Editor's note: This is part two of a two-part interview with two of the founders of the Curls, Coils, and Sisterhood conference that recently took place in the United Kingdom. Click here to read part one.
The challenges and misconceptions when it comes to natural hair care, styling and the hijab can often be overwhelming and can come from multiple directions. Women report that within salons, stylists often don’t understand that women who wear hijab also want beautiful hair and want to feel pampered. Meanwhile some Muslim leaders can portray certain natural hairstyles as unappealing or even un-Islamic (when in fact, that is not the case).
A recent conference in the United Kingdom addressed many of these concerns, helping to build a positive, supportive and educational rapport between Black and Muslim women with natural hair. The Curls, Coils, and Sisters one-day conference featured sessions about ghusl (the Islamic ritual bathing and cleansing a Muslim woman must do after her period ends or after she has intimate relations with her spouse before she can pray), styling and product, and how these three areas pertain to natural hair care.
The conference was organized by the 4c_Hijabi
(Rahma), who uses her platform to help Muslim women find practical haircare solutions and hijab styles; Muna, who is the founder of Covered’N’Curly
, a brand dedicated to supporting individuals embarking on their natural hair journey with an emphasis on serving Muslim women; and Jennifer Ogunyemi, the founder of Sisters in Business, a platform empowering female entrepreneurs and co-author of “A Muslimah’s Guide to Healthy Hijab Hair
I spoke with Rahma and Muna about their conference and their work. We discussed how the challenges of caring for and styling natural hair as well as finding the best and most protective hairstyles that will wear well under hijab are ones that are woefully under-addressed, which often leaves Black and Muslim women and those with natural hair feeling unsupported and bereft of good information and advice.
This is part two of a two-part interview. Part one discusses how the conference came to be and what women learned there
Attendees listen to speakers at the Curls, Coils, and Sisterhood conference; all images provided by Rahma and Muna.
What are the common challenges faced by women of color when it comes to managing and styling their natural hair?
Rahma and Muna: There are several. For example, struggling with not knowing where to start or how to begin their natural hair journey, which can be overwhelming without proper guidance or resources. Also, feeling a lack of representation and visibility, as there may not be enough individuals showcasing diverse natural hair styles.
Then there’s the influence of European beauty standards, which can create pressure to conform to hair ideals that don't align with the natural texture and characteristics of their own hair. It is great to see more and more Black women showing the diversity in our hair and creating our own beauty standards.
In addition to all this, there are cultural expectations and habits that do not align with their hair goals, [a lack of] hijab-friendly salons and services, and overwhelming contradicting hair care information online.
Subsequently, how do these challenges translate for those who wear hijab with their natural hair? What are some of the things that hijab companies just don’t get?
Muna: One common misconception is that hijab is seen as a barrier or a form of oppression. An example of this is within salons – people not realising that we too would like to get our hair done and feel pampered. It’s as if non-Muslims (not all) think that wearing the hijab stops us from indulging in self care. [This is] why many Muslim sisters avoid going to the salon, because they either feel excluded or feel out of place. As a result of this neglect their hair and their needs too.
Additionally, underrepresentation of Muslim women in the hair industry. Although this is not common, brands tend to target Muslim women but aren’t properly addressing our (Black Muslim women’s) needs and most importantly, they are not representing us properly in their work. It is great to see the rise in Black Muslim/Muslim-owned businesses catering to their own.
Rahma: Apart from the general hair care issues that Black women face, Black Muslim women have the same issues with the added layer of the expectation that our hair must look ‘beautiful’ under our hijab – beauty, which is often attributed to unattainable Eurocentric standards. This was clearly revealed in the survey where sisters from white majority countries shared fear that potential spouses may turn them down because of their hair texture.
Rahma speaking at the Curls, Coils, and Sisterhood conference.
One survey respondent said, “I feel as though a future spouse might think they know what to expect with my hair because of either just predetermined judgment or whatever, but I feel like once there is a ‘reveal,’ they’ll see it’s not as appealing to them as other straight hair … it might be deemed ugly to them.”
