The Future of Natural Hair Care

Hi Loves,

I cannot believe that it is already mid-November and the year is almost over! Where does the time go? I had so many plans at the start of the year for my hair and my blog, but I’ve realized that sometimes life has a different plan for you and sometimes you just have to go with the flow. I apologize for my absence. The fire in my heart was raging today, so I had to post!

Where have I been? Basically, I’ve been in the same place physically, but in a new space mentally. I spent most of the year reflecting on what I really want to do in life and trying to better understand my larger purpose. Though I’m not 100% sure yet, gaining some clarity has put my mind at ease. Then, I spent the second half of the year training for the New York City Marathon, an experience that was life changing for more reasons than one. I still can’t believe that I ran 26.2 miles and I am so thankful for my amazing team, Athletes to End Alzheimer’s for supporting me each step of the way. They say if you want to learn about yourself, run a marathon. I dare you.

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As for the main purpose of this post, how is my natural hair? This past weekend I had the opportunity to “play” with my natural hair for the first time in 2-3 months and my emotions went from 0 to 100; the process went from feeling fun to frustrating almost immediately. Wash day has literally become wash weekend – a nightmare. For context, I kept my hair in a protective style for 12 weeks. Underneath my clip-in extensions, my hair was braided in cornrows. I spent Friday night taking out the cornrows and washing/ detangling/ deep-conditioning my hair. I spent Saturday blow-drying and trimming my hair. I spent Sunday getting my hair re-braided at the salon and prepping my new clip-ins for the installation (dyeing, washing, and conditioning). That was my whole weekend in a nutshell. The longer my hair grows, the more difficult it becomes to manage. In regards to the health of my hair, I cannot complain because it has been thriving. I no longer have any dyed pieces of hair, heat damage, or noticeable breakage in my crown. Blowing out my hair allowed me to see how much my hair has grown and how healthy it is! See pictures below!

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Despite this amazing progress, more recently I’ve found myself ranting about my natural hair to my girl friends, guy friends, family members… basically anyone who will listen to me speak or give me a platform, with more passion and higher frequency. I’ve spent a lot of time and money on my hair, an investment that has not generated any monetary reward for myself, but has the potential to inspire, uplift, and empower women all over the world. I even called my mom this weekend to semi-apologize for giving her a hard time about relaxing my hair when I was only five years old. Being six years natural and shedding real tears as an adult while trying to comb my hair finally made me realize why she did what she did. It even made me wonder how my future self can raise a daughter with 4c, afro-textured natural hair and still maintain my sanity. Moms are the real MVPs! But does that make my Mom’s actions and those of other Black women who follow suit justified? No. How companies can justify selling hair products with the same chemicals used to unclog drains is beyond me. And the fact that we turn to these products out of convenience is disheartening.

I’ve spent the last few months asking myself why my hair matters so much to me. My passion for natural hair is not in vain, but stems from the impact my hair had on my self-esteem growing up and how the lack of role models with hair like mine affected the opportunities that I pursued. Like many other African American women, I grew up in hair salons. I spent 15 years of my childhood and adolescence hiding behind chemical relaxers, braids, extensions, and hair that wasn’t mine because I was afraid and didn’t know how to take care of my hair. Anyone who thinks the discourse surrounding Black hair is simply about hair is missing the main point. The conversation is not about hair at all. In fact, it’s about identity, confidence, and acceptance, among other things. It’s about a marginalized group that was born into a situation that it cannot change but tries to figure out how to make the best of that situation with limited resources.

Six years ago I made a bold decision to cut off all of my hair and go natural on my quest to attain long hair of my own, backed by the support system I gained through the online natural hair community. My pursuit to obtain long hair is less about length and more about achieving a goal I was conditioned to believe was outside of my reach. As a young girl, with damaged, relaxed hair, my hair broke off faster than the rate at which it grew. Growing up, Black girls “didn’t have long hair.” I’ve been following several natural hair YouTube gurus on their journeys over the last few years. Many have taken similar paths, concluding the road to achieving long natural hair is not desirable or sustainable. So instead, some reverted back to relaxers or now maintain shorter hairstyles. I on the other hand, am not ready to call it quits.

Though the natural hair trend has surged in recent years, many women remain uneducated about hair care or simply do not have the time to dedicate to such care. Seeking convenience, they have become heavily dependent on weaves, wigs, and extensions. But, by increasing demand for these items, they’ve created a marketplace that, in my opinion, does more harm than good by charging African American women exorbitant fees for products that they’ve been taught are central to their identities. I’ve conducted some research of my own, and though it’s not conclusive, it does shed some light on an imbalance in the hair care industry: Black women are willing to spend more on their hair. In one example, an ethnic hair conditioner by a multinational brand costs $9.99 for a 13.5oz bottle ($0.74/ oz) from Target; meanwhile a similar hair conditioner by a mainstream brand costs $2.67 for a 13oz bottle ($0.21/ oz). Black hair care is not only more time consuming, but in most instances it is also more costly.

Do we really need another natural hair product line on the market with a new oil unknown to mankind? – Absolutely not. What we need is a hair care company that is sensitive to the Black hair experience. A company that can create innovative solutions to deliver the most value to the vast community it serves in the form of high quality products and hair extensions at a low cost. A company that views solving this challenge as its ethical duty. A company that realizes it cannot change how our hair grows out of our heads, but sees a unique opportunity to facilitate a less burdensome experience rooted in research and compassion. We need to change the narrative around Black hair care for women. We need to create programs that support and teach young girls how to care for and maintain their natural hair from an early age. We need to build businesses that capitalize on the opportunity without serving as a detriment to our wallets or our communities.

I dream of a day when the Black hair care experience is more manageable, commoditized and normalized, not costly, exploitative and time consuming. Nowadays, I try to spend less time styling my natural hair and more time understanding how to solve our problems. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Thank you for reading, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Ijeoma ❤

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