In 2021, it’s increasingly common to see black men and women sporting natural hairstyles. And that should be no wonder considering today’s political climate, which, with progressive laws like The CROWN Act and movements like Black Lives Matter, has forced people to finally question and address the stigma surrounding natural black hair.
Natural hair has a long history behind it, so there’s much to learn. That’s why we scoured the web for the most up-to-date information about natural black hair and compiled our findings in this guide.
Check out our key takeaways for the critical stats and facts you’ve been searching for. Or browse the table of contents to read more about natural hair history, movements, and more.
- Before the African diaspora, African people wore their hair in elaborate natural hairstyles to showcase their rank, marital status, and tribe or clan.
- African American people invented braids as a protective hairstyle in the 1800s. One century later, Annie Malone and Madame CJ Walker created the first natural hair care products for black Americans.
- The 1960s Civil Rights Movement gave rise to the first natural hair movement when activists reclaimed their natural afros as a symbol of black pride.
- The second natural hair movement began in the 2000s and has continued into the current decade.
- The original natural hair movement had two goals: to celebrate the natural texture of black hair and promote healthier, less product-intensive hair routines.
- Today, many black women believe the natural hair movement isn’t inclusive enough and doesn’t celebrate all natural black hair textures.
- The natural hair care market was worth $8.7B in 2020 and will be worth $9.1B by the end of 2021. Experts project that the market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.51%, reaching $11.9B by 2027.
- From January 2004 to June 2014, Google searches for natural hair rose more than 75% and hit an all-time high in June 2014. However, interest in natural hair has declined nearly 50% from August 2017 to today.
- Black hair salons reported a 3% decrease in requests for chemical relaxer treatments in 2020. Meanwhile, requests for natural styling treatments jumped 2%.
- More than 50% of black consumers report using homemade hair products, including shea butter, olive oil, Jamaican castor oil, and coconut oil.
- In a poll, 79% of black women said they prefer to sport natural hair. Among these women, 21% went natural five or more years ago, and 19% had been natural for less than one year.
- 33% of black women with natural hair say they chose their current style to encourage hair growth, 29% say they went natural for self-esteem, and 28% say they were tired of using chemicals in their hair.
- Studies have shown an 11% increase in natural hairstyles among black women since the beginning of the 2000s natural hair movement.
- Neither brushing nor getting a trim will make hair grow faster, no matter the hair type.
- All hair types grow at a similar rate of about 1/2 inch per month.
Why Is Black Hair Called Natural Hair?
“Natural hair” has come to identify black hair, and specifically black women’s hair, that is worn in an unaltered state. The term is reserved specifically for black people due to the fact that natural hair isn’t the norm in black culture today.
Yet, relaxed hair hasn’t always been the norm for black Americans. Check out the facts our research revealed about the history of natural black hair.
- Pre-1400s: African people wear their hair in elaborate natural styles to denote cultural status or rank, marital status, and tribe or clan.
- 1800s: African American people invent braids as one of the first protective hairstyles.
- 1900s: Annie Malone and Madame CJ Walker create afro and other natural hair care products for black Americans.
- 1940s: Employers, schools, and other social groups begin enforcing discriminatory natural hair laws targeting black people.
- 1978: Anu Prestonia opens Brooklyn-based Khamit Kinks, which is one of the first American salons to cater to natural black hair.
- 1990s: A golden era for Black culture and the rise of black culture-influenced beauty standards. Still, product offerings for natural black hair are sparse.
- 1993: Lisa Price founds Carol’s Daughter in her home kitchen and sells her first natural black hair products at local flea markets.
- 2002: Lisa Price promotes her products on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the “Oprah Effect” boosts Carol’s Daughter website traffic nearly 600x in four minutes.
- 2010: Black-owned hair care brand Design Essentials launches its first sulfate-free, mineral-oil-free product line, calling it Design Essentials Naturals.
- 2010: Target becomes the first mass retailer to offer natural black hair care brands.
- 2013: The rise of natural hair beauty influencers like Naptural85.
- 2013: Pantene launches Truly Natural, a line of hair care products targeted at black women sporting natural hairstyles.
- 2014: The haircare brand Curls releases a line of sulfate-free, paraben-free, and mineral-oil-free products.
- 2015: Dark and Lovely, ORS, and other hair relaxer brands come out with product collections for natural black hair.
- 2018: Pantene and Head & Shoulders launch product lines targeted at Black consumers with natural hair.
- 2019: Tracee Ellis Ross starts the trend of celebrity hair care brands when she launches Pattern Beauty. Taraji P. Henson and Gabrielle Union soon follow with TPH by Taraji and the re-launch of Flawless by Gabrielle Union.
- 2020: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, black salons and barbershops closed, forcing black people to turn to at-home hairstyles and giving rise to a new natural hair movement.
What Is the Natural Hair Movement?
Natural hair movements have arisen throughout history, especially during times of social upheaval. But why is the natural hair movement so important to black culture? And how did the natural hair movement start?
We’re answering these questions and more for you below.
- The first natural hair movement began in the 1960s when women reclaimed their natural afros as a symbol of black pride.
