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Can You Achieve Healthy, Relaxed Hair?

Girls who relax their hair will occasionally get the dreaded question: “Have you ever thought about going natural?”  Why is there a push or lean for women who relax to go natural?  The most common answer to that is that relaxers are damaging… or are they?

Opinion
The idea that relaxers aren’t good for your hair honestly depends on what your version of “good” means.  To say that a chemical relaxer “damages” hair is an opinion.  Do not forget that hair is dead – that’s why it doesn’t hurt when you cut it.  The only thing that you can do to your hair is … preserve the dead state.  It’s almost like taking a junk car (hair) and smashing it (applying a relaxer) and saying that it’s damaging to the car.  The car already doesn’t work.  So if your hair is already dead when a relaxer is applied… is it really damaging the hair?  Preserving dead hair is all what being natural means.  After all, a single strand of hair only has a life of about 7 years before it sheds.

Relaxed hair doesn’t grow long
Yes and no.  Again this depends.  When girls relax their hair, it is usually also blow dried and straightened.  It might even be bleached for color.  Those three processes alone can “damage” the hair even on natural/preserved hair.

You’re trying to meet European standards of beauty
No no and nope.  Do not believe for a second that anyone relaxes their hair and thinks “boy, I sure do hope I look whiter today!” People do not understand and underestimate the difficulty and time spent on natural hair.  It is not in everyone’s desire to spend hours detangling, washing, twisting, or deep conditioning every week.  The texture of natural hair can also be extremely difficult to manage especially if we haven’t been used to it.  Hair is hair.  It is there to be manipulated.

So with that being said, is it possible?
It all depends on what you think is healthy.  Hair is dead.  Whatever changes happens to your hair just depends on how much you value hair being preserved.  Why do you think our common hair products have those weird, periodic table ingredients in them?  They’re essentially… preservatives.  So why the push for natural ingredients?  Natural ingredients cause less “damage” to the hair as they don’t create buildup or further, slight chemical changes.  So it’s all an opinion.  If you choose to relax, let people know that all hair is dead.

 

Bringing Natural Hair to the Stage

It is quite common that when it comes time to slay whether it be at the club or at prom, wearing your natural hair is not what comes to mind.  Sure, you may get a curly weave or something that looks natural but it is still not your natural hair.  Even when it’s time to go back to school, women love getting a fresh install to feel good for class.  But why is that?

There is still a lack within our community to put natural hair as the top beauty ideal.  Unless the hair is long with “perfect” spirals, natural hair is hardly worn when it is time to look our best.  Our hair is constantly straightened, braided, and put away.  I would like to take a moment to recognize some women who proudly wore their natural hair in times where beauty is the highlight of an event:

Cierra Jackson – Miss DC in Miss America 2017

Image result for maria borges natural hair

Maria Borges – First model to wear natural hair in Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

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Yours truly, Stelly in my high school pageant in 2011

The “stage” in this sense is referring to any sort of spotlight.  Are you a manager?  A mom?  On the executive board for an org?  An employee in corporate America?  A wife?  When you are in these roles, you are constantly being watched by others and the way you wear your hair has more of an influence than you think.

 

It is important for women to continue to spread the notion that natural hair is beautiful when it is time to be beautiful.  Each time you think you look your best with hair that isn’t yours, just think that you are spreading that message to someone else.  Someone who may not feel as confident in their hair will see you changing yours and fall into the idea of changing theirs.  Or imagine if you were to have a daughter and she’s always watching you hide your hair.  Little girls or even women who aspire to be like you when you wear a business suit, in leadership positions, or even in a relationship will look at your hair and think “well maybe if I change my hair too, I can be like her.”

With that being said, what you do with your hair is a choice.  However, it becomes a problem when we have a headline for a black woman wearing her natural hair at a pageant or a black woman being the FIRST to wear their natural hair at a VS fashion show.  Just think about your choices for a second.

Side Note:  In the case of the Victoria’s Secret model, she asked if she can wear her natural hair.  Otherwise, they would’ve put a wig or weave on her.  With Miss DC, her stylists were against it but she pushed anyway.  Even if you are in a situation where your look isn’t completely in your control – ask anyway!  Be defiant.  

Natural Hair IS Professional

I am sure we have come across numerous articles making the statement that natural hair in the workplace is seen as unprofessional.  What I find funny is that these articles are usually written by other black women.  Where are the actual sources and evidence from our counterparts that also agree?

