Monday, 27 April 2009

Question of the week: Will you always be natural?

I received this comment from a reader and it keeps ringing in my head. This was posted under one of the Henna topics but it really reflects the question of the week. This lady has been natural for 10 years and it was intriguing for me to read this commentary (bear in mind 10 years of naturaldom). "My hair never really held a perm so I just stopped trying to force it to do something that it was clearly fighting me on. But I have thought about getting a relaxer or texturixer MANY times. It's not because I hate my curl pattern. I actually love my texture.But just being realistic: it's difficult hair to have to manage on a daily basis. I have bossy, opinionated hair. We fight battles all the time and I often lose. My hair is super thick- like many people I've broken combs, hair clips, elastics, etc. I've worked up a sweat trying to get it into a ponypuff. Some days we just don't get along and sometimes I think about how nice and easy it would be to work with something more manageable.I wouldn't presume that someone has self-acceptance or self-esteem problems if they didn't want to fight that battle. Maybe they do but there are so many other reasons. I go back and forth myself." On a personal level, I reached hair nirvana in about one tenth of a second. I knew I was not ever going to relax again because relaxing was problem filled for me. I really didn't think that after 10 years of being natural that hair would still be an issue for some . I am going to rap my own knuckles for that because it obviously has no founding. I do think that the author really did give us all a real pearl of wisdom in the first line. I would like to play the devil's advocate and ask, is your hair difficult or are you being difficult to your hair? Maybe your hair doesn't like that comb or maybe those clips are too tiny or maybe your hair doesn't want to be pulled back? Fighting your hair is not the way forward. The curlier the hair, the more gentle you should be to it. I really would like relaxing hair to be an option not a remedy. I know we don't always have good hair days but the remedy for me is to tie a pretty headband and/or clip not a relaxer. Relaxing is especially not a remedy if you had problems with it before going natural, what will be different this time? While I'm busy being not politically correct, I may as well say that some people really treat natural hair like the dreaded word - weight loss. So often when people need to lose weight, it is simple maths, eat less, exercise more but struggles appear when people try to skip out on the exercise or on the 'eat less' part. Equally with natural hair, you need to understand your curls, the curlier you are, the more you need to moisturise and the less you need to manipulate. It really is quite simple. I am a ride or die natural so I don't envision that everyone holds my opinion. Are you always going to be natural? Do you think of relaxing as an option? Are you on the fence? Or is natural hair actually just an option for you? Or are you a never say never person? You can also check out some related super extra juicy discussions on the fab blog BGLH here and here.

31 comments:

  1. i have been natural for 10 years now myself and i'm a lifer! i.love.my.hair.

    i think many times people exaggerate how "difficult" natural hair is. ironically, i've seen this from naturals who i feel should have no problem managing their hair. i also think it reflects on how you always felt about your hair. i always liked my natural hair. i relaxed to look "grown up". my mother and brother didn't want me to. i don't regret ever relaxing tho because that's how i know i like my natural hair better :)

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  2. This is interesting because I also didn't dislike my natural texture when I relaxed it. It was the promise of length that lured me into relaxing. I guess maybe that is why it is perhaps easier for me to say that I will always be natural because I never had an issue with being natural in the first place.

    Maybe it is different if your texture was regarded as bad when you were growing up?

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  3. I have been natural for a little over 9 years and will NEVER relax again. Like Jenteel and Jc, I liked my natural hair before a relaxer and love it even more after enduring the harshness of relaxers. To me, my natural hair is so much easier to manage than a relaxer. Plus I was one of the super sensitive heads who got major burns, ouch, never again. In addition, I am a gym fanatic and sweat ALOT, my hair is drenched sometimes after a workout, so easy to just wash and go as I please....I couldn't do that when I was relaxed. When I try a hairstyle and it fails, I simply pull it back in a puff or ponytail, put on some fly earrings, my makeup and I am out the door. I don't fight battles with my hair at all, sometimes it does feel and look dry, then I know it's time for a DT and some more moisture like right now, but I was lazy all weekend.

