Articles By Tracey Wallace

The natural hair community is getting stronger by the day here in the U.S., but that isn't the case for the rest of the world. In Brazil, the home of the Brazilian Blow Out treatment that uses formaldehyde to straighten tight curls and coils, the pressure to straighten begins very young.

Much like the stories that comes from those in the natural hair community today, who remember long, painful hours of having their hair straightened before they even stepped into an elementary school, women with tight curls in Brazil are encouraged to straighten their hair as well as that of their daughters. And, that encouragement doesn't just come from the media and culture -- it has also been supported by medical professionals in hospitals.

This story isn't new. Back in September, the site Black Women in Brazil broke the news about Santa Joana hospital, which posted a response on its Facebook page to the following question:

“Minha filha tem o cabelo muito crespo. A partir de qual idade posso alisá-lo? (My daughter has very kinky/curly hair. At what age can I straighten it?)”

Their response was to use alternatives to formaldehyde straightening treatments (which the ANVISA [Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária or National Agency for Sanitary Vigilance] strictly prohibits on children) in order to give your daughter beautiful hair.

Many on Facebook considered the post racist and prejudiced and since, the hospital has removed it. However, per usual, there were two sides to the argument.

While many thought the use of the words "makes children more beautiful" in reference to straightening the hair was an outright declaration of prejudiced and even adultification of children, others thought that the post was simply meant to encourage mothers not to use chemicals on their daughters' hair -- especially in a country that so values straightened hair.

And, to be fair, the post did call out straight hair alternatives to chemical processes.

Either way, the story is just one more reminder that this movement is borderless and just as important globally as it is locally.

Our question to you: what would be your response to seeing the post?

 

Unfortunately, this article is no April Fool's joke. You can read the full story on Black Women in Brazil.

 

 


Wavy haired woman holding pill

The conversation concerning the possibility of a pill that could change a person's natural hair texture has been a hot topic since 2007, when "The International Journal of Dermatology" published their findings that the texture and curl pattern of your hair depend on the shape of your follicle. According to the findings, people with hook-shaped follicles produce hair containing more kertain protein on one side, rather than evenly distributed, which causes the curl. Those with straight hair have a round follicle that coats the hair shaft evenly in keratin.

Following the 2007 publication, "The American Journal of Human Genetics" published a finding in 2009 suggesting that there may be a way to change the texture medically through gene therapy or a hormone treatment.

Industry Interest

Beauty company L'Oreal Paris has staked the most claim on the findings, researching how the development of a pill to alter the shape of the hair follicle will further affect hair texture.

In 2010, the NaturallyCurly community caught on to the going ons of the pill research from an article in "Essence Magazine" suggesting that there is a "cure" for curly and coily hair in the works. Though neither L'Oreal Paris nor anyone behind the research has mentioned the pill as a "cure" for anything - the pill would potentially offer women the opportunity to try out other hair types without heat damage. Allowing women to switch between hair types simply by taking a pill would very likely prove to be an extremely profitable business model, and L'Oreal Paris is attempting to take hold of that niche. 

A Long Way Off

Yet, here in 2013, the pill is nowhere near production and remains largely an idea or myth. In a blog question asked to "The New York Times" on May 13, 2013, the newspaper quotes Nick Martin, a professor at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research is Brisbane, Australia, saying that the pill is still "a long way" off.

Despite more than five years of findings and publications, as well as a piqued interest from one of hair care's largest brands, it's likely we won't see any hair texture changing pill anytime soon - if ever at all. The science behind exactly what causes curly versus straight hair is not an absolute one and what causes curls for one person may only be a small part of what causes them for another, meaning the pill wouldn't work for everyone.

This doesn't stop the heated debate, though, between women about whether or not they would take such a pill - testing to see if the grass really is greener. If the pill allowed for an easy transition from straight to curly or curly to straight and then back again to your natural texture, many feel that it would be worth a shot. However, as with many hair texture altering methods, it's likely that your natural texture will never be the same - big chop or not. 

Would you pop a pill to change your hair texture?

 

 

 

 


Natural hair is part of who you are -- and don't let anyone tell you it isn't. Much like accepting and subsequently owning your own, individual personality, natural hair is a key component of what makes you, you.

Don't get that wrong, though. Just because your natural texture is a part of the story that makes you unique doesn't mean that it is so easy to accept, or even to love. Learning to shine through your own personality, rather than mimicking those you see on TV or in pop culture, can take years -- and some never truly master it.

