5 Reasons You Should Not Be Afraid of Being Natural
I stumbled across an interesting article on Facebook titled, “Undecided? 5 Reasons Why Going Natural is a BAD IDEA!” I have been wanting to write a blog on natural hair for a very long time but wasn’t sure how to present it in a neutral manner. I didn’t want to make any woman feel bad or guilty for her hair decisions and simply wanted to empower women to be natural. This article gave me the perfect platform to present my case. Now, I realize people are entitled to their opinions, but articles like this are precisely why black women fear their natural, coiled locks. This type of logic does not help black women and only perpetuates the idea that natural hair is not an attractive or good thing to do. I have hyperlinked the article to the above title and will discuss it using her headers. I bade you to read the article first in order to properly follow along.
The Introduction: First off, I am tired of people making it seem like every woman they see with natural hair decided to do so because they wanted to jump on the bandwagon. Hair is not the same as sports. You don’t switch sides simply because your team is losing or switched out their favorite player. I think people fail to realize there are several factors that lead women to becoming natural. Some are simply tired of paying for relaxers which burn their scalp, cause alopecia and thins their hair. Others have decided to take on a healthier lifestyle and we all know that the majority of black women don’t work out because of their hair. Some want to explore what is actually underneath their weaves and relaxers and some want the freedom to express themselves freely and naturally. And then yes, you do have women who are influenced by their mothers, sisters, friends and favorite celebrities.
Secondly is her idea of being sucked down the rabbit hole and watching YouTube videos. I believe YouTube is not healthy to watch for women who watch it to compare their hair texture and not learn how to do a style. Comparing ones hair to another woman’s is precisely what angers women and makes them feel that their hair is not up to par; I was one of those women when I first went natural. It takes a mature, logical woman to realize that all textures are not created equally. It takes a real woman to exude confidence in herself regardless of what she is or is not working with. If you think that because you go natural that you will have the curl pattern of Rozonda Thomas (Chilli from TLC), then you are flat out wrong and delusional. The same way you don’t expect to buy a dress and fill it out like the lovely Nia Long with your given body shape is the same way you shouldn’t expect to have the same curls as a woman you see on YouTube. Women also need to recognize that shrinkage, knots and split ends come with the territory of natural hair and any hair for that matter. You can also learn how to stretch your hair if you have major shrinkage. It is important to trim your hair every 3-6 months or at least once per year. Some naturals go longer or less, I personally go once per quarter simply because I wear my hair in wash and goes most often and that is harsh on my ends.
Lastly, she hit it right on the head, “[…] I struggled through transitioning only to be driven to tears before running back to the familiarity that was a relaxer.” Bingo! The reality is that most women simply are not comfortable with their own texture of hair, period. Most black women have been conditioned from day one to have a preference for straight hair. Most young girls consider their new growth to be nappy and think it needs to be relaxed in order to look good and pretty. Just because black women have been conditioned to prefer European type hair does not mean your natural hair is bad. Although I personally am not a fan of weaves, (no offense sorry, this doesn’t mean that I don’t like the woman!), I think they are not a good self-confidence booster for young ladies. Most girls desire to look like their mothers and well, most mothers don’t look like themselves. Little girls are often confused as to why their mother has hair like Ariel and they do not. One positive thing the “natural hair movement” has done is remind black women of their roots especially our young ladies. It has also made society realize our hair is different and is okay to be worn just the way it is. On the flipside, I realize weaves and relaxers have become a part of our culture and allows women to express their creativity, versatility and change up their look without actually altering their hair. Braids and extensions also make it easier for women to transition and work out.
