About a decade ago I was hair-color happy, blissfully experimenting with a veritable rainbow of semi-permanent shades and relaxing my hair bone straight all the while. Then I made the decision to go natural, and man oh man did I notice a difference in the health of my hair. Relaxer and regular coloring chemicals had ripped up my ends, shortened my hair growth, and left me with a tender, scabby, flaky scalp. It took years of hair rehab and lots of TLC to get my situation healthy and growing again.
Now it’s been a while… but I’m contemplating a change in hair color again. Something sunnier for summertime. I don’t even know what I want — a consultation with a professional will help, for starters. (Chicago natural hairstylists, anyone?)
But all of this brought me to a question for my bellas.
How do you define natural?
For me, natural means an unaltered hair texture. It means embracing your kinks and coils as they are, without using heat or chemicals to change the way your hair grows out of your head.
But what about color? Color has long been beloved by many bellas who would describe themselves as natural. And color can alter your hair’s texture, believe it or not. What about all of the beautiful women who wear locs, and color their locs in different tints and tones? And I know some bellas out there who say natural is just that — 100%. No color, no heat, and even using “curly hair” products can be frowned upon in some circles.
I respect everyone’s opinion, and I want to hear from you.
I had a fascinating discussion on Twitter which then led me to post this discussion on the Afrobella forum. And I got some brilliant responses from forum members and regular commenters, which I’m about to share with you.
Ellagirl believes “being ‘natural’ is a continuum, a journey, not necessarily a destination.” Love that sentiment. My journey is still continuing, that’s for sure.
Chocolate Orchid expressed, “My definition of “natural” is basically hair without a relaxer, texturizer, perm or chemicals of some sort that would permanently alter the hair’s natural texture. I personally don’t see getting my hair blown and/or flat ironed straight as “not being natural”. I think that’s one of the beauties of natural hair. You can mix it up with so many different styles without the damage of chemicals. Having said that, I’ve only had my hair blown-out and/or flat-ironed once since I BC’d in August ’07. It’s not something I choose to do often b/c of the risk of heat damage. Even if I see a woman who wears her hair natural with color, I still consider them natural. Call it an oxymoron but I just do.”
Moni asked the question: “Is someone who doesn’t have a relaxer but straightens their hair all the time, so that their hair no longer resembles the hair that grows out of their head natural? Technically, yes. But if you’re hair is no longer the hair that it is naturally, then can it really be called natural? I also consider colored hair to be natural, though if the colored hair is so damaged that it has changed the hair’s texture, then it starts to become questionable.”
WYYGBA who asked the original Twitter question (and blogs at PeachCobbler) elaborated beyond 140 characters:
“I consider myself natural because my hair has not been through any chemical process that has altered it’s texture or changed the curl of my hair. But I’ve come to see that “natural” is something you have to define for yourself. We can’t put each other in a box. I don’t think it’s fair for women that choose to relax their hair to tell me I’m not natural because I color my hair or choose to straighten it via press and curl. Some people yesterday came off as bitter that because I don’t have a relaxer, my hair has versatility, and I choose to take advantage of it!!!!! I’m sorry if you don’t have that because you feel as if you need a relaxer or choose to get a relaxer…. And on the flip side of that, there are those natural beauties out there that want to exclude those of us that color or press and curl our hair as being natural, and I don’t think that’s fair either. But at the end of the day, as long as I’m sans relaxer/ perm/ texturizer/ texture softener, I am going to call myself natural and fabulous!”
Echoing that sentiment, JoyIsHere explained that there’ll always be critics, waiting to speak their piece on how you wear your hair. “Being natural is being true to YOU, no matter what everyone says. Because no matter what you do there will be naysayers: If you loc, you’ll hear that your locs are not natural because you regularly maintain them (twist, roll, etc…) If you’re afro’ed out, you’ll hear that it is not fully natural, because you use texture-assisting products such as CURLS, JESSIE’S, etc…
If it’s not truly wild and free of hair softening products, then it’ll never be truly natural. Be true to you and what you like, whether it be permed, natural or loc’d.”
And Word Of Power summed it all up beautifully — “I will never go out of my way to tell someone else whether they are “natural” or not.”
That, I can agree with. So often we spend time and effort we should save for things that are more important, on judging and commenting on other people’s appearances.
All that feedback made me feel empowered, and it again reminded me of why I LOVE the afrobella community. SO many intelligent women with varied perspectives, and we’ve all got so much knowledge to share with each other! Love and respect to everyone who dropped knowledge in the forums. Oh! and by the by, I changed the forum settings in an effort to keep spammers out. I’m gonna individually approve everyone who signs up.
I’m gonna look into finding the right method of hair coloring for me, and I’m gonna blog about it all the way. Also, I’m going to try harder to reserve my judgment, regarding another bellas’s hair decisions. Lord knows I hate-hate-hate it when I get asked stupid questions about my own hair, or even worse, recieve unsolicited advice on what I “should be doing” with my hair.
All of this got me wondering — what do you bellas think? How do you define natural? What are your views?
* I got the above photo of gorgeous Wakeema Hollis from Charcoal Ink. Love her style!