How Much It Costs To Maintain Natural Black Hair

Ten women share exactly how much time and money they spend on their hair care annually.

The narrative surrounding Black beauty, specifically hair, is changing as Black women embrace their curls, coils and kinks. Marketing research backs this shift, as Mintel reports hair relaxer sales fell 38% between 2012–2017. Conversely, the Black hair care market is growing each year and is valued at $2.5 billion.

But those who choose the natural hair route understand that it’s not as “natural” as you’d think ― there’s a lot of work, time and money involved in caring for natural hair. Nielsen data found that Black women spend nine times more on ethnic-targeted beauty and grooming products than the average for all consumers.

While these studies break down some of the financial components of Black beauty, the numbers don’t account for the time and physical commitment Black women make each week on “wash day” — a day that’s committed to detangling, washing, conditioning and styling their hair in preparation for the week.

We spoke to 10 women of all different hair types: Type 2s are wavy, usually forming an S-pattern; 3s are curly, ranging from ringlets to springy spirals; 4s are coily, prone to shrinkage and ranging from small corkscrew-sized curls to a zigzag pattern that doesn’t always yield definition. Additionally, an A is a looser curl, C is a tight curl and B is somewhere in the middle. Here’s how much time and money they spend on their natural curls.

Tennille Murphy, 3B: $1,012

“I wear my hair naturally curly, with no protective styles or straightening. Wash days can be time-consuming, so you’ll never find me going to the gym right after wash day. In fact, I’ll usually schedule my high-cardio workout in relation to wash day, when I know I’ll be washing my hair afterward. The most frustrating thing with my curls is that they never look the same way twice. I can achieve somewhat consistent results with the right products, but even then, I can end up with a bad hair day for no good reason at all. What I love most about my curls is that my hair is unique. I love the idea that I’ll never see someone with my exact curl pattern or hair color, for that matter.”

Hair products: $312

Two curly cuts: $700

Hours dedicated to wash day annually: 130

Freddie Ransome, 3C: $2,050

“For the past year-and-a-half, I’ve been wearing a kinky curly weave as a protective style to give my hair time and space to breathe. As much as I love my natural hair, it’s a lottttt of work. When I wear my natural hair, I like it best in a top knot (because right now, my fro isn’t the shape I want it) but I can’t wear it like that every day because I’ll thin out my edges, so I opt for a weave.”

Hair products: $150

Kinky curly weave installation (with trims and hair included): $1,500

Protective styling (Braids): $400 (hair and styling included)

Lauren A. Carter, 3A/3B: $1,438

“I love wearing my hair natural, and it’s been two years since I made the commitment. There were a lot of growing pains at the beginning. I had to try so many products before finding what worked for me. Like everyone, I have good hair days and bad ones, but at the end of the day, I love my curls!”

Hair products: $894

Salon visits (hair color and trims): $550

Hours dedicated to wash day annually: 104

Miss Rii, 4C: $1,550

“I’ve had locs for almost 17 years, but before that, I wore a bald head for almost 12. The most difficult part of my daily routine is corralling all 200 of my locs in the perfect ponytail when I don’t have a specific style. I see my loctician every three weeks without fail. I plan my entire life around having my locs maintained. Nothing happens if my hair appointment isn’t on the books.”

Hair products: $160

Loctician visits: $1,390

Hours dedicated to wash day annually: 43

Krissy Lewis, 4C: $1,320

“I love my natural hair, and I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world, but I would be lying if I said it’s not frustrating at times. I think my biggest frustration is dealing with dryness. If I don’t keep it under control, it can cause breakage, and all of that makes my hair more high maintenance. Believe it or not, though I still love my wash days, it’s my one-on-one time with my hair, and I can give it a little TLC.”

Hair Products: $480

Salon visits (steam treatment and trim), four times a year: $540

Protective styling, twice a year: $300

Hours dedicated to wash day annually: 132

Amal Dalmar, 3B: $100

“I don’t have a super-developed hair care routine yet, but because I wear a hijab, I have to be extra careful about hair thinning, so I make sure that I avoid cotton caps and scarves that will pull on my hair. I part my hair to ease the tension on my hairline and also put my hair in a low ponytail. I have been trying to maintain my hair routine this year, so I try to use black Jamaican castor oil every night on my edges.”

Hair products: $100

Hours dedicated to wash day annually: 52

Lulu Cordero, 3B, 3C,and some 4A: $800

“I love everything about my curls. They tell a story ― my story ― and I’m proud of that. A day in maintaining my hair typically starts the night before. I primarily do wash and gos. I want to make one thing abundantly clear ― one does not simply wash and go! The frustrations I experience are related to keeping my curls defined and the frizz at bay — it can easily ruin hours worth of wash day work.”

Hair products: $200 (multiples of some of the below)

Curly cuts and maintenance: $600

Hours dedicated to wash day annually: 52

Taylor Anise, 4C: $500

“Going natural was the best decision I have ever made for my hair. I feel so much more confident in my natural hair than I ever did when I used to get relaxers (everyone’s experience is different). Because my hair is super coily, I can go from a super short Afro to a stretched-out curly ’fro, and that’s my absolute favorite thing about my hair: the options. I call it my superpower. I get most of my hair products [through public relations work], so I probably spend $150-$200 annually.

Hair Products: $200

Salon visits (shampoo, condition, steam treatment, flat iron and trim): $100

Protective styling: $200

Hours dedicated to wash day annually: 182

Erica Lall, 3C/4A: $200

“I started growing my hair out naturally close to the beginning of 2018. When I was 8, I started to relax my hair to make it easier to work with, especially for ballet. I finally cut off the leftover relaxed part of my hair in July 2019, and I’ve never been happier with my hair. Curly hair suits me and my personality so much more, and I love how much volume and life it brings to me as well. I’m part of the Emerge Creative Collective, so I have been using the Emerge products.”

Hair products: $0 (gifted)

Salon visits (trims every six months): $170-$200

Hours dedicated to wash day annually: 104

Kristen Summerall, 3C/4A: $720

“Living in Georgia, the weather can definitely play against my hair, particularly the rain and humidity. My go-to style is twist outs. I love how my hair looks in that style and feel it suits me best and makes me feel confident. However, if there is an ounce of moisture in the air, it can affect my style. Much if not all of my routines, products used and techniques I do on my hair, I owe to the natural hair community on YouTube. I watched and continue to watch countless tutorials and reviews done by some fantastic vloggers. They really helped me learn how to take care of my hair. It was a long and expensive process finding what works best for my hair, but I now feel that I’ve got a solid routine down.”

Hair products: $720

Trims and Salon Visits: $0 (she does it at home)

Hours dedicated to wash day annually: 209

Read more about the complicated relationships we have with our hair at My Hair, My Story.

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