Recently I read an article posted on BET that declared “Guess what? There’s no such thing as natural hair”, and I didn’t know how to feel.The article argued that instead of dying for the perfect straightness, we are now just dying for the perfect curl, essentially trading one set of beauty ideals for another. It states that we may have even traded one set of chemicals for another, since products for textured hair do not contain exclusively natural ingredients, and contain chemicals themselves. Therefore there is no such thing as natural hair. The crux of this argument is fundamentally flawed, because it disregards the significance and true meaning behind the term “natural hair.”
Much ado about semantics, are we?
The article stresses the dictionary definition of the word “natural” as “existing in or caused by nature, not made or caused by humankind.” However, the term “Natural Hair”, in the context of the black female community, generally means hair that is untreated by chemicals, more specifically by relaxers and perms.
Chemicals used in styling products for textured or curly hair are different from chemical relaxers and texturizers in that they do not permanently alter the core structure of the hair follicle.They are designed to enhance the curl pattern that already exists naturally. Countless memes, and common sense, show that kinky hair does not turn into Diana Ross ringlets once the right products are used.
However, kinky, curly and textured hair types are indeed versatile, easily lending themselves to the illusion of different curl patterns depending on a combination of styling techniques and products. Most “natural” sistas predominantly wear their hair in an afro, a tediously manipulated twistout, or an elaborate trendy protective style, according to their preference.
Suggesting that the concept of natural hair is actually a fallacy, dangerously ignores and minimizes the importance and core message of the natural hair movement. The movement promotes pride in the physical manifestation of our African ancestry over seriously damaging our hair in order to conform to a European standard of long flowing hair. It is no secret that our hair is not widely represented in fashion, advertising or on the celebrities that we admire, that many a little girl’s rite of passage is the straightening of her hair at a young age. So why discredit a movement that does nothing but seek to empower black women to love themselves, to love their hair as is?
Many black women feel the need to wear weaves, wigs, and extensions to feel glamorous, and while we are in no way the only group of women to do this, at some point we must admit that we are the ones that the weave and wig industry targets, and the group that puts the most money into their pockets. An overwhelming majority of weaves and wigs are textures that are starkly different from the tight curl or kink of afro hair. The Natural Hair Movement declares that we are beautiful without the expensive hair pieces that do not resemble our natural textures.
Black women loving their own hair is natural. Black women supporting each other in their natural hair journeys is natural. This was never about dyes or curl cream. You can have bubble-gum pink natural hair and still be considered “natural”. This is about “natural” being the hair TEXTURE that you were born with. Our hair texture is what was disdained and criticized for so many years, because of how much it contrasted Caucasian hair. It IS something to be celebrated, admired and encouraged within the black female community because it represents an important form of self-love and self-acceptance.Using products designed to enhance or moisturize our natural curl pattern is not the same as using products to chemically alter the hair’s natural bonds.
To critics of the natural hair movement, please clarify your criticism and you may find that we share the same sentiments. Do you believe that we have simply exchanged one beauty ideal (straight hair) for another(curly hair)? Do you believe that we value looser curls over kinks and coils, that “mixed-looking” natural hair is idolized over “African hair”?Do you feel that some naturalistas think that they are more “woke” than their relaxed counterparts? These are valid criticisms that require their own analysis, and are issues being addressed by the natural hair community.
However, when you claim that there is no such thing as natural hair, that’s where we draw the line. That is a deliberate attempt to discredit a movement that supports afro-solidarity and afro-descendant pride. This is not expected from platforms reaching so many people of color, purported to be by us and for us. Nevertheless, like Gil Scott Heron said, the revolution will not be televised. The Natural Hair Movement will continue to thrive as more women of color rediscover the beauty of their natural tresses and inspire other women of color to do the same, in a beautiful, natural domino effect.
Editor-in-Chief at The Black Revolution Blog