1 I don’t want to cut my hair…
You don’t have to cut your hair off in order to transition to being natural. You can perform this in stages. There are pros and cons to doing a big chop. The reason why it’s more beneficial to do a big chop is because if you relaxed your hair and are transitioning to become natural, your hair is more vulnerable at the line of demarcation (where the two different textures meet). Which means hair is more prone to breakage at that point. The second time I went natural, I grew my hair out for six months before I did the big chop; some women have waited 1-3 years in order to have longer hair when they cut it. (Just be careful with your use of heat because you may find you need to big chop it again in order to get the texture you want). What made me want to do the big chop was caused by frustration because all of my hair did not behave the same. The roots of my hair would wave, but the ends were like limp noodles which made it very difficult to try any transitioning style. At the end of the day, going natural takes effort and work. You don’t see the real benefits of going natural until you have succeeded in being natural. Kind of like going to college; you grind for four years and don’t appreciate it until the opportunity to land a prestigious job. I took one year of sacrifice (i.e. no heat or extreme manipulation) to now have a crown full of beautiful, kinky curly hair. As this author suggested, she simply could not commit to that and that’s more of a personal problem than a natural hair problem. As I transitioned for six months, first and foremost I stopped using direct heat to my hair with flat irons and blow driers. Second, I would have my hair braided and twisted into mohawks or updos and then use perm rods on the ends so that all of my hair would have the same curl pattern. There are so many creative things you can do while transitioning if you do not prefer to cut your hair off. But I will tell you, doing the big chop is the most liberating experience because you learn that your beauty is not defined by your hair. Your hair is an ornament and only enhances your overall appearance. (Pic 1: Transitioning hair style with twisties my friend did and perm rods – Summer of 2012; Pic 2: Big Chop Fall of 2012)
2 Figuring out my hair type was super confusing!
Well I would imagine this would be super confusing considering hair types are man-made labels and really don’t exist although they can be somewhat helpful. I recently had a conversation with a licensed beautician and she said that hair types are made up. She said any professional cosmetologist will tell you they did not learn that in school nor can they find it in any textbook. She mentioned that she gets frustrated when women plop down in her chair and ask what their hair type is or discredit her knowledge because of what some uneducated, unlicensed YouTuber suggested. With this being said, I believe this is the number one culprit as to why women dislike their hair. They get frustrated trying to label their hair and once they think they have properly labeled their hair, they get frustrated when their hair does not behave like this said label. Stop focusing on your hair texture and be more concerned about the makeup of your hair. You need to understand the porosity level of your hair, how well it responds to protein, moisture, glycerin, humectants, oil etc., whether it is dry or frizzy and how it responds to changes in the climate. You may also want to consider your diet as most nutritionists will say you are what you eat. Once you understand the chemical properties of your hair, then you can begin to experiment with products that were specifically made for your particular hair type.
3 I spent more money on products trying to go natural.
Honestly this one made me laugh because there is no way a woman spends more money on products than she does getting her hair done every 1-2 weeks and then paying for a relaxer every 4-8 weeks. And it definitely isn’t more expensive than women who opt for expensive weaves which can cost upwards from $100-$500 every 3 months or so plus the labor of adding the extensions/weave. When you consider number 2, you can narrow down your experimenting because now you know exactly which products to try. When I first went natural the terms sealing and hair regimen were common household names amongst natural women. It is important to understand both terms and I will share what I have learned from one of my best friends I call Sistah amongst a plethora of others. The term sealing is the process of retaining and sealing moisture in your hair. Most women who go natural only co-wash (conditioning wash) their hair as opposed to using regular shampoo. During their co-wash, they detangle their hair with a wide tooth comb. Most naturals will tell you to never detangle your hair while dry, you will only yank and break your fragile locks. Please note that water is a natural moisturizer and it is important to not wring out all the water from your hair with a harsh towel. Instead use an old t-shirt to lightly take some water from your hair so it is not dripping wet. Second you add your favorite leave-in conditioner. A few of my favorites are Kinky Curly’s Knot Today, As I Am and Shea Moisture’s line. Third you add a moisturizer that works for your hair type; if your hair is thick like mine you will prefer a heavier moisturizing base, if your hair is finer, you will prefer a lighter moisturizer. The fourth step is optional to add an additional moisturizer or curl definer with a gel base. The last or fifth step is adding your favorite essential oil to seal in all the moisture you have added to your hair. Most naturals love jojoba oil, argan oil, teatree oil, coconut oil and grapeseed oil just to name a few. Please note that moisture and oil are not the same and when oil is applied first, it can seal off your hair to moisturizing products like the concept that oil floats on water; I had to learn this the hard way, sigh. Once you have created your own version of this sealing process you can then create a hair regimen and introduce deep conditioners of your choice however often you feel your hair needs one. This will limit the products you are buying as well as help them stretch over a period of time. Two of my favorite naturals have taught me the art of sectioning my hair off and then applying products in each section. They also taught me to only wash my hair once per week (some are able to go several weeks!) and learn how to make my styles last longer. Now that I have gotten over the frustrations of dealing with my hair, I pretty much do my hair once per week like I did when I was relaxed and washed, blow dried and straightened my hair in a 3-5 hour process. Now it takes me 1-2 hours depending on what I’m doing and I spend maybe $30 every 2 months on products. But I will warn you, buying products becomes addictive! You will want to try everything!
