By Nia Simone McLeod
From crochet braids to blowouts, natural hair is a hot topic of conversation that has skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade. Due almost single-handedly to the internet, information about natural hair has circulated quickly and educated millions of people throughout the black community to love, protect, and style the curls that grew naturally from their scalps. Natural hair bloggers and YouTubers turned their natural hair journey into a movement, in a time where chemicals and relaxers were still the norms. This not only led to a cultural shift but a shift in the hair care industry as well.
The Dangers of Relaxers
In the late 90s, the juxtaposition of the dangers of relaxers and the rampant popularity of straightened styles was present within the black community. The National Institute of Health had just released a study that revealed a link between relaxers and fibroids. But at the same time, bone straight hairstyles made famous by wildly popular celebrities such as Nia Long and Aaliyah lead to thousands of black women following suit. Ten years later, relaxer sales had fallen but the popularity was still strong within the black community. The consumer trends firm Mintel reports that in 2008, relaxer sales were at $206 million.
In 2009, Chris Rock produced, narrated, and released a documentary entitled “Good Hair” that shed a light on the history of black hair throughout modern black culture and how it often wasn’t considered acceptable in modern society. This documentary started a new conversation throughout the black community of the deep-rooted history behind the way that they wore their hair.
When it came to the media, the representation of natural hair in the late 2000s was almost non-existent. When looking for guidance about natural hair, there weren’t many prominent figures to look to. As social media began to become a mainstay in popular culture in the mid to late 2000s, a community of women choosing to leave their straightened, relaxed tresses for a natural look began to rise.
“The Big Chop”
Several blogs and self-hosted websites began to spark up throughout the internet in the late 2000s. Some of the earliest and most popular were Curly Nikki, established in 2008, and Natural Hair Rules, established in 2008. These blogs and the communities that flourished within them became a resource for the black community as they discussed information about caring and styling for natural hair that wasn’t able to be found anywhere else.
As the video-sharing site YouTube became more popular, so did personalities of women across the globe that were choosing to transition back to their natural hair with the company of a camera. This includes popular accounts such as Naptural85 and The Chic Natural who shared their beauty tips with the world, as well as the ups and downs that came with rocking their natural hair in modern society.
The undeniable influence of this new natural hair movement not only caused a shift within the black community but inevitably caused a shift in the hair care business as well. Sales of relaxers have dropped a whopping 34% since 2009. Many different hair care brands such as Carol’s Daughter, Mielle Organics, and Shea Moisture have risen up during this cultural shift to cater to the hair of women of color. Each of these brands offers products made with natural ingredients that are specifically designed for curly, kinky, and coily hair. Even popular relaxer brands such as Dark n’ Lovely and Motions hopped on the bandwagon and created natural hair products.
The influence of the digital natural hair movement has even pushed black celebrities to embrace their natural hair while living in the limelight. Beyonce wore blonde side sweeping elongated braids in her 2016 video for “Formation” coined the ‘Lemonade Braids.’ Viola Davis walked the red carpet without a wig for the first time at the 2012 Emmys. In 2014, Lupita Nyong’o was named People’s Most Beautiful Woman in the World and rocked a short-cut afro on the cover of People Magazine. Natural hair was beginning to be accepted by modern society in a way that was rarely seen before. This new-age wave of natural hair was partly in thanks to the natural hair bloggers and YouTubers who chose to share their experience almost a decade earlier.
Blogging Natural Hair
If you search “natural hair bloggers” on Google, over 68 million links come up in the search engine. The natural hair community is more vibrant than ever in the modern day as women and men across the world share their experience and the info that they’ve learned over the past decade.
Aissa Muamba Bibomba, a natural hair YouTuber, learned how to style her hair through watching natural hair tutorials on YouTube, “I think experimenting with my hair is what really helped me learn my hair texture and learn what it likes and it doesn’t like. It’s important to not be afraid to try new things.”
Aissa began uploading videos for her YouTube channel, CongoleseSisters, with her sister Patricia in 2016. The channel is based on beauty, lifestyle, and fashion with makeup tutorials, wig reviews, and natural hair tutorials.
Since she learned how to style her hair through gathering information on the internet, she wanted to pass on the information she’s learned to other women, “I want to help other girls with my hair texture and hair length to learn to love their hair and to not give up on it. This journey isn’t always hard, but it helps when you see other people and it motivates you to continue trying.”
According to Mintel, almost 80% of black women wear their hair naturally, without chemical styling. The natural hair movement has proved its longevity throughout the late 2000s and the early 2010s through the influence of the internet and social media. This made information about natural hair more easily accessible to black people all around the world. To some, it may seem like natural hair is only a trend, waiting to be knocked off by the next hair craze. But this movement has helped millions of people feel strongly within their identity and love themselves for who they really are, and that self-love is more powerful than any trend that may come and go.