The author with her mother
The author with her moth­er

There have been a few spot­lights on nat­ur­al hair’s rise in pop­u­lar­i­ty in dif­fer­ent African coun­tries, such as the Ivory Coast, but rarely do we get accounts of the move­ment from the per­spec­tive of folks who are famil­iar with the move­ment here. Luck­i­ly, I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vis­it Johan­nes­burg, South Africa a few weeks ago and get an inside look into the up and com­ing nat­ur­al hair move­ment at the Johan­nes­burg Nat­ur­al Hair Meet­up.

What peo­ple are think­ing

At the meet­up, one of the biggest con­cerns expressed was the accept­abil­i­ty of nat­ur­al hair in the work­place. As in the Unit­ed States, women in all fields of work felt empow­ered enough to wear their hair nat­ur­al to their work­place — from media to busi­ness to law — but oth­ers in those same fields did not feel com­fort­able. Push­back against nat­ur­al hair came from all direc­tions: people’s fam­i­lies, their white South African cowork­ers, and their black South African cowork­ers and friends. The sec­ond biggest con­cern was the lack of avail­abil­i­ty of nat­ur­al hair care prod­ucts that we’re so used to in the US. How­ev­er, South Africans have cre­at­ed their own nat­ur­al hair solu­tions on their own, such as Nubian Nature, Africa Grace, Afro Amour, Asili, Earth Prod­ucts, and many more.

Pop­u­lar Styles

Although the nat­ur­al hair move­ment is only a few years old and has yet to gain trac­tion amongst col­lege-aged youth, there were a vari­ety of nat­ur­al hair­styles that I observed both on the streets and at the event. In the streets of Joburg, the most pop­u­lar nat­ur­al hair­style was a cropped Cae­sar hair­cut, about a half an inch off the scalp. A good num­ber of both men and women had dread­locks, a high­er per­cent­age even in nat­ur­al hair mec­cas like New York City and corn­rows and braids were also very pop­u­lar. Longer loose nat­ur­al hair­styles past TWA length were few and far between, and I saw maybe four women with cro­chet braids, but most were worn unde­fined, not dipped and curled like we’re fond of doing here in the US. Sur­pris­ing­ly, unlike in West Africa, very few women wore head cov­er­ings, both in the down­town busi­ness dis­trict and in the more hip neigh­bor­hood of Braam­fontein.

At the event, there was a mix of fros, twistouts, locks, corn­rows and a few braids. Check out the gallery of pho­tos from the event below!

What do you think of the spread of nat­ur­al hair through­out the world?

Klassy Kinks founder and edi­tor, Ijeo­ma Eboh, is on a mis­sion to change per­cep­tions of kinky tex­tured hair around the world. You can find her on social media @klassykinks.

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14 Comments on "True Life: I Went to South Africa to Experience the Budding Natural Hair Movement"

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I agree. We have been nat­ur­al. I was always cut­ting my hair. Grow­ing my fro and relax­ing for years. Two years ago I decid­ed I want­ed to go com­plete­ly nat­ur­al. My hair was dry and I was wash­ing it every­day just to be able to style it. I was tired of dry­ness and knots I was think­ing to relax, until I decid­ed to google afros, and dis­cov­ered this blog and oth­ers and learned there is a bet­ter way to care for my afro. We were there, but not in a move­ment. Since hav­ing nat­ur­al hair I eas­i­ly spot nat­u­rals all… Read more »
Miss B.e

Gii­irl!! I been nat­ur­al. Google isi­co­lo — its a South African hair­style Amer­i­cans always pin — nat­ur­al hair is made to look like a hat of sorts. I was at the event, and you’re a love­ly girl btw. But daaamn, we been nat­ur­al — so nat­ur­al in fact we don’t have blogs / videos / etc

Charlotte Roberts

I think it’s great and I fol­low quite a few Niger­ian sis­ter and African blog­gers. I have learned a lot.

