Read about how fit black women embraced their natural hair and a fit lifestyle.
In 2012, The Huffington Post published an article stating that researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine found black women were avoiding exercise and sweating to maintain their hair. So I cannot help but draw a correlation between the natural hair movement, and the fitness movement.
The natural hair movement that led to black women embracing their natural curls, led to more than just aesthetic diversity. It also led to us embracing fitness, and what I hope to be an improved quality of life. The movement felt like a natural step in evolution. How ironic, that reverting back to your natural state can be considered an evolution.
The change seemed to happen overnight, but in reality was a revolt of many decades in the making. Our hair has always greatly influenced our perceived attractiveness and whether or not we're employable. As both factors impacted our quality of life, we chose the path of least resistance, or so we thought. Conformity came at a high cost for black women and catapulted black hair care into a $500 billion dollar industry. We tirelessly followed the ever-changing hair preferences of our potential dating pool. In the workplace, our natural hair was considered a distraction. For non-black co-workers who were unexposed or underexposed to black women, our natural hair was an anomaly worthy of observation and discussion. Further, when our natural hair wasn't considered a distraction, it was considered unkempt and unprofessional. The Guardian recently published an article Do Google's 'unprofessional hair' Results Show It's Racist? I'm not going to discuss the merits behind racist search results, as our workplace hair struggles are long affirmed by many studies and decades of personal struggles. However, the article does expose biased imagery against black women's hair in the workplace.
Because our hair influenced such important aspects of life, we adapted to centering its maintenance as a priority. We learned to forego activities that disturbed our hair, like water sports and anything sweat inducing. We factored our hair maintenance into so many decisions that we often lived life on the sidelines. In came the natural hair movement, and suddenly we were no longer using chemicals that made hair easier to manage yet difficult to maintain. We learned about co-washing and protective styles. Both are tools and strategies that would allow us to maintain our hair while participating in sweat-inducing activities. Our hair became a fun challenge. We told our potential dates and the workplace to take it or leave it, and they took it.
The timing of the natural hair movement seemed to align with the fitness movement. The timing was perfect, because we were already embracing braids, twists, and locs as protective styles. We started embracing dry shampoo as a tool to extend the time between washes. The tips and tricks were abundant and we took advantage.
We will never change the mechanics of what makes our hair a chore to maintain, and why would we want to? Those same challenges lend themselves to unlimited hair versatility and options. However, we certainly changed our attitude about it. We transitioned from a can't to a how to attitude. We understand the lasting benefits of a fit lifestyle and how it improves our quality of life. Rather than centering our hair as a priority, we've begun centering our health instead. Sweat is no longer the enemy but an ally. Sweating is proven to boost endorphins, reduce pain, improve your complexion by opening the pores for cleansing, detoxify the body, improve mood swings, regulate body temperature, and reduce the risk of kidney stones. In short, sweating is amazing, so proudly do more of it.
Black women avoiding exercise and sweating to maintain hair is such a thing of the past. My, what a time to be alive.
If you enjoyed this post please comment below and share. Let me know how you personally overcame hair anxiety to live a more fit lifestyle.