How Natural is Natural Hair?
For some, its self proclamation. For some its a total lifestyle. For many it means embracing one’s heritage. While for others, its creative expression. Natural hair has taken the hair industry by storm over the last 15 years, with a surge to put an end to the creamy crack era and embracing our natural curl patterns. This surge happened to be so big that it carved out a community of a host hairstyling gurus, enthusiasts, and products.
NATURAL HAIR JOURNEY
My natural hair journey began by accident about 10 years ago. My mom like many moms relaxed my hair at a very early age to reduce time in the morning getting ready for school. My hair was extremely thick, and painful to style in a timely fashion to get to school on time. So she relaxed my hair. My hair has always been long and thick, even with a relaxer. I began doing my own hair around the 6th grade. I had been getting relaxers for so long that I would do them myself. I would only get them about once or twice a year. I was never one to go to the beauty salon. Styling hair came natural and I would switch it up all the time. I tried all cuts, styles, and colors. Relaxed hair was all I had ever known. All any of the women in my family had ever known. Once I got to college, mircobraids were really popular at the time. They were a way to put away my own hair without sweating it out and having to wash and curl it every day. I wore them so much that I just had no need to relax my hair. My hair after about two years of wearing braids was totally natural. My curl pattern is about a 3c, which is not to hard to manage on my own with just a blow dry and flat iron. I never went back to a full relaxer.
1 + 1 = 2
In cosmetology school, we learned that hair is hair. Each strand is made of the same chemical makeup. Genetics determines the texture and density we are born with. When it comes to hairstyling, there are chemical and physical changes. Chemical changes, which may be permanent, include but not limited to color, perms, and relaxers. Physical changes include using liquid, heat, or creamy products to temporarily change the formation of the hair, e.g. blow out, flat iron, twist outs.
The question of how natural is natural hair arises out of the way natural is perceived on a social level. When we discuss natural hair, are we talking about embracing our heritage and roots, or natural as in someone who lives an all natural lifestyle free from chemicals. When it comes to the health of the hair, “natural” does not equate healthy hair. I’ve had clients who wash and go, tear their hair up while I’ve had clients with relaxed hair who maintain the integrity of their hair. I’ve read women’s studies about how historically, we chose to relax our hair to appear more “white” and that we should embrace our natural curl patterns. But what about white women who perm their hair to be curly? It doesn’t seem that society’s view of natural means 100% au naturale because in a corporate setting, many natural styles are unacceptable. One can have absolutely no chemicals in their hair and wear straight weave, while one can wear their own hair curly with color, leave in conditioner, twisted with flex rods. So what exactly does it mean to be natural?
What makes one #TeamNatural? Is it the hair style? Is it the products? Is it the lifestyle?
I find that society, or maybe ourselves, have a way of placing binaries upon us a women where we must be one or the other. From one extreme to total opposite end of the spectrum, you must choose. Which team are you? #TeamNatural #TeamWeave #TeamRelaxer #TeamNoMakeup #TeamBeatFace
Binaries like this are detrimental to the way we interact with one another, woman to woman. The word “team” speaks to competition, sports, winning and being better than the other team. What about the girl that falls somewhere in the middle? Must she choose a side? Why must we declare a team?
Aside from the binary, #teamnatural is not so natural. When it comes to wearing natural styles, once we apply color, gels, curling custards, perm rods, flex rods, and oils, it safe to say that the hair is not natural anymore. We groom our hair to look presentable and professional, but not many can not just wash and go. Furthermore, all wash and go hair is not perceived the same, by society or potential mates. And to say one doesn’t care about how they are judged/ perceived is a delusion in itself.
Hair has always been a form of creative expression for me. I plan my hairstyles around my mood and my outfits. My hair has never defined how I feel about my heritage or my roots. Sometimes I feel like being curly, sometimes I want my hair straight. My main concern is the healthy of my hair, followed by the style. I have tried to do the “natural thing.” I found that it was a little too time consuming and expensive. I was constantly trying and buying a lot of hair products. I couldn’t sleep however I wanted without waking up looking crazy. So its not for me. That’s not to say what will work for the next person.
What happened to doing what makes you happy? If your natural hair makes you feel good, then do it. If weave makes you happy then do it. Whatever you like, if its healthy and makes you happy, just do it. Let’s put an end to the #team_____ mumbo jumbo and jump on #TEAMWOMAN, #TEAMGIRLPOWER. Lets life each up and celebrate our similarities and our differences.