(Beauty)

I Tried The "Naked Hair" Instagram Trend & Learned So Much About My Curls — And Myself

Rhea Cartwright

For those of us with textured hair, starting a natural hair journey can be a long, arduous task. Finding the perfect matches for your curly routine can take extensive trial and error, especially in an oversaturated market. But in a strange turn of events, I happened to get the best curls of my life by using no products at all. Yes, a minimal curly hair routine, also known as #nakedhair on Instagram, could be the key to your best hair yet.

While on a solo holiday in August, I decided to go naked, too. Being removed from my daily life and environment took away any potential judgement and regardless of how my hair would look, I knew that at the very least, my toiletry bag and suitcase would be a whole lot lighter. Rather than my usual routine of a leave-in conditioner followed by a mousse, I left my hair to air-dry without styling product after using my Dizziak Hydration Wash and Deep Conditioner. The result? My curls were looser and less defined, but also much fluffier, bouncier, and more voluminous. I’ve never felt that my routine weighed my hair down but by using nothing, I could truly understand the meaning of weightless. I still scrunched and used my Afro comb as normal, but my overall routine was quicker, easier, and I was happy with the result. Returning home to London and eager to continue, I noticed that my hair didn’t look exactly the same — which is likely due to London’s notoriously hard water — and added a tiny drop of Bread Beauty Supply Hair Oil which added a touch of shine and much-needed hydration.

I’ve never felt that my routine weighed my hair down but by using nothing, I could truly understand the meaning of weightless.
Rhea Cartwright

While forgoing product may not sound like anything groundbreaking, most naturals are accustomed to using a plethora of different products on wash day to achieve the results they want. Curly hair influencer Jade Kendle popularized the minimal movement earlier on in the year, starting the hashtag #nakedhair on Instagram which has amassed over 8,000 images of Black and curly-haired women embracing their true textures. "Skip care" is a trend we saw in skin care not to long ago, too, in stark contrast to the 10-step routines that had everyone spending extra time over their sinks.

Whether you’re typically a loyal LOC-method devotee or prefer the wash-and-go method instead, paring down your product has some welcome benefits. Similarly to makeup-free days, naked hair is said to help the hair and scalp breathe as common haircare ingredients such as silicones and petroleum oils can weigh the hair down. According to MINTEL, 43% of Black women regularly use five or more haircare products at once — so it can be challenging to decipher which product is doing what. Skipping them altogether can help streamline your haircare collection when integrating them back in, as that same study indicates that 57% are keen to streamline their hair routines with multifunctional options.

There is a dichotomy when talking about natural hair because to some extent, the result we yield isn’t natural at all.

Giving up hair styling products allows us to actually see our natural texture, too. There is a dichotomy when talking about natural hair because to some extent, the result we yield isn’t natural at all. After slathering on leave-ins, curl creams, and defining mousses, our curls are noticeably and intentionally more defined, smoothed, and coiled. It seems that natural hair is only championed when styled a certain way, and the problematic language used on products can imply that any alternative isn’t welcome. We’re sold items to make our “unruly” coils and curls more “manageable” and “tame” — a word most commonly used in the context of domesticating wild animals, which is even more layered when we remember the various slurs that Black people have been called over the years. Those with tighter 4c hair may not feel they have the freedom to embrace naked hair as they tend to experience more shrinkage and dryness. As veteran hair blogger Whitney White said, there is often a curl type 3-centric bias in the curly community which not only affects product formulation but more crucially, representation.

To have frizz-free, super-defined curls by any means necessary is a facet of colorism — and further reinforces the narrative, stemming from centuries of oppression, that Black people can’t just be.
Rhea Cartwright

The first person I saw dispelling all hair styling products was Dutch model Dieudonnée Comvalius on an Instagram Reel captioned, “I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out my hair looks cute without product in it. My whole life has been a LIE.” It resonated with me as I thought about my childhood, having heavy grease applied by my Black family or John Frieda Frizz Ease on my white side. It was always a quest, even then, to have frizz-free, super-defined curls by any means necessary. It’s a facet of colorism and further reinforces the narrative, stemming from centuries of oppression, that Black people can’t just be. Whether we aren’t allowed to be passionate about something for fear of being labelled “the angry Black woman” or we can’t wear our hair truly natural as we run the risk of being discriminated at work or school, the rhetoric has dictated that if we’re not attempting to assimilate to Eurocentric ideals, we’re less than.

With my biracial heritage, I’m aware of the privilege that those with tighter curls or coarser textures may not have. I might not miss out on crucial job opportunities or be fired because my hair isn’t deemed respectable or appropriate. I might not fear that my looser curls could be mishandled at the hands of an uneducated stylist. But Black hair representation — of all textures — is important. At the emergence of the second natural hair movement, we praised Black celebrities when they hit the red carpet without their lace fronts or ditched the relaxers... but perhaps the next stage is us embracing our true textures in real life, too.

Unsurprisingly, my life kept going even when I stopped using the products I said I couldn’t live without. Of course, I still have bountiful drawers of lotions and potions that I have every intention to use but they are no longer a crutch I assumed I needed. My hair is my power — and many Black women feel the same way. Given that our hair has countlessly been stigmatized and politicized, it represents freedom, empowerment and pride. To truly go natural is almost the ultimate rebellion against the Eurocentric beauty standards that have taunted us for so long. The narrative has brainwashed us into thinking that unless our curls and coils look a certain a way, we look unkept or messy. Not that anyone should be judged for loving a 10-step curly hair routine, but using products should always be a choice rather than a requirement.

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