Black Hair and Femininity Part 2 (Youth Speaks Out Series)

Navigating my way through the natural hair community has been a struggle for multiple reasons. Firstly, many of the prominent figures for women with type 4 hair, who don’t actually have that hair type but rather looser curl patterns. I find this to be extremely detrimental to young people such as myself, who have kinkier hair and are questioning why they are not producing the same hairstyles as the women who are advertised to us. 

Secondly, although one could argue that the upkeep of natural hair isn’t as expensive as braids, weaves, or wigs, natural hair requires a lot of trial and error in terms of products that work for your specific hair type. Hunting for good products does in fact require quite the bit of money; money that I do not have. I’ve noticed during my exploration that hair products that are geared toward black women are often times more expensive than the products intended for women of other races. 

I’ve found that just the initial process of buying hair products can be quite tiresome. Oftentimes mainstream stores either don’t carry the entire line of products from natural hair brands, or they don’t carry any products from brands at all; not to mention that the products that I do need are locked behind glass cases with locks that only an employee can open. If only there was an employee in sight. 

An alternative to this could be to shop at my local beauty supply. Their prices for those same natural hair products are relatively cheaper than a store like Target or Sally Beauty, however I as a Black woman don’t always feel welcome in a space that I supposed to be catered to people like me. I almost always feel as if I am being watched or judged. I’ve noticed the way shop owners keep their eyes on my every move as a walk through their establishment, zeroed in on the products in my hand. No, I don’t need help finding anything today. 

Photo by Anna Shvets at Pexels

Another issue that I have run into is that a lot of these so called Black owned hair care companies that cater to people with my hair type, are not owned by Black people at all. In a lot of these cases, the concept of the brand was created by Black people, but they end up selling their business to predominantly White domains. My issue with this is that I often try to support Black owned businesses and many of these natural hair companies lead their consumers to believe that their brands are owned by Black people. 

I’ve also noticed how a lot of the packaging, particularly the pictures of different women on the packaging for each product has changed. By this I mean that at one time darker skinned women with large type 4 hair and vibrant curl definition used to be the images that these brands were using to sell their products. However now, a lot of what I see tends to be racially ambiguous women with looser curl patterns. While there is nothing wrong with opening up marketing campaigns to women of different curl hair textures and skin tones, it seems that a lot of the darker skin and kinky hair representation has fizzled out. This lack of representation has been hard for not only myself but other natural hair goers of darker complexions and tighter curls because we often feel as though these brands are not making products with us in mind anymore. 

While my hair is not long, it’s not incredibly short either. There are times where I feel that the natural hair community on social media tends to uplift and applaud women who have naturally long hair and many of us with shorter hair are looked passed. I myself have felt at times a little insignificant because my hair doesn’t look like what’s often advertised to me. My hair isn’t long enough to braid, my afro is small, my hair grows at different speeds in different places, my edges are hard to shape. Sometimes I genuinely have no idea how to style my hair because the front of my hair is wavy but short and I don’t know how to showcase that. 

For these reasons I’ve been tempted to do the big chop and cut my hair; a fresh start. Good hair is healthy hair and I believe that at this time, if I cut my hair I will be able to grow all of it out at the same time. Not to mention cutting my hair will make my wash day routine a lot shorter. 

We as a society place so much emphasis on hair and appearance—from social media, to celebrities, to family beliefs, to the Bible. As silly as it seems, I worry about maintaining my femininity with shorter hair. Just this past summer I got accustomed to seeing myself without makeup and letting my beauty from within show on the outside. As someone who spends way too much time on social media, I’ve noticed that pro Black pages on Instagram who post Black women with short hair, strategically make sure to post women with short hair who have a full beat face of makeup on. 

As I sit here, writing to you today, I am undecided on when is the right time to make the big chop. Perhaps there never is a right moment or right time. I can confidently say that from every woman close to me that I discussed this topic with, they’ve all done the big chop and absolutely loved it. I think that in the past year I have learned that femininity is something that can be expressed in multiple ways. Perhaps it’s not one’s hair, makeup, or clothes, but the way one moves through life. The confidence they exude, the way they carry themselves.

1 Comment

  1. I hear you! Black women’s hair upkeep is expensive, no matter how we style our hair. The price of experimentation alone is a major investment just to learn whether that product will be beneficial. Still, when you love what you got, you can approach it with joy and curiosity, just like all the good things in life. Thank you for this follow up, Colette.

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