Picture this: you have coily hair and you’re trying to find a new style to put your hair in, so you go to YouTube and search “easy natural hairstyles.” After clicking on the most viewed one, you immediately notice: this girl’s hair is nothing like yours. Most of the other top videos are the same, girls with much looser curl textures. So, you redefine your search: “easy natural hairstyles for 4c hair.” Now, maybe you can find something.
If you’re not familiar with hair types, the chart below should explain it.
“Natural hair” is usually defined as type 3 and 4 hair, but there is a distinctive difference in the needs of, say, 3b vs 4c hair. Over the past couple of years, the internet has exploded with black women embracing their curls, as well as protective styles like box braids and marley twists. Many black women grew up with perms and relaxers, and the heat damage had finally taken its toll. The natural hair movement is a step in the right direction, but still, sometimes it feels like 4C hair is still underrepresented even in a movement that’s seemingly made for us.
I have always wondered why so few of the “natural hair” posts I saw on social media were never 4C hair, but now I recognize that coily hair is still not normalized. When it is praised, it is usually long, leaving little room for girls with short hair, or hair that has a lot of shrinkage.
I have had locs since I was four, and I can hardly remember the short afro I had before. What I initially learned about my hair came from my family, not from the internet. I would always hear my sister complaining about her shrinkage after a wash, and begging my mom to get it done. She hated her natural hair for a long time, and she told me today that she still hasn’t grown to fully love it yet.
When I eventually began to look towards Google for hair advice, I quickly deduced that I had 4C hair, even if most of it was in locs. I remember genuinely thinking, because of all the natural hair tutorial videos that I watched, that if people with 4C hair could take care of their hair “the right way” their curls would loosen.
After I finally realized that my curl pattern couldn’t change, I felt let down. I appreciated the look of curly hair, just not the curly hair that I had. I remember wanting the “good” curly hair I saw all over the internet, just because it seemed prettier and easier to manage.
I think of hair discrimination, in the broadest sense, as meaning discrimination that targets all curly hair types in favor of preferring straight hair. It was only 2019 when California became the only state thus far to pas a law against the discrimination of afro-textured hair, showing that choosing to wear natural hair can sometimes more than just a personal choice. It can affect your job prospects and your career.
When I think of hair texture discrimination specifically, I begin to think more about the way it shows up in the black community. Remember when the internet made a whole petition that just aimed to make Blue Ivy, Beyoncé’s daughter, “brush her hair?” It’s something that certainly wouldn’t have happened if her hair was loosely curled and deemed “acceptable.”
4C hair is so often called unkempt and unmanageable, but people fail to recognize the sheer lack of products genuinely meant to take care of the curliest hair types. Youtubers with coily hair textures are few and far between, making it even more difficult to find advice.
It’s not as if looser textures don’t deserve love too, but when people say they’re for natural hair, they should mean all natural hair. Whether it is short or long, edges done or not. Black women of every hair texture deserve to see their hair respected, praised, and represented.