Ease of ManagementShawntay (Processed) I've had my hair relaxed since I was a teen and it's what I know. I tried wearing it without a relaxer and I managed it (barely) for about 2 years, but I never got the hang of it. So, I mainly kept it braided in extensions or straightened. I relaxed it again on 1/1/13 and it works for me. Benefits are that I can manage it myself and I know what works for my hair since it's what I've known for so long. I like that my hair can "hold" a curl and it will last without me having to re-curl it or use any heat. Since I've changed it before, I would consider doing it again, but only when I'm ready to make the commitment to the maintaining the natural styles. No, I find it easy [to find adequate hair products], again, since it's what I've known for so long. I do try new products, but not that often. I like to stick with what works for me. I've never been that "adventurous" when it came to my hair, so I don't get any over the top reactions. Just the normal, "nice style" or "I like your hair like that" comments. Attiyya (Natural) [I wear my hair natural because] It's healthier and easier to manage with my lifestyle. I'm ready to go much sooner; I don't have to worry about what my hair looks like around water, in the bed, at the gym or anywhere else; I look different (that's a like); my husband can massage my scalp often. There are no dislikes. No [I wouldn’t consider changing this] I don't have a problem finding products. All of the above [people react positively, negatively and indifferently], depending on the person and what they're used to seeing. I've had people ask if I'm recovering from chemo (mostly men), some are more curious about my nationality (mostly blacks), some shocked to see old pics with hair...as if I've had this hairstyle since birth! (mostly whites), and some who love it (mostly other black women who either have natural hair or wish they did). Donesha (Processed) I choose to wear my hair processed because it is much more manageable for me that way. If I had no relaxer I wouldn't be able to tame my hair on my own, lol. The benefits of wearing my hair this way: I love the "if all fails go to a pony tail" feeling! I like the feel of my hair once it's relaxed and washing it is even easier for me. I have considered going from relaxed to natural, but with me having a 2 year old with natural hair, I just don't have enough time in the morning or night to tame mine and hers. I do find it easy to find adequate products for my hair. Being that I do relax my hair I typically stick to the Kera Kare products; wrap lotion, shampoo and conditioner. It has not failed me yet! it's very, very pricey, but well worth it! Since I have been relaxing my hair most of my working adulthood, I believe that people react the same to me as they would someone who wore their hair natural. Natural to me isn't always about rocking a "Fro", just how you care for your hair. I think that the way Corporate America views hair for black women has changed a lot. I think it's more accepting now, because they are definitely more ways to style your hair nowadays. Patrice (Natural) My oldest and I just decided it was time and we did it together. She grew her hair out totally and I did the big chop after a few months. Now that we have been natural (going on 4 years), we are very happy. It's so much easier than processed for us. My daughter is very creative and does a lot with her hair. I love seeing what she comes up with. I am *extremely* lazy, I don't know how to style hair and have no interest. I look back at my processed days and feel I looked stupid. Now, even with my laziness and inability, I can easily and quickly do something to my hair that looks beautiful. I love that. I have no desire to process my hair in any way. Not even a blow out to straighten it. I love that if straightened, my hair would reach my shoulders but with my shrinkage I can fake a twa. I love a shorter look. [Finding products] That's been very easy for us as we own an herbal product business. We make most of our own hair products. My mom and husband's reactions were negative initially. My husband likes hair and wasn't happy I did the big chop one day. I warned him but he shrugged it off which is funny because I am not the kind of girl who cares about length. He now says he had to get over the fact that it's my head and hair grows back. He is often in my head so I think he enjoys it now. My mom's response was similar. I think she thought I was crazy. When I'd wear a twa in a way that the front and nape of my neck would lay down and wave up, she'd say she liked the front and nape of my neck but not the afro part. Now she says nothing. She's not one to shower me with compliments. I think she's used to it. Generally, everyone else's responses are positive. I have always gotten compliments and encouragement everywhere else. Especially from one aunt who wears a very short natural cut. She told me I would love it and she was right. My daughter gets a lot of compliments and random (White) people who dare to touch her hair thinking she won't notice, lol. ... I suppose I was lucky to quickly figure out what works best in my hair as far as the products we make but I swear if I spend over an hour in my head, it's too long. I just don't have the patience. I can very quickly do something to my hair... I am definitely one of those who would say that in order to actually have my hair look good every time I go out, natural hair is far less work.
