Okay, before you think I’ve absolutely lost it, hear me out. I think that my thought process starts with most of us (well, me at least) considering the moment we began to “reject” our natural hair as the instant we received our first perm. When in fact, we were exposed to hot combs and pressing grease way before the “creamy crack” ever touched our scalps. But because this wasn’t a permanent alteration, it was easy to forget and focus on the perm.
Enter these new “texture manageability systems.” If you’re not familiar, texture manageability systems are product bundles that include a smoothing shampoo, conditioner (usually with shea butter and/or coconut oil), and a “special” leave-in conditioner that usually has essential oils and amino acids or proteins that claim to get hair straight and silky without the use of harsh chemicals. The leave-in conditioner, which is marketed as the “key” to the process, is also said to help prevent reversion of the hair back to the curly state, even in humidity. Additional benefits to texture manageability systems are easier detangling and softening the hair.
So, this whole resurgence of the “silky straightening without the perm” process got me thinking about Madam CJ Walker and her shampoo-press and curl system that included a straightening comb, her claim to fame. Replace our now “activated” leave-in conditioners with her Glossine pressing grease and a flat iron with a straightening comb, and you have some pretty similar product lineups. There are even similarities between the marketing used for TMS and the products on the Madam CJ Walker site (although yes, the current Walker site is not from the 1900s).
“Helps control unmanageable hair.” Aligns with TMS? Check.
Madam CJ Walker also apparently said that she was in the “hair growing business” with her own system and methodology. Interestingly enough, one of the main “natural mantras” focuses on growing an ample head of healthy hair using your own regimen (or using a regimen based on a kit you bought), i.e., your own system of sorts. TMS are said to make and hair more manageable and help the user retain length.
I know you’re wondering, “Elle, why the heck does any of this matter?” Well, it matters because I wonder if how close we are getting to taking one more step back to relaxers. However, his time, they would be revamped with the hottest buzz ingredients and new treatment name, just like they were revamped before (no lye is gentler!) and multiple times before that looking back to the first relaxer invented in the early 1900s by Garrett A Morgan. When will enough be enough? How many different kinds of kits will we need to buy to make our natural hair “manageable”?
There may come a time when texture manageability isn’t enough and more permanent solutions are once again desired. As trends in black hair care shift, I am interested to see what styles remain popular, and what haircare systems remain on the market.
Are texture manageability systems one step towards relaxers or a more permanent straightening solution? Do you predict that natural hair will increase or decrease in popularity in the next few years?
2. Madam Walker
This post also appears on Black Girl with Long Hair.