INDIANAPOLIS — As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to acknowledge the evolution of the emphasis on hair health in the African American community. Also, how things are changing as industries start to learn the cultural connection between protective styles and healthy hair.
“Instead of us curling to make it straight we are relaxing to make it straight,” said hairstylist Ursula Shelton.
Straight hair was once a requirement in many industries, including the military. Women used to be required to wear a neat pulled-back bun, but as Shelton explains, that’s a horrible practice for Black hair health.
“In my career, I have seen hair come right out of that scalp,” said Shelton.
The military recently made changes since it was found that pulling hair back too much can cause traction alopecia.
“Alopecia is spots where there is no hair and the hair won’t grow back,” said Shelton.
Currently, it seems many are on the road to celebrating curls and protective styles instead of hiding them.
“We grow up with a difficult relationship with our hair. We have these experiences where we put a relaxer on and it burns so bad, but we wait so it can be straighter or our hair falls out,” said Victoria Smith.
“It’s ingrained in our culture like a schedule that we are on. Every 6-8 weeks getting a relaxer used to be just what we did,” said Smith.
Determined to restore her natural curl Smith went natural. The creator of Classy Curlies blogged about the journey to stay focused and even started her own hair care line called Make it Classy to help others venturing down the same road.
“Black hair grows — we just started with a really bad foundation that was cracked,” said. Smith.
For some starting over isn’t easy. Going from straight hair made possible with the help of a relaxer back to kinks, curls. And coils can be trying but the evolution in the process can be rewarding.
“Movements like 'The Crown Act,' it’s like finally, we have something Elevating the message."
The Crown Act protects from discrimination because of a hairstyle which believe it or not sometimes that type of protection is needed.
“Black women are more likely to be sent home from work because of their hair. That has nothing to do with talent. If workplaces having issues with braids and twists and things that are black culture and how we grew up. I can’t help this is how my hair grows out my head.” Said Smith.
It seems there has been progress in the movement because over time protective and natural styles are now viewed as professional and acceptable in new space.
“It truly is magic so we should embrace that we have people advocating for us being ourselves,” said Smith.