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  4. After about 6 months of transitioning I considered turning this into stretching but I'm scared I'll regret it later. I'm almost 9 months in and some days I still consider relaxing again. Some days I'm totally in love with my natural texture and other days I'm cursing it and I can honestly say I'm still on the fence about relaxing again.

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  5. I have also been natural for 10 years. It has never occurred to me that I might one day relax my hair. I think part of the "problem" may be that,kinda like you said, that even as naturals we may try to make our hair do something that it doesn't want to do and that is why styling can be difficult. I think too, it is still so questionable among many people if our hair is acceptable (read beautiful, professional, elegant, clean, etc etc) so we try to make it do styles that will be seen as acceptable. Our hair is so unique, nobody else has it, so no matter what we do, we will stand out! Some people are uncomfortable with a fro or just hair that is big and grows out as opposed to down. Forcing this kind of hair down IS a chore! I admit that it takes confidence and a high self esteem to walk around proudly because we will always stand out.

    For that reader it may be just a matter of figuring out a great style that she can do on the weekend that will last the week so that daily styling is not an issue. Sometimes when things get hard, we reminisce about the past, seeing it through 'rose-colored' lenses. But, if I recall my relaxer experience, it looked ok most of the time but I was never fully satisfied.

    Good luck!

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  6. I feel I can safely say that I will not ever relax my hair again. The only reason I relaxed in the first place was the escape the hot comb in my mother's hand (LOL) and b/c she didn't know how to do any "cool" natural hairstyles. Who knew natural hair could do all these cool things!

    I luv my hair, its texture and curl pattern that I'm not even all that interested in straightening it. I sold my flat iron last month!

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  7. I consider natural hair AND relaxed hair and option for me. Would I go back to natural hair though? No, I like being natural too much. Relaxed hair was EASIER for me, but for some reason, I just can't see myself going back.

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  8. Hi LoveMeMore - As a transitioner, I think you are in a different class because you do need to reach a point when you are comfortable with being natural. Some like me get it instantly, others cycle 3 or 4 times (even more) with the relaxer before going natural permanently. I do think all transitioners are given a complete pass on this question.

    I would say if you want to be natural as a transitioner, check out some natural (heat free)styles and natural products. Even if you just wear the hair at home or with family, this can be a good step to beginning to look at your texture and learning how you can work it.

    When you are 2-3 years in and thinking of turning the ship around, then my curiosity builds as to why? Whatever the reason, I'd like to know!!

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  9. When i stretch my hair and let out for a half fro in the back, i do not redo it every night bcuz i know that it is not good for my hair. i sleep on it with a satin cap and i just arrange the shape in the morning ( 1 min). Yes it is super kinky and it looks like a ball a cotton on the surface, my real texture(not like when i first stretched even thought the stretch keeps a bigger for the whole week).I love it. I find it sexy. I keep it for the whole week. Now i have heard people with my hair type saying they do it every night!! That is what i call fighting with your hair. And also my edges, i comb-brush them in the morning few, hours letter they coil back. I find them sexy as well. i'm not going to fight that.

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  10. Wow agrlcanmac, you sold your flatiron!! I rarely flat iron my hair (like once in a year) and almost every single time, my hair doesn't like it - turns a little crispy and begins to beg for moisture.

    I think I'm going to get serious and start doing what I tell others to do. Flat iron is going up on ebay!

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  11. I also will not be returning to the relaxer. For the most part, I liked my relaxed hair, but I LOVE my natural hair! I agree with JC that a lot of problems come with trying to force your hair to be something it's not or not accepting its limitations. I have reached a length where I simply cannot wash my hair loose. I wash it in twists or braids or else it would be tangle city. I hennaed this weekend, so of course I had to rinse out the henna loose and it took me about 5 hours to detangle my hair after I deep conditioned, even though I had detangled before I applied the henna. If I could figure out a way to henna in twists I would never wash my hair loose. Of course this means no more wash and go's, but it opens a world of beautiful twists, braids, updo's and out styles. Once I realized this, it made doing my hair so much quicker and easier.

