A New Wave of Afro-Latinas are Ditching Dominican Hair Salons and Learning to Embrace Their Natural Hair. Here’s Why

by Xara Aziz
Courtesy: Depositphotos

After years of Lulu Cordero getting her hair straightened weekly at her local Dominican hair salon, she says she began to forget what her natural curl pattern looked like.

“I got my first relaxer when I was 9 and it was just a part of my life every Saturday until I was like 17, 18 years old,” Cordero told The Los Angeles Times. “I didn’t really know what my natural texture looked like until I made the decision to go natural.”

Cordero, who grew up in a pro-Black household, said it was societal and family pressures that led her to believe that her hair needed to be straightened to fit a mold. While her mother’s side loved her hair natural and wanted her to embrace her curls, her father’s side disapproved of her wearing her hair naturally.

“I always say that to be Black in Latin America means to be invisible,” Cordero said.

She continued: “I would [wear] my hair pulled back in really tight buns just so I could put it away because I knew how controversial it was when I took it out,” Cordero said. “Ultimately from doing that and partly because I didn’t know how to manage my hair, I gave myself the type of damage called traction alopecia.”

So in 2004, she decided she would go natural, which meant she had to embrace a new journey of understanding her hair’s natural texture.

In 2004, Cordero made the decision that she was going to go natural. She let go of the styles and products that were damaging her curl pattern and started the difficult journey of repairing her hair and her relationship with it.

Going natural led her to build a closer bond with her mother, who helped her navigate which oil blends to use to help her restore her hair. It was then that Bomba Curls was conceived.

 “In June of 2020, we got an email from Nordstrom and I thought somebody was playing with my emotions,” Cordero said. “Nordstrom was our first retail partner — from there Bloomingdale’s, from there we broke barriers at Target.” 

Cordero is just one of many Afro-Latinas who are embracing their natural curl pattern and making products designed for their hair type.

Another of those women is Bomba Curls Pink Root Products founder and owner, Mariel Mejia, who also grew up as a Dominican in the Bronx and frequently visited Dominican hair salons.

“I grew up going to the Dominican hair salon every single Saturday or Sunday to get my hair straightened and pressed before the school week would start,” Mejia told The Los Angeles Times. “When I became a teenager, I remember purchasing all of the clippings, all the weaves, getting my weave sewn in all the time because I was so desperate to have long hair.”

Now, she says she has come to accept her natural hair as it is.

“I think, for women, our hair is so important, but I think specifically for Black women and women of color, it’s even more so just because our hair has been ostracized since the very beginning,” Mejia said. “I really don’t know any white women who have ever been told that their hair is bad.”

For now, both Cordero and Mejia are hoping more women feel confident with the hair they’re born with.

“Your hair tells a story,” Cordero said. Your hair is heritage. Your hair is deeper than just hair.”

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