The same is true for your natural hair. After years of Disney princesses with long, straight hair or Herbal Essences commercials showing you the best, albeit most pleasurable, way to shampoo, it comes as no surprise to anyone in the natural hair community that sometimes, your texture can get you down.

But that need not be the case. Luckily, there are a few habits to slowly incorporate into your life that can ensure even on those bad hair days (of which even our straight hair sisters have) you feel no less confident about your curls.

Photo courtesy of StephanieKola & NaturallyCurly Instagrams


There's something in the air with Cher. Cher Horowitz, that is. The Clueless main character has been a hot topic in the fashion and culture news industry over the past few months from Think Progress and The Frisky to Refinery29 and The Daily Beast.  Perhaps the new obsession comes from the movies recent 18th anniversary, and that it takes about two decades for trends to come back around. 

From Cher's bold plaid looks to her cropped tops, that 90s glam style is back on the scene, and everyone seems to be partaking, our favorite of which is curly girl Charli XCX, the 20-year-old British pop singer who performed at SXSW with IconaPop and who was just recently signed to Stargate's Stellar Songs.

If you've yet to hear of the girl who is sure to become pop's next fierce warrior (let's stop with this princess business, already), her recent label signage is sure to change that in the future. But, labels don't much sign anyone without an already existing following, and a large one at that, and Charli has certainly proven her singing and songwriting chops. In fact, Icona Pop's biggest hit single "I Don't Care" was written by Charli herself. This year, that track officially knocked Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines off its four-week stronghold on the number one spot.

But does the up-and-comer regret giving away a potential hit?

“I don't regret giving it away,” she told NME. "[Icona Pop are] totally owning it. I sang it with them at South by Southwest, though, and it was this real girl power moment.”

As for Charli's fashion sense, she has credited The Virgin Suicides and Clueless as two of her biggest style inspirations, saying "I would love to raid Cher Horowitz's wardrobe." Unlike Cher, though, Charli keeps her hair a little bit more out of place.

While ELLE may call it "wild" and The Cut may call it "dirty," we call it fabulous, natural and curly. Looks like even Cher's style could use a bit of a modern update, this time around with hair that makes just as big of a statement as the duds she picks up at the mall will. And Charli XCX is embodying that mentality.

Check out her music video here to nab a look at her style, hair and obvious talent:

Photo Courtesy of Charli XCX Music

 


We've written stories about buying hair on eBay (like that of someone who is deceased), turning hair into a roulette ball, spending thousands on a cut-off piece of Bieber's hair and even hair art that made it into the Louvre. Yes, people do very weird, random and beautiful things with hair that don't typically come to mind when the subject is brought up. And today, we've found another random hair story, one that can literally write itself.

That's right, Monique Goossens makes hair typography from the hair that you often find in your shower's drain.

Most of the hair thus far looks like it is made from straighter strands. After all, curly pieces wouldn't really mold so well into a wanted shape. Heck, I can't get mine to even stay in place when it's on my head, much less after it falls off.

Anyway, for Goossens, hair is art. She has also made hair chairs that look like cousin It from "The Addams Family" as well as typography from used hair nets. I'm no art critic, but I'll leave all my hair concerns to those pieces that are actually on my head. But, hey, to each his own.

Do you.

Photo Courtesy of Monique Goossens

One of the biggest shockers to our straighter hair friends is the lack of times that women with curly hair wash their curls. For some, wash day comes once every other day. For others, once a week. Still others, maybe once every other week.

It isn't that our hair is dirty, per se, but it's that those essential oils that make our hair so shiny and strong and super sexy awesome need a bit more time to coat our curls and kinks than just one day. That, and we're lucky enough to have texture that actually looks better on that third, fourth, fifth day of wear. And for us, that just saves time and money, y'all.

Come to find out, washing your hair on a daily basis is a relatively new concept. In fact, before the 1920s, it was recommended that you wash your hair eight times a year. No joke.

According to some awesome research that the editorial team over at The Week dug up, writer Annette Kellerman wrote this in 1918:

The frequency of the shampoo is a matter which, to a certain extent, you must decide for yourself. Every three weeks I should say was about right on the average, although many women do not require a shampoo oftener than every four or even six weeks.

By that average, even those of us with the least wash days on our calendar are grabbing the cleansing conditioner much too often.

But, it gets better! Back then, the homemade recipes that the natural hair community has become famous for were the only way to get a good wash in.

