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The Natural Hair Scene in Jamaica

When I read interviews of naturalistas on the big natural hair blogs based in the US, they always ask what the natural hair scene is like in the interviewee’s community or country as the case may be. I began to look around and wonder how I would describe the scene in Jamaica. It’s a little difficult to describe, as the “fad” of natural hair in my opinion is all the rage overseas now, but our elders here have always been wearing their hair natural. My grandmother and my mom was the one to introduce me to a hot comb. I’m not sure if my grandmother ever got a relaxer but my mom has tried every hairstyle under the sun. Jherri curls, relaxers, braids, weaves, natural, colour, the whole nine yards. She’s now back to natural. I think I would sorta describe the scene in Jamaica as evolving. Our elders always wore natural hair and always used things like castor oil and grease in their hair. Us youngsters (calling myself a youngster sure feels good LOL) may have had relaxed hair ever since we were babies or may have grown up and experimented with it when we were allowed (as in my case) and are now embracing our natural hair and researching new spins on old ingredients that our ancestors used.

Now, this is just my observation, but that’s where I think this natural hair phenomenon stands in Jamaica, maybe the Caribbean. I mean, in the US, its sorta the norm for girls to have a perm. In those same interviews one of the questions is always “When did you decide to go natural” and few of them reply “I’ve always been natural.” Here in Jamaica I’m not sure it is the accepted norm. There were a whole lot of natural hair girls at my high school, myself being one of them. We got our hair twist/plait/canerow or what I guess would be called “protectively styled” on a Sunday and kept it in all week until we could manage it ourselves or put it in a bun. Mine was always in a damn bun. I don’t want to try and speak for the whole nation though, please join in the convo and let me know what your hair journey was like growing up. I decided to get a relaxer for graduation, simply because. I had no big reason, it was just a thing to do for graduation. I didn’t go to a professional however and the results were disastrous. I had to cut it all off right away. Hence, this ugly bob thing for my graduation.


Deep sigh.

So that was 12 years ago. At almost 30, I was only a relaxer head for 12 years. Not my whole life. I can’t believe people put relaxers in the heads of 3 and 4 year olds. The burns I used to get, I cannot imagine! But I guess those kiddie versions aren’t so harsh?

I digress.

I went to a natural hair meet-up put on by Curly Centric Jamaica last weekend and it was quite interesting. It was cool to see all these women sharing, learning, interacting. It was nice. And to see so many natural hair providers touting their products was good too because one of the complaints I have is finding some of the ingredients I read about here in Jamaica. I picked up some essential oils in support and was pleased to see people there who made their own lines as well. Between me and you I have been knee deep in research trying to develop my own line simply because I make these things for my own hair and have totally fallen in love with certain ingredients and think I should be making them in larger batches and sharing them with the community.

What I appreciated a lot about the meetup were all the different textures, all looking so gorgeous. A lot of people see my hair and the first comment out their mouth is “you lucky you have pretty hair” and I smile and wave because sometimes I really can’t. I believe that all our textures are beautiful and just need a little love, not a harsh chemical, to be great but some people don’t want to see it this way. Look at these pictures, aren’t they gorge?

Pictures from the Curly Centric FB Page. This weekend is another natural centric event! The natural hair scene in Jamaica is banging! Fashion and Mingle, right up my alley. Will you be there?

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14 thoughts on “The Natural Hair Scene in Jamaica

  1. had my hair relaxed for fifth form grad. then i relaxed it once a year after that for 2 years…after U6 i realized i could just straighen it with a straightener if i wanted it straight…cos even if i relaxed it… it got curly after a while…and i couldnt tell permed hair from my real hair… havent relaxed it in forever..dont intend to.. it made my hair thin….and i can get that staight sleep look with a likkle gel lol

    1. i think when i heat-straightened my hair over these past holidays is when i was really convinced i could do this. natural hair is soooooooo versatile! no need for the creamy crack! LOL

  2. My hair story: Natural till 16. Relaxed it the first day of 6th form though EVERYONE told me not to, loved it for about 2 years then slowly wanted to go back to natural. After just 4 years relaxed I chopped it off and grew it back to shoulder length, then chopped it again…and then again. After that last damn near bald experience I’ve promised myself I won’t cut it again for the next 5 years. We’ll see.