- The natural hair movement ended in the late 1970s as the re-emergence of relaxed hairstyles (e.g., the Jeri Curl) became popular.
- In the 1980s and 1990s, sleek, relaxed hair became all the rage.
- The 2000s gave rise to a second natural hair movement, which has continued into the 2020s.
- The 1960s and 1970s natural hair movement saw afros become a symbol of black power and the Civil Rights Movement.
- Activist Stokely Carmichael’s girlfriend, Mary O’Neal, was one of the first black women to say her afro was politically motivated by the Civil Rights Movement.
- In 1972, Cicely Tyson was the first black woman to ever wear cornrows on a magazine cover and, then, on TV.
- The move away from chemicals and toward natural hair care products became increasingly popular in the early 2000s.
- Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe, Solange Knowles, Tracee Ellis-Ross, and Viola Davis started wearing their hair natural in the 2010s, giving momentum to a new natural hair movement.
- Michelle Obama helmed a new natural hair movement when, after wearing her hair relaxed during her eight years as First Lady, she debuted her natural texture in 2017.
- The purpose of natural hair movements is for women of African ancestry to celebrate their natural hair textures.
- The original natural hair movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s also came about because black women wanted a healthier, less product-heavy way to do their hair.
- Another motivator behind natural hair movements, especially today, is a desire to keep up with trends.
- Despite claiming inclusivity, many black women believe today’s natural hair movement has failed them. That’s because the modern natural hair movement has glamorized looser curl types and “defined” styles instead of embracing all natural textured hair types.
- Natural black hair has become a fireable or even expellable offense in some workplaces and schools.
- Black women are 80% more likely than non-black women to say they feel forced to change their natural hair to fit in at the workplace.
- In 2019, Dove and the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Coalition designed The CROWN Act, a proposed law that would end race-based discrimination against hair texture and protective styles in the workplace and schools.
How Big Is the Natural Hair Market?
The natural hair market consists of natural hair brands and their consumers. Just how big is the natural hair market in 2021? Here’s what our research revealed:
- The global natural hair care product market, which includes products for natural black hair, was worth $8.3B in 2019.
- Experts project that the global natural hair care product market will hit $11.9B in 2027, growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.51%.
- Growing at a CAGR of 4.51%, the global natural hair care product market was worth approximately $8.7B in 2020 and will be worth around $9.1B by the end of 2021.
- The global natural hair care product market will be worth approximately $9.5B in 2022, $9.9B in 2023, $10.4B in 2024, $10.9B in 2025, and $11.4B in 2026.
- Google searches for natural hair have increased since 2004.
- Interest in natural hair hit an all-time high in June 2014.
- Interest in natural hair rose more than 75% from January 2004 to June 2014.
- Since August 2017, interest in natural hair has declined by nearly 50%.
- The black hair care market was valued at $1.8B in 2020.
- Perm sales declined 26% from 2008 to 2017. Meanwhile, natural hair product sales are on the rise.,
- From 2016 to 2018, DIY relaxer sales have dropped 22.7%. This contributed to an overall decline in black consumer hair care product spending of 2.3%.
- In 2020, chemical relaxer treatments at salons dipped 3%, while natural styling treatments increased by 2%.
- Experts project that South African spending on hair care products will reach R9.6B ($654M) by 2023, driven by black female consumers who prefer natural hairstyles.
- European consumers accounted for 38.2% of the global natural haircare market in 2019.
Natural Hair Brands
Natural hair is a multimillion-dollar market. It has attracted big-name companies and smaller, black-owned brands alike.
But what are the best brands for natural hair? Below, we’re breaking down the top products and brands natural hair wearers prefer.
- Over 50% of black consumers use home remedy hair products, including shea butter, olive oil, Jamaican castor oil, and coconut oil.
- The most frequently used hair brand among black consumers is Cantu, at around 22%.
- SheaMoisture is the second-most frequently used brand by black consumers at 16%.
- Dr. Miracle is the third-most frequently used hair care brand by black consumers at around 5%.
- An equal percentage (~22%) of black consumers say they use unbranded olive oil and branded Cantu products.
- When polled, the majority of black people (~35%) say they choose hair care products based on independent research.
- Recommendations from friends and family are the second-most common method for choosing hair care products at around 33%.
- Around 21% of black consumers choose hair care products based on digital content (videos and articles) and less than 10% of black consumers choose products upon a hairdresser’s recommendation.
- Only 1% of black consumers choose hair care products based on advertisements.
- Sally Beauty sells over 100 natural hair brands, more than 50 of which are black-owned or black-founded.
- Sundial Brands owns a portfolio of black hair care products valued at $700M in 2017.
- In South Africa, mass retailers own 80% of the black hair care market.
- Personal care product giant Unilever reported sales of natural hair products increased 2x year over year in 2020.
- Black women in the UK are less likely to purchase hair care products at the supermarket compared to black American and black European women. Only 1% of black British women purchase hair products from the supermarket, while 35% and 13% of black American and European women buy hair products at the supermarket, respectively.
- Black British women are more likely to buy hair products at independent retailers. 59% of black British women shop for hair products at indie retailers compared to 30% and 18% of black European and American women, respectively.