    I have also given away my flat iron and all other heat applinces. One of my friends offered me her chi (or similar expensive flat iron) for the semester and I turned her down flat. I love my hair so much that I don't want to risk damaging it or ruining my texture.

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  12. I've been natural my whole life and will probably never relax my hair. I got it pressed through middle school and part of high school, and if I ever feel the need to go stick-straight again, there's a flat-iron & a hot comb in my top drawer. Granted, they're gathering dust because I never use them, but they're there. Relaxing, on the other hand, is money and time and chemicals and waiting eight days past forever for it to grow out if something goes wrong. I'm too broke & too impulsive to do that.

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  13. i will always be natural. i love the versatility of my natural hair. i have never considered relaxing my hair again. why sit in a salon for 5 hours on saturday smelling burning hair and aerosol hairspray when i can be in my bathroom having a spa hair day with naturally divine treatments?

    when i find myself at odds with my hair, it's usually because i have some unresolved, non-hair-related issue. can one be passive-aggressive with her hair? anyway, that's how i feel sometimes. most days are great days, and i wouldn't trade in my curls for anything.

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  14. i will never regularly flat iron my hair again (for other girls it was relaxing, for me it was brutal flat ironing marathons that kept my hair straight.)

    the natural movement is exciting. those who stick with it are going to see some exciting things. i can feel it.

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  15. i see no reason to relax again, but i feel my aethetic-opinion has changed a lot since going natural (about 7 years now, wow).

    it means i rarely struggle with my hair. not because its an 'easy' texture (it is very thick, several textures and knots easily) but because i don't battle- i don't do anything it doesn't want to do. so, no ponytails for me, no picking it out, no using any-old shampoo. unless i start to prefer a look that doesn't come naturally to my hair, i don't think a perm will happen again.

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  16. I've never had a perm so I've been natural all my life (I didn't even know what a perm was growing up lol). But I am a victim of constant hot combs and flat ironing. You would never ever catch me outside with my napps showing that was a no no I made sure my hair was straight 24/7.

    I admit on those bad hair days I'm like two seconds away from popping the comb on the oven. It's really hard sometimes since not everyone around you will support or understand what you are going through. My family constantly ask me "Why are you wearing your hair natural?" my answer is always "I got sick of putting the hot comb in my hair every morning I want my hair to be healthy" they say "But it's going to me all nappy" smh Then you get the ones who think going natural means lighting incense rocking a fro screaming black power. So it's a constant battle of ups and downs even for the women who never had a perm but always straighten their hair. We as a race have been taught by our own families and communities that our kinky hair (hence I said kinky curly hair has always been "good" hair in the black community) is something to be ashamed of so it's going to take a while for a lot of women to break that cycle.

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  17. I was natural for 17 years before my first relaxer. Growing up I thought of relaxers as a rite of passage for a girl becoming a young woman. My father banned relaxers in my house so I was force to settle for accomplishing straight hair with a flatiron.

    Now natural again for over a year I can honestly say that I have NO desire for a relaxer EVER AGAIN. I've even had nightmares in which I go to the hair salon to get my hair trimmed and under the guise of deep conditioning my hair, the stylist tricks me into relaxing! THE WORST NIGHTMARE EVER!

    I've accepted that there are things my hair will do that other people's hair cannot and vice versa. Accepting that my hair has character and personality was a big step towards me loving and appreciating my hair. This is not to imply that if I see another natural with a style I like that I will not try it. If it doesn't turn out the same, I tweak it and try to make it my own.

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  18. Very interesting read. My thought is she has been natural for 10 years. She held on for a very long time. I can understand her frustration. I just it goes back to learning what your hair can and can not do and accept it.

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  19. This post was so on point! I loved it.

