Get Out of Hair, Man.

Black women are never given the credit we deserve and it's getting on my last nerve.
Today I listened to a report on Radio 4 on the 'no poo' movement. Now before your face screws up like this…

…let me explain.

'No poo' is short for 'no shampoo'. It is also known as co-washing and many black women (especially those sporting natural, non-relaxed hair) follow this method when washing their hair and find it highly beneficial. They see it as a way to stop using sulfate-heavy shampoos and incorporate natural products to help their hair flourish (although sulfate-free shampoos are on the rise nowadays).

This is something that has been a part of black culture for years so imagine my surprise when I saw a radio report entitled 'Why We're Dropping Hair Products For the 'No Poo' Movement' on Radio 4. Now imagine my surprise when I heard how incredibly whitewashed it was.

Considering black women started this whole movement years ago, why were none interviewed? Where were the natural-haired women talking about their hair routine? Why was no credit attributed to them for starting this method? Where were the black women??
Instead of hearing their knowledge, I listened to plummy-voiced toffs talking about it like it was their invention. 'There's loads about it online,' the synopsis read. Yes, and most of it is regarding women with Afro hair, but carry on ignoring us.

According to the Radio 4 report, one of the leading 'no poo' bloggers is a woman called Lucy Aitkenread.

Seriously, who is she? I have watched countless videos on this method but never seen her name pop up anywhere. Mind you, YouTube aren't helping because the first batch of videos that come up when you type in 'no poo method' are from white women. The way it is framed, you wouldn't think that it is a staple in the hair routines of black women.

So what's the deal, Radio 4?

How can you have a report on this trend that was created by black people and completely and blatantly omit us from it? Not one mention, not a hint of recognition, you just ignore us. You mean to tell me that you looked through various social media sites such as YouTube and Twitter and somehow managed to ignore the daily stream of videos from black women both in Britain and beyond discussing and demonstrating their co-washing routines? If that was the case then your research methods were very… lightweight. It's ridiculous that black women were airbrushed out of this, but then I should not be surprised. Cornrows (or canerows) were re-branded for the mainstream as 'boxer braids', jewellery such as bamboo earrings which were once dismissed as 'ghetto', are now deemed 'edgy' and 'trendy' because white women are wearing them.

I'm tired of us not being involved in conversations or reports where we should be first in line. Give us the credit when it is (long) overdue instead of keeping our contribution quiet. It's not that difficult.

© 3rd August 2017


Pear Sh(e)aped.

Shea Moisture. You bunch of doughnuts.

Your brand catered for black people’s hair, mainly natural hair. Black women with thick, coarse, natural non-relaxed hair buy 99.9% of your products. So why did you bring out a new advert (now deleted but I’m sure it can be found floating in the internet ether) with absolutely no representation of this group of people?

I saw Shea Moisture trending on social media last night so I checked it out and this advert popped up. By the end of the 60 second promo I was surprised by how unrepresentative it was.

As usual, with products out there that initially catered to black women (Sleek Makeup, anyone?) the brand owners decided that the Black Pound is not enough and are now targeting white women for their custom. Then your ad comes out and you have not one, but two white women in your advert (along with a light skinned, possibly mixed race woman), all talking about ‘hair hate’. Talking about how they have so many issues with their hair. What the hell?

The hair issues of women like the ones in your advert (which usually consists of ‘Shall I wear my hair back or loose today?’ or ‘Which shampoo shall I buy from the supermarket out of the hundreds I can use?’) are considerably different to those of black women with thick natural hair, for whom just deciding what to do with their hair is often a struggle. Where were the women with 4a/4b/4c hair? You know- the ones that actually use your products? Most times, they can’t just put it all back in a ponytail. Most times they need a shitload of products to ensure their hair doesn’t dry out an hour after they moisturised it. Most times they do not have the breadth of choice that women with Caucasian hair have when it comes to choosing products because a lot of the mainstream stores do not stock many products for our type of hair. 
Also, when they go to the nearest Boots, Superdrug or supermarket, white women have 1,001 products to choose from because most of the hair products sold are for Caucasian hair. They don’t have to worry and search high and low for a product that works with their hair. They don’t have to go to specific hair stores to buy their items. They don’t have to spend ages everyday sorting or ‘taming’ their hair for fear of their hair (and hair texture) being called ‘unprofessional’ or ‘unsuitable for the workplace’. Even something as simple as hair gel is a problem for women with natural (and relaxed) hair because everyday gels don’t do much. 

As for those who think it’s great that Shea Moisure are being more inclusive and that black women are whining over nothing because apparently that’s what we’re good at… 

You know what happens when a product that was specifically made for black women becomes a product for everybody? Do you know who gets left out? That’s right: black women. The very people who parted with hard-earned cash and through word of mouth made the brand what it is today. But clearly our money and our opinion and our needs don’t mean shit. 

The majority of white women (or those with Caucasian hair) cannot handle Shea butter and certain thick oils in their hair follicles as it’s too heavy. So the product formulas that worked well for the naturalistas will no longer be as effective as they will be diluted (and you can count on that). Because, fuck effectiveness for those that supported you from the start if you can cater for everyone, right?

