The Evolution of Natural Hair

By Ke’Ana Lampkins 

Wow: our beautiful, natural hair has come a long way, hasn’t it?! From fro’s, twist-outs, and braid-outs to wash & go’s, curly clip-ins, and weaves, styling natural hair has evolved.Caring for our hair has evolved as well. We have many options for our wash day like the products we use for washing and conditioning, deep conditioning, protein treatments and rice water, pre-poo treatments, clay treatments and more.

We also have many protective styles like Senegalese twists, feed-in braids, Marley twists, passion twists, and box braids. All of these are only about 50% of what makes up the natural hair community and the processes that can come with it. The natural hair care community has evolved from simply using hair grease.

It wasn’t always popular to wear your natural hair. It hadn’t been “figure out” yet. If you were natural you were wearing your hair in a protective style, getting it heat styled regularly, and maybe wearing some version of an afro from time to time. There were no braids-outs and wash and go’s for type 4 hair.

close up photo of a woman listening to music
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

As a child, I remember many black women that opted to perm their hair. If they didn’t wear a perm and were natural, their hair was heat styled which could appear like a perm if you went to the right salon. Or they wore protective styles like twists or braids, which were very popular then. I remember very few women wore their hair in a natural state of a twist out, braid-out, or a fro’. Myself included, my hair was usually in a protective style, and very rarely straighten for “special occasions”.

However, somewhere in the early 2000s wearing your hair naturally started to get popular. And with the creation of Youtube in 2005, naturals started to emerge with their natural hair routines and styles. I’ll never forget trying to attempt a Wash-n-Go (after being inspired by a YouTuber with type 3 hair) for a trip downtown Chicago. I wet and styled my hair and it was cute, but by the time I made it off the train, my hair had shrunken. It was partly because the technique wasn’t right for my hair but also because I didn’t have the right products.

There weren’t a plethora of products for naturals the way that there are now. We had a few rows of products, mostly Luter’s Pink Lotion, Cream of Nature, Organic Root Stimulator, and different “curl activators” or gels. And while there were a few products that did cater to natural hair they were not affordable for a non-working high school student.

In high school, my best friend and I were a few of the braves ones who wore their hair in a natural state, whether it was an afro puff or some attempt at an updo. She recounted being asked, “How were we able to get our hair to look like that?” It sounds strange now because it’s so popular but back then people were still riding the wave of perms and weaves while braids were the go-to in-between those styles.

Girls had no idea how to style and grow their natural hair (myself included). But at some point, it started to become more accepted and desired to learn how to take care of our hair, and to grow it, naturally without the perms or the added weight of it constantly being in protective styles like weaves and wigs. Although many of us love a good wig, many women are growing their hair through locs, wash-n-go, braids, and weaves, giving us more options.

Not only that, but we also have so many products to choose from now. To add, many of them are black-owned, founded or created lines like Carol’s Daughter, Shea Moisture, Uncle Funky’s daughter, Melanin Haircare, Green Beauty, Cantu, Camille Rose Naturals, and so many more! Where we may have had two or three product lines to choose from before, we have hundreds more to choose from.

Our hair can make us feel powerful, fearless, and beautiful. Our hair is much like the clothes we choose to wear. It is a creative process. But just like it can empower us, it can also make us feel down, or less than. If we don’t believe we look beautiful, we won’t feel it either. Women have so many layers to us, but the outside layer is important because it is the immediate representation of who WE feel we are.

Natural hair being embraced and accepted has come a long way but ultimately, the beauty of African American women has come a long way. Not only from the outside, but from within our community. Rock your crown, sis! Braid out, weave, fro’ or braids: you’re beautiful.

Ke’Ana Lampkins is a contributing writer for The Pedestal Project, LLC. Ke’Ana is a Christian, wife, and mother dedicated to empowering young girls and women through counseling, mentorship, and education. Connect with her on Instagram @Beautifully_Yanni.

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