Before YouTube gave natural hair gurus a platform to share their expertise with the masses, many young black girls with 4C hair turned to their mothers, aunts, and other family members to navigate their afro-textured locks. While some elders had the time and patience to show them how to work through taking care — and, most importantly, loving — their natural, 4C tresses, others turned to both temporary and permanent straightening methods, like hot combs, relaxers, and texturizers, to make the hair more "manageable."
There has never been a right or wrong way to style one’s hair. But with social media pushing the natural hair movement to a global audience in the 2000s, black people finally started getting the representation to encourage them to fully embrace their textures — especially those with 4C hair. And with more people deciding to go natural, there may be a correlation with decreasing sales of at-home relaxers. From 2009 to 2014, purchases of this product have dropped by 34 percent, according to data from Mintel, as reported by CNBC. Then, from 2016 to 2018, a new report from Mintel suggested that relaxer sales once again decreased, this time by 22.7 percent.
With fewer black people choosing straight styles and more embracing their natural hair, women like Dayna Bolden, Jouelzy, and Temitope Adesina — who've all been building their platforms around beauty for years on YouTube, through their blogs, and beyond — have been crucial in creating representation for 4C hair, specifically. Bustle spoke with these three influencers to learn more about what they were taught about their hair during their own childhoods, possibly before ever getting a relaxer, and how their experiences have shaped how they view their strands today.
Lifestyle blogger Dayna Bolden says she doesn't have any memories of seeing her 4C hair as a child. In fact, the 31-year-old says that her mother applied her first at-home relaxer to her hair when she was just 8 years old.
Since Bolden never got to explore her natural texture growing up, she says it led her to think of 4C hair negatively. "[Having it straight] was just the normal way to wear my hair," she tells Bustle, admitting that also hearing the black community use the term "good hair" to solely describe looser, wavy textures also added to her complex. "I always wanted my hair to be long, because I thought long, straight hair was more beautiful than short, coarse hair. I didn’t know any different, honestly."
But while she wasn't accustomed to working with her natural roots, Bolden shares that her mother was still very involved when it came to taking care of her hair while it was relaxed. "I didn’t go to the salon often. It was just mainly her in the kitchen, either using that hot comb to straighten it, putting some kind of perm in it, or she was braiding it up," she reminisces, laughing. "I always just remember sitting in between her legs and her braiding my hair or greasing my scalp."
It wasn't until around 2013, when Bolden found out she was pregnant with her daughter, that she stopped perming her hair and immediately did a big chop. She wanted to set a new example for her daughter and show her that kinky hair is just as beautiful as any other texture — a sharp contrast to what she was raised to believe. And while Bolden and her own mother may have opposing views when it comes to beauty standards, one trait she is carrying forward is being very involved in her child's hair care routine.
"My daughter has very, very thick 4C hair. Her hair is so beautiful," Bolden affirms. "I tell her every day how beautiful she is, how beautiful her hair is. She also sees her mom embracing her natural hair, so she’ll know this is the norm and will love hers, as well."
And as for the myth that 4C hair is difficult to manage? Bolden has used her platform to flip the script, sharing that the key to her short, no-fuss style is simply moisture. She achieves it by applying a leave-in conditioner — she switches between Jane Carter Solutions' Revitalizing Leave-In Conditioner, Curls' Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave-In Conditioner, and Creme of Nature's Argan Oil Perfect 7-in-1 Miracle treatment — daily before fluffing. "I can literally go five days without twisting my hair and it still looks good," she says. "That’s the beauty of having a short cut; you can just let the style be and you don’t have to do so much to it."
After begging her mother to let her have permanently straight hair, YouTuber Jouelzy got her first at-home relaxer when she was only 6 years old. When she was that age, she remembers thinking that having 4C hair meant there was something wrong — not only with what was growing out of her scalp, but with herself in general. "This is going to sound really crazy, but because I’m light-skinned, everyone [in my family] was like, 'Your hair is not supposed to be nappy,'" she tells Bustle. "I thought I wasn’t eating right. I thought I wasn’t healthy. I really thought something was wrong because of the texture of my hair."
On top of that, many of the women in her family, her mother included, all had looser textures, and did not know how to work with 4C hair —often saying "my hair was too difficult, it was too nappy," she remembers.
Jouelzy also shares that because of her texture, her mom rarely took the time to develop a set hair care routine for her as a child. And when she did do her hair, she would usually just put her coils in simple braids, or use a hot comb to straighten out Jouelzy's kinks.
The Delaware native even recalls an incident that took place when she was 5 years old, where she asked her mother to put her hair into a bun for her uncle's wedding. But her mother was unable to do so, as Jouelzy explains she was not equipped to style 4C hair. Fortunately, her grandmother offered to take her to a salon to get her hair done for the day, and the bun turned out great. The pair even took a photo of the style to keep as a memory. "It’s one of my favorite images of myself," she says. "I was like, 'See, Mom, my head’s not too big; my hair is not too thick to do the bun.'"
