I have a confession to make. I’ve been guilty of neglecting my hair. Like so many others, I’d bought into the trope that coily, kinky and Afro hair was “difficult” and would need far more time than I was willing to invest to keep it healthy. After a rocky journey of poorly recommended relaxers, weaves, clip-in extensions and too much direct heat, it was during lockdown that I stripped everything back and decided to start over with my relationship with my hair.
While I was giving my natural hair the chance to recover and readopting the protective styles of my childhood (thank god for box braids), across the pond, a brand would be launching that would change the way we thought about celebrity-fronted brands and, in turn, Afro haircare.
Tracee Ellis Ross created Pattern with a core mission to serve the needs of the curly, coily and tight-textured community, to celebrate Black beauty and be an active space for uplifting and loving the community’s natural beauty. After 10 years of conducting her own market research and formulation, Ross launched Pattern in the U.S. in 2020—comprising an entire washday routine: shampoo, conditioner, mist and gel (plus styling tools and brushes)—but for those of us eagerly watching on social media, it would be two more years before we could finally (!) shop the range in Boots for ourselves.
I had the opportunity to road-test some of the line before the official launch, and it’s safe to say that I had plenty of thoughts, but trust me—it’s all good. There is often some trepidation about celebrity beauty launches and whether they will have the efficacy of an established brand, but Ross knows good curls.
My first thought was just how impressive the size of the range was. There are in fact five conditioners alone (three for thin to thick hair textures, an intensive and a leave-in conditioner), and my second thought was how good it smells. The usual curly hair favourites are present—coconut, avocado and jojoba oils, shea butter and aloe vera—but also the unexpected but refreshing additions of green matcha tea, Irish moss and chia seeds that make the range smell like, well, nothing I’ve really smelled before. I’m going to say the closest thing I can think of is “holiday skin.”
I started by washing my hair with the Cleansing Shampoo. As its a clarifying shampoo, it doesn't create the overly soapy, foamy lather we usually associate with deep cleaning, so I initially washed my hair twice to make sure it it was definitely clean. The formula has a light, non-sticky feeling with no residue, and before I even added any conditioner, my curls looked springier. A good start.
Next, I opted for the Heavy Conditioner, and anyone with 4C curls like mine will appreciate that the conditioner bottle is far bigger than the shampoo one, as we know we’re going to liberally apply any kind of conditioner. At this point in my routine, I usually detangle with a wide-tooth comb, so I reached for a wet brush and noticed just how shiny and defined my curls were already. Not a knotty, soapy ball but glossy little spirals that, after years of aggressive straightening, I'm happy to see back in full force.
After rinsing it out, I wanted to give the leave-in conditioner a try, and my preferred way of deep conditioning after a long time in braids is to use a heated cap to help the product better deeper permeate the hair shaft. After 20 minutes or so, I wasn't entirely sure just how deeply the conditioner had worked, but the next day would be the true test.
Knowing I would be braiding my hair again the next day, I slept with my hair in twists to minimise tangling, an act that comes from years of eye-watering, comb-breaking experiences. As I waited with held breath for the inevitable moment my hairdresser would run a comb through my hair and hit a snag, instead, it slid through. Running my hands through my hair to verify just how easy the process was, I was happy to find that not only was my hair easier to tease, but it was softer too. Gone were the crunchy, frazzled ends that prompted me to switch to protective styles in the first place.
Although I don't currently wear my hair in its natural Afro state every day, I'm keen to test the Strong Hold Gel (£25) to keep my edges and canerows tidy in the meantime (but it will have some way to go to rival the reliable Schwarzkopf Got2b Glued Gel). But overall, I'm surprised (and impressed) that Pattern managed to create an effective and easy routine to take the guesswork out of caring for Afro hair. It's a simple wash-condition-style regime that you can personalise for your own hair thickness, so no more one-size-fits-all products that are relegated to specialist shops. So here is something that I never thought I would say, but I'm actually looking forward to my next washday.