the “hair positive” phenomenon is shaking up hair beauty standards

the “hair positive” phenomenon is shaking up hair beauty standards

Léna Mahfouf (“Léna Situations”) at the film premiere Elvis at the Cannes Film Festival, May 25, 2022. Stephane Cardinale-Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

After the “body positive” movement and anti-ageism, it is the hair that has been combed through. Celebrities and influencers encourage women to embrace their true nature and love their texture like their roots.

Shave the fringe! On social networks, influencers determined to wear their natural curly hair despite criticism encourage their subscribers to drop the hair “dictatorships”. “Don’t make the same mistakes I made. Don’t try to camouflage, smooth or hide them. Love them, take care of them and don’t let people tell you that you’re pretty only when you have straight hair,” wrote Léna Mahfouf (better known as “Léna Situations”) in an Instagram post in December 2021. …before quitting Twitter in the face of relentless mockery over her voluminous cropped haircut. Last month, the French YouTuber returned to this episode of online harassment in a video accumulating more than 2.5 million views on the platform. The 24-year-old explained that she had adopted this new look against her will, her hair having been damaged “by dint of repeated straightening for filming”.

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freedom in mind

Léna is far from being an exception. Women with curly, curly and frizzy hair represent 14% of the European market (1), and yet only 5% of hair salons claim to be experts in the field (2). “As long as there is no real training where institutions value and give legitimacy to this type of hair, it will remain problematic”, underlines the sociologist Juliette Sméralda, author of Dark skin, frizzy hair – The story of an alienation (Jasor Editions). Some consumer and professional cosmetics brands are making the effort to join forces with more inclusive hairdressing collectives (such as Kérastase, which collaborates with Vernon François or L’Oréal Professionnel, which called on Elodie Euston and Derick Monroe to develop the Curl Expression training platform), but progress is still timid.

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At the same time, the “Nappy Hair” movement among black and mixed-race women is gaining momentum. If in the American vocabulary, the word “nappy” is a pejorative term to designate frizzy hair, some divert its meaning in France and the United Kingdom by preferring to evoke the contraction of the words “natural” and “happy”. Celebrities like Viola Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Solange Knowles or Inna Modja are held up as models of this state of mind. “This movement has affected all black peoples, but the last to have joined are the elites”, specifies however Juliette Sméralda. “They jumped on the bandwagon, for fear of being out of step with their audience. They did not initiate but reinforced this movement.

The gray smiles

For the sociologist Michel Messu, author of the book An ethnologist at the hairdresser (Éditions Fayard), this upheaval is part of “a strong trend in our society; that of the preservation of the ecosystem, which favors both respect for natural hair and that of the planet”. A “deep” concern which has accelerated since the pandemic: “Hairdressers started the movement about ten years ago by offering non-chemical first aid, but during confinement, the debate started on the social networks, associating the natural side with the good health of the hair”, notes the specialist.

Another community has also made itself heard: that of the “silver”, these women over 40 who have decided not to color their white hair since the closure of hairdressing salons. One of them, Sandrine P., better known under the pseudonym “Grey, so what” (“Grey, so what?”) by her 40 thousand subscribers on Instagram, says she proudly claims her natural pepper and salt . “When I let it grow, I discovered a mixture of grey, white, chestnut… The more it came out, the more curious I was to see what was hidden under these roots”, says this active 55-year-old woman. , admitting however that the first centimeters were not easy to assume. “Initially, I wore turbans to hide the demarcation around the face, then I opted for a Pixie cut, which helped me to better live the transition. I felt brave, like the superheroine Tornado in X-Men! Eventually, it became my calling card on social media. It was thanks to my hair that I was spotted by a modeling agency.

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So much so that they have become a real “accessory” of which she takes “extreme care”: “Because it is not synonymous with letting go,” she insists. Witness the hashtag #GreyHairDontCare which has accumulated more than 139 million views on TikTok, bringing together countless tutorials to sublimate them. Even actresses appear with their silver hair or graying roots on the red carpet, from Andie MacDowell to Sharon Stone, passing Sarah Jessica Parker or Kristin Scott Thomas.

However, there is no question of creating new dictates. “We also have the right not to be comfortable with gray hair,” continues Sandrine P. According to the 50-year-old, “above all, the fashion and cosmetics industries should give them more visibility. We see some of them parading on the catwalks of Fashion Weeks and in advertisements,” she observes, quoting her colleague Claudia Maria Ferreira Da Costa, Clarins muse. “White hair is no longer seen as a sign of aging. We even see young public figures bleaching their hair white.” It’s up to everyone to do as they please.

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(1) Beauty Track study, 2016.
(2) Data from the Representative Council of Black Associations (CRAN).


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