Madame C.J. Walker is inarguably one of the most influential people in the beauty industry. She was the first woman in America to become a self-made millionaire. She noticed a need in the market for Black hair care products and launched her first product, Madame C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower. This product was particularly appealing to Black women, not only because the demographic made up a majority of the 3,000 employees she hired, but also because there were virtually no Black hair products available anywhere else. Why? In stark contrast to caucasian hair, which produces oil and grows about 1.2 centimeters per month, Black hair does not produce oil and grows about 0.9 centimeters per month.
Oil is good for moisturizing hair, yet too much of it can clog pores in the scalp, resulting in stunted growth or even rapid hair loss. Stunted hair growth and hair loss can also be the result of not having enough oil or moisture. Black hair requires the application of oil or moisturizer for this reason and another: Dry hair can break off because it’s brittle! These are all reasons why it’s unnecessary to wash Black hair as often as it’s necessary to wash caucasian hair. This is not new education, however, it’s too often left out of the conversation during consultations with professional stylists regarding hair care for Black wedding party attendants. This article features a variety of hairstyles for Black hair that are both timeless and protective for African hair types.
Compared to the beginning of the millennium—when pixie cuts, flipped out ends, micro braids, and straightened hair were among the most popular hairstyles for Black women—the past decade has seen an increasing preference for natural hair. Natural hairstyles showcase hair as-is, without the application of heat or chemically enhanced or phosphate-rich products. The highlight of natural hairstyles is the essence of the hair’s curls or waves and organic textures. After washing the hair, gently soak excess water with a soft towel, apply moisturizer before it dries completely, and then seal in the moisture with the application of oil. From there, simply style as requested, and voíla!
More and more brides are rocking their natural curls, and stylists are happy to accommodate. Ask stylists to confirm if their kit has wet products to fit different curl patterns and that they are prepared to handle those requests. Diffusers or tiny curling irons can help define the curls in Black hair. It’s critical for stylists to know how to work with heat-free tools like these. Be aware that Black hair is diverse! The level of heat that one head of hair can handle may potentially damage another. Explore heat-free tools like curling gels, flexi rods, twisting butter, and oils.
Some updo styles (especially styles that incorporate braids) are also protective for Black hair, which means the style itself can help the hair maintain its moisture and encourage hair growth. Moreover, protective styles can last for several weeks when the hair is wrapped at night, making them a great option to last through the honeymoon. In the case of Black hairstyles, edgework is critical because it can make or break a look—especially with updos. Fly-aways are the only bit that may require a daily refresh with a bit of gel or moisturizer.
Hairstyles with Hair Down
Two options for wearing hair down are straight or wavy/curly. Sew-ins or wigs are relatively reliable in unpredictable weather or temperamental climate conditions. A [chemical] relaxer, also known as a perm for Black curly hair, results in straightened hair for 6-8 weeks. If relaxed Black hair gets wet, though, it has the potential to severely damage the hair. A silk press is a method of straightening hair using a flat iron and hairdryer without any chemical relaxer. With proper care, the silk press style can last two to three weeks. In either case, straightening the hair allows the client to choose what (if any) big or small curls/waves they may want to apply.
Much like makeup artists, hairstylists are more than happy to use beauty products preferred by the client in their chair. A wedding day is about feeling blissful and beautiful, whether you’re at the altar or not. To that end, we celebrate all the beautiful and diverse Black hairstyles for weddings not just during Black History Month, but every time they make their debut.
Hero photo courtesy of Anna & Alex