I asked for my first perm in the second grade. My mother was quick to assume I had run tired of the classic ballies and barrettes hairstyle, which was not entirely false. In all reality, I thought straightening my naturally coarse hair would stop the other kids from referring to it as “nappy” or “messy.” And so, I did.
No one ever told me it was okay to embrace my natural, kinky curls. No one around me even knew what the term “4C” meant, and there was certainly little to no hair care products that catered to the enhancement or protection of my natural curls. While there were curly-hair products in existence, very few of them were specifically tailored to tame the thick and tangled mane that sat atop my head. And now, there are companies like Pattern Beauty.
Pattern Beauty is a hair care brand designed and owned by Tracee Ellis Ross, who is popularly known for her comedic roles on “Girlfriends” and “Black-ish,” but also as the daughter of the iconic Diana Ross. The African American actress developed the idea for the company after discerning the lack of stylists able to not only manage, but style her voluminous ringlets on production sets.
Ross was forced to take matters into her own hands and come onto set hours earlier just to do her hair. The 46-year-old explained the process of finding products that worked for her hair as long and frustrating.
“I went through those teenage years when everybody is searching to figure out who they are and all of a sudden become so aware of how they look, how they are seen, what’s cool, what’s in,” Ross told Glamour. “Sadly, there were not a ton of images, outside of my family, of people who looked like me. This started my contentious relationship with the culture of beauty that was around me, but didn’t make space for me. As a result, I tried to beat my hair into submission to do what I thought it should do. I straightened it, I dyed it, I fried it.”
Ross’s hair journey is one most young women can relate to, including myself. The process of going from hairstyle to hairstyle to fit the mold, coming to the realization of overcoming those pressures and then finding products that work for you can be intimidating.
But Pattern Beauty takes on the challenge with a call to action: to fulfill the unmet beauty needs of the curly, coily and tight-textured hair community.
The Stars of the Show
Pattern Beauty launched the products for the brand on Sept. 9, 2019. The hair care line is composed of seven different conditioners, oils, tools and a universal shampoo. The company includes a curl guide on the website and allows specific recommendations for the products based on the curl texture of a customer’s hair. There is no time-consuming quiz or anything of that nature, so the process is as simple as adding the products to the cart and purchasing them.
While most companies promote the results of using their products, Pattern Beauty staked their claim as the safest hair care brand currently on the market. The conditioners and shampoo are cruelty free, paraben-free, surfactant free (SLS/SLES), color safe, cyclic silicone free, phthalate-free and formaldehyde-free. Not only are some of these chemicals harmful to the delicate strands of curly hair but to the environment as well.
The Hydration Shampoo retails for $20, and the range of conditioners sell for $25 each, along with the oils. The most expensive product on the website is the deluxe package of Hydration Shampoo, Heavy Conditioner, Leave-In Conditioner, Jojoba Oil Hair Serum, Shower Brush, Microfiber Towel and a Hair Clip which currently retails for $126. Arguably, the pricing for the products could be a lot more affordable.
In respect to the quality of the products, however, there is a chance curly girls and guys will get a bang for their buck.
Curly Hair Comes in All Shapes, Sizes and Textures
One of the most common things I heard growing up was that my texture of hair was not curly because the strands were not as defined as others, but it was a misconception. Curly hair is distinguished by hair grades and one of the most used systems originated with hairstylist Andre Walker.
The system contains 12 different hair textures, including straight and curly hair. Pattern Beauty specifically focuses on 3B to 4C hair textures. Type 3 hair textures range from loose to defined, tight curls. Type 4 hair textures, however, are more coiled and coarse. These different curl patterns determine the type of care necessary for that specific texture.
In an interview with Vogue, Ross said, “What I realized was that I was a part of a community of people that society had told that our curls, our texture, our pattern, our gravity-defying hair was actually not sexy, not beautiful and not lovable,” She added. “The beauty industry didn’t understand the breadth, the beauty, the importance and the money that exists in a community that was not served.”
The goal of the company is to change the perception of natural hair and support women in their journey rather than adhere to the already existing beauty standards of society.
The ultimate test, however, does not lie in the spirit of the company but the function of its products.
Type 4 Curl Patterns: Is Pattern Beauty a Friend or Foe?
As the highest grade on the scale, type 4 curl patterns are the most prone to dryness, breakage and shrinkage. Because of these concerns, kinky curly hair needs the most care for moisture retention.
These grades (4A, 4B and 4C) tend to form a zigzag pattern from the roots of the scalp with variations of each different grade: 4A curl patterns form an S-like pattern, while 4B curls are shaped like a Z. 4C curls are less defined. Each shape difference is important for determining the specific products or hair care regime best for your curly hair.
For the best results for type 4 curl textures, Pattern Beauty recommends the following products: Hydration Shampoo, Leave-In Conditioner, Jojoba Oil Hair Serum, Heavy Conditioner (4A) and Intensive Conditioner (4B and 4C).
I have a mixture of 4A, 4B and 4C in my hair. I followed the recommendation of Pattern Beauty and purchased the Hydration Shampoo, Leave-In Conditioner and the Intensive Conditioner. The Hydration Shampoo was the first of the products I used. It was of a thin consistency and a little difficult to lather until applying it for a second time. I applied the shampoo to the root of my hair and on my scalp but both times, my hair felt drier as opposed to the moisturizing claim of the product.
The Intensive Conditioner was the saving grace in my wash-day process. Once I applied the thick and creamy product, it was easy to detangle my curls but also lock in moisture. I could visually see the difference in certain sections of my hair compared to when I began using the products. Even though my curls still shrunk, the moisture was apparent. Not to mention, the curls were clumping together on their own as I continued detangling.
The final step of my wash day process was using the Leave-In Conditioner. Compared to the Intensive Conditioner, this conditioner was not as moisturizing or thick. The Leave-In Conditioner did help with detangling again, but I still found myself leaning towards my staple products like the Kinky Curly Detangling Conditioner by Knot Today.
Once I was finished, I felt underwhelmed by the results. The lack of styling products was a large concern of mine, especially since not all sections of my curls were defined. After years of trying to get the formula for these products right, I expected them to perform well and exceed my imagination.
The Hydration Shampoo was cleansing but stripped the moisture from my hair, and the Leave-In Conditioner was ordinary. While the product did its job, there are other products that allow similar results for a more affordable price. The Intensive Conditioner brought back the life in my curls and effectively moisturized each strand. My hair was softer and in sections where I have looser curls, the strands were defined.
Overall, the hair care line was good. Pattern Beauty products on type 4 hair could have been better, especially with the addition of styling creams or gels. The novelty of being represented by a hair care brand was pleasant in theory, but the application of the products was lackluster.
There are affordable drugstore products that perform just as well, if not better. I would recommend buying the Intensive Conditioner, above all else, because it was able to physically alter the appearance of my curls while moisturizing them.
The empowering message of Pattern Beauty was not one curly and coily-haired women and men hear often, so it was worth trying out the products for that reason alone. If you have a curl pattern other than type 4, then I would suggest giving them a go.