You've probably seen these words time and time again for years—because they're everywhere. For as long as I can remember, these terms were plastered on campaign ads, shouted in commercials, and marketed on every single hair product I touched. They might simply look like words to you, but in my eyes, they bring to the surface sensitive memories of deep insecurities with my curly hair. Growing up with naturally curly, frizzy, big hair, I inevitably was conditioned to believe that my locks in their most natural state were a problem.
Why? Because every beauty brand told me so, and every other curly-haired girl did too.
My complex relationship with my curls spiraled over time. I was conditioned to believe that my hair looked the most beautiful when it was straight. This resulted in years of flat-ironing my hair, heat damage, and an addiction to extensions. It wasn't until 2016 that I finally began to love my natural hair, which is still an ongoing personal process.
There are many, many reasons the notions of these words can be perceived as insensitive and hold weight. For one, they completely exclude a community of women who love and embrace their curly and textured hair. Although these words aren't solely marketed to those with natural hair, hair companies should be keenly aware of the damaging effect their marketing can have on women with all hair textures.
While frizz may not work in the favor of those with finer, sleek hair, it is not a bad thing for curly hair. In fact, there's a common understanding in the natural-hair community that frizz works in your favor. So, instead of assuming everyone wants to "fight frizz," brands should take these factors into consideration. We all speak the same language, but the mainstream messaging to "fight frizz" and buy "anti-frizz" products does not speak to all of us.
Second, these terms blatantly promote the idea that altering your hair's natural state is better than letting it be free. Women have the freedom to change their hair whenever and however they want—but we shouldn't be reminded to do it in every single hair ad we see. Once again, this is forcing the idea that our hair is not beautiful just the way that it is.
Looking at the incredible changes society has made in becoming more culturally inclusive when it comes to celebrating all types of beauty, I truly hope that we can think harder about the words used to market hair products. I'm not saying there isn't a place in the beauty world for smoothing or straightening hair products for styling purposes.
There absolutely is. However, hair companies need to be more mindful of words tied to, for some, stories of pain. So beauty brands, I have a message for you: Instead of saying "control curls," try "define curls." Hair companies like Carol's Daughter, Curls, Cantu, and Mizani lead by example when it comes to marketing their curl products the right way. More brands should follow suit.
And here's a message to curly girls. Even though you've been taught to convert your curls, let them be free. Embrace the beauty of every single bend, coil, and kink—because they're yours.