Our ancestors didn’t know what they didn’t know, so they passed along generational cycles of hair care. Today we’re battling the forces that are a consumeristic market that sells to insecurities, not needs. In the guise of a beauty standard, Black people are still being exploited.

Common consumeristic exploitations include hair typing, lye (chemical relaxers and texturizers), dye (chemical color), frying the hair (thermal straightening), or hiding it altogether. These practices are usually rooted in centuries-long bias, segregation, and prejudice. Today they’re carried by brands and influencers that continue to exploit Black people.

Brown Skin Women teaches consumers and professionals a clean, simple, and educated approach to tight curly hair care. But in order to shine tight curly hair in the light it deserves, we must confront the darkness of its racist roots.

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