Is Natural Hair a Trend or a Movement?

Light skin and silky hair has long been the standard for beauty across many parts of the world. Entertainment and fashion industries tend to promote Caucasian features, either choosing models that fit that image or using technology to remake them.

Critics say such choices have created a racialised perception of beauty, along with a multi-billion dollar market for chemical products that alter skin tone and hair texture.

In the United States, African-American women have increasingly been dumping harsh chemicals and embracing natural hair. Some call this a liberating movement; others say the trend is simply another standard to meet.

US ideals of beauty have long been dictated by Eurocentric standards and norms.

This has led many within the African-American community to alter their skin tones and hair textures with potentially dangerous chemicals. Skin and bodycare brand Nivea was at the center of controversy last year for running an advertisement implying that wearing unaltered hair is uncivilized.

Many fashion magazines have also been criticized in recent years for “brightening” pictures of African-American celebrities on their covers. These “before and after” photos, courtesy of Beauty Redefined, illustrate this practice.


Similar controversy surrounded the recent film “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” over the choice to give the part of American abolitionist Harriet Tubman to mixed race actress Jacqueline Fleming. The picture below shows the discrepancy between Fleming’s skin color and that of Tubman.

In recent years, more African-American women have begun defying standard notions of beauty with their fashion choices. In particular, more women are now keeping their hair in its natural state, rather than using relaxers, chemical treatments and straighteners. The “transitioning movement”, as some call it, has been captured by photographer Glenford Nunez of the TYP photography studio in Baltimore.

Earlier this year, the altered photo below made the rounds across the internet, depicting US First Lady Michelle Obama with natural hair.


A recent survey by Allure magazine found 64 per cent of people think that mixed race women represent the epitome of beauty. However, while traditional standards of beauty may be changing, some remain sceptical of the reasons behind the shift.



3 comments on “Is Natural Hair a Trend or a Movement?

  1. This is a question I’ve asked myself about the recent natural hair craze. In June 2010, I did the big chop and remained natural for two years. I decided to relax my hair because I personally lacked patience to deal with it. I found it easier to style while it was relaxed and natural hair is so darn hot =_= I refused to walk about with big hair that wasn’t styled. I like to look good like the next person, and if I wasn’t taking the time out to style my hair I’d look crazy which is why I kept it braided. I also grew tired of paying others hundreds of dollars to braid my hair. Personally, I went natural for health reasons. At the time I was forced to leave a lot of products and foods alone because of a condition I was suffering with. I do know some other women who have chosen to take the natural completely. I was also dealing with a Hebrew group at the time who was a big influence on a lot of my decisions. Many time, people become “conscious” and start to pull away from the “norm” and separate themselves. They’re start to pull you in with their positional criticism based on their perspective and priority. Not all people who choose to be apart of Hebrew groups are like this, but the people I were dealing with were which caused me to back off. Not only with Hebrews, but like I stated, many who claim to be conscious or awake in the truth start to come out of everything that has been taught to them through traditions by going natural. Not just with the hair, but with organic foods, etc. Their whole lifestyle often changes. I personally feel many are following a fashion trend. Many have made big, thick, hair, locs, and other natural styles cool and trendy via blogs and photoshoots. I don’t see anything wrong with that, but what’s next? What happens if it’s not considered cool anymore? People love to keep up with what’s hot. I will say it’s a good look because little girls will get to see and understand that there is nothing wrong with their natural state. What I don’t like is how some of us have allowed this trend/movement to cause more separation between us. Now we have people who are natural talking down on those who choose not to wear natural hair. Some even go as far to say that they’re dealing with self hate. I’ve witnessed people who prefer creamy crack call someone with a twist out or fro something insulting and that’s wrong as well. There are some, like me, who have went from relaxed to natural and back to relaxed and we get called sellouts =_= *sighs* It seems as though no matter what goods come out of this, we find some kind of way to stir in some form of hatred to keep us separated. Why not celebrate each other’s differences and educate each other on what’s important. It’s bad enough our women are fighting our men, women hate each other, brothers kill each other, dark vs light, old vs young, rich vs poor, etc. It’s overwhelming and annoying. We’re not going to always agree, but RESPECT is what I see we lack.

    As far as the standards of beauty, I have noticed some great changes. I was excited when Queen Latifah started her own line under Cover Girl. She’s a curvy, black woman. Janelle Monae being the new face of Cover Girl is amazing. She’s a natural sister, with unique, sleek style, and bomb music. I won’t say all magazines alter us to look brighter because I just snapped a few photos today and in some lighting settings. The picture of Beyonce posted above seems to be snapped while she had a tan.

    As far as casting… *sighs* They really could have gotten someone, dare I say, more appropriate to portray Harriet Tubman. This is the same issue that’s happening with Zoe Saldana portraying Nina Simone. I honestly don’t think she should get the role either. Why not pick someone with similar features and skin tones to play these roles?

    Overall, regardless of how they try to say they’re embracing our natural state, they are still making fools out of us. They continue to steal from us and make us look like fools while we, as a whole, sit up and LET THEM! =_=

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