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Natural Hair At Work: 6 Best Practices To Remain Professional

Young african american doctor with a stethoscope.Back in March, the Huffington post did an article surrounding the topic that black women worry that their natural hair might be affecting job retention and job employment.

They made reference to a panel discussion that took place at Georgia State University entitled “Black Women, Their Hair & The Work Place” and one statement made by a student at GSU read something like this:

You’re talking about being polished and (having) interview skills and yet no one is addressing the fact that natural black hair has been traditionally seen as not polished on its own whether it’s well cared for or not. So basically it’s all about maintaining the Eurocentric standpoint.

In an article written and published on BGLH by Domineque Michelle otherwise known as LonghairdontcareLLC on youtube, she shared her own experience at work where her boss told her she ‘had to wear her hair organised’.

I could go on and on with the examples because like many of us with natural hair, at one time or another we are all faced with the ‘should I wear a bun all day everyday so I don’t scare em, or can I roll with my signature puff?’ This is a hard topic with many opinions, on both ends of the scale.

Women with natural hair want to wear there hair how it naturally grows out of their head, on another end of the scale, how our hair grows especially if worn in an afro type style is seen as ‘political’ or unprofessional by some people.

Further to that there are other situations where your natural hair could actually interfere with your work. For instance, if you work in an environment where your hair has to be covered like food preparation industries or operating rooms, it’s just not reasonable to expect to wear your hair ‘out and free’.

Among the opinions here are some best practices we can adopt in order to remain professional within our various places of employment while being true to our natural roots.

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Emily CottonTop

About Emily CottonTop


Hi I'm Petra Lomax , a staff writer for BlackHairInformation.com. Born and raised in St. Andrew Jamaica, I first moved to the United States in the year 2000 in order to find a job after college. I spent one year living in New York before moving to Texas in 2001. I went natural in 2008 after a bad perm experience and have enjoyed my hair ever since. I am still learning and I like sharing my experiences with my cottontop :)



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13 Comments

  1. 1

    I agree but kind of side-eye the last one. People who aren’t black come to work with their hair wet all the time and it’s considered normal. However, I realize we can’t do everything they do in the workplace, whether we want to admit that or not.

    Thanks for this post. A lot of blacks like to think because it’s our God-given texture we should be able to wear our natural hair as we please. That’s not the case and never will be. As long as you work for someone else you will need to look/behave a certain way.

    Natural hair isn’t even accepted by all of us. How in the world do we expect everyone else to love it?

    • 2
      Emily CottonTop Emily Cottontop says:

      I agree, others do come to work with their hair wet but even with them it still is considered unprofessional. You want to be ‘ready for work’ when you come to work. I think if we focus less on texture and more on style then we would realize that everyone has to style their hair, black white, hispanic…it doesnt matter.

  2. 3
    Vernadine Mccullough says:

    I AM SO SICK OF PEOPLE CALLING IT A MOVEMENT. I WENT NATURAL LIKE A LOT OF OTHER WOMEN BECAUSE THE PERM WAS THINING MY HAIR. I HAD A BIG SPOT IN THE BACK OF MY HEAD AND MY HAIR JUST WOULD NOT GROW. NOW IT’S GROWING AND I MUST SAY I HAVE BEAUTIFUL NATURAL CURLS.

    • 4
      Lorraine says:

      What would you call this mass exodus away from relaxers then?

      • 5

        I suppose the term ‘movement’ is starting to grate on all of us a little bit but until there is a better description for it (or natural hair becomes the default), we are kind of stuck with movement.

        • 6

          I think it is more of a revelation and not a revolution. We found out we didn’t need a relaxer, our hair is beautiful as it its. That’s how it was for me. Two years natural and loving it.

  3. 7
    Cari471 says:

    I love the clarity of your article and I agree with most points. My workplace is pretty laid back and nobody bats an eyelid when I turn up to work in my afro. We even have one of those punk men with spiky hair and forehead piercings! I can understand that a fro wouldn’t go down so well for a corporate lawyer.

  4. 8
    Jocelyn says:

    I don’t agree with the Afro aspect. Other races are allowed to wear their hair as it grows so I don’t see why we should have to go through extra steps to be considered professional. We should be moving away from the European standard of beauty and making them see that our natural hair is beautiful as it is without the need for taming with buns and such. I know I can’t fight this alone but the more we expose the wider world with what our hair and beauty is really like in its natural glory, the faster they will accept us and Afros will become just another hairstyle with no negative or political undertones.

    I have only 5 inches of hair right now and I wear it in a puff for work in a doctors reception. I look professional, my clothes and hair are on point without hiding my identity behind flat irons and buns. Even as my hair grows longer, I plan to continue wearing my hair like this. Your workplace CANNOT discriminate against you because of your natural hair.

    • 9
      BlueCornmoon says:

      I agree! I’m a teacher in a k-6 school with a multicultural student body ( over 30 countries & languages) and staff … black, white, Asian, Hispanic. I wear twists, a KinkyCurly afro,a puff, whatever. Other black women wear braids,locs, wigs,weaves, you name it. The white ones come with damp fresh washed hair,pixie cuts, headsful of curls,ponytails ,bleached,dyed, down their backs,you name it. One of the male staff even grew hair down his back to donate to Locks of Love. No problems. Some of the white girls have even adopted cornrows & braids. As for ” professional ” styles, I see the same black hairstyles coming out of office buildings in town as well as on the streets. I know SOMEONE out there has had hair problems at work…ignorance never dies,folks… or this article wouldn’t be here, but I haven’t seen it in my area & neither have my pals in other states. I have a cousin in New England with a short type 3 curly afro & her sister wears locs. No problems on the job.

  5. 10
    Candace Smith says:

    I work at an engineering firm that does not have a lot of diversity. However, the black women that work there are very diverse in their styles. Many do wear their natural hair ranging from the TWAs to twists and dreadlocks. I know that it is an ongoing battle for many black women to be in their natural state and not face some type of discrimination regarding it. I am just thankful that it has not been an issue for me but continue to pray for change in others so that it becomes a non-issue period.

  6. 11

    2 years in and I’m just tired of it all… sigh…

  7. 12
    BiscuitBunny says:

    The political Afro point irked me I have to say. That whole idea feeds into the Eurocentric ignorance of black hair/ people being frozen in a time of heightened racial politics. I highly doubt that most people I meet (Afro/Caribs included) know who Angela Davis is! my hair is not very long compared to some, so its not going to be very big- and heck, I can tie it down to make it sit lower. I hate having to call my hair ‘something’- every other race has hair. Yet I have to call mine an Afro, like I’m naming a pet dog. If I had lots of hair it would stand out very wide- I would tie that back or down, I don’t like hair on my neck or around my ears very much.

  8. 13
    froyo11 says:

    RE the political afro–
    Even though I don’t feel free to wear my hair in a (large) afro to an interview, I’m not upset about it BECAUSE I’m so optimistic about the future. Things are changing! I honestly think my kids or at least their kids will feel just about free to wear afros whenever they want! And I’m happy about it.

    Don’t despair!

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