Intentional scalp care has always been a key practice for women with textured and coily hair, and the rest of beauty is starting to catch up. As more products and practices focused on the scalp flood the market, we spoke with hair experts to get to the root of the skinification movement and learn what’s next for textured hair care.
Textured Hair Often Requires More Intentional Care
To begin with, textured hair can mean anything from wavy to curly to coily to kinky, as it just means that the hair strand has a shape other than straight. These different shapes affect the overall look and feel of hair. For example, tightly coiled strands can form nearly invisible zig-zag patterns (kinks) that drastically shrink the length of the strand.
This kind of hair can be fragile and more prone to dryness. That means that people who have coily and kinky hair have always had to work harder to keep their scalp and hair healthy.
Founder and CEO of Swivel Beauty, an app that helps black women find expert hair care, Jihan Thompson argues that the skinification movement has textured hair to thank. “Women with textured hair have arguably been at the forefront of this trend for years now because they’ve always had to be more intentional about what products they’re applying on their coarse, curly texture, often out of necessity,” Thompson explains. “The increased focus on targeted ingredients like we see with skin care is finally becoming mainstream with haircare.”
Combatting Dryness Starts at the Roots
Founder and CEO of Josh Rosebrook Skin and Hair Care Josh Rosebrook explains that combatting dryness at the scalp is a common need for people with textured hair. “Textured hair tends to have a more dry scalp area,” Rosebrook says. “Oil massages and intensive conditioning masks can deliver excellent results when applied regularly. A regular practice is important.”
The popularity of both hair oiling and deep conditioning hair masks has steadily risen over the past few years. But both have been used by other cultures and by people with textured hair. Hair oiling is a common practice from Ayurvedic medicine, which seeks to holistically restore the body and spirit. Deep conditioning masks have been a critical step in texture hair care after chemical treatments, product use, heat styling, and before protective styling.
Founder and CEO of Carra, an AI-driven digital hair health platform for women with textured hair, Winnie Awa explains that the shape of the hair strand can affect how moisturized it is. “Due to the shape of curl follicles, it typically takes twice as long for moisture to travel down the hair shafts leaving it more naturally prone to dryness,” Awa explains. “This often leads to breakage and in some cases what can be perceived as a lack of growth.”
Keeping Hair Strong in Any Style
Take one look at the sheer versatility and creativity in Afro-hair styling and you know that textured hair can do some incredible things. From gravity-defying curls to long-wearing protective styles, naturally coily hair can do almost anything, as long as it’s healthy.
But while undoubtedly strong, textured hair can also be more easily broken.
“The structure of textured hair tends to be more fragile,” Rosebrook explains. That said, if you are listening to your scalp, you can increase your hair’s strength. “Tune into your scalp and hair and determine its needs and go from there.”
According to Thompson, it’s important to know exactly what’s been done to hair when talking about fragility. “Textured hair can be more fragile, but when it’s healthy, it can also be very strong,” Thompson says. “There are many considerations to factor in when it comes to styling. For example, is the hair being regularly straightened and prone to heat damage? Is the client regularly getting protective styles like braids that can cause more scalp buildup? What about color or straightening treatments like relaxers and keratin?
“All of these scenarios would require different product regimens to make sure the scalp and strands stay protected and healthy. So, the ingredients you’d want to focus on will really depend on the health of the hair and the styling preferences. The two go hand-in-hand.”
Protective Styling Has Different Cleansing Needs
Just like Thompson said, protective styles can lead to product and grime buildup in the scalp. So, the approach to cleansing changes to clean the scalp properly without disrupting the protective style or damaging the hair itself.
“Whilst the hair is in certain protective styles, the cleansing technique changes to accommodate the need to cleanse the scalp without drenching the entire hair in water,” Awa explains. “For instance, typically whilst in braids, a recommended technique would be to dilute some shampoo in water and cleanse it gently with cotton pads.”
One way the rise of skinification has helped this community is by introducing new scalp exfoliators, meant to target that build up specifically.
“Just as the skin on our face can benefit from exfoliation, so can the skin on our scalp because after all, the scalp really is just skin,” Awa says. “Quite often, products targeted towards textured hair often come with richer and creamier formulations which can lead to product buildup both whilst in braids, locs or even whilst the hair is out in its natural state.
“For healthy hair and scalp balance, keeping the hair clean, free of environmental debris and build up is definitely a great idea.”
Ingredient-Forward and Building Trust
One important way the skinification trend has been influenced by the textured hair community and the natural hair movement is the significance of building trust and focusing on ingredients.
Chemical relaxers, for example, can cause painful burns and have been linked to uterine cancer. They were used for decades without this knowledge, but are still used today as well.
“There unfortunately hasn’t been much innovation in this space yet,” Thompson says. “Because of the chemicals used to alter the hair’s texture, relaxers can still leave painful burns on the scalp and cause irritation depending on how long they’re left on and, especially, if applied incorrectly.”
In response, the natural hair movement was born, emphasizing the health and beauty of naturally textured hair. In addition to leaving behind chemical relaxers, the natural hair movement emphasized the importance of ingredient-focused, gentle care.
“The natural hair movement really became the clean beauty movement,” Awa says. “And now it’s going on to do the same thing: questioning products that claim to be clean through green washing, but actually aren’t.”
In addition, black women have pioneered their own brands and put pressure on companies and governments to consider the health and safety of consumers. They’ve also created a community that demands accountability and results from their hair care.
“It’s not enough to just slap shea butter on a product and say it’s for black women,” Awa says. “We need to know these products work. That the ingredients work and are safe. You have to start from the ground up.”
Discrimination is still a huge factor for those with textured hair.
“At Swivel, we actually did a survey of 300 of our users and found that more than 3 in 5 of the respondents said they straightened or wore a straight style (like a weave or wig) for a job interview,” Thompson says. “So, while fewer Black women are getting treatments like relaxers these days, the cultural discrimination that helped make them popular still persists.”
Platforms like Swivel and Carra exist to bridge the gap between the consumer and the specialized hair and scalp care that textured hair requires. In doing so, they’re building a trusted community of hair-care experts and knowledgeable consumers.
“At CarraLabs, we’re getting to how we actually formulate properly,” Awa says. “Brands are coming to us and saying they want their products to be diverse, but they don’t know how to make that happen. So, we’re using our knowledge to help them create products that are culturally relevant and effective for the consumer.”