Hair That Defies Gravity but Belittled Tragically: Texturism in the Beauty Industry
“Girl your hair is so nappy look at them beaded bees in the back of your head!” “Don’t use that white crack!” “You must be mixed to have all that hair ain’t no way you just black.” “How do you even wash that it looks so matted.” “Can I touch your hair…oh it’s so soft, it feels like a dog.” “Girl put on a wig and cover that mess!” “How do you expect to get a job with hair like that?” My hair is vital to me, and for most women, especially women of color, our hair makes a statement of who we are. But these phrases make embracing and loving our hair almost impossible. The natural hair community’s purpose is to promote coils and curls and take passion in learning and understanding our hair. But it seems it is anything but that as negativity persists, tearing down others for the decisions they choose for their hair. I went natural three years ago, and it is still a learning process for me to understand and embrace my hair. Honestly, I had no desire to learn about my hair texture because it did not matter as long as it was healthy. Unfortunately, for many, especially in the beauty industry, texturism persists and feeds into the idea that there is “good and bad hair.”
The issue of texturism in the Black Community stems from colorism as many consider the myth that women of light skin color have “better hair” than those of a darker completion to be true. The prejudice, discriminatory, and inhumane acts of racism are the primary culprits of view on natural hair in society. But when and how does the beauty industry contribute to this issue? Not long ago, cosmetology schools did not have natural hair care as part of their curriculum. Even today, the education on natural hair continues to expand, but negative stigmatization continues. The beauty industry is beginning to shine a light on the natural hair community, but are they genuinely representing everyone or who they consider acceptable? Many believe that the beauty industry shows only those with 2A to 3A hair textures, leaving 4A, 4B, and 4C women to feel unrepresented. It is a sad reality, but the natural hair movement still promotes this idea of “good and bad” hair. The beauty industry pushes it further by putting aside textures that do not fit their natural hair image. But what is their image of natural hair? How do they decide the physical features of something and conform it to their liking? All-natural hair is different and needs different routines of care than others, but many brands promoting natural hair seem to lack that understanding.
In the Bronze Magazine article, “The Beauty Industry is Affecting the Natural Hair Movement & We’re Kind of Playing a Part in It,” Shatay Speights discusses the beauty industry’s filtration of natural hair to promote Eurocentric standards. Along with the fact that consumers feed into this struggling to embrace their hair to conform to unrealistic beauty standards. “In mainstream beauty, many images are filtered to us that are focused on a very narrow standard of beauty (mainly Eurocentric), which tends to favor women who look exotic or racially ambiguous and whose hair has a looser curl pattern or longer length. The beauty industry is affecting the way we as black women see our natural hair; often conditioning us to put more emphasis on length (retention) rather than overall health while promoting unrealistic and unattainable images of hair, leading to women manipulating their hair to “fit in” instead of embracing their hair’s own unique curl pattern. As much as the beauty industry takes advantage of our hair aspirations and manipulates who we’re seeing in the media, we are giving the industry its ammunition to do so.” (Speights).
The beauty industry especially in American society has always promoted European features as its beauty standards. Although more people of color are more involved in the industry than ever before the idea of an “exotic look” makes many black women question their hair even more. The standards of today say that you can have curly hair but not colily and if you do have curly hair it has to be of considerable length to be desirable and manageable. I am a culprit of wanting more length during points in my natural hair journey and it was difficult to embrace my hair health. But that is what made my hair journey beautiful because it was a symbol of change for me as I embarked on a new part of life and my hair grew with me. Social media did play factors into what natural hair beauty was for me and it can be extremely toxic to allow other opinions to influence us. But that is what the beauty industry continues to do, and we feed into this by working to fulfill beauty standards that do not cater to us. Even without realizing it, brands promote texture by making us believe that stretching our natural hair will make us look more like this “exotic aesthetic.”
