Why I went natural: black women on why they ditched the relaxer

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by Ope Bukola on June 17, 2010

I’ve noticed lately that more and more black women in their twenties are turning to natural hair. Some even say that the internet is fueling a natural hair movement.  Case in point: June 1st marked Natural Hair day on Twitter and a concerted effort to make #naturalhair a trending topic. I was recently was talking with Z&A contributor Arielle Loren who noted that many women she knew decided to on the big chop during college. And last month, Jamila Reddy, who blogs at College Curlies, wrote a helpful post for curly naturals. It got me thinking about why I went natural in the first place.

Like many, I also went natural in college. I know why I remain natural (it’s easier, cheaper, I like playing with the coils) but it’s a little harder to remember why I did it. I think it was college angst meets frustration meets inability to afford relaxers. What finally pushed me over the edge was jet lag from a big trip to China (don’t ask why…). For many who decide to go natural, the internet is the best resource. Websites like Motown Girl gave me the courage to take the plunge. Here’s a small sample of women explaining why they went natural:

  • Jennae Petersen,Green Your Decor: “There are a lot of things I’m still working to change about my lifestyle to make it greener…. As I moved further and further toward a greener lifestyle, I started feeling guilty about what I was doing to my hair. I knew my bi-monthly relaxer wasn’t good for me or the environment when I washed it down the drain.”
  • Patricia Gaines, Nappturality.Com: “Back in early 2001, when I first stopped relaxing my hair it wasn’t done out of some sudden sense of pride and desire to go natural. It was done because I had a “chemical crew cut”. A relaxer had broken my hair off. As a person who revelled in having long, straight hair (my own) I was devastated. Unable to wear my hair short, I first went to wigs, then extensions and weave, in an attempt to preserve what I thought made me beautiful.”
  • Solange Knowles, via twitter:
  • Chrisette Michele via afrobella: “My hair and I had a really bad argument. She was being sprayed with alcohol and burnt with irons… She was being over processed and yanked and pulled by weave strings and suffocated by glue. She told me if I didn’t straighten up and fly right that she was leaving.”
  • Nik,CurlyNikki.com: “One night, my boyfriend sat me down and told me that he’d been observing me during our two years together, and that my mood seemed to be directly correlated with the current condition, or look of my hair…In the words of TLC, I felt ‘unpretty’ when my hair wasn’t perfectly straight. And since my hair doesn’t grow out of my scalp that way, I would always be unhappy and somewhat insecure until I learned to accept and love my hair for what it was MEANT to do.”
  • Tonya,New Naturalista: “I went natural back in September because I was just tired. Tired of the chemicals, the long waits at the hair salon, the serious and painful health implications of relaxing my hair every few weeks. It was also about rediscovering what was never shown to me. Unlike our mothers and fathers, most black women my age were “shielded” from our natural hair texture, pressing or relaxing like clockwork in an effort to make our coils manageable.”
  • Chris Tia, author of Thank God I’m Natural: “It had to be money and time. Wearing my relaxed hair had become a healthy obsession. It didn’t make sense to me to spend that much money and time on something so temporary.”
  • Shelly Davis of kinky-curly.com via afrouniquelyyou: “Janet Jackson’s album cover for Velvet Rope. I loved her curly style and wondered if mine would do the same if I stopped relaxing.”

The best part? We do it for so many different reasons: to confront appearance and image issues, for the environment, for the savings. I’ve been natural for more than three years now myself and, interestingly, for most of that time, I’ve never tried to convince others to try it. For the past year though, I’ve been trying to get my little sister on the bandwagon. Still, it’s at her own time, if she chooses. There’s no need to be, as one blog commenter put it, a “natural nazi.”

Do you have natural hair? If so, why did you go natural? If not, would you consider it? If you or someone you know/admire has shared why they went natural on their blog or website, post a link in the comments!
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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=11305883 Niecy Taylor

    Ope,

    This is great! You can read about my natural hair journey here: http://iamqueennee.blogspot.com/2010/03/history…

    The bottom line is, after an amazing stylist who told me he wasn't going to perm my hair, I began to grown long, natural, healthy hair. I struggled to find a stylist who wouldn't try to convince me that I needed some type of chemical to maintain my hair. After cutting the relaxers out of my routine three years ago, the Chi became my best friend. This year I decided I wanted to embrace my natural curl and stop flat=ironing my hair! The result is happy, healthy hair that is growing by leaps and bounds. I love it! I set out to go a year without heat styling, and everytime I get the urge to flat iron my hair I can't do it. I think I'll pay my special stylist, Ebon, a visit to Delaware once a year to get a good trim!

  • caramelgirl

    Im still a teen.. and I decided to go natural because I dont remember haivng healthy hair. I remember my hair always having bad breakage, short length, and being incrrredibly thick! (Many combs have been broken in my hair) Not only was my hair super thick, but I hated getting my hair pressed every other week, and worrying about it sweating out from exercising. My boyfriend, who is one of the most original people I know, has a huge afro(had it since birth), and he influenced me a lot, and showed me that naturally I am beautiful and I should be confident in my own skin. So as my confidence annd self esteem grew, I decided that maybe by going natural, I'd finally learn how to take care of my hair so it'd be healthier and I'd acheive longer length. I began to embrace my thick hair and recieved a lot of admiration from my peers at school, teachers, family and especially my boyfriend.

  • http://twitter.com/screeename screeename

    after 11 years of locs,recently heard that lye on the head started out as a means of torturing slaves. SMH full of locced hair

  • Jedosomwan

    I needed to see the beauty in me, the beauty in how God had created me. I have had a unhealthy relationship with my hair always wore weaves didn't feel pretty without them (which was a contradiction for black nationalist , hippie..lol) ..I grew up in Louisianan family where skin color and hair texture and length are everything and after years of hearing that I had bad hair (which is why my mother permed my hair at three) I had enough. I had enough of the weaves and the lying and cut it off.. never felt so free my mother HATES IT and after two years she still offers to perm it for me..but I love it because at the end of the day permed or natural I have to have a healthy relationship with myself and I am finally getting there..

  • liyah

    I decided to go natural because it killed me inside to spend so much money for simply damaged hair. While transitioning it was then i learned that i needed to accept myself for who i was and stop trying to be something i’m not. Growing up i had very low self-esteem about my big feet, how tall i was compared to my friends, my nose ( rihanna nose) and my brown complexion. As i got older i decided to work with what i have and as corny as it sounds things really got better for me. Not all but i have seen many black women out there that don’t work with what they have and try to make themselves someone else and that’s why they look bad when they think they look good. Dark skin girls wearing platinum blonde hair or bright red hair with blue eyes etc it looks bad. Many black girls instead of wroking with themselves they fight themselves and we need to realize as soon as we work with ourselves and spend more time trying to make our natural selves beautiful things will be much easier no doubt.

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