Outside of visits to her grandmother's house, Jouelzy's dad, who also has 4C hair, stepped in to teach her how to take care of her mane as a kid. "He would be like, 'You have to learn how to be patient,'" she remembers, teaching her that her hair wasn't as unmanageable as others in her family had suggested. She also notes that some childhood friends, who came to the U.S. from Liberia, were very supportive, also showing her that her natural texture wasn't difficult to take care of. "Those girls ended up being life-savers, because I would always go to their family's house and they’d braid my hair for me," she says, sharing that she often opted for one of her favorite styles: Senegalese twists.
While Jouelzy would sometimes keep her hair in braids thanks to her friends, she decided to get her hair relaxed starting at six, and wore it this way until she reached high school in order to avoid scalp burns from having her hair straightened with a hot comb. Throughout the time she had a perm, she often asked her uncle, who worked as a hairdresser, for hair advice. And even went to his salon from time to time to get a touch-up when she would visit him in Florida.
But once she reached high school, she went through a number of hair changes. First, upon the recommendation of a family friend, she tried ditching her relaxer for texlax — a gentler version of a relaxer — but she wasn't a fan of the results. "It's a jheri curl without the drip," she explains. So, she asked her dad to give her a buzz cut. When her hair started to grow back from the cut, she decided to relax it once again. Then, she shaved her damaged mane once more just before graduating high school — which may sound jarring to some, but she says she has always been a fan of short hair.
It wasn't until Jouelzy got to college, and saw a now-deleted video from vlogger Kimmaytube explaining the hair texture chart, that she realized there was nothing wrong with having 4C textured hair. "[I was] like, 'This is really nature. My hair is supposed to look like this,'" she explains.
That's when she started her YouTube channel in 2009, which now has over 180,000 subscribers, at first to review weaves, but then to showcase just how versatile and beautiful 4C hair is. Over the years, Jouelzy has worn her hair partly shaved, straightened, in braids or twists, in a mohawk, and of course, natural. Occasionally, she'll even go back to the weaves and wigs that helped to get her channel started.
Today, Jouelzy mostly focuses on her #SmartBrownGirl initiative, which celebrates "the diversity of women of color by igniting discussions on complex cultural issues," but she still hopes to create a positive narrative about kinky hair — the complete opposite of what she learned growing up.
But one aspect of her childhood routine that she still holds dear is going to her beloved uncle for hair advice. Most recently, she used his insight to find a stylist who could safely apply a relaxer to her hair, after being natural for 13 years, to create a cute pixie cut. She says it was time to start a new hair journey.
“For me, hair is an accessory," explains Jouelzy. "I’m a person on my own, with or without my hair. I’ve always viewed my hair as an advancement of how I wanted to present. My hair is not my being."
For as long as Temitope Adesina, known as NaturallyTemi on YouTube, can remember, she's had relaxed hair. “I didn't know my hair texture [as a child], but knew it was hard to manage because my mom would always have a hard time," she tells Bustle.
Even though her hair was first relaxed when she was about 8 years old, she admits her mother still had no idea how to deal with her straightened texture. And her mom's lack of establishing a set hair care routine for her as a child resulted in extreme breakage.
Regardless, Adesina mentions that while she didn't have much guidance, she still made attempts to learn about her hair as she was growing up, even if she wasn't always quite sure what to do with it. "I used pink lotion on my hair everyday," she remembers, admitting that at the time, she usually only wore her damaged hair in a "pretty tragic" ponytail. "My hair always fell out, I shampooed my hair once in a blue moon. [I had] no real hair regimen."
However, after discovering YouTube in her teens and seeing all the beautiful styles that could be created with natural hair, she attempted to start her transition — but ended up relaxing her hair again after having trouble dealing with her ends still being relaxed, while her roots were natural.
Then, in 2012, Adesina went natural unexpectedly, after deciding to do an impromptu big chop shortly after her mother was diagnosed with cancer. The hair blogger says she chose to cut her hair so she could focus solely on becoming her mother's full-time caregiver. Not having to worry about taking care of long hair allowed her to have more time to really focus on being there for her mother, and take her to chemotherapy treatments and other doctor's appointments.
It wasn't until around the time Adesina started college that she once again had the space to focus on her hair. And by re-discovering YouTube tutorials, she finally learned how to establish and maintain a healthy hair routine — something she never had as a child.
Today, The Mane Choice's Detangling Hydration Shampoo, Tresemme's Moisture Rich Conditioner, and The Mane Choice's Deep Strengthening and Restorative Mask Treatment are the vlogger's wash day products of choice. She says these trusted goods help her mane to stay healthy, thick, and beautiful.
Now that she's mastered her hair, Adesina's hope is to encourage others with her texture to embrace their locks, perhaps even without having to go through an entire relaxed-to-natural hair journey. “4C can be more work, but it’s beautiful,” she affirms. “Never think that your hair is less than anyones else’s because it doesn't curl up the way you would like. Embrace the uniqueness in 4C hair and you will start to learn it.”
And today, with over 115,000 YouTube subscribers, she is also able to share her 4C hair care gems with the world. It's a full-circle moment for someone who learned how to do her own hair through the platform. For anyone struggling with their natural hair, Adesina proves that you can retain length and grow 4C hair into a beautiful, bold Afro — all it needs is a little love.