    I've been natural for 23 years (my whole life) and because relaxing has NEVER been an option for me, I've learned to find other alternatives when I feel like my hair is not cooperating. The biggest thing I've figured out is that my hair is not going to change so I need to adjust my expectations, desires, and actions accordingly.

    My hair is never the problem, it's always me.

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  20. I personally never will, I feel to fly when I do wear my puff's out LOL. I've never been able to fix my own hair as a permie, nor would I touch it. I had no idea what to do with it, I was curling iron handicapped. I never had a choice about perms, my family just did them I never knew what "natural" was. My hair grew long to the middle of my back as a kid because I rarely got them and it was always in braids. I really was sick of the whole perm and burn my sensitve scalp process since I hated for my hair to look super straight and would never fix it. I only would go about 8 months to a whole year at a time before I ever did perm it as a permie haha.

    I also never impose my actual ideas on others either. I used to be a natural *don't you ever perm you hair again girl* I now just tell people keep it healthy and give out healthy hair tips I learned from fotki members (permies and naturals) or from my own experience as a permie. We all go through a struggle, permed or natural. Show love. :-)

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  21. Another natural checking in to this discussion - heck no! no way! not ever will I relax my hair again. I love my texture and I want my hair to be healthy.

    My hair is very sensitive (I'm still growing out short spots in the back that were destroyed by commercial hair dyes). In order for it to be its absolute healthiest, I've chosen to let it be the way God intended it to be.

    And I love how my hair looks. I can't wait for it to get even longer/bigger. I'm going to rock my big 'fro with so much attitude y'all gonna have to come slap me. LOL

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  22. I agree with a previous comment about working out. when I started using the gym I was washing my hair upto 4 times a week (relaxed hair!) and there was no way I could straighten it that often. I would just slap on some product and tie it back, which kinda defeated the object of the relaxer. so I went natural, assuming that it would be so easy; no! I realised that natural hair also takes alot of looking after, and with university I didnt found the time to invest in it; my problem, not my hairs.

    I relaxed again when I got a job, to fit in and look more polished. I have a sensitive scalp so only relax every 3 months; my nappy roots dont look very polished I can tell you! I'm now preparing for my next BC and can't wait! some people have really tried to discourage me, but those that have been supportive (mostly of afro origin) have really inspired me. I think they too have fought the same battle, and appreciate how difficult relaxed hair can be.

    However, I do think I will relax again, as I get bored very easily and constantly think it will be different next time; my scalp won't flake, I'll take better care and I'll find a magic new style to hide my regrowth!

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  23. @Anonymous - you raise some issues that are both interesting and a little bit unsettling. I'll be moving your comments to the question of the week segment. I hope you will come back to my site and visit BGLH too as there is plenty of support and info for you. All the best in your journey.

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  24. I often wonder if long-time naturals such as the one mentioned had easier-to-manage hair when it was at a shorter length, and if so, why they don't just cut it back to that length. I know this is considered sacrilege in the black community (lol) but it's perfectly fine to keep one's hair at a manageable length, even if that length is, say, 3". I just find it interesting that "relaxer!" is often the default alternative.

    I was relaxed for 18 years and have been natural for 13. Styling natural hair, and wearing it in its naturally nappy, fro-ey, kinky, bushy state...this is my normal. I haven't heat-straightened in a very long time but when I did I remember how clumsy I was with styling. (Except when I was doing a French braid...much easier with straight hair. ;) )

    Going back to relaxed hair would require a learning curve that, frankly, I'm not interested in climbing. Someone would have to put a gun to my head, or to one of my loved one's heads, or offer me a HELLA lot of money, before I'd relax my hair. How much money? A million dollars after taxes...with an out clause that said I could go back to natural hair after a certain period of time. :) Also I'd have to be able to do touch-ups myself...and then I'd take hard-core notes off of LHCF.

