The natural hair craze has been taking the world of Black hair care by storm. Over the past couples years I’ve seen the dialogue and topics surrounding this movement range from: ‘celebrating women who’ve gone natural’, ‘how awesome it is to be natural’, to ‘more sisters need to be natural’, and most recently, ‘I’m tired of hearing about women who’ve gone natural.’ The growing number of sisters transitioning from relaxed to au naturale, has inspired a strong sisterhood of within the haircare community, yet it has also spawned slight divisions between those who opt not to stick with chemically-treated hair.

In the mix of all this, I think there is something being overlooked. Instead of debating about relaxed vs. natural hair, we should discuss how this movement is bringing about an important cultural change in attitudes towards our hair.

For starters, my hair is natural. But not in the commonly held sense of what that means. I usually wear it straight, although it’s not with the aid of chemicals. My Sunday afternoons are often spent washing, sectioning, blow drying and flat ironing. And through my adolescents and college years I had every hairstyle you can imagine from braids, sew-ins, highlights, to a mohawk–some styles inspired by convenience, others impulsive experiments of self-expression. Yet, I never thought of this as a big deal because I’ve worn my hair natural most of my life–before it was trendy. If anything it was a challenge.

Growing up my mother never permed my hair–much to the dismay of aunts, cousins, and hairdressers. Yet she cared for my hair. Weekends were spent over the sink or tub, washing hair that curled up into tight coils, sometimes blown out into a soft cotton like fro, followed by braids, berets or every once in a while a hot comb pressed it straight.

And although my hair was healthy and maintained, at times, family members and others made it seem like my mother was breaking some holy covenant that mandated all Black girls must be primed and permed or suffer the kinky consequences. Sometimes my peers added to this as well. I’ll never forget, going to school on picture day in fourth grade with a fresh press, only for it to become a frizzy coif by the time the bell rang due to the humid weather that day (common natural hair dilemma). Other girls in my class, hair in bouncing bobs or slicked down ponytails, didn’t get why my hair had changed so quickly. Upon explanation, they wondered how my mother could be so cruel. No perm, at age nine? Blasphemy.

That was then.

Now, with so many sisters sporting naturals hairstyles, I can’t help but wish it was like that when I was growing up. With natural hair options becoming more socially accepted and popular, it’s offering young girls and women a variety of examples, inspirations, and resources on how to take care of their hair. They don’t have to feel pressure to wear their hair relaxed, straight, or weaved in order to fit a certain ideal. They’re blessed to grow up in an era where we as women can simply view a youtube channel on styling natural hair and choosing the right products. This is quite a change from growing up in the 90s. Of course there were women with natural hair, but it wasn’t as widely accepted. Most Black salons expected clientele to relax their hair, and it was hard to find services if you didn’t fit the bill.

This change within our culture and attitudes about hair is what I believe is missing from the conversation surrounding the natural hair movement taking place. It’s not about condemning one hairstyle choice or pigeonholing another. Our choice of hairstyle isn’t always political. Whether you wear your hair kinky, curly, or straight, or even if you choose to pop in a few tracks here and there, it doesn’t automatically make you more self-loving or self-loathing. We all have different ways to feel beautiful and I don’t advocate for either hair care choice. I believe healthy hair that makes you feel great is what’s most important. Instead of debating on what’s better, let’s applaud the fact that we now have options in hair care that will inspire the next generations of Black girls to embrace their hair in ways that suit their preferences, and not imposed social ideals.

Photo Credit/Model: Madisin Bradley

  • PiscesStar7 (@PiscesStar7)

    The reason why you are hearing the “I was natural before it was trendy” phrases, is because, they more than anyone had to deal with career and social negativity over their hair..

    …AND, at the same dayummed time…deal with any personal issues THEY may have had over their hair. For instance, I am one of those women who could not tolerate relaxers for any longer than 6 months at a given time. When I was 8 years old, I had my relaxer in for 6 months, before one day I woke up and found all my hair on a pillow. Only to go to school the next day being mercilessly teased (by other parents, teachers and students) for looking like a boy.

    Then, once you’ve finally gotten old enough to get past the school yard BS, and accepted the fact that you’ll just be a short, natural hair girl for life…you go into an interview, only to have someone who works there following you out of the door to tell you that you’ll never have a job in corporate America unless you grow some hair, get a relaxer, or buy a wig.

    This attitude of “I was natural before it was trendy” comes NOT of being full of ourselves (myself)…but, out of recognizing and being proud of weathering very turbulent storms…AND continuing to make the effort to be positive every day!

  • PiscesStar7 (@PiscesStar7)

    There is NOT ENOUGH information out there about caring for 4b/4c/ hella nappy hair…yes, my hair is growing…but, in order to look neat it must be chopped on a regular basis!

    AND those WHO do KNOW only sparingly and partially give out the info…yes, my hair is growing…but, in order to look neat it must be chopped on a regular basis!

    I mean, really, if all you’ve ever known…are people who have had and cared for relaxed-type of hair…who would you go to find maintenance information for nappy hair? I’ve looked…for over 30 years..and I’ve still haven’t found a dayummed thang worth my money…so until that info is found…my hair will continue to grow…but, in order to look neat it will be chopped on a regular basis!

  • ?!?

    @PiscesStar – I have kinky hair. I wear it in protective styles like two strand twists. Then I take those out and wear a twistout for a while. My hair is not meant for wash and gos. I also think wearing your hair in puffs and afros leads to tangling, so I don’t go that route. I twist and wash and that’s about it. Now a lot of people don’t like protective styles, but I like my two strand twists. They work for me.

    I know what you mean. I still haven’t found a hairstylist who can do my hair. I do my own. Many hairstylist only know how to deal with 3C or 4a hair. All of my knowledge basically came from YouTube and watching people who had hair textures similar to mine like Rustic Beauty. Some of them like Naptural85 and haircrush have beautiful hair and good tips, but it is pointless to watch them talk about doing wash and gos or doing styles that would never work on my hair. So I would say just go to YouTube or Google and specificy 4b/4c natural hair. If not, you will be inundated with information from all the curly haired girls trying to define their curls.

  • cocopuffs

    all i have to say is the reason women feel better *sometimes* when they go natural is because if you grow up in a black family more than likely you are constantly being told “TIME TO GET THOSE NAPPS TAKEN CARE OF” its conditioning i have taken many psych classes and the one of the things i have learned is that alot of the times when things occur at a young age and people are affirming negativity you can begin to agree without even knowing once you become natural you realize there was nothing wrong with it in the first place i think thats where the enlightenment comes from : you just realize that all the things relaxed people said to you about your hair being less than was …stupid and not true.
    Most not all relaxed women dont understand how stupid it is to dislike the natural texture of their or someone elses hair because it is something they were conditioned as children to think needed to be “fixed”
    im natural but i honestly laugh when i think about all the stuff i use to say. omg i hated getting relaxers every time i was up for one i held off but i always was saying stuff about how nappy and ugly and course negro hair can get and how that would never be me. Now its different now i look as hair as ……hair

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