Natural Hair Community on Youtube
It is perhaps the woman’s curse to be pressured into societal norms of what is considered beautiful. Although many know the common saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” it seems as though most do not truly agree with the notion. Since the arrival of enslaved Africans on American soil in the fifteenth century, the standard of beauty has changed very little. In the media and entertainment industry, blonde straight hair is considered the ideal hair type, and sought after by most who are not born with it. Women receive information about the standard of beauty in their culture, and are thus expected to meet those standards.
Though a number of Caucasian brunettes chose to dye their hair and perhaps use a straightener, the process to transform afro textured hair into this ideal is not as simple. Despite this, millions of African American take their chances and sacrifice the burn to avoid societal disapproval for simply wearing their hair in the way in which it grows from their head. Recently, Don Imus’s reference toward Black women as “nappy headed hoes,” only reinforced the stigma that is attached to Black hair. Chemical relaxers are extremely detrimental to the health of hair, and the self confidence of the individual.
The first commercial relaxers were sold as early as the nineteenth century. These new products, which many African American women were anxious to obtain, promised to straighten afro textured hair into silky straight tresses. These chemical concoctions, containing an active ingredient of either a strong alkali or ammonium thioglycolate, relax the curls and kinks of afro textured hair so that it rests against the scalp, similar to the way in which Caucasian hair does. During the process, the hair is straightened by damaging the protein structure. In order to achieve the desired affect, the relaxer is left on the hair for a set amount of minutes. The longer the wait, the more time the hair has to undergo the chemical process, and thus the straighter the hair becomes. However, the result is hair that is brittle and damaged, and easily susceptible to breakage. Use of relaxers sometimes results in alopecia.
The benefits of wearing afro textured hair in comparison to relaxed is hair that is healthier and less susceptible to breakage. The hair can grow and maintain length because it does not break nearly as much as relaxed hair. Although this would seem like the obvious choice to maintain hair, there has been much resistance towards natural hair in the past. Natural hair is viewed especially as a political statement, as many black people, both men and women, wore their hair in afros during the seventies to protest white suppression. Nonetheless, the fad soon wore out.
Women often use their hair as a symbol of self-definition and femininity, as hair is commonly referred to as a woman’s “crowning glory.” The pressure to have hair that moves around the shoulders and could easily slide through a small toothed comb, is one that almost ever black women has struggled with at some point in her life. Lack of idols in the media only re-affirm the notion black women must go to extreme lengths to achieve straight hair or looser hair.
In the past decade, there has been an influx in the amount of black women who have left relaxers behind for natural, relaxer free hair. The increase in the number of black women who are starting to wear their hair natural is largely attributed to the role of Youtube. Youtube allows the sharing and viewing of video recordings that can serve as tutorials for a number of things. The information provided through Youtube has become a vehicle through which Black women have shared information on hair with one another. Access to education on maintaining natural afro textured hair is quite limited to a few resources, and when it comes to styling and caring for hair, reading descriptions do not usually suffice.
Lack of information about afro textured hair leads to commonly believed misconceptions. The myth that black hair is difficult to maintain is reinforced throughout the Black community. Therefore, support against going natural often comes from Black people themselves. Youtube enables Black women who are not in supportive environments to easily seek natural hair care information that is reliable and in their best interests. Products reviews, styling tutorials, general maintenance, and hair facts are all accessible through numerous Youtube channels. Many popular channels often acknowledge and praise one another, and offer free products in contests for their subscribers.
Furthermore, Youtube provides a huge network of support for women who are considering making this seemingly life altering decision. Going natural has been characterized by both the participant and the viewer as akin to finding oneself and discovering self-esteem. The encouragement to wear afro textured hair without chemicals continues to serve as inspiration for thousands of Black women. These videos not only aid in providing information, but has created a Natural Hair Community amongst Black women.
Contrary to the negative effects a number of respectable writers like Michael Chorost argues social media has on human communication, the Natural Hair Community is an example of a scenario where the opposite actually occurs. Whereas the Black community is generally regarded as constantly struggling and not united, the Natural Hair Community thrives in cyberspace and continues to grow. Encouragement from women of color to accept themselves as an alternative to the standard of beauty provides support that is hard to find elsewhere. It provides hope for the future of the Black community.
Chorost, Michael. World Wide Mind: the Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines and the Internet. New York: Free, 2011. Print.