- 58% of black British women buy hair care products once per month, while 61% and 36% of black American and black European women buy hair products monthly, respectively.
Naturalistas don’t use heat or chemicals on their hair. These natural hair pioneers cite many reasons for going natural, some of which we’re talking about next.
- In a poll of black women, 79% reported wearing their hair natural.
- Among naturalista respondents, a poll found that the majority of women had either been natural for more than five years (21%) or for less than one year (19%).
- 19% of naturalistas have worn their hair natural for 1–2 years, 12% of naturalistas went natural 3–4 years ago, and 8% have been natural for 2–3 years.
- When polled, the majority of naturalistas (33%) say they chose their current style to encourage healthy hair growth.
- 29% of naturalistas went natural for a self-esteem boost, and 28% went natural because they were tired of putting chemicals and relaxers on their hair.
- 6% of naturalistas were inspired by others to go natural.
- 4% of naturalistas went natural because of the high cost of maintaining chemically relaxed hair.
- Black millennial naturalistas rate natural and some protective hairstyles as more beautiful and attractive than relaxed or straightened looks, giving an average rating of 4.45/5 to afro and braided hairstyles.
- With an average rating of 3.15/5 for straight hair, black millennial naturalistas rate straight hair as the least beautiful and attractive hairstyle.
- Despite viewing afros and protective styles as more attractive, black millennial naturalistas rate relaxed hairstyles as the most professional. A pixie cut (4.4/5), long curls (4.2/5), straight hair of any length (4/5), and short curls (3.8/5) received the highest ratings for professionalism.
- Black millennial naturalistas rate twist-outs (2.7/5), dreads (2.9/5), and braids and afros (both 3.4/5) as the least professional black hairstyles.
- Since the beginning of the 2000s natural hair movement, studies have found an 11% increase in the number of black women who report wearing natural hairstyles.
- Among black women who wear their hair natural, 40% say they don’t use heat, and 33% say they do use heat for styling.
- The owner of the New Jersey-based Red by Ruby Red Roots salon has categorized three types of natural hair clients: 1. Clients who prefer blowouts, 2. Clients who want twist-outs and rod sets, and 3. Clients who want a wash-and-go styling routine.
- The 22-year-old World Natural Hair & Healthy Lifestyle event put on by black hair care brand Waajid attracts 30,000 annual attendees.
- 88% of black American women agree that health is the ultimate beauty goal, a statement that shows why the natural hair movement is still going strong in 2021.
- 48% of women believe natural and curly hairstyles exude confidence.
- 45% of black women say natural hair is on-trend.
- 58% of black women agree that natural hairstyles aren’t for everyone since curly and coily hair textures can be very fragile.
Is Natural Hair the New Trend?
Natural hair is officially “in.” Want to get in on this trend? Then here are the top natural hairstyles of 2021 you’ve got to try.
- The “Big Chop” — removing chemically damaged hair to transition to natural hair — has been trending among black women since 2019.
- Pandemic-related lockdowns are thought to have given rise to the natural hair trend among black women.
- Despite wanting more chemical-free products, women with natural hair are increasingly interested in bold hair colors.
- Protective braids and twists featuring feathers, beads, and colorful hair are another emerging hair trend in 2021.
- In 2021, fashion and beauty trends are taking lots of cues from the 1990s, and natural hairstyles are no different — the rise of ‘90s trends has brought back Bantu knots.
- The twist-out is another major natural hair trend for 2021.
Natural Hair Myths and Fun Facts
Natural hair must be greased to stay healthy. And protective styles are always safer than wearing hair naturally… Right?
Wrong! Check out the facts below because we’re debunking some of the top natural hair myths.
- Most people believe that Rastafarians invented dreadlocks. However, Ethiopian warriors actually created this hairstyle by accident when, in protest of their leader’s exile, they refused to wash their hair for months on end, causing their hair to “lock” up. Because the warriors were also “dreaded” by local people, they became known as dreadlocks.
- It’s a common myth that afro hair doesn’t grow past a certain length. However, some people with thick hair and tight curl patterns may have hair that grows out and up instead of down.
- Brushing the hair doesn’t make it grow faster, no matter what hair type you have. The same is true of trimming hair ends: a trim doesn’t affect the roots, so it won’t make your hair grow any faster.
- Here’s what can help with hair growth: prenatal vitamins.
- According to experts, black hair doesn’t need grease to be healthy. In fact, hair grease typically contains petroleum and mineral oil, which may clog pores and attract more dirt.
- Many people believe that protective hairstyles don’t damage the hair. In truth, protective hairstyles can cause breakage, tangling, and dryness if kept in place for too long.
- The longer the hair, the looser the curl pattern, and the more hair shrinkage, the more curl definition.
- The tighter the curl pattern, the drier and weaker the hair, and the looser the curl pattern, the stronger the hair.
- Natural hair usually features multiple curl types. Tight curls tend to concentrate at the nape of the neck, while the midsection of the hair features looser curls and even waves.
- All hair types grow at a similar rate of about 1/2 inch per month.