Scripps Students Discuss Hair Politics

Mia Farago-Iwamasa SC ’17 discusses her sustainable hair care routine during the

On the night of Monday, Nov. 7, the Motley opened its sitting room for a conversation about all things hair. Guests gathered around in a circle to kick off with introductions followed by a community discussion about people’s personal experiences with hair.

The coffeehouse’s warm atmosphere and the small group setting encouraged an open dialogue where people asked questions, gave advice, and shared stories. The topics covered included hair in the workplace, growing out short hair, environmentally-friendly hair care, body hair, and the relationship between hair and identity—in particular, pertaining to gender presentation and race.

There was a lot to cover in the two-hour event. ReAndra Johnson SC ’17 explained the number of decisions that go into hair maintenance, that with “the way that society treats hair, it becomes so important and central in our lives even if we don’t want it to be.”

Johnson continued, exploring the questions hair raises: “Should we cut it off? Should we shave it or not shave it or pluck it or not pluck it? Do you dye it? There are a lot of different things you can do to it and people have a lot of different experiences.”

Students were open and willing to share everything from middle school stories about body hair to their experiences forgoing shampoo. Johnson chalked up guests’ openness and comfort to the small size of the event, saying that they “didn’t have tons of people come, but I liked how intimate the conversation became and we covered a good range of topics.”

Following the discussion was a Q&A where anonymous questions submitted prior to the event were addressed and audience members could ask their own questions. Monika Lee SC ’17, who was the point person for the event, listed her own questions about hair as one of the main motivations behind organizing the event.

“My hair is really thick, so I find myself looking for ways to help it dry faster or ways to keep it healthy. I would look on Google and a lot of gimmicks would pop up, like buy this special brush for twenty dollars or buy this special towel and I just wasn’t really satisfied by the answers I was getting online,” Lee said.

In particular, Lee and Johnson talked about the lack of information available for types of hair outside of the mainstream.  Lee explained that she “wanted to put together an event where we could center and focus on marginalized types of hairstyles and people who felt like they weren’t being heard in the beauty world.” 

The Q&A gave way to a discussion about environmentally friendly hair care led by Scripps Associated Students Sustainability Chair Mia Farago-Iwamasa SC ’17. Farago-Iwamasa encouraged the audience to buy from ethically run companies and environmentally friendly companies. She also talked about the health risks of common ingredients found in certain hair products, noting that many formulas contain carcinogens.

As an alternative, Farago-Iwamasa suggested experimenting with DIY beauty products, apps like Skin Deep and Think Dirty, which helps shoppers find less toxic products and skipping shampoo altogether.

The event concluded with a DIY workshop that included the recipes and ingredients to make hair sprays, masks, and dry shampoo. With the DIY portion, people were able to start putting what they learned during the event into effect.

When asked what she took away from the event, Lee said: “No promises, but I think it would be cool to shave my head. I definitely resonate with the idea of not tying your ideas of beauty to your hair and freeing yourself from that. I think I’m leaning toward doing something a little more drastic than just shoulder-length hair.”

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