Rebecca Allen Swears By These Wash Day Essentials
Rebecca Allen is currently rocking her defined, natural curls, but the entrepreneur and founder of her eponymous shoe line has gone back and forth on the decision. She first went natural in her early 20s while studying abroad, before letting her hair grow out and then eventually chopping it all off into a shorter ’fro. When she pursued her MBA and entered her job in finance at Goldman Sachs, she was concerned that her hair would speak for her.
“I didn’t want my hair to be a thing,” Allen tells Glamour. “I knew the perception was that it kind of has its own identity. It just wasn’t worth having to deal with that, frankly. That was a choice I made. Honestly, sometimes having a relaxer and just being able to easily pull it back in a ponytail or go and get it blown out is very easy, right?”
Allen wore her hair relaxed into her mid-30s, when she became pregnant with her daughter, Barbara. During her pregnancy she became more conscious of what chemicals she put on and in her body, so she let her hair grow out once more. Raising her toddler didn’t leave much room for treatment beyond the occasional trim, so Allen saw her first curl specialist in September of 2020. The modern shift in the perception of natural hair helped give her confidence to rock her curls.
“When I went natural in my 20s, I did very much feel like the perception was almost militant,” Allen says. “That was in the early 2000s. I think it’s interesting to see just how much of a shift there’s been in that 10 to 15 years or so. Now it certainly doesn’t feel the same way that it did back then.”
Another concern for women of color in the workplace led to the development of her footwear line: Rebecca Allen Shoes. As a vice president at Goldman Sachs, Allen was wearing business formal to work every day—and not having a proper nude shoe was absurd.
“The nude shoe was this kind of classic pump that totally eluded me, because it was just made for white ladies,” Allen says. “It looked ridiculous on me, but it was literally an indispensable wardrobe component. This was the shoe that lived under everybody’s desk, because it went with everything in your closet.”
Noticing a void in how footwear brands marketed to women of color, Allen set out to create timeless styles in a set of nude shades: the new pump, the skim (a flat), and their top seller, the two-strap heel. With these shoes, Allen wants to give her customers a sophisticated silhouette at an approachable price point, achieving attainable luxury.
Between taking care of Barbara, who’s now two (and a half!) years old, and providing attainable luxury to her customers, Allen is way too busy to spend forever on her hair.
“My routine has to be simple and straightforward and can’t be too precious,” Allen says. “There was a kind of mystery at the outset. Now that I’ve learned the basics, I feel like it’s great. This might be controversial, but I think that the key for natural hair is not being afraid to wash it and get it wet. The more that you do that, the less of a thing it becomes to do. It’s easier to detangle it. It’s fine to style it.”
Below, Allen’s wash day routine and natural hair secrets.
I don’t pre-poo. I don’t detangle it before I get in. I don’t have the time. Like, why did we introduce another step? I probably wash my hair twice-a-week-ish. One of those washes, I will do a shampoo and conditioner. And then one of those times, I want a co-wash. I’m trying to not fully strip it every time. I like the Hairstory New Wash. It rinses clean, but it doesn’t feel stripped, like if you did a shampoo. They have one that’s a richer formulation that’s better for drier hair.
Then I will do a deep conditioner or a treatment. I’ll try to put that in and then do a quick workout or something like that. I’m optimizing for time spent. Then I rinse it out.
It’s much easier to do this in the shower, because I’ll feel like a mess. Goop is flying everywhere. I’m more wash-and-go. So I will start super wet, and then I section it, not in a super-precious way. Then I use the leave-in Uncle Funky’s to comb through. After that, I go through in smaller sections with the gel. I’m really just using my fingers to keep it organized.
I have a hood dryer that I think is the secret weapon to curls, for great definition and keeping it from shrinking. When you sit under the hood, you can do something else while you’re drying your hair. It gets it done pretty quickly. Because of the shape of it, it’ll dry the top of your hair very quickly. If you want to get the back, you have to move around under it a little bit. I will probably sit under it for like 20 to 30 minutes.
I didn’t grow up getting lots of protective styling. I grew up in Westchester in the burbs where I was like the only Black kid, so it was actually great because nobody knew what I was doing with my hair. I just kind of skated through. Getting braids for the first time was kind of intimidating, frankly; I didn’t know where to go, and I didn’t know what hair to buy.
Yeluchi will send somebody to your apartment, and their style is very set and straightforward. They know what you’re looking for. It’s all very transparent, and they tell you what to get and what to do beforehand. They come to you, which is really nice for me because I don’t have a place that’s around the corner or something.