Puffy. Fluffy. Frizzy. Just some of the many choice words when anyone mentions afro hair. This feature will discuss afro hair – what it stands for, the attitudes towards it and a guide for beginners jumping on the natural hair bandwagon.
From the unforgettable disco puffs to groovy 60s’ gravity-defying, cloud-shaped styles, afro hair is making a stylish comeback. In recent years, there has been a clear spike in both ladies and gents deciding to go natural. ‘Going natural’ describes the decision to not relax one’s hair and to allow afro hair to grow as nature intended it.
As of late, sales in relaxers (a concoction of chemicals which process your mane from curly to straight) have dropped significantly and the Afro community have taken to their own devices to undo years of damage. Conversely, sales in products that aid natural hair growth have made an increase. Black communities (and some others) are finally seeing the benefits of going natural. However, it has not always been this way.
Some fellow naturals have gone natural all their life, and I, for one, commend them. However, such a decision sometimes isn’t to be taken lightly. Whilst Afro hair is iconic in its stature, there remains a strong undertone of stigma in Western contexts. Afro hair has been associated with unprofessionalism, some citing it as ‘unkempt’ and ‘uncontrolled’. 15-year-old schoolgirl Tayjha Deleveaux was criticised at school and threatened with suspension for wearing her natural Afro hair in a puff, a common hairstyle. Frustratingly, this story is only one out of many. All over the world, natural hair wearers face and deal with micro-aggressions, unpleasant remarks and lingering stares. If you wear your hair naturally, you won’t be a stranger to the unwelcome fingers of strangers who run their hands through your hair without permission, exclaiming ‘It’s so soft! And bouncy!’ and other such comments. Not only is it unhygienic, it infringes on personal space and integrity, and frankly, their amusement should not come before our comfort. Sadly, it is behaviour like this, amongst others, which causes some afro-wearers to change their hair into something more socially acceptable. This needs to be abandoned, and we must make way for embracing Afro hair and its roots.
Up, up, up
It is true that there is an undeniable movement under way that embraces natural Afro hair. Online, natural hair queens naptural85, curlielocsblog and mahoganycurls are leading the way to happy, healthy hair and demonstrating the kind of self-love that needs to be more commonplace.
Below, I’ve put together a little guide to jumping on the bandwagon. I have been going natural for about a year and I am not looking back. Long gone are the days of relaxer burns, brittle and undernourished hair and adhering to beauty standards that simply aren’t for me.
Assess your hair: what is it you wish for? Is it length? Density? Health? Find out what you hope to gain from going natural and this will be your starting point.
The Big Chop: it’s in the name! Many decide to cut off the damaged ends of their hair and start afresh. Personally, I wanted to retain length during the process of going natural, so I trimmed it every now and then. This might be a better idea if you are reluctant to make a dramatic change quickly.
Find the products that work for you: This may require some time and attention. The sooner you discover what works for you, the more money and time you could save testing and sorting through products that don’t quite do the trick for you. Learning how your hair behaves and reacts to different products is also a good way of finding what works best for you. Here is a list of product frontrunners you can sink your teeth into for a start.
Key Tip: hydrate. Water is your hair’s best friend, so make sure you’ve got a little spray bottle (much like at the hairdresser’s) handy at home. You can mix water, leave-in conditioner and an oil of your choice, such as coconut, lavender or argan oil, to make your own nutritious mix.
Go Pro(tective): protective hairstyling allows you to recreate your favourite hairstyles without compromising the health of your hair. Popular ways are: braids, a weave-on, cornrows, twists and wigs! Luckily enough, wigs and weave-ons can look incredibly authentic with the use of human hair as opposed to synthetic hair. However, if you’re going for human hair extensions, try to figure out if the hair has been ethically sourced (i.e. with consent). Otherwise, if you’re a bit hesitant, synthetic hair will do just fine!
Text by Naomy Kuma, illustrations by Montserrat Fernandez