With regards to what hijab companies don't tend to get – it’s the science of the Black Muslimahs’ hair and what it requires. Satin-lined hijabs/underscarves
are crucial for tightly coiled textures that need low friction to retain length. They also need to understand that many Muslim women want comfort and ease, underscarves that accommodate the volume of our hair
, and ghusl-formulated hair care products or advice and hijab-friendly styling services.
Apart from the general hair care issues that Black women face, Black Muslim women have the same issues with the added layer of the expectation that our hair must look ‘beautiful’ under our hijab – beauty, which is often attributed to unattainable Eurocentric standards.
What are some common misconceptions or myths surrounding natural hair care for women of color that need to be debunked?
Rahma and Muna: Where do we start? Here’s a short list:
- The belief that our hair is difficult to manage or maintain, disregarding the fact that with proper care and knowledge, natural hair can be maintained.
- The misconception that because our hair is often covered by a headscarf, its appearance doesn't matter and therefore I do not need to do anything with it – that common phrase, it’s not like anyone is going to see it – neglects the importance of self-care and can potentially lead to a lack of confidence in our hair. And hair care is a form of self care.
- The myth that water alone can moisturise our hair. Failing to recognize the need for proper hydration, conditioning and moisture-retaining products can lead to dry hair and being put off the whole hair care because you don’t seem to understand what might be wrong with your hair. As Rahma said in the session on ghusl, water ALONE cannot keep hair moisturised.
- The misconception that keeping our hair in long-term protective styles for weeks or months is necessary for hair growth, overlooking the potential damage and neglect that can occur without regular care and attention. Healthy scalp = healthy hair.
- Becoming a product junkie, as a result of buying a bunch of products that are unnecessary and as a result of this disregarding the importance of understanding our hair's specific needs and using suitable, quality products.
- The myth that following every hair trend is necessary or beneficial simply because it's popular. For example Egg Avocado as a protein treatment – it’s better you eat that than apply it to your hair.
- That locs are haram because they imitate non-Muslim Rasterfarian religion, are not clean, cannot accommodate ghusl or are associated with drugs. The reality is locs have existed as early as 500 BC and can be seen across many African cultures, from Egyptians to the African Kikuyu tribe. In fact, many women with locs shampoo their hair regularly, and the locs even hold on to more water, making them ghusl-compliant.
What are some specific concerns women with natural hair have when wearing hijab? What did women share at the conference?
Muna speaking at the Curls, Coils, and Sisterhood conference.
Rahma and Muna: The concerns conference attendees brought to our attention included traction alopecia, finding suitable and comfortable hairstyles, maintaining moisture in the hair under the hijab, and managing wudu and ghusl practices while preserving the hair's health/moisture
The event provided a platform for women to discuss these concerns openly, exchange experiences and learn strategies to address these challenges effectively. We did this through a Q&A panel session allowing the attendees to ask their questions and hear from us and a licensed trichologist
. The attendees thoroughly enjoyed this.
What are some recommended hair care routines and products specifically tailored for women of color with natural hair?
Muna and Rahma: With regards to a hair care routine for natural hair, here’s some of what you need to know:
1. Create a routine around your Islamic lifestyle.
2. Time wash day to ghusl and use ghusl to rinse out shampoo/conditioner.
3. Time silk presses to when wudu is not obligatory to reduce the rate of reversion cure to water.
4. Have your moisturising products in a visible and accessible place so it's easy to maintain a consistent moisturising routine. Do not play with your moisturising routine if you are a curly/coily girl who wants to retain length.
5. Avoid anything that encourages matting (unless you are locked). More matting results in more work required to detangle which has a knock on effect on styling and even lack of patience and gentleness with the hair. This can lead to excessive breakage, discomfort and overall a negative haircare experience.
6. Always, and we mean ALWAYS, condition your hair with a rinse out conditioner for about 20 mins after EVERY shampoo to replenish the hair after cleansing.
7. Pick three easy styles that you can do and switch in between. Save extravagant styling that you cannot adequately maintain/takedown for the special occasions.
