Priyanka here, and this month that recognizes the work of Doctor Martin Luther King finds me reflecting on how far we’ve come and even how discrimination found its roots even in our industry: hair. Having been bullied for the texture of my hair back in India in equal measure that every beautiful woman here in America has been, it took me a long, long time to love my hair. And I’m not alone in that struggle.
Reflecting on Discrimination in the Hair Industry
Texture is now not only a trend, but it’s become accepted in a way that just a decade ago was still stigmatized. For centuries African Americans here in the United States were derided, bullied, and discriminated against for nothing more than embracing their textured hair. The roots of this go old and deep, back to the 1700s in Louisiana when Spanish colonial Governor Don Esteban Miró created the Tignon Laws. These laws required Creole women of color to wear a tignon (scarf or handkerchief) to cover their hair as a way to indicate that they belonged to a slave class — despite the fact that some of these women were “free.
The History of Textured Hair Discrimination
In the 1800s it was Madam C.J. Walker who invented a hair-straightening comb that would encourage African American women to straighten their hair to fit societal norms. This straight hair norm would last throughout the 20th century. In 1976, the first natural hair discrimination case was presented to the U.S. Court of Appeals by Beverly Jeanne Jenkins against Blue Cross/Blue Shield. She charged her former employer with racial and sex discrimination for having an afro, her natural hairstyle. Can you imagine that? It still goes on today with the war against texture now occurring in our schools.
Meanwhile, Back In My Homeland of India
60% of the world’s population has wavy/kinky/curly hair, yet back in India where I grew up, much like here in the United States, straight hair was considered the ideal hair type. I was born with frizzy, curly hair that no matter how much I combed or wished it was different I couldn’t change much less tame. My mom, despite being loving and empathetic, could offer me no ideas on how to deal with it. I combed it and combed it, tried to find good products that would work, and would like in the mirror hating myself. I did my best to minimize it, wearing my hair in a boring ponytail or cut short like a boy, envious of the long, beautifully wavy hair my mom had.
Embracing My Own Curly Hair Journey
Bullying, comments, and laughter had me resort to everything from Henna to paste-soaked Fenugreek seeds, eggs, and hibiscus leaves, but nothing ever worked. Time moved on and my life journey brought me to the United States, where over time I discovered so many different options not just to work with and tame my hair, but also (with extensions) to have it fully and more luxurious. Eventually, I heard about keratin treatments that would allow me to keep my curls…lose the frizz, and also solutions to maintain my curls with less effort and frustration.
Discovering & Creating Solutions in the United States
My exploration to find curl products that really worked led me to create a brand new Curl Care line here at Perfect Locks. Since so much of our frustration with texture comes down to not feeling in control of it, this line includes complete daily care that leaves curls moisturized, tame, proteinized, and healthy. I also use our deep conditioner monthly to offer a complete reset of my curls and help with breakage and protein loss. I also have a few rituals that have worked for me for years and I want to share them with you:
Priyanka’s Defined Morning Curls Ritual
- Before going to bed, take a drop or two of olive oil and mix it with a little water. Massage it all over the hair and gently comb your hair to work it in and detachable.
- Use a little bit of coconut oil and braid the hair.
- In the morning when you untie your braids, beautiful curls just roll out and it stays that way the whole day!
Priyanka’s Curly Extensions Treatment
Sometimes curly extensions can become frizzy and “worn” looking. This tip was passed on to me by one of our customers who use wefts and it works amazing!
- To fix that, wash your curly hair extensions with a curly cleansing shampoo.
- Next, use a generous amount of conditioner and put the extensions in a Ziplock bag.
- Use a blow dryer to heat up the bag. This helps in opening the cuticles and locking the moisture before rinsing them out. This trick always helps.
I still comb my hair and look in the mirror, though this mirror is far from the place I was born into. When I do, I see in that reflection nothing to hate, but the features my mom passed on to me. It took me a long road to get here, but I realized what made her beautiful to my younger eyes wasn’t her long, wavy hair, but the confidence and light she filled the room with of loving herself and freely loving others. Love your texture…because it is born from generations of beautiful women just like you. Embracing them is honoring their memory and the road they paved with the hope for a world where we would be judged by our character and not the body we were born into.