My Love- Hate Relationship With My Natural Hair
If you've ever watched the movie Nappily Ever After, you know the pains that black women struggle with to have "good hair". From a young age, we are taught to have tamed, silky, and preferably chemically straightened hair. I grew up with the same narrative and societal pressure to always have "kept" hair, and it wasn't until recently that I decided to not only go natural but be intentional about loving and embracing the natural thick coils that God gave me.
It isn't only black women who struggle with this, and not even only women. In fact, to some degree, we have all probably felt that pressure to have the perfect hair. But the only hair we have is the one on our heads, so why not embrace its uniqueness and natural beauty?
Join me on my journey as I went from hating everything about having my "type of hair" to being proud of it, and how you can do the same.
The Beginning: True Hatred
I would have never admitted it back then, but as a young child, I absolutely hated the idea of having “difficult” hair. I would look at my friends in school and dream of a day where I could too jump into the pool and come out without a puffy frizz. I grew up, like many curlies, perming and straightening the $hit out of my hair. Deep down I knew the process for my straight hair entailed hours in the salon chair, painful detangling, and chemical burns from the treatment.
Although the process was long, brutal, and painful, I was always relieved to have straight hair so that I could fit in with everyone else. In a world where the white beauty standard was (and still is) prevalent, I felt it was all worth it. When I wasn't able to get a perm, I would put my hair in protective styles, like braids and extensions, for months at a time and get teased for having “a weave”.
Growing up where people with my hair texture were the minority, I often felt I had to protect myself from the judgments of other people. I would constantly get questions about my hair, and have people touch my hair as if I was a zoo animal. As a kid who just wanted to fit in and play, this was torture.
Looking back, it was funny to see how much work I put into something that isn't natural and grew to resent my hair when it wasn't even the problem. Nonetheless, all throughout my adolescent and teen years, I resented my hair.
The Middle: Going Natural & False Optimism
It wasn't until the middle of high school when I decided I would do the big chop. If you aren’t familiar with a big chop, it is basically a reset button going from chemically permed hair to au natural hair. During this time, many people were discovering the benefits of natural hair as opposed to relaxed or permed hair (which was extremely popular in the black community). After some convincing from a friend, I decided to cut off all of my permed hair and start off natural.
At first, it was scary, but with the surge of YouTube at the time, it became a fun little experiment. I would see all of the success stories of girls who suddenly developed better, thicker, or looser curls. Their hair was now healthy and after some time, less work. As someone who was sick of my untamable 4c hair, and the same two styles I had done all my life, it felt like a wave of hope to see girls like me waking up to do a wash n’ go. I know, that was something I could never do.
So naturally, I researched all the products, every flexi-rod I would need, and dreamed of my hair growing long and luscious.
The Climax: High Expectations & Frustrations
Six months into the process, I slowly started to distinguish the dream from reality. Although many people were sharing their love and success with their natural hair, it wasn’t exactly the case for everyone. I began to realize some of the techniques that were working for other people were not working for me and my natural hair just looked even more puffy and frizzy.
With more people jumping on the natural hair train, people began to speak about their frustrations with having it. In some cases, it ended up taking longer to do and required more work. A proper wash day was a full day’s work including deep conditioning, trimming, and detangling. When I would do all the steps and still have the kinky and coily outcome, I would start to hate my hair even more. Even IN the natural hair realm, I could never get that silky, loose, curl or wave I wanted.
What I wasn’t understanding at the time was that within natural hair was a spectrum (from 1a to 4c) of textures and types, and I was still desiring an outcome that was never mine to have. I would hope with the right oils and protective styles that my hair would magically change hair textures. I was missing the point. So, the frustration persisted and ultimately led me to give up on having my “dream hair”.
The End: What I Learned & How I Learned to Love My Natural Hair
For a while, I ran through a series of protective styles to avoid my hair. There were times when it grew and I got really proud of it, but then it would plateau and get more coarse. It was actually during that time of covering it up with extensions, braids, wigs, and anything else I could find, that I started to develop a better relationship with it. All I would think about is trying to nurture it in the different styles, and after a few months of wearing them, I would take it out and have a limited time before the next style.
In those short windows where I would actually get to see and feel my hair, I started to appreciate it. I would be as curious as I could be because my window was limited. I began to actually crave experimenting with it. I also started to appreciate how durable and versatile my hair was. At each salon I visited, the stylists would remark on how much volume my hair had and how strong it was to bounce from style to style without damage. This really encouraged me to take a break from the protective styles and play with it now that I was curious. There were still hard days, but I found a few styles that worked for me and were easy to do.
I started to mix in protective styles, not as a crutch, but as a break from having to worry about my next style. I found stylists who knew how to handle natural hair and would encourage me to protect my curls. And when I didn't have a protective style or didn't want to personally style it, I would leave it just as it is. I won't lie, I was self-conscious of my naturally chaotic hair, but I started to learn that my hair is unique in its natural form and that’s cool! In fact, by doing so I got more positive feedback from my friends and acquaintances.
I realized that my hair was not a setback, my mindset was. I can have days where I’m not in love with it, and that’s okay, no one loves their hair every single day. However, now my love goes deeper than my mood because it comes from a true appreciation for the only hair I have to understand and work with.
Loving my hair was a form of self-love that took me a long time to learn. But I’m glad I went through that almost 5-year journey because I learned more about myself and what works for me. I hope to see more and more people embracing and loving their natural hair in the times to come. Again, you can do this with or without added hair so just take time to be curious about yours!
Did you relate? How did you come to accept your natural hair? Let us know it the comments!