I have always felt unqualified to write natural hair posts. I don’t have hip length, armpit length or bra length hair for that matter. My hair is not ridiculously full, amazingly curly or truthfully anything special. I mean have you see Instagram girls? However, it seems that in the natural hair community we have replaced one standard of “good hair” with another. My mum has always said that our hair goal should be about healthy hair not long hair, easy for her to say since she has always had both **side eye**. However, mother is always right and I’ll take her advice further.
It starts in the mind
We often underplay the political/mental aspect of having natural hair. The average Nigerian natural started her hair journey because Instagram made it cool. I am of course overgeneralising but there is some truth in the statement. There are
hundreds thousands of girls showing off their lush long hair with the hash tag #naturalhair. There’s nothing wrong with wanting long hair and I’m not attempting to judge the validity of their reasons. However, I think it’s important to answer the question, “Why do I wear my hair natural?”
For me the transition to going natural was easy, I knew I had soft hair, “feels like cotton wool” is the frequently used phrase. I only got a relaxer a couple, maybe three times, a year and I never left the relaxer on my hair for longer than the instructions advised. So one day I simply decided that I might as well stop. For the first couple of years I simply wore my hair in braids and frequently under weaves. I only wore my own hair when it was straightened Southern style, hot-comb,grease and all.I was not brave enough to let my hair fly free. I do not know what prompted my epiphany, but I began to question why other races were comfortable with minimal manipulation of their hair. Why did I believe my hair had to be “trained” to do things it had no interest in. Yet I find that many are still in the pre-contemplation stage and I have recently been engaged in many conversations about going natural.
Here are some frequent comments I have heard and my brief attempts at responding:
“oh! I am natural under my weave/braid/wig. I never wear my hair out though because I would not look good with my hair out”
Have you asked yourself why you do not think that you are beautiful with your own hair the way it grows out of your head? Have you considered that you’ve been fed a steady stream of images about what beauty means and what your hair should look like? Why do you think only some people look good with their natural hair? Why are you unable to embrace the beauty of your versatile, to-die for hair ?
“I can’t be natural, my hair is too full/too thick/too kinky. I can never comb my hair and natural hair is too expensive/too much work”
All these statements arise from the same place, a loss of knowledge. Is it really possible that our own hair is too difficult to manage as it exists? Or have we simply that forgotten how to handle it? For the last few decades black women around the world have dismissed our hair as difficult and searched for quick fixes.
Natural hair is too much work when you try to make it do something it wasn’t designed to. Your desktop computer is wonderful and on your office table works like a dream. Imagine lugging your desktop computer around on your daily commute? I do not know about you but I think that might be a tad bit difficult. Now is this the desktops fault that it wasn’t designed to be mobile or yours for trying to turn it into a laptop?
“Have you seen all the YouTube videos? You need to do too much with natural hair. It takes all day to wash and the styles are too complicated.
The YouTube videos? Show of hands, how many of you imitate every contouring/strobing/highlighting makeup video you see on a daily basis? Exactly, so why do you think that YouTube videos are the gospel truth of how natural hair should be managed? They are great resources for new naturals, people looking for hair inspiration, etc. What they are not is a rule book of how you must take care of your hair. Don’t get discouraged because you can’t make perfect flat twist or perm rods daily. Also admit the limitations of your hair, because honey, it ain’t gonna be able to achieve every fantastic thing you see online.
So what’s the point of this long essay? Everyone must not wear their hair natural. The ability to have fun with braids, weaves and even chemical treatments is part of what makes African hair amazing. However, before you dismiss embarking on a natural hair journey ask yourself questions about the perceptions and assumptions you have regarding African hair. Where do they come from and what feeds them? If you’ve decided to take the huge leap into a natural hair journey, Congratulations! Accept that while your hair will without doubt be thicker in its natural state, there are many components to hair growth. Chances are if you had long locks while using chemical treatments, you’ll have long hair still. However, if you got only an inch of growth a year, chances that you’ll grow 6 inches in a year are slim. There’s genetics, diet, products, care regime etc to take into account. So if you remember only one thing from this post, a successful natural hair journey starts with understanding why natural hair is important to you. Simple enough.