Self Esteem, Self Expression, Disregard of Social NormsShuyinthia (Natural - recently cut off her locs) [I wear my hair natural because] a. It grows best without chemicals to strip or damage it. b. i can use products that are natural and simplistic when styling. c. my self-esteem has a boost, due to my choice of expression and disregard or social norms dictated by others. d. I can wash, comb and go! [I dislike] when my hair looks dry due to my dehydration. It will tell on me. Lol. [Would I ever consider going from natural to processed?] NOPE, Never, Nada!!! "The only regret I have with going natural is that I didn't do it sooner" - will send pic for emphasis!! lol. Now that I've made "the cut", it's a new world for me, but I get product advice from those friends who have gone down the same path. The products are different now that I am minus locs, but I'm dedicated to sticking to natural oils (that I can cook with) or chemical free brands that enhance this experience. It's quite funny........ due to my transition from long locs to short "tight curls", the reaction is quite peculiar. People have been positive about the fact that my hair is still natural but express their shock with the drastic cut. Most clients have been very expressive, especially the little ones. One parent said that she believed it would be easier for me and understood and liked it. The students like my hair, but really, really liked my locs. it's just a big adjustment for most folks. It's a mixed bag. I have dealt with the parent reactions to the shock, but I believe everyone is careful to stay positive even if "they feel some type of way". Jacquelyn (Natural - locs) I wear my hair naturally (locs) and I've been natural for almost 10 years. The benefits are my hair is healthy, easy to maintain and I never have to fear water again. Additionally, I like showing the world, through my hair, that I love myself and find my natural state beautiful. I will never go back to processed hair. I got everything I wanted from my hair when I embraced my natural hair texture. Plus, if I ever do have a daughter, I want to show her that her natural self is beautiful and she need not conform to a standard of beauty that does not consider her in the first place.
Independence - LiberationLaTanya (Natural - locs) I've spent most of my life being brainwashed to think that there was something wrong with my hair being in its natural state. Once I reached a place of independence, I began to question everything that I learned, one being not to embrace my natural hair. The benefits are that you learn that natural hair isn't as bad as some may think. Also, you find out what products are best for your hair depending on it's porosity, which could be affected by processing. You also learn that all the products are not necessary and you learn just how beautiful and unique your hair is versus having it permed. I do not like the time that I have to put into my hair but it is well worth it so I continue to do it and just understand that doing my hair is a 4 hour job. I would not change going
from natural to processed. We must understand the chemicals that are in the mess we have been using in our hair, which is connected to our skin, which has pores that collect everything we put on our skin, which goes into the bloodstream, and so forth and so on. It’s very easy for me because I make my own products at the time I need them. Yes, I take the time to make a fresh product that I know is fresh and will work for my low porous hair. There are some environments that I have worked in that looked at me funny, wanted to touch it, smell it, wonder how often I washed it, etc. But because of the culture in the Washington DC Region, I rarely have issues. It was when I first started my locks in 2006 that I began receiving frowns at this law firm I used to work for. Notice I said USED to work for. LOL. Other than that, if anyone has a negative outlook on my hair at work, they definitely keep it to themselves, which is a very smart idea. LOL.
I never made a conscious decision to “go natural;” I decided to cut all of my processed hair off b/c i felt like I lived with a dog that shed too much! Hair was everywhere! After almost 3 years, weekly or sometimes twice-weekly visits to the barber to maintain my low cut became costly and I grew weary of them so I decided to see what it was like to grow my natural hair out again. And, it’s been an adventure ever since. Well, it is only natural to feel comfortable wearing your hair the way it is when it grows out of my head…accepting that and allowing my hair to do what God intended has been liberating. Figuring out how to meet the needs of the many textures of hair on my head has been the biggest challenge, but also very rewarding when i do find ways to treat with my varying textures and achieve a cohesive look. Going back to processed hair is not an option for me, but I may entertain cutting it all off again for the ease of jumping up and running out of the house without worrying about having to do hair (that is a freedom i loved and still dream about). It can be trying to find products for my hair especially since there are at least 6 different curl patterns and varying degrees of curliness and kinkiness on my head. So I generally apply the K.I.S.S. rule to hair products…I keep it simple by using coconut oil, olive oil and shea butter (as well as conditioners that contain these products). I am from a West Indian family and have found that personally several of my older family members object to my ‘fro and will let me know with off hand, unsolicited comments like “what’s going on with that head?” which I often rebuff by letting them know I’m happy with the hair God gave me…if you have a problem, that’s, well, YOUR problem. Professionally, people have either not seemed phased or compliment my natural tresses. I am happy to report that my choice of hairstyle has never impeded any professional opportunities for me!
