Black Hair at Home: Kim Mupangilaï

In part two of “Black Hair at Home,” we consider how the pandemic has forced black women to have an aesthetic and philosophical reckoning. Since lockdown, we’ve had to ask ourselves: What happens when we suddenly decide to let colleagues see our natural hair? How does learning — or relearning — how to nurture and style our natural hair affect our self-image? In this series, a diverse group of Black women share their experiences and the valuable hair tips and tricks they’ve learned during lockdown.  

You wouldn’t know it from looking at all of the gorgeous hairstyles she sports in her Instagram pics, but Belgian-Congolese interior architect and graphic designer Kim Mupangilaï didn’t always love her hair. “For years, I straightened my hair and had a Brazilian perm because I didn’t like my curls,” she admits. “It ruined my hair so much.” Now Mupangilaï, who lives in New York City, is so comfortable with its texture that “sometimes I go two weeks without touching my hair,” she says. “It honestly looks best when I let it do its own thing.” Here’s what the talented beauty does when she feels like being more hands-on. 

Have you always been comfortable with your natural texture? What was your path toward loving your hair?

From the ages of 18 to 25, I straightened my hair and had a Brazilian perm because I didn’t like my curls. I actually ruined my hair so much that my curls had to grow back — and they have by now, thankfully! Now at 31 years old, I am so proud of my hair and I’ve realized that it’s beautiful the way it is.

What’s your hair philosophy and routine?

“I try to not use too many products, to keep my hair as healthy as possible. Everything I use is natural and paraben free. I always do my hair myself, except when I get braids or twists, then my hairstylist friend, Soleil Davis, does it. She’s like the hair whisperer.”

How are you caring for your hair at home?

“I shampoo once a week and co-wash mid-week, if needed, to make my curls pop again. After I’ve washed my hair with Not Your Mother’s Activated Bamboo Charcoal & Purple Moonstone Shampoo and Conditioner, I apply Shea Solutions Leave-in Conditioner and detangle with my fingers. Next, I add Marc Anthony Strictly Curls Curl Envy Perfect Curl Cream, then I air dry my hair until it’s not soaking wet anymore. I finish drying with a diffuser. To seal in moisture and give my curls a nice shine, I use a light oil. My favorites are Shea Moisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Finishing Oil Serum and Ouai Hair Oil. I also deep condition my hair with Jamaican Mango & Lime Black Castor Oil every two weeks.”

Have you mastered any new hair skills during lockdown?

“I tried twists for the first time last year and I love them. They are not too heavy on my hair, since my hair has a fine structure. They are the perfect style to manage your hair without damaging it.”

How do you style your hair for last-minute Zoom meetings?

“I always wear it in a messy bun.”

What’s your favorite DIY hair remedy?

“Sometimes I wash my hair with Bragg Organic Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar because it really helps [stimulate scalp] circulation and hair growth. I usually massage it into my hair for 10 minutes then leave it in for an hour or so. After I rinse it out, I use my conditioner to remove the smell, and to soften and detangle my hair.”

Any words of wisdom to share?

“Take care of your hair like you take care of your greens. Love it, but don’t smother it.”

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