The beauty industry can not only express the issue of texturism but also work to rectify it. Although it may take generations, this age of representation is the perfect time to bring out an issue that has small light shed. More importantly, with more people of color in the industry, education on natural hair can generate a positive experience for all. As said previously, it was not long ago that natural hair care was not a thought in cosmetology. But it is, for this reason, women of color lack understanding of their hair, and cosmetologists also lack the education to care for the client properly. I have always felt safer with a black cosmetologist because that is all I experienced growing up. Unfortunately, even in those spaces, women are discriminated for their textures, and it fills the once cultural experience of a black girl and woman’s life with anxiety and dread. Some stylists charge unreasonable prices for caring for tight curly textures and expect those clients to wash and blow out their hair to “save time.” But all this shows texture discrimination in even the one place women of color should feel safe, which is truly disheartening. As a little girl, I loved getting my hair done, but I believe my younger sister will not be able to share the same experience because of her texture. So, I take it upon myself to make her love and embrace her hair and be able to bond with her. It is a blessing to be able to teach her about her natural hair because I could not have that experience.
In the Nylon Beauty Magazine article, “Texturism is Keeping Folks With 4C Hair Out of Salons”, Precious Fondren discusses the importance of a hairstylist for the black woman and calls out stylists that create an anxious and regretful experience for 4C clients. She also promotes stylists and gives personal accounts from clients that express their gratitude for finding a stylist who genuinely cares for natural hair care’s physical and mental well-being. There is a part where she speaks with Brooklyn Stylist, Dre, to see her opinion of stylist prioritizing money over clientele experience. “There’s so many different stories you hear connected to people’s trauma with their hair, and many of them start young,” she explains. “That’s one of the biggest things that I’ve realized through this work, is those early experiences that you have with your hair really shape your ideas about your textured hair. “There’s a big misconception about the whole scale, and it just rubs me the wrong way,” she continues. “It can be very exclusive for people who don’t fit anywhere within it or are confused about it. I classify hair by it being straight, wavy, curly, or kinky.” Dre understands that, for some stylists, the top priorities are time and money. She still doesn’t believe they have to compromise the feelings of clients to save time or make money. “You shouldn’t say it because this person’s hair takes less time that I should charge them less,” she says. “Start your rates at whatever it takes you the longest to do, and then everybody else has to meet you where it’s at.” Dre said this will minimize the chance of creating feelings of inferiority within clients that don’t have straight hair. “If you set the standard high already, then people will meet you there,” she says. “That’s how I ran my business. I charge hourly, so if your hair takes me this amount of time to do, this is how we’re upfront about it.” (Fondren).
Stories such as these make me want to create a positive experience for not only my sister but for all girls and women of color as well. There can be so much trauma with black women and their hair because the world consistently encourages us that conformity will make us more acceptable to society and desirable for the beauty standard. But that harms women’s self-esteem and going to the salon can be a nightmare when the stylist continues to express the “negatives” about their hair. My mother is an incredible woman, and I continuously encourage her that her hair is beautiful. Still, I am realistic about her traumatic experience with her natural hair. From hearing and learning about her knowledge of the views of natural hair in the past, I can understand the contributions that not only the black community, but the beauty industry has to the issue of texturism. Even with more representation in the industry, we are still taking several steps backward but trying to force beauty standards that are unrealistic to the average woman of color. Cosmologists have a grand opportunity to change the narrative of natural hair and educate women and girls on their hair. They are the first line of representation for the natural hair community and can be put at the forefront of hair care. All they need to do is take this and push forward to make the salon experience more positive and elevate women and girls of color.
Texturism is alive and well in the beauty industry, and we as consumers feed into this issue. But how can industry and the consumer world help alleviate this problem? Is this issue even possible to change because of its deep roots in racism? It is difficult to say because that would mean several aspects, not only beauty but cosmology, need to change. Honestly, education on natural hair can help, but it is not a cure-all because there is still stylist that will discriminate against women with a tight curl pattern. Also, the black community needs to look within us to understand how we add to the trauma of the natural hair experience. There are many contradictions in natural hair because we want to encourage women to wear their hair. But the natural hair beauty standard is unrealistic in social media and marketing, making women feel insecure. It’s difficult enough being a black woman in an industry that consistently takes from your culture but tells you that you are not the beauty standard. It feels like we are enough for inspiration but not enough for proper representation. The beauty industry has the chance to break that barrier because it is supposed to support all standards of beauty. I understand the aspect of marketing is to show what sells but is it worth losing a group of people that consistently innovate the world of beauty?
