Black Women Working

The Surprising Link Between Lockdown And Black Women’s Hair

The word “lockdown” might make you think of many things…

Social distancing. Zoom. Hand-washing while singing Happy Birthday. Twice.

Whatever first springs to mind though, it’s probably not haircare. Right?

But here’s the thing. Lockdown has been a game-changer for many Black women, who – with extra time at home – have had the chance to give their natural hair more time, attention and TLC than ever.

And this got us thinking. Pondering. Fine, straight-up obsessing… about how all this natural-hair love might alter Black women’s hair choices for work. So we did some digging.

We spoke to 300 UK-based Black women aged 18-64 to find out: If the lockdown changed the way Black women feel about wearing natural hairstyles at work?

We asked probing questions and got honest and eye-opening answers. Keep scrolling to see why! 

But first, let’s talk pre-pandemic hair preferences

It’s sad. It’s true. It’s nothing new. Black women commonly shy away from wearing natural hairstyles at work.

Just look at the top 3 work hairstyles before lockdown... 

Most Preferred Hairstyles For Work

And the bottom 3

Least Preferred Hairstyles For Work

Okay, so wigs and weaves randomly topped both charts. Must be a love/hate thing! But what we were most taken aback by was that the two least-preferred looks were both natural styles.

Natural hair has long been viewed by society as “difficult to manage”, with hairstyles such as afros, cornrows, locs and bantu knots regarded as “ghetto” and “unprofessional” for the workplace.

(Are you eye-rolling? Because we are.)

Anyway, the natural hair movement definitely helped push things forward in recent years. But for some, wearing certain styles at work still didn’t feel great. Here’s the proof: less than half of Black women wore natural hairstyles regularly before lockdown.

2020 survey of 316 Black women in the UK aged between 18 and 64

And then… 2020 happened.

Before we knew it, the world was in crisis and we were all in lockdown. Schools and offices closed overnight. On the haircare front, salons and local hair and beauty stores shut up shop too.

Which brings us right to the next question…

Did lockdown change Black women’s hair habits?

The short answer is yes. 76% of Black women wore more natural hairstyles during lockdown.

2020 survey of 316 Black women in the UK aged between 18 and 64

And there were a variety of reasons. Like we mentioned before, having more time at home gave lots of Black women the chance to gain confidence in styling, caring for and wearing their natural hair. Awesome!

For others, being stuck indoors proved the perfect time to take a hiatus from potentially damaging styles.

As Consultant Trichologist, Shirley McDonald MIT IAT, explains:

" The majority of Black women have used lockdown to have a rest period, giving their hair a break. A few experimented with colour and/or braids, others went for the dramatic – cut it all off and start again."

Again, nothin’ but good news. Specialist Trichologist, Dr Ingrid Wilson (Crewe Hair and Skin Clinic) points out though that lockdown also gave “… those who usually wear wigs an opportunity to confront hairloss, which their wig may have been hiding.”

And while ultimately better for hair health, this is a good reminder that switching to new, natural ways wasn’t 100% straightforward for everyone. Especially during an already stressful time. But overall, there were a whole lot of positives to celebrate in terms of hair habits during lockdown.

Great, so what does this mean for work hairstyles?

It’s the big question. And we’ve got answers.

For starters - we found that lots of women debuted their newly-styled hair via video call while working from home. 44% said this actually helped them feel more comfortable wearing natural hair at work.

And that leads nicely into our next discovery…

When asked the million dollar question: “will you be more likely to wear natural hairstyles at the workplace after lockdown?” the majority (59%) answered with a fully confident “YES”.

2020 survey of 316 Black women in the UK aged between 18 and 64

When we got down to the specific reasons behind the shift towards natural hair at work, things got super interesting.

Take a look at the answers:

A leading 32% of women said that the main reason they will wear natural hairstyles at the workplace was due to thinking their hair will be healthier. And they are not wrong! Hair expert and Trichologist, Nicola Smart shares:

“Lockdown has allowed women to minimise styling which in turn, is likely to promote length retention as you essentially allow the hair to rest by reducing friction and subsequent breakage."

It’s also nice to see the Black Lives Matter movement mentioned. Plus to know that some women have discovered they simply prefer the natural hair life!

And on this note of natural hair appreciation – we’re curious to know:

What are your thoughts on wearing natural hair at work, leave a comment below👇🏾