In 1901, this particular piece of advice was published in The Woman Beautiful:

There is no better shampoo for the hair than an egg, well-beaten with about an ounce of water, and rubbed thoroughly into the scalp. It is not merely a detergent, cleansing the scalp and hair of the dirt, but is tonic in its effect and strengthens the scalp. The yolk contains natural food for the hair, iron and sulphur; while the white, being a mild alkali, finds its congenial mate in the oil from the sebaceous glands, and they mingle in a saponaceous lather. 

I mean, we do know that egg is a great conditioner and promotes the strengthening of your hair, so I guess they weren't too far off (blog post for the first one out there to try this shampoo method and report back!). Of course, if an egg wasn't enough for you to fully cleanse your scalp of all the dirt that had accumulated over the past month or more, then this good ol' recipe was in your hair care arsenal: 

Shampoo Cream

  • New England rum 1 pint
  • Glycerine 2 ounces
  • Carbonate of potash 1 ounce
  • Borax 1 ounce
  • Carbonate of ammonia 1 ounce 

 

Hm. If my chemistry is right, that mixture could seriously and quite literally explode.


Lorde is the international pop-star we've all been waiting for. She has a strong sense of self, a no-selfies policy unlike most of her peers, is a critical thinker (have you heard what she has to say about hip hop) and she does it all with little to no makeup and naturally curly hair. For those of you with looser, naturally curly hair (think Type 2 to Type 3) and straight hair, getting her curls for yourself isn't too difficult a task.

QUIZ: What's Your Curl Pattern?

All you need is a curling wand, rose or coconut oil and hairspray. The curls will stay longer as well if your hair hasn't been washed within the past day. And, for those of you with tighter curl patterns, if you sleep on your natural curl (without pineappling) for a night, it will help to loosen your curl a bit to get Lorde's look.

The beauty to Lorde's curls is that they are indeed natural. When it comes to naturally curly hair, rarely are two curls identical. This is good news if you are trying to recreate her look though because this means that when it comes to her style, there are no real mess-ups.

A conical curling wand will create curls that are not identical (thanks to the disproportionate diameter of the wand). Also, don't fight your frizz. If you look at Lorde's photos for inspiration you'll find that her hair is never perfect, so a bit of frizz will help give you that edgy, cool look we're going for. Just be sure to apply oil after you use the wand.

Get the Look

  • Step one: Apply a heat protectant spray to all of your hair and turn the curling wand on to its lowest setting.
  • Step two: Grab small sections of hair as they naturally part and loosely wrap the strand around the wand, from top to bottom, and hold for five to 10 seconds. 
  • Step three: Continue around your head until you obtain the look you want. 
  • Step four: When finished, flip your head over and with your hands, loosely shake out the curls to release them. This step is a MUST.
  • Step five: Add a dime-sized amount of rose oil or coconut oil to hydrate the hair. Hairspray if needed for extra hold.
  • Step six: Create a deep side part and push hair back and away from the face. 
  • Step seven: Spot treat any loose or misshapen curls by twirling them around your finger. 

 

It really is that simple! If you have particularly straight hair, you will need to curl more strands of hair to get Lorde's look and apply a light mist of hairspray all over your hair before and after curling it.

For those blessed with naturally curly hair, use the curling wand only to touch up any flat or misshapen curls. Always remember to use the lowest heat setting so as not to damage your hair, and apply oil at the end to loosen the curl to a more natural shape as well as lock in moisture.

Photo Courtesy of Instagram


Last night, Un-ruly.com founder Antonia Opiah premiered her first short film to a small audience in a TriBeCa theater. The film focused on the natural hair exhibit she hosted this past summer called "You Can Touch My Hair." The short film, by the same name, was sponsored by Pantene and told the story of how the exhibit came to be -- and how the world responded.

For Opiah, a Nigeria-native now living in NYC by way of Florida, she has always had a certain native about natural hair.

"I never thought about my hair growing up," she said. "It was just my hair."

When she moved to Florida at the age of 9, she quickly began to realize that there was still a lot of tension over race relations, but it would take her until college to fully understand the extent.

"I thought, 'People aren't in shackles anymore. That was a long time ago,'" she said. "I thought it was in the past."

When media outlets started circulating stories about black women experiencing strangers just reaching otu and touching their natural hair, Opiah payed close attention. At the time, many articles attributed the phenomenon to curiosity, but Opiah couldn't wrap her head around why that curiosity existed to begin with.

This thought process led her to host the exhibit "You Can Touch My Hair," at which three black models stood out in Union Square in NYC with signs saying, "You Can Touch My Hair." Opiah's goal was to understand where that curiosity stemmed from, but the event raised more questions than answers.