I did the big chop three months ago. I initially approached it as just a different hairstyle. I wanted to shake up my look a bit. I didn’t have the patience to do the transition so I just cut it all off. [There are] several benefits to it being this short: I don’t wear a scarf a night, don’t have to worry about it being a hot mess in the morning, I started swimming more regularly, I stopped “running for my life” to stay out the rain, I wasn’t as concerned about riding in the car with the windows down, I just felt free-like liberated. This big chop journey mirrors my life shift in that…I’m more aware than ever about my self- care and what is necessary to maintain balance…this new do complements a lot of my outfits. I’ve also played with going a lil funkier –its fun!! Regular salon appointments have stopped-I got back hours of time back for living vs sitting in somebody’s chair, lol. I enjoy seeing folks’ initial responses to my new do…lol. Shifts/Challenges: I’m 3 months in so… my hair is growing rather rapidly and the products that worked when I first cut it aren’t a good fit anymore, I’ve become a product junkie-its pricey and wasteful at the same time but a wonderful exploration, finding a good barber cuz I refuse to pay my beautician to do a shape up. Never say never….I do intend to straighten my hair when its longer-I am curious to see what it will look like. [I find it] tough [to find products that work for my hair type]…I don’t wanna talk about it. Lol spending too much dayum $$. Personally: My male friends were like …that’s cute! One said oh you decided to take it back to Africa huh? 0_o…one said I see so much more of your personality shining through…lots of positive comments from my male friends. From potential suitors…it depends, some guys look but don’t approach, others flirt…but that’s truly how it was before *shoulder shrug*. From Friends, Associates and others… rather positive-lots of shock…some folks are like I can’t believe you did it….I could never do that….most are very complimentary. Family…My immediate family was the biggest shift…I think my parents think I am going thru a midlife crisis lol…my father likes long hair so he just shook his head. My mom cautioned me about gaining more weight and having a roll of fat on my neck. lol. My sis was like you look bohemian-like now. Lol. Brother in law…he was like its cool. Professionally: The folks at work said “what a great summer do” “that cut is great for the summer” “you have a great face for it”….. 0_o Bless their heart!
I made the move to natural 3 years ago because I wanted to move away from chemically processing my hair and was curious to see what my natural hair actually looked like. From childhood, I always had my hair relaxed. I LOVE the versatility of styling – wash-and-go, braided styles, straight. In my opinion, if someone tells you natural hair is less work, they are lying. This is initially what I thought before embarking on this journey. It is still a lot of work to maintain and care for natural hair. I am the wash-and-go and braid(added hair) queen because I do not commit the time to actually style my own hair. I am now committing (at least for the next 6 months) to minimize the wash-and-go’s and nix braid extensions. I will focus on truly learning how to style my own hair (or have someone style if for me.). I have thought about going back to processed hair during periods where I was really frustrated about how to style my own hair outside of wash-and-go’s. For me, over handling my hair straightens my curl pattern. As a result, twist out’s, bantu knot out’s, etc. have been EPIC fails for me. My hair just won’t hold the style. During this period, I thought “this is too much damn work and I don’t have the time.” BUT I got over it! Finding the right products for your hair is a bit of trial and error. I now have found the right products that work for my hair. My mom does not like my natural hair. She makes this known each time I decide to blow out my hair (which is not often.) Her response with my blow-out – “There is my baby. I love you hair like that not that natural stuff.” Other family members and friends are indifferent. I’ve been in corporate America for about 14 years now. Early in my career my braided styles were somewhat frowned upon. I think now that has changed but the response is still mixed. A few of my co-workers have said they prefer my hair straight over my natural style (curly fro or braids.) I typically get a lot of compliments on my natural styles from other black natural women or those who want to go natural. I will say that my encounters with non-US co-workers and other folks from my overseas travels have been really positive. They seem to LOVE my natural hair. My encounters with men are mixed, regardless of race.
I have been chemical free for about 3 years now in a self-experiment to see how my hair would react to being without a relaxer. I chose (c) because I consider myself natural but others may disagree because I choose to blowdry my hair straight and apply minimal heat (every two weeks when I go to the hair salon). I am still able to wear my hair the same as though it was relaxed which I am happy [about]. Dislike: When it’s time to wash my hair, it looks dry and dehydrated or when I have applied too much oil. I hate limp hair. [Would I ever change my hair to processed?] No, but I don’t see anything wrong if you choose to. I am still able to use the same products but always on the hunt for new products. [How do people react?] I’ve actually received more compliments now being chemical-free than with a relaxer. My hair is longer, fuller and bouncier. I had to get roller-sets to achieve what my hair is now doing on its own and reduced my salon visits to 30-45 minutes which I LOVE. However, what I find interesting are negative comments/reactions from sisters who choose to wear their hair kinky/curly. Some of them look down on those who choose to blow dry their hair straight. I always get “What’s the point?” My goal was to be free from chemicals and to end my addiction to the “creamy crack” which I can say I have achieved. I wish we all respected each other decisions and not pass judgment.
