Body Shaming & Hair Shaming
Body shaming has repeatedly hit headlines, trending on a global and local level. When London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced a ban on body shaming adverts on the London Underground, I realised that body shaming has an extremely deep influence on people’s behaviour and I wasn’t alone in my thinking. The fight against body shaming is serious since it truly has damaging effects on our society. I am an expert hair & scalp therapist and product formulator, so loving and caring for all natural hair types and patterns is what I do best. Consequently, I couldn’t help but notice the extreme prejudice that occurs towards curly and afro hair types on a global level. To be more specific, hair shaming has done so much damage within our society that it has been accepted as normal. Hair shaming is THE gremlin that has been feeding and fuelling the myth that curly and afro hair types are restricted to just being “excessively curly, wild, unmanageable, untamed, wild and uncontrolled and worse yet, unprofessional”.
Words with negative associations have been frequently used to describe curly and afro hair types within the media and on products themselves by brands and professionals alike. Stories of ‘the workplace’ not accepting traditional and popular go to curly or afro hairstyles are increasingly becoming headline news. These negative reinforcements have had such a terrible impact on our society for people with or without natural curly hair types. Today there are many that have never even discovered the beauty of their natural curls or kinks. When I share the basic characteristics of curly hair, people are shocked and amazed especially with the phenomenon of ‘shrinkage’. It is sad that there are some people that would never be caught in public rocking their natural hair or neglect, reject and curse their natural beauty in favour of today’s beauty ideals. Worst yet, project their own insecurities onto their peers, family and network. The truth is that curly and afro hair types are often misunderstood and subject to hair shaming on multiple levels- hair shaming naturally curly hair patterns, hair shaming protective styling and hair shaming the use of extensions, weaves and wigs.
Alternative styling aids
Let me make this clear- I am an advocate for alternative aids for styling, protecting etc… such as wigs, weaves and extensions. As with most things overuse will cause damage. These styling aids should usually be installed by a professional to avoid pulling – which will inevitably lead to follicle damage and traction alopecia. These protective tools and styling aids can protect the hair from manipulation, tangles and knots, damage, heat and the elements to encourage growth and maintain health. The myth that these are used only by people who do not have good hair is outdated especially since it has now become mainstream used by people of all hair types and ethnicities. However, there is a real danger of investing too much in these tools- more so than you would do on your actual hair and scalp. Hair shaming is the catalyst that encourages this behaviour. You should always invest in your own hair first – thinking that your own hair is inferior, more difficult, not beautiful is dangerous. Like many before me have said – if you have hair growing out from your scalp and it is healthy no matter the colour, texture, pattern or length then you have GOOD HAIR. Otherwise your hair is just in need of some good old TLC and understanding.
The one thing do I have a slight gripe with are chemical permanent straighteners which are called ‘Relaxers’. This is a fine example of hair shaming. The word itself is derogatory implying that curly and afro hair types need ‘to relax’ which is absurd and false. It is an outdated technology that gained popularity in the early 1900’s when the repercussions of slavery were in full effect – and yes, this is still very much relevant today. Ignoring that would be a simple case of temporal blindness (where we see the present but not the past). In addition, the basic science of how relaxers works makes the process irreversible. Relaxers starts the process of disintegration to break down the bonds of the hair, this achieves the permanent straight result leaving the hair in a weaker state.
I would say that relaxers are redundant – because you can achieve a better look, feel and result with a Silk Press also known as a Silk blow-out (this should only be done by a professional to maintain hair health). But, if you want to achieve a short pixie or finger wave style, then relaxers are useful. If you apply a relaxer, your hair cannot revert back to its original curls and the hair is at greater risk of experiencing damage, dryness, and breakage. What is more, when the chemical is applied on the hair (by a qualified professional or not) the experience of scalp burns and hair loss is almost certain if your hair or scalp is misunderstood, especially if the manufacturer’s guidelines are not tailored to you. Relaxers are the number 1 cause of Follicular Degeneration Syndrome (previously known as hot comb alopecia) is a form of scarring alopecia because the irreversible destruction of hair follicles is replaced with scar tissue. This is a real issue that has yet to be properly addressed, especially within Europe.
It is so important to embrace the beauty of all and encourage people to feel good within their own skin. There are more and more new hair care brands, bloggers, vloggers and initiatives that are addressing these issues which is simply amazing. To many people, twist-outs, bantu-knots, wash and go’s and goddess braids may be a complete new language but you will come to find that there are an array of many hairstyles and techniques to suit each and every hair type, lifestyle and preference.
Whilst I embrace the beauty of the curl, I embrace the beauty of straight hair too. Most importantly, exercising the versatility of curly and afro hair is a great benefit that has been overlooked. Curly hair is versatile and its ability to mould into an array of styles is countless. When choosing the straight look, I like to adopt the silk press method within my Care Clinic service using a combination of hydrating treatments with controlled heat levels to achieve a silky straight free flow effect, allowing the curls to revert back (this can last 2-3 weeks). The hair will retain its original strength and there is have the added benefit of a considerable amount of less tangles, quicker detangling and a different set of styling options. Why not have the best of both worlds?
I think it is fair to say that dreadlocks have had its fair share of hair shaming and the stereotypes are old fashioned and outdated. Dreadlocks are increasingly becoming so popular that people have are demanding faux dreadlocks as a fashion statement or protective hairstyle. Society is slowly understanding that dreadlocks are not always associated with a culture, movement, religion, but it is extremely versatile and a great convenient and stylish way to rock your hair. It does require maintenance as does any hair style and benefits from the freedom of not having to use a comb or brush- although you can do this too! Amazing!
The Solution: Action
Let’s overpower body shaming and hair shaming by celebrating, embracing, learning and understanding ALL natural hair types and patterns! This is the way to hair confidence and can be achieved by all. It may be impossible to eliminate the hair shaming issue overnight, but together we can eliminate this issue 🙂 We need to not just discuss this issue, but actually challenge the status quo and get individual people, natural hair advocates, hair care brands, personalities, influencers and the media all involved because it is a ‘society’ issue.
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