We should all be free to wear our natural hair, however we want. But Black women don’t have that privilege and are disproportionately affected by hair discrimination. Research tells us that a shocking 63% of Black adults have faced race-based hair discrimination and Black hair is looked down upon. This needs to change. Nobody deserves to feel less worthy because of how their hair naturally grows. Black women should be celebrated, however they choose to wear their hair.
The natural hair movement represents more than hair
We’ve all seen iconic images of Black people with Afros in the 1960s. But the Afro wasn’t just a hairstyle – it represented a revolution. The first natural hair movement originated in the US alongside the Civil Rights movement, in which the Afro became a symbol of racial equality. As momentum grew, natural hairstyles became a fashion trend and quickly reached the UK as famous Black celebrities wore their Afros with pride.
For decades, Black women chemically straightened their hair to fit in. But, in the early 2000s things started to change. The rise of the internet and social media created space for a new wave of the natural hair movement. As Black women moved away from chemical relaxers, they shared hair tips and found a community that supported them. In a society that rarely showed natural hair, the rise in representation meant Black women finally started to feel seen.
As Black celebrities graced magazine covers rocking their natural textures and shops started stocking products that catered for Black hair, the movement helped Black women find their confidence. From protective styles such as braids and bantu knots to a simple wash and go, Black women reclaimed their power by wearing their hair however they wanted.
The freedom of choice
Going natural isn’t about a particular style – it’s about choice – and the natural hair movement encourages Black women to look and feel like themselves. The unique texture of Black hair makes the styling possibilities endless. Regularly switching up hairstyles is a celebrated form of expression in the Black community. Whether it’s having the ‘big chop’ or wearing protective styles such as braids or wigs, everybody’s natural hair journey is different.
Why loving our hair is so powerful
Our hair is tied to so much in society but Black women have often been criticised for how they wear theirs. As women, we’re told that our hair is linked to femininity and beauty, so having the freedom and confidence to fall in love with our natural hair is powerful. Accepting our hair in all its glory means loving ourselves, too. Regardless of our hair texture, we should all feel proud to embrace what is naturally ours.
Black hair is a celebration rooted in pride, culture and heritage – it’s never just hair. A positive hair relationship increases our self-esteem and we’re committed to inclusive beauty that uplifts Black women and champions Black hair. Eurocentric standards have excluded Black women’s beauty for far too long – and we want to change that. Let’s create our own beauty standards to ensure that future generations always feel valued.
We’re taking action to help end race-based hair discrimination in the UK. Alongside our parent company Unilever, we’re proud to be the first adopter of the Halo Code – the UK’s first Black hair code for schools and workplaces that champions the rights of staff and students to embrace all Afro-hairstyles. And you can take action, too. Dove Partner, Emma Dabiri, and Zina Alfa have both created petitions to make hair discrimination illegal under the UK Equalities Act. Add your signature today and let’s create change together.