For Black women, hair is a huge part of our identity, esteem, and culture. Unfortunately, many of us have grown up relaxing or perming (straightening our hair using chemicals) our hair to hide our natural curl pattern. Relaxers were so common among us because kinky hair has been historically viewed as unkempt, unprofessional, and undesirable. Personally, I began relaxing my hair when I was 8-years-old. After that, I spent the next 11 years chemically straightening my hair, and in turn damaging it repeatedly. When I turned 19, I finally decided to do what Black women call “the big chop” (cutting all the chemically damaged parts of your hair off) and fully go natural.
The emotional process while chopping off your hair can be tough. Like I said, for Black women, our hair is a tremendous aspect of our self-esteem. Undergoing the big chop feels as though you’re shedding dead weight in an attempt to release the insecurities that led you to continuously straighten your hair to the point of damage.
However, my natural hair journey has not been linear. As perfectly encapsulated by Giselle La Pompe-Moore in her i-D Vice article, “Natural hair journeys are as diverse as the spectrum of afro hair textures experiencing them.” Like many other Black girls, I initially struggled with my confidence while being natural as I had always been insecure about my kinky curls. It was particularly hard to see my hair so short after I spent my whole life having an unhealthy obsession with length. For a while, I would even use protective styles like braids or wigs to hide how short my hair was. And in between styles, I would wear scarves to avoid having to embrace my short length. It took baby steps to gain the confidence I sought in my natural hair.
First, I had to learn how to upkeep my 4c hair texture. 4c hair is very particular in how it grows, how it’s styled, and how it must be managed. So, I had to trial and error (emphasis on the error) my way through finding products that worked best for my hair. Then there’s the detangling process. Honestly, it took me years to learn how to effectively detangle my hair. All of which came with years worth of tears and frustration as well as me trying to refrain from hating my hair all over again; this time, for its difficulty to manage.
Though, once I figured out how to manage my hair, I had to learn to style it. Unsurprisingly, this took another long while before I perfected my signature slicked updo with laid edges. Admittedly, it was the easiest style I could manage learning, so now it’s my signature look when I’m not wearing a protective style. After I found a way to make my hair presentable enough, I would periodically tease showing my natural hair outside of my house. For example, if I was going somewhere I was sure no one I knew would see me, I would test my confidence while wearing my natural hair out of a protective style or scarf.
However, three years since embarking on this hair journey, I’m in love with my 4c hair texture and kinky edges more every day. Going natural taught me how to be truly confident, for being natural allowed me to work towards loving myself in ways I never could before. It forced me to get to know a version of myself I hadn’t even seen since I was a child. Regardless of difficulties along the way, I began to find comfort in my nonlinear road to self-acceptance and love because I thoroughly liked the person I was getting to know.
In addition, many Black women seem to be undergoing the same journey of acceptance. Thanks to social media and Black female influencers who started the hair love movement, Black women everywhere are embracing their natural hair texture. In fact, a short film titled, “Hair Love” won an Oscar last year due to social media’s strong support of the project, which has been further impactful to the movement.
To any Black girl reading who is thinking of going natural, despite how it may seem on social media, the process is not easy, but it is worth it. It’s likely you won’t immediately fall in love with your kinks, and it’s likely you may even feel self-conscious for a while. However, there’s so much power in our natural hair as well as the way our hair connects us to our identity and lineage. We should’ve never been made to feel insecure about the hair that grows naturally from our scalp in the first place. Simply being natural feels like you’re a living act of resistance. A resistance that firmly rejects Euro-centric beauty standards pushed onto Black women and allows us to reclaim our confidence on our own terms.
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