Demonstrating a hair style at the Curls, Coils, and Sisterhood conference.
Rahma: My hair is very coily, very prone to dryness and breaks easily due to friction. So, I love products that help me mitigate this. Personally, my favourites are:
Inches Conditions by Enitan
, which was specifically formulated to penetrate in five mins for afro hair. I use it as a quick pre-ghusl treatment for my ends. It's been a game changer for my ghusl routine. I also love Enitan’s Moisture Hold
which has amplified the moisture retention of any moisturiser I use before it. I once had cornrows and seven days later, it was still like I just moisturised them.
I love Ori Oifestyle’s Ododo moisturise
r. Her products are so rich and light, but you feel it instantly moisturise the hair. She also make luxurious hair care gift sets that are perfect for friends, Eid and even potential spouses =) As I am’s JBCO water
contains ceramides that have been amazing at quickly refreshing my curls and further helps me maintain the moisture I've previously applied for a longer time without much effort.
Slip is my best friend when detangling, and it doesn't get better for me than silicon- based conditioners mixed with Rapeseed oil with a bit of water. Trust me, it's cut my detangling time in more than half!
How can women of color address and overcome self-esteem or societal challenges related to their natural hair? What’s your advice?
Rahma and Muna: Women of colour can address and overcome self-esteem or societal challenges related to their natural hair by following some key advice:
First, it is essential to seek out individuals within the hair community who resemble and understand their experiences, ensuring they receive informed and reliable advice. Curls, Coils, and Sisters is an example of a hair community. Being part of supportive communities can provide encouragement, shared experiences, and valuable resources. Second, they should exercise caution and not believe everything they see online, as there is an abundance of misleading information.
Additionally, It is important to create your own beauty standards free from societal pressures. Our hair, our identity, our beauty and us as people are unique, and we are different for a reason. Let's use our own beauty to create a standard that we want to look up to. We are definitely starting to see this happen more.
Last, finding products and brands specifically designed to meet the needs of Black women with natural hair can significantly contribute to self-esteem and confidence in hair care routines because we know that they know what we need for our hair. We have so many to share; check below for the list.
What are some popular hairstyles and protective styles that women of color often choose for their natural hair?
Muna and Rahma: Popular examples of hairstyles include braids, twists, flat twists, blowouts, braid outs, twists outs, and wash and go’s, which can be styled in various ways, whether worn up or down.
Participants listen to presenters at the Curls, Coils, and Sisterhood conference.
At the Curls, Coils, and Sisters event, Muna conducted a session on styling with a particular focus on protective styles. She shared tips on maintaining these styles, debunked misconceptions, and provided short clips demonstrating how to achieve the perfect braids to wear under the hijab. A highlight of the session was the introduction of Hijabi Hairstyles
, an emerging platform run by the 4c_Hijabi
. This platform aims to help Black Muslim sisters discover hijab-friendly hairstyles by showcasing a carousel of healthy and practical styles.
What are some resources, communities, or platforms that women of color can turn to for support, guidance, and inspiration regarding their natural hair?
1. Curls, Coils, and Sisters: an annual hair care event for Black and Muslim women.
A platform sharing healthy hair tips for hijabis and curly hair with a small business offering hair care accessories.
3. Your Salon Directory:
A platform + app to help Black and Muslim women find salons quicker and easier, a directory of salons. Run by Muna
4. 4c_Hijabi: Healthy hair advocate sharing practical hair tips, including hijabi haircare and afro haircare. 5. Hijabi Hairstyles: A gallery of hijab friendly hairstyles, showcasing healthy and practical styling tips. Run by Rahma 8. Enitan Hair Coach:
Trichologist science haircoach, including hair products for afro hair and healthy hair studio.
10. The Cowell:
Cosmetic scientist, science communicator and podcaster.
13. Hug My Hair:
Handmade afro hair products, hijabi-friendly by Dalilah
14. Textured Talks:
Podcaster Paige Lewin sharing candid conversations on the experiences of the curly and afro hair community.
16. NCBY Novella:
Kids' hair care, hair care coach for mothers.