You type in “unprofessional hair” in Google and our beautiful natural hair pops up.  Do you know why?  Because when black women write an article about how unprofessional our hair is, they use images of our natural hair over and over again, polluting the search results which in a weird way is brainwashing ourselves!

I wear my natural hair proudly around the workplace and I get nothing but compliments about it both from black and white people.  I do not believe for a second anyone is looking at me thinking I am unprofessional.  As long as you’re dressed well and you look groomed, you are professional.

Do not fall into the idea created by ourselves that your natural hair is not professional.  That may have been true generations ago but it is not today.  Any hairstyle can honestly look unprofessional if not done right.  If someone at the workplace tells you to change your hair, please consult HR or a manager immediately!

I am absolutely pro-black but I do not believe that the “man” is after us all the time.  If you get denied from work places, please do not think about your name, race, or the way you look.  Someone could have just been honestly more qualified than you.  Or someone could have been best friends with the hiring manager – you never know the reasoning.  If you believe that someone did not hire you because of the previous reasons, please consult their manager or corporate if you have proof.

But back to our beautiful natural locks – it is professional.  It’s just all about the way you present it and maintain it.

However – I am aware of those cases where little girls are being sent home from school because their hair is “too distracting” or women are being asked to take out their braids for work, or how the military is just recently allowing us to wear braids and twists.  This is definitely discrimination against hair types.  All I could say that to that is keep promoting the idea that natural hair is normal and well… natural.  Eventually, society will make accommodations for us as they see it as a normal thing (as you saw with the military).  We have spent too many years trying to straighten our hair or wear weave that “they” figured that majority of our population wears our hair straight.  This is why I am advocating for natural hair – the more women wear their hair natural, the more changes you will see in society’s attitudes towards our hair type.

Why I Am Choosing Long, Natural Hair

What baffled me the most was when I wore a relaxer and people would comment on how “long” my hair was when it just fell down to my shoulders…I know what long hair looks like.  Long hair to me is mid-back length and below.  So why is it that when a black woman has hair down to her shoulders, it’s considered long?

Yes, this is me around 2008

Compared to this?!

I tell people all the time – as of right now, my hair is NOT long.  I really want to break the stereotype that black women cannot grow hair past their collar bone.  Hair has always been a hot topic among our community.  I see being natural as an outlet to have our hair grow and flourish to it’s full potential.  With proper care, the first thing girls notice when they go natural is how fast their natural hair catches up to their previous relaxed hair length.  It really only takes 2 years to go from bald to shoulder length.  Why is it that we speak about how long our hair used to be as a child but can’t seem to achieve the same lengths today?

Anyone can wake up and decide to cut their hair.  Short hair is easy.  Short hair is achievable by anyone who can grow hair.  But what about long, healthy hair?  It takes years, care, and patience to be able to achieve that.  There is nothing wrong with short hair but it becomes a problem when people are shocked that a black woman’s hair comes past her collar bone.  We.Are.The.Only.Race.With.This.Issue

One thing though that bothers me about hair is the division that happens among black women.   In the process of looking at other girls’ hair, black women start to compare and down themselves:  “My hair won’t do that.  My hair ain’t like hers.  My hair this.  My hair that.”  Or let’s not forget that dreaded comment: “She has good hair!”  I have numerous accounts with black women who will give me a compliment then proceed to tell me how they can’t get their like mine or how their hair is too nappy to leave out.  Honestly, these comments are sickening.  I believe all black women should be proud of what they have BEFORE they proudly rock inches that are not theirs.

Urban Bush Babes

Whitney (Naptural85)

We as a whole need to do better to break this stereotype.  I understand that however you wear your hair is a choice but it shouldn’t be at a point where short hair is the norm for us.  It shouldn’t be at a point where long hair on black women is thought to be fake before it’s even believed to be real.  It shouldn’t be at a point where women ask me where I’m buying my hair from or trying to dig their fingers in my scalp to feel for tracks.  It should not be this much of an issue.  Look at the shelves in the beauty supply stores.  Why are there so many products that promise hair growth?  Companies are preying on our stereotype to make money off us.  I repeat:

We.Are.The.Only.Race.With.This.Issue


Side Note:  I am aware of the health issues and genetics that can play a role in hair growth and I am excusing those cases.