    So yes, I WOULD relax again...under VERY specific circumstances. ;)

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  25. I was natural for 10 yrs before I relaxed again. I loved my natural hair but even though i had been natural for a very long time, there was a lot i didn't know about hair care in general and specifically natural hair care. I grew up in the Caribbean and moved to the States for college. The pace of life was much different, the weather was different (no winter in the Caribbean), it was a big adjustment. Even though I could get away with my poor hair care "regime" in the Caribbean, it did not work for my life in the States. Dryness and breakage was a major problem. Time was an issue (esp with my extracurricular activities, mainly dancing) so I always took the easiest way out - blow dry, comb quickly even it if mean roughly. The biggest problem though was that I DIDN'T KNOW.

    There was so much I didn't know about caring for my hair, but I didn't realize that at the time. So in my mind a relaxer was going to make it easier, more manageable with my new life. Right? Wrong! Hair care is hair care. Relaxed or natural our hair is delicate and what I didn't know natural I certainly didn't know relaxed.

    So after four years with a relaxer, hair damage,scalp damage, hair cuts, hundreds of dollars poorer, losing respect for hairdressers etc, I'm back to being natural. Did my BC two weeks ago, last relaxer was March 09. The most important thing though is that I've been learning a lot about caring for my hair! I could have decided to go on a relaxed hair journey. Many ladies with relaxers have wonderfully healthy hair and good experiences being relaxed because they learned to better care for their relaxed hair. And I'm glad for them!

    But I decided to go back natural because I much prefer it and I knew I wouldn't regret it. And I'm excited at how this hair journey will unfold now that I'm more equipped with the information I need to properly take care of my hair!

    Will I ever relax again? I highly, HIGHLY doubt it but if I do at least I'll know how to better care for relaxed hair also. Hair is an important part of our lives and it changes as we do. I'm more likely to cut my hair into a very short natural style than to relax it again. That might be nice change. And thank God hair grows back!

    My bottom line - learn to take care of your hair and it will take care of you.

    Cammie W

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  26. Thanks for your comment Cammie!

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  27. Good question! I believe I'm natural for life...however, maybe not a dread for life. I've always wanted a short, natural fade and I think one day I may cave in!

    I can truly say I haven't thought about relaxing since I stopped 5 yrs ago. Now, I have entertained the idea of a short, straight wig for a day, but definitely not permanent changes.

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  28. Interesting, I was just telling my friend this the other day. When I first went natural five years ago, I knew that I would never return to the relaxer. You're right--bad hair days (and styles!) may still happen with natural hair, but it will never outweigh the sheer freedom of having my own hair and not having to go through pressing comb--chemical burn torture.

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  29. I honestly don't want to relax my hair again, eapecially since it did not agree with my hair and scalp the last time. Its been about 3 years since I last relaxed my hair. Even though it has not been easy I am willing to stick with it and in the long term. If I do want a drastic change there are weaves and wigs. I am still having problems with my scalp even now, why should I go back to that stress again?

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  30. I definitely had to go through a process of learning to love and appreciate my natural hair, and it took me years - which included going natural, then "texturizing" then cutting it off, then...yada yada yada.

    I only really started enjoying my hair after I came to appreciate its beauty and decided I was never going to relax again. That's when I really started down the road to health and growth.

    I definitely understand where the 10 year natural is coming from. My hair is super duper thick. Pony puffs can be a struggle, and I have annihilated combs and clips that were supposed to be up to the challenge. I had to learn that some styles just weren't for me. That heat wasn't for me. Also, what we know about natural hair care now, and the support out there is so much better than it was when I first went natural in '93.

    As difficult as it is - IT'S MUCH EASIER NOW - and I'm so happy for everyone going natural that the products, the support and the knowledge are there for them...

    I wish everyone could experience pleasure with their natural hair

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  31. Going back to a relaxer has never been an option for me. Actually didn't even occur to me until I read this! I've been rocking my (GORGEOUS!!!) naps for nearly ten years, after having it relaxed (why is it called a relaxer when it's so freaking painful?) and pressed since I was four, and I'm never looking back. It certainly helps that my husband and son are also in love with it. They freak out if I even wear twists, because it just isn't me without a BAA.

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