I brace myself as I walk into the office on Monday morning. My hair looks starkly different than it did when I left on Friday evening. On this particular day, I’m wearing my hair in it’s naturally kinky, curly state—a decision I finally made after working in my new role for about a month. I reason: by now, my coworkers know me as an individual and my hair shouldn’t be an obstacle at work. Still, I wonder if my natural hair will be seen as an “unprofessional hairstyle.” To my relief, I am met with more compliments than questions, and I manage not to roll my eyes as I intercept lunging fingers hoping to grasp a handful of kinky hair for the first time.
As an American woman of African descent, I can recognize how I’m sometimes treated differently based on how my hair is styled. Straight hair acts like a bridge to strangers, while my curly fro might seem unprofessional, eclectic, or political. And braids? Braids remind me of my “otherness” when they either intimidate or intrigue colleagues to ask me countless questions about how they came to be.
Growing up with type 4 hair, it is second nature for me to take the time to style and care for my strands, often in braided or protective styles, until I choose my next look. It is not performative or trendy. It is simply a way of life that should be respected, even in the workplace. I ultimately realized that by choosing to assimilate my hair at work, I was not only doing a disservice to myself, but also to all of the other Black women coming after me. How I choose to style my hair is not a reflection of my professionalism. And now I am finally in a place where I feel free enough to embrace my natural hair—whether or not I have a big meeting on my calendar.
How I Embraced Wearing My Natural Hair In the Workplace
Learning to embrace my natural hair at work was a journey. The European standard of beauty in America has had a serious cultural impact on what we all see as acceptable. As a society, we have collectively viewed professional hairstyles for women as synonymous with straight, sleek hair.
We’ve all heard the stories of teen girls suspended from school for wearing braids, and many of us have seen the video of the high school wrestler being forced to cut his locs in order to continue his match. Even A-list celebrities have reportedly been told that their hair was “too Black” for work. In 2019, laws like the Crown Act of California made a point to “create a respectful and open workplace for natural hair.” Still, it took me until 2020 to decide to take this matter into my own hands and finally attend a job interview with my natural hair texture on display.
I used to believe the lie about what qualifies as professional hairstyles, so I always straightened my hair for interviews and wore slicked-back buns until I could “ease” my natural hair onto my coworkers. But now, I know that I don’t want to work with anyone who cannot accept me or embrace me for who I am. My naturally curly, frizzy hair is beautiful, and it is a unique story of my heritage. If an employer doesn’t see that my wash and go’s, twist outs, or braided styles are all professional hairstyles for natural hair, then it would likely be a toxic work environment full of microaggressions for me anyway. And that is something that I will not tolerate anymore. Loving myself and making space for other means showing up authentically, my hair included.
The Best Ways To Wear Natural Hair At Work
Let’s begin by saying that all cared-for hair is professional and that your hair, no matter its texture, has a place at work. As long as your hygiene and presentation don’t prevent you from doing your job, then voilá, you’ve already got a professional natural hairstyle! However, we’re all on the hunt for cute new ways to mix it up, so I’m here to offer some inspiration. The confidence to look your best is the key to a professional hairstyle, so check out these styles for the best way to wear natural hair at work.
Marley Bohemian Twists
Currently, my favorite hairstyle is Marley bohemian twists. You might’ve heard of Marley twists or bohemian twists, but I asked my stylist to create a hybrid between the two styles, twisting the curly bohemian hair with the textured Marley hair to create a lasting yet lightweight style. I love the versatility they offer me, and with the help of the Mizani Edge Taming Gel, they can stay neat for up to six weeks, making them great for work.
Wash and Go Curls
I also love a standard wash and go style. To keep my curls fresh after salon visits, I dampen my hair with a water bottle and then use a hydrating hold product like the Mizani True Textures Perfect Coil Oil Gel before diffusing with a blowdryer.
Good hair day by @lamajbackwards.
A great way to add some creativity to your natural hair is to add a braid or Bantu knots to one side. Mizani stylist, Jamal Edmonds, used the Perfect Coil Oil Gel and Mizani’s Foam Wrap to create this look.
Good hair day by @thenotoriouskia.
You can never go wrong with a crown braid. Kia Marie slayed it when she created this style. Crown braids are done easiest on blown-out hair, so if you want to try it for yourself, keep the flyaways at bay with the Mizani Humidity Resistant Mist Hairspray.
Once upon a time, cornrows weren’t considered a professional hairstyle, but no longer are we writing off a style just because it’s considered “ethnic.” They’re neat, they’re stylish, and there’s nothing better than waking up with your hair already done. Wearing cornrows also creates the perfect opportunity to take care of your scalp with the Mizani Scalp Care Calming Lotion.
Good hair day by @alstyling.
Yes, box braids can be a professional hairstyle too! I love the way that Mizani stylist Ashley Lee recreated the famous Poetic Justice braided ponytail. Before installing your protective style, it’s important to get your hair squeaky clean. The Mizani Moisture Fusion Clarifying Shampoo is a great way to prep your hair for braids.
Good hair day by @nakawunde.
Being pro-natural hairstyles doesn’t mean that you have to be against straight hair. A bouncing silk press can be a great wait to switch it up, and the Mizani Thermasmooth Smoothguard Serum will help keep humidity from reverting your hair.
Interested in more advice about work-appropriate hairstyles? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.