I’ll be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with my natural 4B curls and coils. Growing up as an adolescent, I spent hours in the salon, wincing at the sight of lye relaxers. With each minute passing by I found relief and acceptance as my coily hair would give in to the straightening effects of a perm. Many years later as a college student, I did a big-chop — cutting off years of damage to my hair, returning to my natural roots and making peace in wearing my texture in its natural state. However, the striking comments made by family, friends, and those around me contributed to a slow rise in loathing of my hair.
Constantly hearing statements like “you look better when your hair is straight” and “you need to slick those edges” starts to wear on your self-confidence and perspective on what beauty is. Though cultural beauty standards have evolved, the one things that remains constant is that they are rooted in Eurocentricity.
Texturism is the idea that looser curl patterns are more desirable and favored, while discrimination, dislike, and even hatred lingers towards those with kinkier curl patterns. Curly hair is beautiful, as long as baby hairs, looser wave patterns, and lighter skin is attached. It should be noted that these aforementioned attributes are rooted in proximity to whiteness. The effects of seemingly unattainable beauty standards can wreak havoc in Black women. The term “beauty is pain” manifests in examples such as skin bleaching, traction alopecia from too-tight braids underneath long flowing weaves, and sometimes permanent body damage.
Combating texturism and other forms of Eurocentric beauty standards is no easy fix. Though visibility and representation in media and popular culture is a start, I believe that true change starts from within; shifting our mindset and perception around what beauty means. Daily, I affirm my beauty, self-worth, and acceptance of my hair. It is my hope that in sharing my voice others will feel compelled to do the same. Natural hair, kinks and coils, they’re all beautiful in all their glory.