Trying to Be White: Natural Versus Relaxed Black Hair

This article hit home for me ! I have had this conversation so many times I can’t count. It’s like this sista was reading my mind when she wrote it LOL Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Peace πŸ™‚

Healthy Scalp, Healthy Locs

Nyesha Samuel,Β  Publisher of healthylocsblog.com & Master Loctician

Trying to Be White: Natural Versus Relaxed Black Hair
The standard of beauty has rarely included black women. Some see this as a good thing since we do not have to try to achieve the look of major white models, actresses, or singers that are paraded on television and in magazines. Many of us have been told by our mothers and grandmothers that we are not built like white women so there is no use in trying to look like them. Most of us take this to heart.

But there is one area where many black women want to change about themselves. Their hair. The black hair care industry is one of the biggest and most profitable in the country. Black women go through great lengths and huge sums of money to take care of their hair with topical products, relaxers, weaves, wigs, and the regular use of hair dressers.

There are many reasons that black women decide not to wear their hair in its natural state. Some of them include many myths. These myths seem to be used in an effort to make black women feel that they are not straightening their hair in an attempt to look like white people. Some of these myths include:

Relaxed hair is easier to manage

If you ask most black women why they have relaxers it is because it is easier to maintain. I cut off my own relaxer when I was 20 years old. At that time I only knew how to take care of relaxed hair. After cutting off my relaxer, I learned that it was much easier to take care of my natural hair. I didn’t have to buy a relaxer every 6-8 weeks or go to the salon and have someone put one in for me, which means I saved lots of money. I didn’t have to curl my hair with curling irons every day or wrap it at night, which means I saved time. I didn’t have to fear rain or humid weather. I didn’t even have to comb my hair as much in it’s natural state versus my relaxer so I have never understood this reason. It is different to care for natural hair, but not more difficult.

Natural hair does not retain length

Lots of women want long pretty hair. Black hair has been stigmatized as not being capable of growing to great lengths without the use of relaxers. This reason is unreasonable simply because relaxers are so full of chemicals that they make black hair much more susceptible to breakage and damage. Broken and damaged hair cannot grow long and be healthy without a lot of maintenance. I have known and seen plenty of women with long relaxed hair that was extremely broken, damaged, and thin. What is the point of having long damaged hair that looks horrible just so you can say your hair is down your back? I recently cut off about 5 inches from my natural hair. Before that it would hang to the middle of my back. Even with the amount I cut, it still hangs down to the top of my back when it is twisted. Though hair growth is dependent on diet, genetics, and proper hair maintenance, there is no reason why black hair cannot grow long in its natural state.

Instead of using these myths as reasons why black women keep putting chemical relaxers in their hair we should admit the truth. Relaxing black hair is a way to try to look like white people. This hair dilemma is one of the last negative images that black people have maintained about themselves. There are so many negative views of nappy hair. Nappy is bad. It is ugly. It is undesirable. Silky, straight hair is more beautiful. Because we are not born with silky, straight hair, our hair must not be beautiful. This is more of an historical perspective, but because chemical relaxers are so entrenched in black culture, this historical attitude remains.

I admit that I never thought about being like white people when I was a child, teenager, and young woman with a relaxer. This is because I was raised with hot combs and chemical straighteners. These items were just part of being black. But why? Why can’t we love the hair we’re born with, its textures, its thickness. Why must we continue to call a part of our biology ugly? Just like we know that our bodies are not built like a white woman’s body, we should accept the fact that our hair is not like a white woman’s hair. We should stop making up excuses to keep applying harsh chemicals to our and our daughter’s scalps in an effort to attain mythological manageability, length, and other unfound reasons for relaxing our hair.

By ET Cameron

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10 thoughts on “Trying to Be White: Natural Versus Relaxed Black Hair

  1. I am a Ghanaian woman and I have Sister Locs. In Ghana, or should I say Africa generally, having locs is looked down upon and some employers refuse to employ women with locs. Over the years, things are changing, as there was always a stigma associated with locs, as well as cultural misunderstandings. I am glad things are changing and I am glad I am one of those people helping to change that. However, we have a long way to go. I know ladies who refuse to change from these awful long fake hair for their natural hair. I have known some to spend $1,000 for Brazilian hair. I look at such women and feel sorry for them because to me they look so stupid flicking their fake hair here and there thinking they actually look nice.

    I hope and pray that we will see the light and go back to wearing our hair natural and accepting our uniqueness and natural beauty.

  2. I have been natural for six years, and so much happier. I went natural because I got tired of being a different character from one weave, wig, or extension. For once I wanted transition from one length or style w/out a major un-natural leap. In addition I can afford much better quality shampoo and conditioners. I plan to live and die all natural.

  3. I too was a member of the “relaxed club” of women, I was relaxed for some 40 YEARS! YEP, and have been sisterlocked, traditional loced and loose natural with a head full of beautiful coils and kinks prior to that. I am now once again wearing my hair as loose natural after cutting off my locs February of this year and STILL say that I prefer my hair with ALL of its twist and turns, it gives it so much character and personality. I prefer it over the thin and lifeless appearence of relaxed hair. Straight hair looks okay on white people because it is NATURAL for THEM, NOT FOR US!

  4. I’m a white woman and I just wanted to say that I LOVE when black women wear their hair natural and with kinks. It’s so pretty, especially the fact that they’re not trying to be somebody else! I wish more women had the confidence to wear their hair natural.

  5. Thank you for your comment T.C. . I’m happy that despite your frustration with your natural hair at times, that you have chosen to stay natural and not kill your hair with another perm or texturizer . Peace πŸ™‚

  6. I have had perms, afros and locs. Most recently, I cut off my locs of 6 years (I was natural for 4 years before that). Locs are wonderful but retightening maintenance although it can be stretched out over days, takes a good deal of time.

    Now, I am wearing kinky twist extensions until I can figure out another strategy. While my hair has grown about 6 inches in the last year, it is challenging to style.

    I tend to disagree with these overarching statements; I am sorry to say that in my opinion, natural hair IS hard to manage. Yes, my hair is soft and beautiful but shrinkage is no joke and neither is detangling. With over 11 years of natural hair care experience (not counting my natural childhood until 18 y/o) , and one who does my own hair, I think that I can say that.

    However, I also agree that relaxed hair is also time consuming and has tremendous drawbacks– burns, thinning, and damage being the most obvious.

    My point is that black hair, specifically highly coiled 4a/4b/4c, is beautiful but fragile–it will always require care. One must find a style that suits their life.

    My locs looked the best on me however the easiest “style” I ever had was a 2-3 inch texturized ‘do that just came about after I did another drastic haircut. I texturized once every 6 months. Just wet and go. Was I trying to be white? No, I think I was trying to shave several hours a week off styling so I could live my “colorful” life!

  7. I agree that there’s an unrecognized but nevertheless deep-seated loathing being expressed by sisters who straighten their hair within an inch of its life. With regard to their hair at least, these supposed divas seem anything BUT confident, “together” and proud to be black.

  8. I am a black man, and I totally agree. Black women have features, body and hair, that are so beautiful. Comming from a black man, I would rather see a black woman with the curves in her body and the natural kinks in her hair. To me, it represents natural strength and beauty of a true goddess.

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