The natural hair movement has proven to be more than a passing trend, as more and more women choose to embrace their original hair texture. Natural hair in this context means hair that has not been permanently altered with relaxers, texturisers, permanent hair dyes or heat damage. Black hair in its natural form is usually curly, coily or kinky. However, it has been the trend for decades to straighten the hair with chemical relaxers, hot irons, etc. Now, many women are going against this trend and reverting to their natural kinks and curls. Here are some of the reasons why:
1. Health: Many of us have been regularly applying relaxers to our hair since childhood. Relaxers are loaded with harsh chemicals which are linked to cancer, fibroids and other health issues. Some of these harmful ingredients are also found in shampoos, moisturisers and other hair products targeted at black women. Going natural means we stop applying relaxers to our hair and become more conscious of the ingredients in our hair products.
2. Fresh start: Sometimes we get sick of looking in the mirror at hair which has been rendered dull, lifeless and stunted by relaxers, heat and excessive manipulation. Sometimes we just want to chop it all off and start afresh with healthy hair.
3. To learn our hair: One major reason we relax our hair is to make it more manageable. However, our hair is ‘stubborn’ and unmanageable because we’ve been ignorant on how to actually care for our hair. Many of our ‘haircare’ practices actually harm our tresses, leading to hair loss, breakage and other forms of damage. Going natural means we take the time to learn our hair, what works, what doesn’t, and to unlearn those practices that harm our hair and health.
4. Hair growth: Many have resigned to the fact that our hair cannot grow beyond shoulder length. Our hair is constantly being suffocated by the wrong ingredients in our products, or pulled out from the roots by hairstyles that are too tight, or breaking from the tips because they’ve been weakened by relaxer and heat damage. Going natural means we treat our hair right, giving it the TLC it needs to grow.
5. To challenge beauty standards: Another reason black women relax their hair is to fit Western beauty ideals. Most beauty magazines feature women with straight or wavy hair. For decades, we’ve been conditioned to believe that our natural, unaltered hair isn’t beautiful enough. Our kinky hair has been seen as rough and untidy, not even allowed in some schools and offices. Going natural means we acknowledge our own beauty, and we don’t let others dictate to us how we should look.
6. Improved Lifestyle: In learning to care for our hair, we also learn that our lifestyle can tell on our hair and skin. We learn to drink more water, eat healthier, exercise. We learn patience. We learn to enjoy processes, rather than looking for miracles or quick fixes to everything. We learn to be comfortable with ourselves, confident in our own hair and skin. We learn to inform ourselves and be more discerning of what we put on our hair, skin and in our bodies.
7. Versatility: Our hair is more versatile in its natural form. It can be stretched, curled, rolled, twisted, braided. We can put it under weaves or wigs. We can wear it in afro, or even twist it into locs. We can also colour our hair with henna and other safe dyes. All the while keeping the hair healthy and nice.
8. To encourage/start local businesses: The black hair industry is worth billions of dollars. However, a lot of this money goes to non-blacks as they are privileged to own a majority of the beauty companies. Going natural means we learn to identify black-owned and local African brands, and to support them. Their products are often superior and better for us because they understand our specific needs
9. For our daughters: We owe it to the next generation of black girls to teach them that they are beautiful just as they are; to show them that they can have hair that is beautiful, manageable and HEALTHY; and that they can style their hair without pain, burns and headaches.
This article does not seek to denigrate women with relaxed or chemically treated hair. Everyone should have the right to do whatever they want with their hair.