As you can tell by my writing, I think this entire situation is pure fuckery. The worst thing is that the owners of Shea Moisture were lacking in self-awareness as they didn’t realise there was a problem until they saw the big backlash on social media. They even started their Facebook post with ‘Wow. Okay…’ What were they expecting? Black women to give them a standing ovation? Yet again, we’ve seen black-owned products catering for black-ass people (but not promoting this aspect, funnily enough), but as soon as they get a whiff of mainstream attention or a shout-out in Cosmopolitan or Grazia, they shout from the rooftops that they cater for ‘EVERYONE’. 

Shea Moisture deserve every bit of negative publicity that they get from this. Here’s hoping they learn from this, but I doubt it.

I stumbled across this brilliant site today. It’s the British alternative to ‘I Too Am Harvard’ and unfortunately I could relate to many of the ignorant comments which were aimed at these students. It staggers me that certain people still go round- IN 2014!!! -and say ‘Oh, I was pleasantly surprised, you speak really well’ to those who are not of the same hue as them. I mean, what the actual f***? Just…why would anybody say such a thing to another person? Woe betide the dipstick who says that to me one day. As for the hair issue- why do some people think it’s OK for them to touch your hair without asking? Like you are owned by the public and they think, ‘Well, you shouldn’t mind- you should be happy’ because people want to stare goggle-eyed while they stroke your hair like you’re a goat or something.

This happened to me a couple of times when I had natural hair. I’d be having a conversation with someone and suddenly their hands would move towards your head, forcing me to dodge out of their way before asking what they think they’re doing. I find it baffling, for if a white woman who usually sports straight hair turned up one day with curls, most people would tell her that her hair looks lovely/awful and carry on. They wouldn’t paw at her hair like she’s an animal. But even though more black women are now wearing their hair in unrelaxed form, some people still think there’s nothing wrong in behaving this way. 

That said, ignorance runs both ways. Years ago, an ex-colleague (who was black) once said to me that I sounded ‘Caucasian’ because of the way I spoke. Not quite sure how she expected me to sound considering I was born and raised in London my whole life. Maybe she thought I should have a transatlantic twang to my accent or that I should sound ‘more black’, a phrase that I despise. 

Anyway, ranting over- have a look at this site and you’ll also laugh and shake your head in equal measure.

Severe Lack of Texture.

Sooooo… five and a half months after ‘going natural’, I gave in and texturized my hair last weekend. Three days on, I can confirm that I will NEVER use texturizer ever again.

My aim was for it to loosen my curls so my thick hair wouldn’t resemble a curly carpet. So I pin-curled my hair every night, hoping that come the next morning my wet-set would have been successful. Instead on day one post-texturizer, I looked like I was dragged through a bush. Yesterday- despite putting copious amounts of moisturizer in my hair the night before -it was like tumbleweed. Considering that I also had a client visit to deal with, the presentation of both work and hair did not go well. So I pin-curled again and using a far better moisturizer,  left it to sink into my hair overnight. Cut to early this morning and I looked like Todd Flanders. Took me ages to get my hair looking remotely decent enough to walk out of the house with. And of course as I write this, there’s a guy sitting opposite with a lovely afro-cloud of hair, just nonchalantly picking at his curls. Bastard. 

Texturizer is a con, an absolute joke of a product (as I have learned at my expense). It dries the daylights out of your hair and fools you into believing its bullshit. You’re better off either relaxing your hair or going natural because both are concrete choices rather than this wishy-washy go-between nonsense that texturizer peddles. I regret using the stuff and this rant is designed to warn any of my fellow black ladies out there not to go near it, and for me in case I decide to conveniently forget this experience and use texturizer in future. Never forget.

Newly Natural!

I can now tick off a major part of my ‘Things to do before I’m 35’ list. A couple of days ago, I did something I thought I’d never do. After four years of transitioning, deliberating and copping out while making shit excuses, I finally took the plunge and went natural.

That’s not to say I was confident when I did the Big Chop. Although my hair was two-textured (natural roots with relaxed ends), my hairdresser complimented me on how healthy and soft my hair was, which made me wonder if I was making the right choice. And I’d be a big fat liar if I said I didn’t want to shout ‘STOP’ before he wielded the electric trimmer.

But I knew it was time to venture out of my comfort zone and besides, I’ve done plenty of other things with my hair- bar shaving it all off. Relaxing my hair every few months got repetitive and I was fed up with my hair breaking off. Also my sister recently did the Big Chop and if she could do it, so could I. And I was tired of looking enviously at all the women rocking supremely gorgeous natural hair on the streets of London and beyond.

I have toyed with the natural hair route many times. Usually I stayed loyal to relaxing my hair but was had an on/off relationship with the transitioning method. I once transitioned for a year and then reached a crossroads: to chop or not to chop? So in an act of cowardice, I relaxed my hair. Again. But hair is to experimented with and I want to work with it in its natural state, rather than against it. That’s not to say I’m against relaxer. I decided to go natural because I wanted a change, that’s all. I’m not going to start getting all militant about not using the ‘creamy crack’, it’s a personal choice- whatever works best for you.

When I left the hairdressers that day, I thought I’d be hunching my shoulders up to my ears and feeling nervous about how other people would react. Instead I found myself feeling good- I had a teeny weeny afro! Apart from my mother telling me I look like a member of the Four Tops (thanks a bunch, Ma), I’ve had a mainly positive response to my new style. The main thing is I’m very happy with the outcome and am glad and rather surprised I’ve finally joined the Big Chop club.