SAO PAULO, Brazil — Bruna Aparecida smiled cautiously at her reflection as a hairdresser snipped the last strands of her straight hair. Her head was crowned with curls.
“I didn’t know myself without straight hair,” said Aparecida, 27, who used chemical relaxers for nearly a decade before deciding to go natural. She used to be the only black woman at the bank where she works who had kinky hair. Today, she is one of six.
“It’s all the rage this year,” she said. “Many of my friends are doing it.”
Black and brown Brazilians make up more than half of the country’s population, but you wouldn’t know it by looking
at the beauty industry. Brazil’s innovative hair-straightening treatments, sold around the world, have long chased white standards of beauty. Ten years ago, it was not unusual to find robed women packed into a room at a salon, covering their mouths with rags to avoid inhaling fumes, while hairdressers doused their locks in formaldehyde for a pin-straight look. Now, a growing number of black Brazilians are ditching the hair straighteners and embracing their curls.