Yasss! Box-braided and cornrow wigs are a thing. So are curly and kinky Afro clip-in hair extensions that fluff up like clouds. Meaning: Naturalistas, rejoice if you are looking to make your protective styles even more protective this summer.
Our hair is some of the most versatile and the most delicate on the planet, meaning that when we try to do it all, from kinky to straight, to snatched-back tight again in a crown of Fulani braids, we also often risk losing it all. Black women are alternately making the journey into natural hair or using lace-front wigs to hold on to the hair that God blessed us with. In fact, in 2016, 71 percent of African Americans wore natural styles at least once, and 63 percent of black women have purchased wigs, weaves or extensions in the last 12 months, with an average of $239 spent annually, according to Mintel research polls.
On social media—ground zero in the battle to validate and celebrate black women’s beauty—the hashtag #LaceFront lists 1.1 million posts on Instagram, while the hashtag #BraidedWigs lists 29,729 posts.
Prediction: That number will triple by 2019.
Hand-braided human- or synthetic-hair wigs from Nigeria started to enter the American market about two years ago. The trend has caught on in large part because it allows us the beauty of traditional styles like million twists, Senegalese twists and micro-braid styles, without the time commitment of anywhere from four to 12 hours required for installation.
Braided wigs can remain intact for years at a time, making the cost of purchasing the hair a one-time investment. Two of the biggest bonuses for braided-wig wearers is supporting entrepreneurial African women, as well as freedom from excessive tension on the hair follicles and scalp, which can result in permanent hair loss. Braided wigs can be found anywhere from Amazon.com to Etsy and priced from as little as $50 for a well-crafted box-braid or cornrow synthetic-hair unit.
Wig-maker and studio hairstylist Andrea Wilson says, “Synthetic wigs can look fake and shiny.” The fix? Spritz synthetic wigs with a dry shampoo like Dove or TRESemmé to cut the shine. Wilson recommends holding the can 6-8 inches away from the hair before putting on the wig to ensure even product distribution.
Natural Bad Girl, a Nigerian maker and distributor of braided synthetic-hair wigs, bills itself in a press release as a market disruptor: “All too often, however, wigs have been set within certain constraints: straight and sometimes curly but rarely more adventurous or bold. Natural Bad Girl wigs ... launched to ... change the way people see wigs.”
YouTuber and wig aficionado D4Dannie shows us four braided styles from different well-priced brands in this video. There are a few installation tips as well, but not much info when it comes to hair care. Some Glow Up Tips to make braided wigs stay looking fresh:
Mist your braids with water, and apply a mousse like Nairobi, formulated for locking twisted or braided styles. Tie your hair down with a do-rag for 15 to 20 minutes before going out, and definitely overnight for sleeping, to keep things nice and smooth. Washing a braided wig may cause it to unravel, although the Natural Bad Girl site claims that washing the wig very gently—no rubbing or wringing, just dip it into water and drip dry—may preserve the style for up to two years.
From Pam Grier back in the day as Foxy Brown to Amara La Negra sashaying on my TV right now on VH1’s series Love & Hip Hop, the pursuit of the perfect ’fro has always been a thing. Some girls got it like that—and some girls need a little help to get it like that. Human-hair Afro wigs made from hair sourced in China or India, processed on rods in boiling water, and permed to resemble the curl patterns of African hair (often remarketed as “Brazilian” or “Malaysian,” among many fictitious monikers) are sold for as little as $30-$130 by internet retailers and can yield unpredictable results.
U.K. fashion blogger Freddie Harrel just launched a line of Afro-textured kinky and curly, cloudlike, synthetic clip-in extensions and wigs called Big Hair No Care. They’re made to be carefree—no products or washing required—only initial styling needed to achieve the perfect globe Afro or long, kinky styles.
Harrel, who has hosted pop-up shops in Paris, Geneva and Brooklyn, N.Y., has found a following for Big Hair No Care’s lightweight, matte-finish, textured hair to the tune of 148,000 followers on Instagram. The site recommends using two packs of hair per style, which will set you back anywhere from $108 to $128 for twin bundles of joy.