On the second day of the exhibit, protesters lined the streets. It was black women with natural hair against black women with natural hair -- each talking about pain points in coming to accept their hair, and the protesters ultimately declaring that they, and women with natural hair in general, will not be treated like Sarah Baartman.

Sarah Baartman was a South African black woman who, in the 1700s, was sent to Europe and kept in cages. She had a body type different than what Europeans were used to seeing (a bigger back side and breasts, for starters). They paraded her around as a freak show attraction.

By Opiah's film gets brings the exhibit back to the underlying cause of curiosity about black hair, pointing out that the purpose of the exhibition was to draw a crowd and spark a conversation.

After the film, there was a panel discussion between Opiah, Activist Michaela Angela Davis and one of the models from the second day of the exhibit (the day when the protesters arrived).

The conversation was enlightening, to say the least, and made it clear that everyone has a very different opinion about natural hair, how to treat it, what it means and why they do or do not wear it. Over all, the point driven home was that this topic, this sometimes uncomfortable topic, needs to be talked about much, much more often. And, it needs to be talked about between black women and white women and Latina women -- and especially between races.

It turns out, for most of the women there, the people who touch their hair most often are other black women. And, as it turns out, the people who seem to disapprove more often of natural hair are black women.

In all, everyone's experience is different, but every voice matters. And the more that the natural hair voice is raised, the more we hear it, the better off we all are in making sure this isn't a trend, that this isn't a passing fad, that natural hair is here to stay -- and soon, the media industry will follow.

Watch the trailer to the short film, and tune in for the film's release Sunday, October 20th at 9pm EST on YouTube.com/Hairunruled


Natural hair and the workplace can seem like the worst of enemies. Even in schools, natural hair styles are looked down upon, called out, and some have go so far as attempt to ban them.But what is it really about braids and poufs and afros that really bugs the professional world? That's what Endia Beal, a photographer formerly on a five-week residency at the Center for Photography at Woodstock and who worked on the "Can I Touch It?" series, is attempting to find out -- by reversing the script.

Beal found a group of middle-aged white women and took them to a black salon, giving each of them a "black" hairdo and then photographing the results.

For the women involved, the idea was simple: get a new hairdo and have your photo taken in a traditional corporate portrait. But, these portraits didn't turn out at all "traditional."

But, it isn't the hairstyles themselves that really stand out. It is the look on these women's faces as they pose for their corporate photo. It catches a glimpse of bewilderment, of perhaps pain (a possible first for those who aren't used to braided styles), and comes off looking not very corporate at all -- at least, not in the traditional way.

“I wanted people that had a certain idea of what you’re supposed to look like in the workspace, because it would be a challenge for them to understand what I experienced in that space,” Beal told Slate. “And to a degree, many young white women have shared that experience, but for older white women it’s an experience they haven’t necessarily had.”

For Beal, her professional experience with her natural hair mimics that of many women in the natural hair community. While interning in the IT department at Yale, she wore a large, red afro among her white male colleagues. Through the grapevine, she learned that her hair had become a source of intrigue and many of the men wanted to touch it.

That idea hits close to home as the natural hair community splits sides between allowing people to touch their hair and not. In fact, the phenomenon, if you will, has sparked so much debate that Un'ruly.com made a documentary titled "You can Touch My Hair." That documentary premieres tonight in New York City.

Beal falls on the side that allows for curiosity and she decided to use her colleagues intrigue to her artistic advantage. She not only allowed them to touch her hair, but she asked them to really get to know it. Pull at it. Run their hands through it. And then, a week later, she recorded them talking about the new experience.

“I wanted to allow someone to feel something different, to experience something they never had before, and through that experience, they felt uncomfortable,” Beal said. “And then to talk about it kind of amplifies that feeling.”

That idea of talking it out, sparking a conversation that can sometimes verge on inappropriate, was what the women in her recent project looked forward too, as well. According to Beal, the women chosen for the project were excited about the hairstyles and even more excited to ask about the process and the products  without feeling like they were crossing a line.

“Some of them wanted to wear [their hairstyles] out, and some wanted to go home,” Beal said. “Many of them said, ‘I can’t wait to get home and show my husband!’ ”

All in all, Beal's project is another step forward for the curly hair community in sparking conversation and helping everyone, no matter their hair type, to experience the hardships, but also the creativity and humanity, that comes with embracing natural hair.