    You mention the elders. Remember the Pentecostal Christians as well. Natural hair has always been accepted from that group, to the point where when some people go natural they are asked if dem tun Christian, lol. On another point, I love the fact that people in JA tend to relax their children’s hair at an older age. Very few primary/prep schoolers have relaxed hair.

    I’d love it if you could explore natural hair in the corporate world. I know that as a hair TYPE it’s accepted but what kind of styles are, and what are not? At what point do people have the right to bawl ‘creativity’ or ‘self acceptance’ and when do they need to just shut up and keep it moving? *hint hint…idea* Lol. Looking forward to the post 😀

    1. true, if you’re hair is natural people sometimes assume it’s for religious reasons because its so popular here for that reason too. you make good points, i’ll look into that angle 😀

  3. I find this interesting because for years I struggled with my hair and it dominated my life! I decided to get a relaxer and then it went downhill after experimenting with colour! All I sport now are weaves and my natural hair is a disater I dont think I could ever go back natural though… 🙁

  4. “What I appreciated a lot about the meetup were all the different textures, all looking so gorgeous. A lot of people see my hair and the first comment out their mouth is “you lucky you have pretty hair” and I smile and wave because sometimes I really can’t. I believe that all our textures are beautiful and just need a little love, not a harsh chemical, to be great but some people don’t want to see it this way. Look at these pictures, aren’t they gorge?”

    Exactly! You read my mind. I went to the mall the other day to buy a gift. The woman behind the counter was so pleasant. I had twists in my hair. She complimented me so nicely and then said “But you have that good grain of hair.” -_- I just had to smile my “okay” and nod and walk away, shaking my head. Good hair is healthy hair. All those pictures you had of people – beautiful hair!

    I had a relaxer in my hair for two years of my life – during 7th and 8th grade. My aunt convinced me that straightening my hair with a relaxer would make me pretty like my sister. I was vulnerable. It worked. By the time 9th grade came around, though, I was tired of it. For me, it was just… so much effort. I was never one to go to a hair stylist and get my hair done on a regular basis, so it was just me at home. Whenever my hair was straightened after that, it was the good old blow dryer and curling iron.

    So I resumed my naturality at 14. I can say that only in the most RECENT years, though, have I been paying attention to my hair care, what I use, the routines, etc. I am really loving that folks are sharing their routines, reviews of products, the hair styles, everything!

    Love the blog, Nique! 🙂

  5. I’m so glad I found this post. I have been natural on and off for since 2004. I am from the US, but have spent a lot of time this year in Kingston. It’s been cool to walk around and see the TWAs and all of the natural styles around the island and I was wondering if there was a natural hair community that did meet ups and such. I decided to loc my hair last year, but missing my afro something serious!

    Anywho, thanks for this post and sharing your journey. Hope to meet you at Curly Centric Jamaica one day!

  6. Love this post. So much detail and I can completely relate. Being in the UK, relaxers are so common that a couple years ago when I decided to go natural, it was met with much shock. Honestly, whether travelling and especially in Jamaica I feel at my most comfortable to plait my hair and go. I feel less judged, yet with time, I care much more about pleasing myself rather than those around me!

    1. thanks! I read a post a while back of a jamaican in canada and the stares she got while wearing her natural hair! we take these things for granted, i can’t imagine how I would react to negative reactions to the way my hair grows out my head

  7. Lovely photos!

    I didn’t even realize there were natural hair meetups in Jamaica until this morning when I read a Curly-Centric article in the Flair and hit up Google to find out what CC was all about. (Incidentally, that also explains how I landed here)

    Your experience sounds a lot like mine (although you may very well consider me an ‘elder’, being all of a decade older). I’ve always just taken the whole ‘natural’ affair for granted… never thought of career impact or any of that (had Leisure Curl briefly – out of curiosity – after working for 3 years). I was a bit taken aback by all the American ‘hubbub’ online about ‘going natural’ when I first encountered it. I realised that I never gave much thought to the state of my hair as ‘natural’ before then. It was just me… the way I was intended to be…

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