As many women of color would agree, relaxed versus natural hair has become a bit of a hot button topic and for understandable reasons. Hair, much like clothing, can be seen as making a statement of its own and says a lot about how you choose to present yourself to the world. Going natural has come to epitomize ‘embracing and accepting’ oneself and flaunting luscious kinks in the face of the beauty industry which has brainwashed the masses into believing that beautiful hair is nothing less than sleek, straight and shiny. Women of color who rock their natural hair are seen as being empowered, daring to be different and radiating true unaltered beauty.
What about women of color who choose to relax their luscious kinks? By chemically altering the structure of our hair what message are we sending to the world? Are we ashamed of our roots? Do we cringe at the thought of having the world see our hair in its unaltered form? To dig even deeper and go slightly Freudian, do we subconsciously wish we WEREN’T women of color?
I cannot speak for every woman of color with relaxed hair but I can personally attest that for me, the answers to the previous questions would be a profound no.
Now before I start, I’ll be the first to admit that I do get envious when I see a natural haired woman walk past me with a head full of healthy, vibrant hair. I am well aware of the fact that natural hair is by nature much healthier than relaxed hair and would be kidding myself if I were to believe that applying harsh chemicals to my hair every few months was ‘healthier’ than not doing so. I am aware that relaxers by nature strip hair of much needed protein and make strands weaker than un-relaxed hair and having to relax new growth every few months can be quite an expensive and arduous task. However, I am also aware that several women of color with relaxed hair have what can be described as ‘healthy’ relaxed hair. This means they either tex-lax or diligently make sure that relaxers don’t overlap whilst providing optimum care to their already relaxed hair (frequent co-washes, protein/moisture balance, moisturizing daily, protecting their ends, satin cap/wrap at night, etc)
Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh on myself because I do excel in many other areas in my life but when it comes to my hair, the simple truth is, I am lazy. The reason I relax my hair is purely for convenience.
So, do I love the color of my skin? Yes, I adore its rich chocolate hue, I love how it glistens in the sun, I love the makeup colors that pop and look positively radiant on my face. Do I love my natural hair? Yes, I love its color, I love its length and believe it or not, I love its pre-relaxed texture. Do I love taking care of my natural hair? No. I lack the patience (and until very recently) the knowledge to take care of it. I’ve never been one to care much about looks (again until recently) and living a full and busy life meant that pampering my hair was the last thing on my mind. So what did I do instead? I went from weave to weave to weave, because this meant I could continue my ‘get up and go’ lifestyle and even more conveniently, didn’t have to take care of my hair, just cornrow it and slap a sew in on top. This method got me through high school, college and grad school. However, a few weeks after I submitted by dissertation, I removed my weave, threw it in the bin and haven’t looked back since. This act was spurred on by several factors:
- I had finally finished my studies and a new chapter in my life was about to commence, I wanted a change.
-After removing my weave I noticed that my hair was the longest it had ever been and I was quite pleased with that.
- I had spent countless nights browsing the net, soaking up information on how to care for my hair. The thing that shocked me the most was finding out that you’re not supposed to relax your entire head each time. (Gasp!) Not knowing this vital piece of information made me realize what little I knew about my hair.
While a lot had changed, the one thing that hadn’t changed much was my hair care laziness. While I no longer wanted to wear fake hair on my head, I still didn’t want to deal with the grooming that comes with natural hair (mainly detangling.)
I wanted to keep my ‘get up and go’ lifestyle but I no longer wanted to resort to weaves so a compromise had to be made. I therefore chose to relax my hair.
Do I regret this decision? No. Nor should I feel guilty for liking my hair in a more manageable state (given the nature of my strands.) I love the texture of wavy hair and when taking a break from heat, I’ll rock the occasional braid-outs, but in general I love waking up in the morning, unwrapping my hair (if I remembered to wrap it before falling asleep) running a quick comb through it and walking out the door.
If you are a woman of color who relaxes your hair, only you know the reason why. Perhaps like me, it’s out of pure convenience, but whatever the reason may be, you are within your rights to do with your hair as you please. Given the growing popularity of the natural hair trend it can be easy to start second guessing your choice but it is exactly that, a choice and one that should come with a guilt-free conscience.
Marcus Garvey once said ‘Remove the kinks from your mind; not your hair.’ As powerful as that statement is, if you truly do not have any kinks in your mind so to speak, then by all means remove the kinks if you so wish.
Hair, like many things is a personal choice. At this stage in my life I choose to relax mine but who knows what the next stage will bring?
If you have also chosen to relax your hair, what are your reasons for doing so?