Natural Hair Talk | The Issue with Nappy Hair


Today I want to discuss something that’s somewhat controversial.

I tend to keep things pretty light here because I want it to be more of a place for inspiration and encouragement. But sometimes I come across things that just rub me the wrong way and today I want to talk about one of those things and get some insight from you all.

Last week Buzzfeed shared a post 17 People Who Totally Have Afros {spoiler alert: no they don’t} which prompted blog Tea & Breakfast to create a list of 13 People Who Totally Have Nappy Hair {spoiler alert: they didn’t either}.

Here are a few gems from these posts:

naturalhairtalk_nappyhair  naturalhairtalk-nappyhair4

naturalhairtalk_nappyhair2  naturalhairtalk_nappyhair3

Now usually with these types of post, I simply shake my head, note how ridiculous people are and keep on with my business. And I appreciate Buzzfeed and Tea & Breakfast satirical approach to the issue, however something just isn’t sitting right with me.

Maybe it’s because I’m an active member of the natural hair community, but I can’t help feeling extremely offended by the “nappy hair” epidemic that’s running through the white community.

Usually I would toss something like this up to people just being crazy – what can we really do? – however, this time I can’t help see a deeper issue here.

Let’s talk facts.

By definition, nappy means kinky and the term originates from colonial times when it was used as a derogatory reference to black people hair.

While you can see it used in a non-derogatory way today {i.e. rap group Nappy Roots or various natural hair blogs}, there are still strong negative connotations with the word within the black community {kind of similar to another popular n-word, but we’re not going down that road today}.

Saying someone has “nappy hair” is not only racially stigmatizing but it also undercuts the value, diversity, and beauty of African hair.

My thing is – I don’t understand how it became a trend to label your hair as “nappy” within the non-black community. When did that happen? And why?

Honestly, I think what bothers me most is the majority of girls who are tagging their photos with #nappyhair have perfectly straight hair.

So their use of the term makes even less sense and, in my opinion, is even more offensive because they’re essentially making fun of a term that has been used to disrespect and humiliate others.

Your hair may be tangled, or knotted, or frizzy, or greasy, or dirty – but nappy?

Ehhhhhhh. I don’t think so.

Ignorance never ceases to astound. And it always surprises me with the growth of the Internet and access to factual information that there’s still so many people who are misinformed. It begs the question of whether the Internet is helping inform those people or making it more obvious how misinformed they are.

I pride myself on having a diverse community here on Kinks. So I don’t want anyone to feel I’m alienating them, it’s quite the opposite – I actually want to hear your thoughts on this.

There are always two sides to every story – maybe these girls genuinely do not understand what nappy actually means.

Maybe with the growth of the natural hair movement and a lighter use of the term within the black community they thought it was okay for them to use too.

Maybe I’m totally out of touch with today’s youth and I’m making a big deal out of nothing.

You tell me.

It should go without saying that I want this to be a safe and open place to express your opinion. However, if anyone is overtly disrespectful I will remove your comment, just FYI :)

Thanks for reading, now discuss.

// Top Image via \\


16 Responses to Natural Hair Talk | The Issue with Nappy Hair

  1. Let me start by saying this: what the heck!?!?

    Seriously, I’m shaking my head…

    I think you are ON POINT here, Ashlei. I won’t even begin to suggest that I know about or understand this trend, but I agree with you. I’m involved in a Chicago mentoring program, and the majority of my students have been/are young black girls. I hear about their hair insecurities on a weekly basis (either they are making fun of each other or complaining about their looks…in fact, I just showed them your blog!), and I’m shocked that the internet would generalize or desensitize a topic where real, YOUNG girls struggle to find their footing.

    Kudos to you for speaking up and using this platform as a space to discuss. :)

    • Thanks Megan! For both the great comment and sharing my blog with your students! I hope they can find some inspiration and realize that being different is what makes them beautiful :)


  2. Amen. A friend shared Buzzfeed’s post on FB and my face looked something like… :-/ SO ridiculous. Ignorant x infinity! Maybe it’s like you said, maybe SOME don’t know what the word actually means but I cannot and will not begin to think that that’s the case with them all. I don’t like it, not one bit. Awesome post! Very well articulated. 😉

  3. I had NO idea why people think this is ok….sometimes it feels like voluntary ignorance. They want to stay uninformed! If you have one black/brown female friend with curly/kinky hair you would know this is a no-no. Gotta be careful with internet trends cause it can crazy real quick! Thanks for raising this isue up.

    • Agreed Chantelle – don’t follow everything you see on the internet! And well said about voluntary ignorance, that’s a great way to put it.

      Thanks for commenting!


  4. I just stumbled upon this blog and decided to comment my experience with “nappy”. To be honest, I can’t get really upset on the ignorance being displayed by the girls who used the word. I agree with everything you are saying except I’d like to add that their usage has been learned ignorance from people who do have or are familiar with kinky hair. I hear it all the time (and the most) from my black friends who have curly-kinky hair ” i need to comb my hair, its too nappy”, “He needs to brush his hair its nappy or “I can’t have nappy edges, i need to go buy some edge control” (these are not the exact phrases but you get the drift, its not being used in a complimentary fashion). It can’t just be people who have straight hair who get flak for using the word THIS way. So although they’re being ignorant, I cannot totally blame them.