4 Styling hair is not my strong suit.
Well it probably isn’t a lot of women’s strong suit which is why there are people who go to school and specialize in hair to take care of your styling needs. The same way you paid for someone to relax and put weaves in your hair is the same way you can pay someone to twist and braid your hair. My mother gets her hair done every week just like she did when she wore a relaxer. The only difference is the cost is much cheaper now than before. I will not lie though and I totally feel her pain on this one. Ask my friends, when I first started out I was the most complaining, unhappy, frustrated natural out there. I was frustrated I couldn’t do this, and that didn’t work and this looked a hot mess! Thank God for bobby pins and banana clips! Then my anger changed when I realized one valid point. It’s a shame that most black women do not learn how to deal with their own hair until they become an adult and go natural! It’s a very sad reality. Most little girls don’t know how to twist and braid their hair or properly condition their hair or buy products for their hair at an early age. You rarely even see commercials for natural hair. Instead they learn how to buy shampoos and conditioners and how to twist their wrists to flat iron and curl their hair. When I was relaxed, I could straight slay my hair! I worked magic with flat irons, rollers and pin curl clips. Then I went natural and realized none of those skills were beneficial with my own hair. I was thankful that I at least learned how to do single braids and twists and had to understand that learning more intricate styles simply required patience and practice. I started to get the best results from my twist outs and braid out styles when I first completed my sealing process and then proceeded to style. You need to figure out if styling your hair functions better while wet or dry. All hair types are not the same. (Pics from left to right: Pic 1/2: Bobby pins in the middle of my crown; Pic 3: Small bouffant secured with bobby pins, 2 really bad side twisties LOL and the back is pulled up in a banana clip; Pic 4: Bouffant in front secured with bobby pins; Pic 5: Bouffant with the back pulled up in a banana clip; Pic 6: Fresh Twist out; Pic 7: Twisties which my friend did with my natural kinky curls; Pic 8: Side pony tail secured with a headband cut in half and Pic 9: Hair pulled back with a headband after a fresh wash and go)