Stephanie Palmer
I went to South Africa two years ago. I thought every­one around me would be sport­ing a head full of their own curls in vary­ing lengths and styles. I was com­plete­ly wrong. I was the odd per­son out. It nev­er occurred to me that they would be sport­ing straight hair, weaves, wigs. etc.… I hadn’t real­ized how much my view of Africa was taint­ed by my upbring­ing and Amer­i­can-cen­tric news. It was real­ly shock­ing. I just knew that their would be a bunch of afros with picks like some 70’s film. It real­ly nev­er occurred to me that African’s would… Read more »
Mka B

I’m Kenyan and I will read­i­ly admit that our cul­ture has been erod­ed by West­ern influ­ence. The fact is, we all fol­low Amer­i­can trends. You’d think that Africans would be the one’s lead­ing the nat­ur­al hair move­ment, but even in this one, we’ve tak­en our cue from our Amer­i­can sis­ters. I nev­er knew how to take care of my hair until I start­ed fre­quent­ing sites like this one and watch­ing YouTube videos by black Amer­i­cans.


Awww.…it doesn’t mat­ter how, when, or why you started…just keep at it …it’s all worth it…have fun and enjoy and good luck on your nat­ur­al jour­ney.


They all look BEAUTIFUL! Loves it!


This is great that South African women (and Black women all over the world) are embrac­ing their nat­ur­al hair! I’m lov­ing the move­ment. But I can’t ignore how sad it is that women in Africa of all places are slow­ly learn­ing to love their hair. I’m glad that we are dis­re­gard­ing out­side influ­ence when it comes to our appear­ance!


I’m Zim­bab­wean and here, a duo of Zim­bab­we ladies are attempt­ing to bring nat­ur­al hair on the scene in Zim­bab­we, Zam­bia, Malawi and Mozam­bique. Their FB page They have also opened a nat­ur­al hair salon in our cap­i­tal Harare and they have also tried to bring in a array of prod­ucts for us. They too are work­ing on prod­uct lines. We appria­ci­ate their efforts though I think it will be a bit of a while before peo­ple here ful­ly realise the beau­ty of nat­ur­al hair.

Lola Aikins
I’m from South Africa and I’m 19 and I agree with you , peo­ple my age aren’t real­ly into nat­ur­al hair but it’s slow­ly , VERY slow­ly grow­ing among uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents and school going chil­dren. The most com­mon hair­style among peo­ple my age and in school are box braids/twists it’s pret­ty much the stan­dard black school girl style . The major­i­ty of black women in South Africa do not know how to look after their hair . South African women/ girls gen­er­al­ly have ter­ri­ble short unhealthy hair because the vast major­i­ty don’t know how to look after their hair .… Read more »

lol. I’m also 19!and been nat­ur­al now for a year and a half (: its true.natural hair on campus(im in third year) is emerg­ing too but i hope they’ll be inter­est­ed in it enough to retain length past neck length.

Good­luck, Lola! Hope­ful­ly you’re an inspi­ra­tion to the ladies (:


I’m also in South Africa and I’ve seen a huge boom in nat­ur­al hair care, espe­cial­ly in the last two years or so. It’s like every­where I turn women are wear­ing their hair nat­u­ral­ly, loose or in locs. Not sure what’s hap­pen­ing on the uni and high school fronts, but it’s def­i­nite­ly catch­ing on. Most SA nat­u­ral­is­tas on insta­gram are hov­er­ing some­where around shoul­der length — armpit length (myself includ­ed) so it will be inter­est­ing to see us all go past that stage in the next few months/years. Then we’ll be see­ing more long-haired nat­u­rals around :)

Lola Aikins

That’s like me ! I’m two years post relax­er in a week and my hair is a lit­tle past shoul­der length . These next few months are cru­cial because then I would’ve gone past a point where my hair has been longer than it’s ever been so I’m also excit­ed to see what hap­pens in the next few years !


Look­ing good my sis­tahs!