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7 Women of Color Share Their Natural Hair Journeys

A hair journey can feel like exactly that—there are twists and turns before you finally find the right path, leading you to hair happiness.

All roads aren’t exactly straight, and experimentation or the sense of not getting it right can be the norm, especially in a culture that values Euro-centric beauty standards. We checked in with women of color who learned to love and embrace their curl patterns after years of dealing with a society that told them not to. These stories prove that hair is much more than “just hair,” and that texture should be embraced, not covered up.

A Crown, Not a Crutch

“I can remember getting my first perm when I was about 6. ‘Getting’ is putting it gently. My father and mother were already separated then and his partner at the time did not take a liking to me at all. At that age, I also had a lot of hair, so you can imagine that she wasn’t a fan of having to deal with it. Consequently, one fateful weekend, without asking my mother’s permission, she permed (or permanently straightened) my natural hair. From then on, it seemed that the only way to maintain my hair at all was to continue the process. Even when it was clear that perms were detrimental to the health of my hair, I chose them over the thought of not having hair at all. As a longtime tomboy, I felt my hair felt like my claim to femininity.

Fast forward to 2009 when I graduated from college. After spending four years mired in affirming my identity, I eventually became so frustrated with traditional, Euro-centric standards of beauty that I randomly cut my hair one night while looking in the bathroom mirror. I’ll remember that moment forever because since then my hair journey has truly felt like my own and to my surprise, having no hair actually made me feel more beautiful than ever. From that day on, I’ve been on a mission to learn how to appreciate and tend my coils. In fact, I’ve recently purchased a slew of products from Pattern Beauty that have re-invigorated my investment in seeing my natural hair continue to grow.

If nothing else, my natural hair journey has taught me versatility and put me on the path to self-love. I’ve finally realized that my hair is a crown, not a crutch.”

Jessica T., Copy Supervisor

Enhance, Don’t Hide

“When I was younger it was all about manageability for my mom who always had me in cornrows, box braids, and African threaded styles. I didn’t fully appreciate the styles at the time, and I would instead beg to get my hair straightened or permed for ‘special occasions,’ but the allure and upkeep of that was never long-loved. Even now, if anyone mentions a hot comb I have to fight the urge to flinch.

I’ve been natural since junior year of high school and love the versatility and expressiveness of my mane. The hunt for healthy hair holy grail products can be exhausting whether I was casually stalking haircare foktis and forums 15 years ago or the awesome naturalistas of YouTube today. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to design a line of hair care accessories, WoBusu: a unisex limited-edition series of satin-lined bonnets, scarves, and ‘Hairdoo-rags’ (aka durags) made from a selective curation of African textiles. These enhance the boldness of wearers rather than hide bad hair days, while playfully keeping styles safely protected.”

Adwoa Adusei, Founder of WoBusu


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Reminder of Roots

“I hated my short 4C hair as a child and permed it as soon as I was 16, praying for some length finally. It wasn’t until I was 23 when I finally realized that my hard, curly, and wiry hair was a gift my ancestors passed down to me as a reminder of my African roots—roots that brought out my creativity, endurance, patience, and strength as I learned to work with and love my mane. Now, as I grow my second set of locs, I take pride in my nappy edges that have become reminders to me that I am Africa. I have survived five centuries of failed attempts to dilute my existence, and I will not be tamed!”

C. Zawadi Morris, Founder and Publisher of BK Reader


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A post shared by C. Zawadi Morris (@c_zawadimorris)

Maximizing Protective Styles

“So, from a little girl I always wanted to wear my ‘hair down.’ I would beg and plead that instead of a variation of multiple plaits, that my mother would perm my hair and allow me to let my tresses flow like the girls in school. I guess she got tired of me always asking and crying every time she washed and detangled my hair because one day, she bought a box of Just for Me perm and had my aunt perm my hair. I was ecstatic. My hair was finally straight, but little did I know I just signed up for years of hair damage.

I permed my hair monthly, give or take a few weeks, since I was about 10 up until my freshman year in college as I couldn’t find any Black hairstylists in the middle of Pennsylvania. That’s when I really started getting sew-ins. They lasted for weeks at a time with minimal maintenance and for a college student, that was all I needed to hear. In between installs I would wash, condition, and blow dry, but still didn’t give my hair the TLC that it really deserved—especially because I decided to bleach and dye my hair a blonde ombré color during my college years. At that point, my hair growth was stagnant. I had terrible split ends and my hair wouldn’t grow past my collarbone.

It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I really had the desire to learn my curls, my hair type, what kind of products to use, etc. A few couple of hundreds of dollars and mental hair breakdowns later, I found my routine and a set of products that work for my hair (s/o to Carol’s Daughter’s Coco Creme line and Mielle Organics White Peony Leave-in Conditioner). Despite this revelation, 98% of the time, I either have braids in or a wig on and my laziness is to blame for that. Don’t get me wrong, I am in love with my hair—it’s healthy, it continues to grow, and I love feeling my scalp, but I don’t have the energy to give it the true TLC it needs so it’s best that I don’t fuss with it often and different protective styles with proper in-between haircare allows me to do that.

– Brianna C., Beauty PR Account Manager

Leading by Example

“Prior to starting OrganiGrowHairCo in 2016, I was on tour (I/Kay am/is a Grammy-nominated songwriter and recording artist having worked with the likes of Dr. Dre, Eminem, and Ne-Yo) treating my hair with harsh chemicals and manipulating it to get specific looks for performances. Heat styling and usage of sulfate-heavy products left my hair dry, brittle, flat, and with uneven textures. On one notable return from tour, my daughter asked if she could straighten her hair so she could look like the other girls at school. I was heartbroken that she felt that way and realized that in constantly manipulating my own hair and look, I was sending my daughter the wrong message about beauty. In an effort to bring my own hair back to life and inspire my daughter to keep her beautiful curly hair, I started researching and experimenting with ingredients to develop all natural products to go natural and embrace my god given hair.”

Kay Cola, Founder/CEO of OrganiGrowHairCo


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Creating Products in the Kitchen

“I hated my hair all my life. No matter how many products I used, dollars I spent, or hours I lost, it never looked beautiful and always made me feel bad about myself. But I assumed that was the status quo; that my hair was supposed to be a struggle and a chore. Until one day I saw Chris Rock’s Good Hair and was amazed, yet appalled, that a hair relaxer (the same product I had been using in my hair for over a decade) was so chemically-laden that it could disintegrate and aluminum can in mere minutes.

So I got in my kitchen and started creating homemade products for my hair. I was ready to love me, and I figured since it didn’t exist, I just had to create it. Because I couldn’t find a solution to my problem, I ended up creating a line of products that became the first all-in-one system that is plant-based, vegan, works phenomenally well on natural hair, and (here’s the kicker) cuts wash day time in half. It was never intended to become a business. But I discovered so many other women were on the same struggle bus that I was on, and I had the only solution that would help them finally love themselves just as they were created.

To date, Naturalicious has saved over 70,000 women more than 1.2 million minutes on wash day and I became the first Black woman in history to receive a patent for natural haircare.”

Gwen Jimmere, Founder/CEO of Naturalicious


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The Big Chop

“I big-chopped my hair in 2017 because my hair had been permed in my youth to make styling easier for my working mom. I didn’t know what my actual texture was and decided to start my natural hair journey. Today, I’m rocking a glorious fro that continues to get bigger and more beautiful.”

Sydney F., Technical Recruiter


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A post shared by Sydney Fleming (@calicutie052001)

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