5 What style am I supposed to wear to work?
This can be tricky at first, but to be totally honest, you simply be yourself! I think many naturals think they can just roll over out of bed and grace their natural hair without attempting to style it and well, that just doesn’t work out anywhere but home. Styles like twist outs, braid outs, bantu knots, double strand twist/braids, flat twists, partially braided styles, pony tails, banana clips, headbands, pinned-up styles and wash and goes (for those who can achieve this look) are all suitable for the workplace. For my first entire year I wore what naturals have coined a TWA (teeny weeny afro). After I performed my big chop in September of 2012, I was deathly afraid to return to work. But to my amazement I was greeted with an abundance of compliments! People loved my hair! I think more people enjoy natural black hair than black women do themselves. Another alternative is wearing your hair straight! Just because you decide to go natural does not mean you have to wear your hair like the fabulous and sexy Pam Grier and Angela Davis. Nor do you have to get a relaxer to wear your hair straight. Being natural to me means taking a healthier approach to your hair care. So if you’re not a fan of natural styles, then by all means please wear your hair straight. What you will find is that your hair has more volume and looks healthier than it does relaxed or at least my straight hair does. I will warn you that too much heat can damage your hair and not because it’s natural, it can damage any type of hair when done too often. The other thing that heat can do is alter the texture of your hair. Unfortunately, not all of us can go from kinky curly to straight without losing our natural curl pattern; I for certain am not one of those women. So I tell women all the time to please determine what type of natural woman you want to be; curly or straight because many of us simply can’t do both. There is nothing wrong with wearing your hair straight, it is simply your preference. Quite frankly, all hair styles are a preference. But just like food, don’t knock it until you try it. (Pics from L-R: TWA from 2013; Natural Straight Hair Summer of 2009 and Natural Straight Hair from Dec. 2014)
The end of her article asks these three questions:
1 How can I get over my hatred of the idea of going natural again?
You can first build up self-confidence and love yourself just as God made you. Second you need to understand that your hair is not like everyone else’s. Third you need to realize that not everyone’s hair grows at the same rate and your diet may have more to do with progress than your texture. And lastly you need to gain patience and realize that being natural takes effort. I’m sure there are tasks that many of us have to work at a little bit harder than the next. I think a lot of women get caught up on perfectionism and think that in order to be natural their hair has to have an S-pattern. Please note that having or not having curly hair has absolutely nothing to do with you being natural! People often tell me that it’s easier for me to go natural and I want to correct them because it is not! I struggle just like the next woman and sometimes I want to cut poor JuFro off! I have just about every texture of hair imaginable and that in itself is frustrating; most naturals have this very same complaint. Regardless if my hair was wash and go material or not, I would still rock my natural hair. Why? Because I didn’t go natural to show off my pretty curls. In fact, I did not know they existed until I went natural.
2 Were you a commitment-phobe at first?
The first time I attempted to be natural was in 2008 after growing out a short pixie cut. I really loved my hair at the time, however, I’ll admit the work to get my hair straight was a major chore! My hair is some of the frizziest mess I have ever witnessed! Plus I was younger and partied all the time so it wasn’t worth me spending three hours in the mirror only to completely sweat my hair out and do it all over again after a night of dancing. So in fall of 2009, I got a relaxer again, but not because I didn’t like my hair, but because I figured if I wore my hair straight, I may as well get a relaxer. I quickly learned that my super course, frizzy hair required the same amount of work with or without a relaxer. Over the next three years I was simply unhappy with my hair and liked it better when it was natural. My hair looked dull and dry and just did not act right with relaxers like it used to so I stopped getting relaxers again in 2012. Considering I did the big chop I had no choice but to commit! As much as I thought I looked like a little boy for six months, I couldn’t help but realize my face was more obvious than my hair. I could not deny that I still looked the same with or without hair framing my face. So it was a matter of accepting myself and rocking out my fro. Committing to natural hair is the same effort it takes to committing to working out at the gym. You must find a workout routine, stick to the plan and learn to respect the process. Some people have more self-discipline than others. Simply put, we tend to put effort into what matters most to us. (Pic: Pixie cut)
3 Did you want to cry every day after a certain point?
No, absolutely not. Perhaps this is because I didn’t just jump on the natural hair bandwagon and thoroughly thought about my decision for over six months. Also I am not my hair. Although I absolutely love my hair and hair in general regardless of hair type, I realize my hair enhances my beauty, but it does not define it. I am comfortable with myself with or without my hair a certain way. However, I am very particular about my hair and always have been. The same way some women refuse to walk out the door without mascara and lipstick is how I feel about my hair being neat. I will admit I stared in the mirror for the first week like what the heck did I just do to myself after my big chop! But as mentioned, I got over it because I was still me. So as my mother always says, going natural has way more to do with your level of self-confidence than it does with your hair texture. Fact. (Pic from Jan. 2015 after a 3-day old wash and go)