Mixed-race hair

WASHINGTON (WOMENSENEWS)–Sophia Johnson wasn’t always thrilled with the hair products she used to tame her long, loose, auburn curls. Some were too strong and oily. Others dried out the hair of the 15-year-old D.C. native.

The commercials she saw on TV seemed to make products for straight, tameable hair while her biracial heritage limited her access to appropriate styling creams and conditioners.

For Johnson, and the growing numbers of those under 18 who check more than one “race” box on their Census forms, beauty care products for multiracial women have been pouring onto the market in recent years.

“I’ve always been able to find products that work for my hair,” said Johnson in an email interview, “but just not as good as mixed-girl products work.” Johnson’s said her thin hair has a lot of body, but sometimes gets frizzy. However with the line of Shea Moisture products, she has been able to solve that problem. It smooths the hair, while leaving her with full curls.

“My hair is something that sets me apart from everyone else in the room. It adds its own personality because it can be so big and exotic looking. I love my hair.” Johnson said.

Increasingly, girls such as Johnson are celebrating and enjoying their hair instead of thinking it is something they need to disguise or tame. And while they are buying into the surge of new hair products, plenty are also figuring out their own DIY hair care.

Cheaper Options Available

Fifteen-year-old D.C.-native Omolara Ayodeji used to get help from her white mother when she was younger. “When I got older it became more difficult because I didn’t have anything that was accessible to make styling my hair easier,” said the 15-year-old, whose father is Nigerian.

But she calls some of the heavily marketed products overpriced and said there are cheaper products available with less-known brand names. Ayodeji has also learned a few things from YouTube videos on easy recipes for hair care involving multiple oils and shea butter.

Now she uses leave-in conditioners, shea butter and argan oil and loves the laidback identity that her hair affords.

Blakely Smith agrees that some of the products, while welcome, are too expensive. “Thirty dollars for a curl mousse is a little crazy,” Smith said.

Smith grew up getting her combination of wavy and curly hair permed “almost every holiday” because “one side of my family believed I had ‘good hair’ with my loose curls, while the other side always wanted it to be straightened,” said Smith, 23.

Smith, who is African American and white, was raised in a white household in Atlanta where her hair was not the norm. Years of perming led to chunks of her hair falling off whenever she brushed her hair. It was only when mixed-girl hair products became more popular in stores that Smith’s hair finally began to have an appearance she was proud of.

“Products specifically for mixed girls allow my curls to be bouncy and vibrant,” said Smith. Even if she doesn’t embrace everything about the marketing boom in the new hair care products, she still likes the signal it gives her of social acceptance and even admiration. “There is also something nice about seeing your hair in its natural state and learning to work with that.”