Photos Courtesy Of Endia Beal


Natural hair dolls are finally an item you can buy -- you no longer have to create them yourself. For years,  CurlyNikki and the whole of the natural hair blogger world has been teaching women how to use pipe cleaners and hot water to turn any Barbie doll's straight hair curly. The process has been touted as a fun activity for moms and daughters, a good chance to talk about natural hair while creating dolls that are a bit more realistic in terms of what anyone's natural hair looks like.

But now, as so often happens in the natural hair community, one woman took matters into her own hands. Karen Byrd, founder of Natural Girls United, has made turning silky straight Barbie hair into not only curls, but all types of natural hair styles from locs to afros and everything in between, a sustainable business.

Byrd told the Huffington Post that she got the idea when browsing the doll aisle with her daughters, now 14 and 12. The lack of diversity in that aisle got her to thinking and in 2011, she started a business to address the issue.

And now, Byrd has a 51-person-long waiting list that she works continuously to fulfill, with plans to bring on more employees and expand to the UK, Australia and Africa.

The goal is, of course, to provide young girls with dolls that look more like them.

"I had dolls that were gorgeous, but they didn't look like me," Byrd told the Huffington Post about the dolls she had when she was little. "When I looked in the mirror, I would be confused -- like, am I beautiful."

Even among differing skin colors in the doll aisle, almost all dolls have straight, silky hair, and the community hasn't been quiet about the in accuracy. Back in 2009, Mattel launched a line of Black Barbie dolls, all with straight hair, causing controversy between the brand and the natural hair community. 

The search for black dolls has a few passionate subscribers including Samantha Knowles, the producer of the documentary "Why Do You Have Black Dolls?"

"My parents made sure to get us a lot of black dolls in a wide variety of hues and shapes," Knowles told Bitch Magazine. "We didn't have exclusively black dolls, but we had mostly black dolls. After I started working on the film, I had a lot of conversations with my mom, and she would say, 'Oh, you don't know what I had to go through to get some of those dolls!'"

Even harder to find, if not impossible, are black dolls with hair that actually mimics natural hair texture. Silky and straight isn't only a poor representation of natural hair, but there are unhealthy consequences in thinking that only silky, straight hair is beautiful. And no one wants to relive decades of young girls getting relaxers long before they should.

"I'm emphatic about a black child having a doll that reflects who she is, " said Debbie Behan Garrett, author of "Black Dolls: A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collection and Experiencing the Passion." "When a young child is playing with a doll, she is mimicking being a mother, and in her young, impressionable years, I want that child to understand that there's nothing wrong with being black. If black children are force-fed that white is better, or if that's all that they are exposed to, then they might start to think, 'What is wrong with me?'" 

Still, today, many black dolls are darker skin versions of their white counterparts, raising questions about how it was that the black doll even came about.

In 1910 early civil rights activists Marcus Garvey and R.H. Boyd pushed back against black Americana stereotypes that dominated the black doll market. The two began importing elegant, black porcelain dolls from Europe until their company, the National Negro Doll Company, closed in 1915. In 1945, when vinyl and hard plastic dolls became cheap and easy to make, mass-production made creating differences between the dolls an expensive undertaking. Creating a different mold for African American features seemed an unnecessary cost, so the dolls were simply painted darker.

"You couldn't look at the doll and classify it as a true representation of a black person," says Garrett. "Because it was just a brown counterpart of the white doll."

Then, there was the Sara Lee doll, created by a white woman named Sara Lee Creech, who took 500 photos of black children so that she could get the facial features of her doll right. Ideal Toy Company sold her doll from 1951 to 1953, though now they are nearly impossible to find.

Over the years, Mattel tested out different black Barbie pals including cousin Francie (1966), friend Christie (1968) and TV-show inspired Julia (1969). But none of the dolls sold well and it would take another decade before Mattel released an official Barbie with black skin (1979).

In the 90s, more effort was put into creating a more realistic black doll including the Big Beautiful Dolls, the first full-figured fashion dolls created in 1999, Byron Lars' African American Barbies for the Barbie Collector Series, sold between 1997 and 2010, Salome Yilma's EthniDolls which are made in the image of historical black women leaders, and Stacey McBride-Irby's So In Style Mattel dolls launched in 2009, which featured black dolls with straight hair.  

But, despite additional efforts, finding realistic looking black dolls is still a challenge, especially when it comes to their hair. It's likely that Byrd's waitlist is only going to continue to grow, especially as the holiday season approaches, and even more likely that her business is going to be a booming success and change the way a few young girls grow up feeling about their naturally curly hair.



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