It’s official: I am a prodigal naturalista. If you haven’t been following along, that means that after 18 months of transitioning and protective styling, I finally made the long-awaited move to cut the remainder of my keratin-straightened strands off in a return to my natural texture. And while it’s been a journey, I have to say, I feel much lighter (and a little...younger?).
To illustrate, here’s a before and after:
What do I love about my new/old hair? The volume, mostly. My straightened hair was easy (mainly because I live for a ponytail), but it was often boring; for the most part, it just hung there. That said, while this isn’t my first time rocking my natural curls, it’s been over a decade since I’ve done so regularly, a decade in which the beauty landscape has changed dramatically for natural hair—and I’d be lying if I said my texture hasn’t changed a little in the past decade, too (did I always have this much frizz?).
And while I’ve been reviewing natural hair care products since The Glow Up launched almost two years ago, actually wearing my hair in its full 3B-C glory full time presents a new journey: seeing which of the countless products on the market actually work for me in real life, for the long term.
I expect that journey to be ongoing but saw it as no coincidence that my final chop came soon after the release of Tracee Ellis Ross’ new haircare line for 3B-4C textures, Pattern. Since Ross has some of the most enviable hair that resembles my own curl pattern, I knew I had to get my hands on her goods, but when samples failed to arrive at our offices *shakes fist at the PR gods*, I was left to my own devices.
Clearly, I wasn’t the only one with the brilliant idea of trying Pattern; as I went in search of product both online and on foot, I came up empty—proving Ross’ brand might actually be the new “creamy crack,” since it was literally sold out everywhere. It took weeks, but finally, a stroll into my neighborhood Ulta yielded success—one of two travel sets left alone on the endcap, to be specific.
As Ross reportedly told Allure magazine, she’d initially been concerned about overstocking Ulta’s shelves (one of Pattern’s exclusive retailers). She needn’t have been; it sold out online and at all 1,200 stores within hours. Now starring on Allure’s current digital cover as part of their “See Yourself, See Each Other,” series partnership with Ulta, Ross not only shows off her famous curls but talks about why her 10-year quest to create Pattern was all worth it, saying:
“It was a long journey to get this to happen—one that required a lot of patience, and persistence, and perseverance, and keeping my eye on the prize.”
(I’ll tell you whether it was worth the wait.)
Ross also discloses that she initially pitched her now sold-out line—with the same proposed offerings—in 2008. But with that rejection and every one after, Ross became more determined to make it happen.
“With each no, with each disappointment, I gained a whole new arsenal of information and knowledge,” she says.
But despite her growing knowledge and fame, the beauty industry still encouraged Ross to stay in her lane, as Allure reports.
As the years went by and her career grew, she kept pitching her line—yet still she heard varying iterations of the same who-do-you-think-you-are refrain: If people wanted her hair, maybe she should consider a wig line? Or perhaps a TV show about hair? Or maybe she could write a book about hair? Or be the face of a beauty company that perhaps didn’t share her mission? But develop a whole line from the chemicals up? Know your lane, Tracee.
What the people who were casting doubt didn’t realize is that she—just like the countless other women of color who couldn’t trust hairstylists to know what they knew—Ellis Ross had become a hair expert.
Did she really? Ross’ famous tresses aside, I wanted to see how her products worked on my non-famous head (which doesn’t have celebrity stylists on speed dial—okay, maybe a couple, but I digress). With three-ounce tubes of Pattern’s Hydration Shampoo ($20), Leave-In Conditioner ($25) and Heavy Conditioner for Coilies ($25) in hand (since the Medium Conditioner for Curlies was out of stock; there’s also an Intensive Conditioner for tight textures), I went to work on some Ross-worthy curls of my own.
First thoughts from this self-avowed fragrance junkie? I could get used to Pattern’s fresh, barely-there scents. While they aren’t as delectable as many other brands in the haircare arena (I’m looking at you, Curls Dynasty), they’re light enough to not compete with any other fragrance I might wear. So far, so good—but we’re here to talk about the hair, right? Right.
Pattern’s hydrating shampoo is silky in feel, and thankfully, had the same effect on my hair by the time I rinsed, doing some detangling before I even got to the conditioning phase while managing to avoid that squeaky clean, stripped feeling. The conditioner for Coilies was exactly as promised: heavy (it was intended for tighter textures than mine, after all). While much thicker than I typically prefer, a saturated head and wide-toothed comb split the difference, and five minutes later, I had a headful of slippery, tangle- and residue-free curls...just like I like ‘em.
But the leave-in conditioner? That’s where the magic happened; at least, for me. Something about the slip of this particular product gave me confidence as soon as I put it on—15 minutes and a new diffuser later (‘cuz ain’t nobody got time to air dry, especially in November in Chicago), I was mostly pleased with the results. Tons of volume (which I’ll credit to the diffuser), and fluffy, yet defined curls—if initially a little crunchy (which dissipated as soon as I put my hands in it). I did still find my typically dry hair a little on the dry side—but that just made me curious to try Pattern’s argan oil serum ($25), and indeed, a little argan oil that I had on hand helped.
What I do I wish Pattern provided? While they sell a mist spray bottle ($13) that we can fill with the product or conditioning cocktail of our choice, even a few short weeks of going back to natural has taught me that a refresher spray is my friend. While I wouldn’t doubt Pattern has one in the works, it would’ve been a great offering out of the gate. Also, since I personally crave softness in my curls, a conditioning styling cream might be a nice addition to this line.
All in all, I’m pleased with Pattern. I’ll definitely be doubling back to try the conditioner for Curlies, and will be keeping my eye on the line’s development, as my quest for Tracee Ellis Ross-level curls remains eternal. Bottom line: this is a product line that deserves support—and for the most part, lives up to the buzz.
“It was about actually expanding the paradigm and allowing us to see ourselves in all of our beauty,” Ross tells Allure. “To have our beauty reflected back to us in imagery and in narrative that was about who we are, and our legacy and our power.”