Here’s some exciting news about KYH and the great ways we are infusing cultural beauty traditions around the world.
Three Steps I took to Enhance the Hair Wash Day Experience
Textured hair, ranging from afros to curls and coils, is a crucial aspect of Black women’s identity as it links to our culture, ancestry, and social and emotional well-being. The resurgence of the natural hair movement is challenging Eurocentric beauty norms, and we are here for it! As a hair stylist and natural hair enthusiast, I enjoy seeing people fully embracing their textured hair.
And while the natural hair movement has made strides towards dismantling Eurocentric beauty standards, there is still some residual colonial sentiment that we as a community must continue to dispel. This is an inside job my friends. It starts with one of the most important beauty rituals practiced by so many people of African descent…Wash Day.
Hair Wash Day is the number of hours or days set aside to attend to the care and styling of textured hair. Curly, coily, textured hair requires additional moisture and due to the intricacies of some of our cultural hairstyles, often requires additional time and attention to detail. This makes Wash Day the best opportunity to bond with our loved-ones and speak life into each other, rather than perpetuate negative sentiments. So how can we change the narrative and continue to uphold the social and emotional health of our community? Here are the three “Ps” that changed the Wash Day routine for me and my daughter, Zara.
PREPARATION. Studies show that structured activities for children can create a sense of security and predictability. This can lead to better emotional regulation for both you and the child. Once I started to include Zara in the planning of Wash Day, she stopped rebelling and exhibiting signs of irritability. I even started to build excitement leading to our bi-monthly appointment by letting her know that I look forward to that time with her and letting her choose the hairstyle. It also helps to have the products you need on hand to create the end result and make sure you create buffer time to complete the appointment. This way, wash day is happening with her and not too her.
PATIENCE. As the leader of this 4C household, I know first-hand that the detangling process can present challenges, especially on a tender head. Some of my earliest memories of Wash Day was muscling through the pain of a heavy-handed auntie who had no issue silencing my cries and strongly suggesting that I “toughen up.” As an adult, I sarcastically joke with my girlfriends about this shared experience, but I admit that this iteration of “being seen and not heard” and suffering in silence was traumatic. I had to find a way to break the cycle for me and Zara. Today I recommend acknowledging the child’s discomfort and use detangling techniques/tools to minimize discomfort. For instance, gently finger detangling and misting the hair with a leave in conditioner can prep the hair prior to detangling with a comb or flexible detangling brush. Also, using wide-tooth comb to gently rake through small sections from the ends to the root can minimize damage and tugging.
POSITIVITY. Speak life into the child and practice using affirming language, even in times of frustration. For example, our hair is not “difficult, tough or hard to deal with.” The coils, curls, twists, and zig-zag strands have personality. Our hair is linked to our powerful ancestry. Then try showing children pictures of great Black leaders who have hair like them. This foundational information builds confidence which can transform how children and adults approach the world and see themselves. I noticed a huge difference in Zara’s self-esteem once I took this approach. Our collective transformation inspired the book Zara’s Wash Day.
We have the power to dismantle hundreds of years of negative attitudes towards our aesthetic. It will not happen overnight. But let’s hold hands because it takes a village.
Zenda Walker is the award winning author of Zara’s Wash Day and CEO of Know Your Hairitage,LLC-a business consulting firm. Zara’s Wash Day and her second book, Zion’s Crown will be published globally under Running Press Kids in 2024. Visit www.knowyourhairitage.com for more information and booking inquiries.