I’ve always had natural hair, so that’s all I know. I don’t feel that I have much of a choice in not being natural because of the length and texture like others because it would break my hair. It’s definitely cheaper wearing my hair this way (natural), as I don’t break the bank on unnecessary “maintenance” products and it’s cheaper at the salon. In addition I feel more confident because people are seeing me the physical “real” me. Nope wouldn’t change being natural. The only change would be just cutting my hair for different style but that’s it. [Finding products is] pretty easy, since my go to products are Carol’s Daughter, castillo soap and shea butter. The only reaction I get to my hair is about it’s length. Though I’ve have been referred to by friends as having “good hair” whatever that means. Generally in the summers, I wear my hair wet and the reaction is interesting because my hair can be both curly and straight without anything being done to it. It just depends on the temperature outside and my hair will make it’s own decision. Lol
[I wear my hair] natural – but mainly weaves. The benefit is that I can sleep without tying it up, or I can change the length or color without damaging my own hair. [I would consider] going full blown natural, if I can find a product that can keep my hair moisturized w/o having to put it in my hair everyday. Yes [I find it difficult to find adequate products], my natural hair is curly just realize how beautiful it is 15 years ago. The expensive “natural curly” hair products don’t do it for me. I hate gulk. [People react] very positive to both. My students think that I am really Dominican when they see my natural curly hair outside of the weave but are upset that it’s short. Lol! I, on the other hand feel a little weird when I don’t have a weave, probably because For the past 2 years, I have always had one.
I choose to wear my hair natural. I put a relaxer in my hair once in my life and it made my hair limp and it eventually damaged my hair because I use to swim regularly. I like my hair being natural because my hair stays healthy. I don’t have to worry about it changing texture because of overuse of products and chemicals. When I had a relaxer the only thing I liked was the fact that when I sweated my hair didn’t wave up or get too puffy! I will always keep my hair natural. So, no! I will never change it. I find it easy to find products. People usually react positively to my style of hair.
[I wear my hair] natural – straight styles (roller wrap to avoid heat damage). [I like it because I have] healthier, stronger, thicker hair with better length retention. I will stay natural…..relaxers are too damaging to my hair combined with swimming and I work out a lot. It’s too much stress on my hair. Also because of the grey hair I need color and don’t want to double process my hair… So henna is the only thing I use. It’s easy for me to find products. Personally and professionally straight hair is more positively accepted in my world. As a personal preference twist outs and Afros are just not for me…..I do like braids …but get them very rarely.
Keisha (Natural – locs)
[I wear my hair] locked (as opposed to loose natural). [The benefits are] stronger hair. Deeper connection with my roots, heritage and ancestry. I love the length and styling options. I do not like not being able to quickly do my hair on my own anymore. I am considering going back to loose natural. The big chop is in my future. I purchase and create products that work well with my hair. I have had no negative reactions to my hair. I can be conservative or funky at the appropriate times. I usually receive compliments on my various styles. I am always appropriate for work.
Somewhere In Between
[I consider my category to be] other. I get a touch up every 6 months which is not typical for most. Like the fact I can exercise, sweat and it is not as affected. Hate the fact that it gets pretty dry sometimes and I shed like some sort of animal during a season change. Hair all over the bathroom floor. And I’ll admit I’m really bad at wrapping it every night. Absolutely [I would change]! When I’m 50 and fabulous I’m going completely natural. Sometimes the selection for hair care products can be overwhelming. I usually keep it simple with oil sheen and vitapointe. Classic question which I just got today from an older woman…is that your real hair? Do you have a weave? What are you mixed with? I have had strangers touch my head in the beauty store. It used to freak me out but now I confess I’m used to and usually say yes its real touch it if you want. It has been a part of who I am since I was six with a huge puff ball on my head and I feel it is a part of who I am.
I wear my hair PERMED. I know my afakoid locs are the most beautiful in their natural state, but I’m impatient and lacking the discipline required to manage them beautifully. And I would have to start from scratch to wear them locked at this point. I can’t be cute the right way for at least a year. I don’t think my self-esteem could withstand the transformation period. Vanity would be my reason. A perm is a quick ponytail, curling iron style, and ease. And also Vanity, I look good with a fresh perm and a rod set!! I have considered it. But I haven’t figured out how to get back to my natural state without enduring the transformation stage. Discipline and Patience, hmmm….
So as you can see, everyone’s story and reasoning for their decision is different. Each of these beauties has a different ideal of what’s comfortable, what’s beautiful and what works. What’s just right for some may not feel right at all for others. What some see as liberation others may feel is a hassle and what makes things manageable for some, turns out to be damaging for others. Hair is a journey, go figure that. It’s NOT just hair. It is an extension of us, a means of expression. Our hair stories are unique and the women behind them are equally as exciting!
We shouldn’t be so quick to judge or condemn those who choose one option over the other. Yes, one method may be more natural than another, but the reasoning for our various choices is perfectly authentic. There are so many options to choose from and any number of those options reflect great individualism and beauty! Whatever you choose, just be sure that it reflects the true you, whoever that is. Have fun, be stylish, keep it healthy, remain appropriate, make it neat, try new things and most importantly… BE YOU!!! You can’t lose with that winning recipe!