History Repeating: Texture Manageability Systems On the Rise, Will Relaxers Make a Comeback?

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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).

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“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?

References:

1. Thirsty Roots

2. Madam Walker

3. Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America

This post also appears on Black Girl with Long Hair.

5 comments

  1. Interesting post, many thanks for sharing! I’ve thought about using these systems but I don’t want to lose my curl pattern for the sake of better manageability. For now I’ll stick to taking care of my hair with good products my hair likes.

  2. I have to be honest, I’ve thought about getting a wig or even straightening my hair with heat once in a while. But I haven’t gotten around to getting a wig, I guess having that option doesn’t mean THAT much to me. I did a blow out once and tried to flat iron, but it didn’t work well because I didn’t use enough heat. It also reminded me of how much work it is to get that look, so I don’t bother anymore. Sometimes I get frustrated with my curls, but when they are wet in the shower, I remember how amazing they are to be so springy, kinky, curly, and coily. It’s been two and a half years since I started growing my hair and I’ve only done a blow-out once. Even when I get my hair cut, I always get it cut curly by a natural hair pro (and yes, it is even!). For me, the flexibility comes from the fact that I don’t have to do anything but wash and moisturize my hair before I go. Twist outs give me even more time to get up and go when I take the time to put them in. I think the best part of all is not getting sweaty after washing my hair by using a blow dryer. That alone is worth it.

  3. I have never even been tempted to try any texture manageability systems, as I have no interest in using such products, as if I prefer to mainly wear my hair in its naturally curly state anyways. To get my hair straight anytime I want to, all I need to do is to blow dry my hair and then straighten it. Yes, there are naturals that have tried such alternatives to relaxers, and yes, there will be some naturals that will ultimately decide to try such just to see how it will work in their hair. I don’t have anything against against naturals choosing to try texture manageability systems, feeling that this will make their natural hair much easier to manage. They have every right to spend their money the way that they choose to. In the world today, there are certainly more people that are rocking their hair natural or that are deciding to stop relaxing their hair and go natural. However, amongst most Black females, I still continue to see them rocking relaxed hair styles, weaves, extensions, and wigs. I do feel that amongst most Black women, going natural and dealing with their own natural texture is something that they will never feel acceptable towards doing. They, of course, do have the right to do so. It is very awesome when I see other females in my local area that do wear their hair natural, and are not afraid to rock such out publicly. But, in our local area there are no curly or natural hair salons, so we are all basic DIY’ers. I am very thankful that now there are more products on the market that do allow for manageability of ones naturally curly hair than before, because no matter what ones natural hair type or hair texture one has, there truly is no such thing as “unmanageable hair”. And, no natural should ever allow themselves to ever get caught in seeing their hair as being such.

  4. I think that this time is different. Natural hair is here to stay. The symbolism of a black president and the illusion of a post racial society has in a way made it “okay” to be black and proud again. Hair is always central to black pride i.e “the Afro” in the 1960’s. Enter the natural hair movement.

    Plus the shame has been removed from weaves and wigs so the flexibility is there to have the best of both worlds. What is the point in permanently altering your hair? With a divorce rate of 50% women are not committing to anything, least of all hair.

    Also I think that the paradigm shift of more women working and changing the power balance has also enabled black women to take the reigns and be proud of her natural looks and hair. We no longer need beauty permission slips from black men or any man or that matter and so we are bold proudly wearing our hair in its natural state. As if to say” i am in charge, I’m the boss” it doesn’t matter what society thinks.

    Lastly: Natural hair is here to stay because no one dares to defy the groundwork of Chris Rock and the informative masterpiece that was “Good Hair”. He put a comedic twist on serious information that enlightened the black community. And just like the Jheri curl became a joke after viewing good hair, anyone that would willingly cook their tresses can be seen as funny and laughable. Black people never want to be the butt of jokes we are the inventors of the snap. Chris’s documentary broke the natural hair glass ceiling and I think that he is responsible for this movement unbeknownst to himself and many others.

    1. Hello Elle,

      Women of color demand options; therefore, relaxers, weaves, braids, extensions, color, wigs, and natural hair will always be on the hair menu. While I personally do not think natural hair is a fad, I can understand why you posed the question. The afro hair was a “rebellious” message by some in the late 60s through early 80s, and simply a pop culture hairstyle for others. In my (albeit humble) opinion, the afro style was a step in the right direction that said to the world, I’m black and I’m proud, so deal with it (the ‘it’ being my skin color and my nappy hair). When the nation began seeing more tv shows about black Americans in their life (ghetto poor, middle class, and uber rich), knowledge brought acceptance of the black culture (to a degree). So with guards down, attitudes relaxed, we relaxed or jheri curled our fro’s. The mid 80s ushered in the weaves, and OMG, sistas went left berserk with fake hair trailing down their backs (no shade intended)!

      Circa late 90s, the natural hair community pricked our consciousness by showing us the beauty and versatility of our real hair texture. With such versatility why would you want a relaxer just to have straight hair – when natural hair allows you the option of rocking your natural coils to bun it, twist it, braid it, fro it, blow it dry, straighten it, and … well, you get my point.

      Finally, I say GREAT to the hair chemical manufacturers that are finally recognizing health should come before profit, and introducing healthier hair products and alternatives to the black community – even if it is relaxers or the newer “air perm” that is currently being touted as the new healthy relaxer (is that even possible? she says sarcastically. But, I digress). Long-winded answer, but no, natural hair is here to stay. I guess my question is … why does the world want to “manage” my hair anyway? Let my wild coils and kinks simply be. Team Natch 4 Ever and a Day. Amen.

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