curl

Tracee Ellis Ross recently made a plea for natural women to love their hair, no matter the texture. Though her loose curl pattern has been idealized by many in the natural community, she asks for women to embrace their coils and kinks and not try to emulate a different texture.

However noble, her call to action is antithetical to the message many natural hair brands put out there. Most companies sell their curl defining creme, pomade, leave-in conditioner and gel with the promise of transforming tight coils to loose, long curls.

Miss Jessie’s actually promoted the slogan “turning kinks into curls,” and still markets one of their best-selling products as a miracle worker that “transforms shrunken kinks to super shiny stretched out curls.”

Some of these same companies regularly cast natural hair models with afros that resemble Tracee Ellis Ross’ hair: loose, defined and curly, as opposed to kinky. After her role as spokesperson for Carol’s Daughter came to an end, Solange Knowles gave this weighted statement: “I was constantly fighting for the right message to be heard. The message that the way we wear our hair is a personal choice, there’s no right or wrong way.”

Companies greatly benefit from pushing a “right way” to look, whether the idealized beauty standard is thinness, pale skin, blonde hair, straight hair or loose curls. If they promote the message that one look is favorable, women will spend billions trying to transform their appearance to fit that standard.

It’s a strategy that has pushed the beauty industry forward for years, and some natural hair brands are cashing in on it by promoting curlism. Tracee Ellis Ross’ wish has a much better chance of coming to fruition if various leaders in the natural hair community — from product companies to celebrities like herself — embrace various textures rather than putting one on a pedestal and telling women to shop to attain it.

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  • Mz. Manning

    Yes these companies profit off of advertising looser curl patterns. I haven’t had a relaxer in 2 years and about 7 months ago I started buying and using natural hair products to find out what works best for my hair texture (which I have come to the conclusion after many months that it is type 4 something hair). I am still looking for that one product that conditions, moisturizers, enhances my curl pattern, and add sheen without being greasy over heavy, but no such luck yet.:) Before I was just washing and conditioning with suave products and conditioning with African Pride leave in olive oil conditioner. I transitioned by cutting off the relaxed ends every couple of months for about a year, but now all the relaxed ends are gone. When my hair is wet or has shampoo or conditioner on it I have that type 3 wavy/curly hair, but when it dries and I comb it out and put leave in or curl enhancing smoothie on it, I see no visible curl pattern. There are so many products out there now for natural hair and they each promise a different thing. When I first started to see my natural hair come in I saw this slightly waved hair in the front. I got so excited because I was thinking that I was going to have this loosely wavy/curly hair that I thought I might have and always wanted, but now that is not the case because when my hair dries it shrinks a little and is nothing like that little patch of wavy hair in the front. Like I said there are so many products out there now for natural hair and every month I see at least 2 to 3 new brands of natural hair products. All of a sudden all the hair companies that existed before or didn’t exist are wanting to be natural and come out with different natural hair products because they see so many women becoming natural and people are starting to embrace their natural textures and these companies know there is money to be made . I look at the prices for some of these products and they are ridiculous and half of the time they are not good. I wish that a lot of these companies would make sample sized or smaller jars of their products so I won’t be wasting my money if I find out that a product does not work for me. Even though more and more people are embracing their natural texture of hair, there are still people who refer to people who do not have that wavy type of hair, but rather kinky or coily hair as nappy headed or slave hair. Heck Lil Mama the rapper got dragged on twitter when she showed her natural long hair in an afro, but everyone was applauding Angela Simmons and Nicki Minaj (if that was really her) long straightened hair. All though I don’t know if they relax or not. I think that regardless you should learn to love your hair whether it’s bald, kinky, coily, straight, wavy, relaxed, or all of those. You can always change it up if you want to. You may not agree with how someone wears their hair, but it is their choice. I get where Tracee Ellis Ross is coming from about love your own hair, but many companies are promoting products that do otherwise and many people black and white and other races find hair that looks a certain way more acceptable in their opinion. I would love for my hair to hang and be wavy/curly, but I just don’t think that it ever will but regardless I still love my hair being natural without a relaxer and all I have to do is wash and condition it and add a little product and it is good to go for the day. Before I was addicted to the creamy crack and would sometimes relax before the 4 to 6 weeks were up if I felt it needed it so I have come a long way and don’t plan on going back anytime soon. Good luck to all the women who are going or considering going natural because it is a beautiful thing (at least to me).

  • rahrahma

    I am transitioning and I am already aware of how all of the hair companies are on the natural hair bandwagon and yes seem to focused on looser “curl” patterns. I must admit, a lot of what I have learned about transitioning and natural hair has come from youtube, but even there I see so many people making comments about wishing their hair was like so and so, or how they hope their hair will turn out or grow like that person and I just smh. I don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg here because are these companies simply responding to the demands of naturals who haven’t or don’t embrace their hair and want looser curls or is it the companies themselves who have decided these naturals need looser curls and are forcing the products down their throats. I tend to think the companies respond to public demand. Women who wear weave at some point demanded more realistic ways to make their parts look real. Women who wear lacefronts realized how artificial the hairline looked and demanded a more “natural” looking hairline and next thing, here comes wigs with baby hair,just to try and make it look more “realistic”.

    I think these companies are trying to meet the demands of the “naturals” who are not fully on board with what being natural means and are on the the natural bandwagon because they simply see it as a hairstyle. When women are on the natural bandwagon and are just doing it because so many other people are doing it or so they can say that they are natural, they will more than likely be the ones who won’t embrace their hair texture and will still covet the hair of someone else because for them, it is all about the hair and nothing else. Let us not forget that for the last 20 years or so Black women have been able to go and buy what ever hair they have a fancy for, whatever length, texture, color they want, so they mentality of a lot of people going natural is to expect to get what they want because they want it. They want to be natural but not THAT natural, and when their hair is not what they want they products that will “fix” it ASAP.

  • As a former locked sister, that’s why you can’t relate or infiltrate locked-heads with this mess, for now at least. You HAVE to stay away from products to have a successful lock journey. But the loose community is just as cracked out on products as it was on relaxers all for a ‘look’. There I said it, and I’m loose now and still enjoying a low maintenance journey. Prove me wrong, I would love that. Personally, all I teach is embracing who God made you to be and to work with ingredients NOT products to learn what YOUR hair needs. We’ve given away our power again, this time to a new marketing spin with oils, herbs, butters and creams. Have at it. I’m sticking with my AVJ and AVG fresh out the leaf. Life is simple. Life is good. It need not be complicated.

    Author,The Knotty Truth Series of Natural Hair Care Books

  • Guest

    All beauty companies exploit insecurities to make a profit. That’s what they do, so why expect anything else? You can DIY and free yourself from reliance on a lot of commercial products, but many people I think are just devoted to buying stuff for their natural hair like it is a pet.
    I absolutely DISAGREE that we need to separate curly/kinky for products. Like many sistas, I have multiple textures on my head. Some sections curl, some wave, some just poof with no definition. A serviceable product and good technique can transform natural hair into almost any look and I proudly wear them all from the swirly curly to the straight up sticking out fro. If we are natural and not “loose curlies” should we also not use curlformers and spiral rods then? Is that selling out too? Black people stop picking at each other over every little thing, please.