In the Vindicator Magazine article, “Navigating Natural Hair: Texturism and the Face of the Movement,” Cimira Crews gives some perspective on how the media can assist with rectifying the issue of texturism. But she also expresses how the black community should move forward in the future to find self-love in our hair. “Unfortunately, even within Black spaces, we still must constantly fight to be included. Representation, education about Black hair, self-reflection and correction are the first steps to flip the ongoing narrative. Women like Issa Rae, Gabrielle Union, Lupita Nyong’o and Taraji P. Henson are dark-skinned, Black women in mainstream media who push back, wear their natural hair and embrace the beauty in their tighter textures, despite what the media might say. We need more of it, but for that to happen, the spaces must exist where there can be more than five famous darker skinned women with tighter curls. Sometimes, looking at what ideals have been passed down to you during your childhood will give you insight into why you might feel a certain way about your hair, and where to start changing your mindset.” (Crews).
It takes more than representation for our community to gain self-love. Although there are women of color in the mainstream wearing their natural hair, we need more than a hand full of women. We need brands to invest in natural hair care, promote stylists who want to educate women and girls, and, more importantly, a safe space for us to express the trauma we have with our hair. The beauty industry consistently spreads the idea of self-love, but the reality is that not everyone is shown that same luxury. But it feels as if the industry thinks it is not their problem to focus on texturism because it is not a “white issue.” Yes, the black community must focus on our healing from natural hair trauma. But the media can help open discussions to allow black women to express their issues with their hair and how the media makes them feel. Women of color are at the forefront of beauty trends, yet they are so much lack in their representation. Social media representation has a power that the beauty industry can tap into because it changes how consumers view and express information. Young children and teens are primarily part of this technological craze but imagine the impact on the little black girl that sees a woman or girl with their hair on TV. What were we pushing the importance of educating the young on the beauty and power of their hair? It would be the beginning of healing generations of racial trauma deeply rooted in the soul of the black community.
Texturism is only one of the many generation traumas the black community has, and it needs to change. The beauty industry only prolongs this issue by refusing to represent women with tighter hair textures and shorter lengths. If the industry truly wants to show the importance of self-love to future generations, they need to tackle issues outside their comfort zone. Pushing away the conversation because we feel it does not involve us only makes us part of the issue because there is no open space. I said before that I love my natural hair, which is vital because my ancestors did not have the same opportunity to express our beauty. They were forced through generations of hate and conformity to meet American societal standards, yet we are still not enough. I implore the beauty industry to learn from the natural hair community and shed light on our issues. More importantly, the industry and black community should express that our hair is not only beautiful but a symbol of the transcendence of our people as it defies the shackles of gravity and discrimination of the world.
Author: Jasmine Boskent
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Crews, Cimira. “Navigating Natural Hair: Texturism and the Face of the Movement”. Vindicator Magazine. 13 Dec. 2021. https://www.thevindi.com/post/navigating-natural-hair-texturism-and-the-face-of-the-movement. Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.
Fondren, Precious. “Texturism is Keeping Folks With 4C Hair Out of Salons”. Nylon Beauty Magazine. 10 March 2021. https://www.nylon.com/beauty/4c-hair-discrimination. Accessed 13 Aug. 2022.
Speights, Shatay. “The Beauty Industry is Affecting the Natural Hair Movement and We’re Kind of Playing a Part in It”. 18 Apr. 2018. https://www.bronzemagonline.com/the-beauty-industry-is-affecting-the-natural-hair-movement-were-kind-of-playing-a-part-in-it/. Accessed 13 Aug. 2022.