Natural hair—afro-textured hair that isn’t chemically processed or straightened–has been having a moment for years now. Sure, the concept wasn’t new; afros were majorly popular in the late ’60s and ’70s, as both a political statement (black power, civil rights, rejecting euro-centric beauty standards) and a fashion statement (hey, they looked cool). But its populairty definitely waned for a while–especially in the ’80s and ’90s–before becoming a thing again in the late ’00s. That’s when I, and many other black women who have spent a good chunk of our lives straightening the hell out of our hair, began to stumble across natural hair blogs and vlogs, find new natural hair products in the “ethnic hair” aisle at Target, and began to take the dangers of harsh chemical straighteners more seriously; in fact, the sale of chemical straigtheners (relaxers) have been declining since 2008. Refamiliarizing ourselves with the natural hair that springs out of our heads was fun.
But along with this newfound knowledge of the perfect DIY deep conditioner and the best way to avoid breakage came confusion and assumptions. In fact, if you’re reading this right now, you probably still buy into a lot of falsehoods about going natural. Let’s just keep it real and nip this in the bud right here, right now. Check out these eight cold hard truths about natural hair that you need to accept. Trust, it’ll save you a lot of grief in the long run.
Some Styling Product And Conditioner Will Not Change Your Curl PatternThere's this misconception that if you use the same products that so and so uses in the same exact way that they use them, your hair will look just like theirs. You might think that that's too naive to buy into, but it's really easy to fall into that trap, especially if you're new to the natural hair community. You become seduced by all of these videos and tutorials and assume that all it takes is products and nerve to cop your favorite blogger's hair style. Um, no. KNOW. YOUR. CURL. PATTERN. If you have very tightly coiled hair, all of the product in the world is not going to make your curl pattern loose and bouncy like that girl in the video. You can put your hair in such and such twists all you want, if your hair hangs loosely, you're going to have a hard time rocking gravity defying curls. Accept your curl pattern before you become too disappointed. Instagram/@naptural85
There's An Effed Up Hierarchy In The Natural Hair CommunityThe natural hair community might tout appreciation for the beauty of black hair, but let's not get it twisted: There's a hierarchy, and it deems loose curl patterns and length as a lot more beautiful and "OMG GOALS" worthy than kinkier, shorter hair. Hell, think about the most popular natural hair personalities online. Consider the hair texture of people in the ads for your favorite curly hair product. Think about all the puff pieces about so-and-so embracing their natural curls and look at how often those curls are in 3C curl-type territory. This is erasing to the countless natural haired girls who can't retain length or have hair that isn't marked by ultra defined curls, and we need to be real about it. Instagram/@lupitanyongo
Just Because A Product Is Geared Toward Black Hair Doesn't Mean It'll Work Well With Your HairThis natural hair boom has brought a ton of black hair brands into the limelight, like Miss Jessie's, Shea Moisture, Carol's Daughter, Mixed Chicks, Kinky Curly, etc. There are some products from these brands that I adore and will never ever give up. Others just haven't worked out that well for me. I'm sure you've had the same response! But please, remember that just because a product is geared specifically towards black people, it doesn't necessarily mean that that's what your hair will like. Hell, if your Aussie conditioner works better than the one that claims to be specially designed for black hair, don't ditch that purple bottle. Target.com
Don't Be Duped: Some of The Best Looking Natural Hair Comes In Wig FormFor the record, there's absolutely nothing wrong with rocking a wig that is big n' curly n' fabulous. But too many times I've seen natural hair Instagram accounts and other sources post photos of women wearing these kinds of wigs as ~afro goals~. It's really deceptive because there are people out there who are duped into thinking that hairstyles like this can be achieved with nothing but time and the right products...and that's just not true for many of us. Instagram via PeakMill @ YouTube
Your Natural Hair May Be Seen As Political Whether You Want It To Or NotWhen I stopped straightening my hair,some assumed that I was making a political statement against euro-centric beauty standards. Actually, I just got tired of paying to get my hair straightened and realized I liked the volume my natural curls gave me. But regardless, that sense of political resistance is very much entangled with natural hair to this day. Back in the '60s, many people were considered radical troublemakers who wanted to dismantle the status quo, just because they wore afros. Well, today, there are plenty of stories of young black women who have been bullied by their schools to "tame" their fros or face expulsion. Just be aware that even if you're rocking a natural without a single political thought in mind, others might see it as an act of rebellion. Take it in stride and stand up against anyone who tries to make you change your hair; you'll have more support than you think. Ebony.com
What Works For Someone Else Might Not Work For YouHere's something a lot of naturals have had to learn the hard way. Look: Your favorite natural hair vloggers might swear up and down about how amazing coconut oil, rosewater, aloe, and mashed avocado is for their hair...but that doesn't mean that your hair will like it too. We can bond over hair textures all day, that doesn't mean that our hair acts the same way. So don't keep trying to use this product or this DIY recipe that everyone swears by and assume you're just using it wrong. Listen to your hair, not someone else's. iStock.com
You're Not A Better Person For Having Natural HairOne of the downsides of the natural hair movement is this weird, holier than thou attitude that some people embrace. There's this idea that if you're not natural and--in the words of Lauryn Hill in her song "Doo Wop"--sell your soul to rock "hair weaves like Europeans." Um, nah, it ain't that deep. The way your hair is styled as nothing to do with how down you are for black causes. There are people with weaves participating in Black Lives Matter protests and folks with natural hair who subscribe to awful political beliefs. Hair has special significance in black culture, yes, but it really isn't everything. Your worth or blackness has nothing to do with your scalp. The Black Power Mixtape
People's Definition Of Natural Hair VariesOkay, I know I defined natural hair as hair that isn't chemically altered, but for some, that definition isn't enough. There are people who believe that using heat (like a flat iron or a blow dryer) to straighten means you're not natural, even without chemicals. Some think you can't call yourself a natural if you wear weaves or extensions, others believe that that's totally legit because they can e used as protective styles to help the hair grow and fend off weather-related weirdness. It's all a confusing mixed bag. Instagram/@offbeatoribt
Which of these cold hard truths have you had a hard time coming to terms with? What other uncomfortable truths are out there that you think people who are “natural” need to know about? Tell us in the comments!