I posted on Instagram recently about how I was able to heal my childhood hair trauma through going natural and eventually locking my hair. I posted because I had finally grown ass length hair and had ironically asked my loctician to style my hair in a bob. The funny part about that is of all the black girl hairstyles I could have chosen, a short bob that barely touched my neck was the desired style after wanting long hair my whole life. But no one told me how much of a drag it was to have long hair.

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I’ve absolutely become one of those people who wear big head wraps in an attempt to offer my head and neck some relief and comfort. I also wear wraps in an attempt to protect my hair from debris or getting snagged on random objects. The wrap below is just a piece of fabric I had cut at JoAnn Fabrics.

black girl hairstyles head wrap

Loc Bob

Airess Rembert – Chayote, Winter Park, FL

And if you’re a natural girlie like me, you already know the struggle. Hairstyles for black girls have always been a huge deal in our community for a few reasons. These reasons have also changed over the years. If you’re a millennial, you probably remember how much of a big deal it was to have a perm or relaxer. But if you weren’t old enough yet for the harsh chemicals that came with a perm or a relaxer, you sat with Grama to get your ears and edges burned off with a hot comb. It was the heat paired with the blue magic grease that caused what seemed to be fire on your scalp.

All of this was done in an attempt to make your hair a bit more manageable and less coily. During those times, nobody wanted to look nappy headed, or bald headed, so a perm, relaxer, or hot comb was the only way to look half decent if you weren’t wearing a head full of weave. When I say weave, I specifically mean box braids or cornrows. It wasn’t until high school that we were able to wear quick weaves, sew-ins and weave ponytails. Black girl hairstyles and Black hair in general are extremely complex, beautiful, diverse and deeply intertwined with culture and identity. 

Black Girl Hairstyles: The trauma

Bantu Knots

beautiful black girl with locs a hairstyle for black girls
Bantu Knots at the 2023 Women of Project Management Conference: Awards Gala

The trauma started early, let’s say as long as I can remember being alive, my hair has always been a thing. A stressful thing for me to think about. I had the type of hair that would not grow, and it wasn’t super kinky or coily or thick. It was really fine, kind of thin and just did not grow more than maybe 5 inches long. Can you imagine the torture?!?!?! There was this girl… I’ll never forget… I’m reluctant about sharing this story because it’s not the best example to use. But I will share it because it’s something that never left my thoughts. Her name was Tiffany L.. .

Tiffany was this cute little white girl with long thick blonde hair, she was popular, mean and something equivalent to the middle school version of a Regina George. We were at P.E. or recess or whatever it was called at the time and she ended up being my running partner. Well… as we begin to run, she says to me, “What happened to your hair?”. I thought she was genuinely curious, but then she followed up with, “you look like a cancer patient”. I had no response; all I could do was look at her and process wtf she just said to me. She then followed up with a chuckle and ran off. I took the L like a G and continued with my day like nothing happened, but her comments stuck with me. 

Family Matters

There was also the time where my aunt decided to relax my hair one day without my mother’s permission. That was a whole thing; I just remember having to get my hair relaxed every few weeks after that, as if my hair wasn’t already struggling, it was now being processed with harsh chemicals. However, it did offer me some relief in the styling department. No more hot combs, and I could swim without it being an entire production afterwards; but, my hair continued to break and remain about 5 inches long.

Loc bubble ponytail

loc pony hairstyle for black girls
Loc bubble ponytail

And then there was my stepmom- God rest her soul. She gave me so much grief about my hair and how the braids I used to wear were always too tight. My stepmom would also say that I had too much weave in my hair and always wanted me to take it out. 

Basically, I was losing all the way around with my hair. I couldn’t catch a break. 

Curly updo & Loose curls

black girl hair styles
Loose curls and curly updo: Michelle Paxton-Arnold, Owner Belleza Lush

Acceptance

Throughout high school, I continued to wear weaves and get relaxers, but the interesting thing was that my hair was starting to grow! I was learning how to care for it and did my best to make sure it was washed and moisturized every 1-2 weeks. During high school my 5 inches grew to about 10. Basically… my hair was on the top of my back and I felt like Rapunzel. But it wasn’t until college that I discovered my natural hair in its natural state was good enough.

This was largely due to all the naturalistas on YouTube rocking their natural hair and showing different ways to care for it and style it. One random morning, I said F it, and instantly did a big chop. I completely stopped wearing weaves and getting relaxers. I fell in love with my baby afro and later my locs. And from then on out, my hair grew like crazy. 

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Final thoughts on Black girl hairstyles

They reflect not just personal style but also societal norms, historical struggles, and ongoing journeys of self-discovery. From the days of hot combs and relaxers to the current era of embracing natural textures and protective styles, our hair has been a canvas for creativity and a battleground for self-acceptance. But amidst the evolving trends and techniques, one thing remains constant: the importance of hair in shaping our sense of self and community.

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