Before relaxers became easily accessible, Black people straightened their hair through a variety of means, many of which were very harsh and damaging. Although the majority of Black women still prefer to wear their hair straightened, there has been a steadily growing movement toward wearing natural hair. However, there remains a lot of misinformation that prevents some people from accepting their hair as it grows from their scalp. They choose to straighten their hair because they still believe these misconceptions about natural hair. We had to the opportunity to speak with celebrity stylist and colorist Christin Brown and Sarah Sango, R&D Stylist & Black Haircare Specialist at Lush Cosmetics UK to find out the real truths about these common natural hair myths. Keep on reading for all of the details.
Meet the Expert
- Christin Brown is a celebrity stylist, color specialist, and OLAPLEX Ambassador.
- Sarah Sango is Black haircare expert at Lush Cosmetics UK.
Natural Hair Isn't Versatile
If you think afros are the only style for natural hair, you're missing out on a ton of unique hairstyles that are beautiful and healthy for your hair and scalp. Some of the many natural hairstyles you can wear include: Two-strand twists, bantu knots, braids, cornrows, flat twists, coils, locs, afro puffs...the list goes on. As Sango explained to me, "The opportunities for styling Afro-textured hair in its natural form are endless. Not only can you find various twists and braid styles, but you can add colour and texture to your natural hair by applying extensions to create many different looks. This means you can avoid chemically processing your hair to achieve these looks whilst tucking your hair away to give it a break."
In addition, you can combine these styles to create your own one-of-a-kind hairdos. If your hair is short, that may limit your versatility somewhat, but the longer your hair grows, the more styles you can experiment with and enjoy.
Natural Hair Doesn't Grow
Black hair in its natural state has a tendency to shrink up, preventing you from seeing its real length, leading to the popular belief that it doesn't grow long. While everyone has a predetermined hair length that's due to genetics, with proper care, you can grow your hair as long as it is destined to be and you don't need a relaxer or perm to do so. A relaxer straightens your curls so that you can see length more easily, but the chemicals in it do not promote hair growth.
Sango offered the following advice, "Natural afro-textured hair grows in different ways depending on your curl pattern. The tighter your coils are the shorter your hair will look in appearance. It may appear as though your hair is not growing but when you stretch your coils you will see length. If you want length, there are ways you can stretch without heat or processing it with chemicals. A technique called banding is used to achieve length by taking square sections of the hair and banding them from the roots to ends. The hair is left to naturally dry, and when the bands are removed the hair is stretched giving styling versatility."
Another thing to keep in mind: Hair grows an average of 1/2 inch per month, including Black hair. Your hair is growing, but you may not be retaining the length due to chemical abuse, dryness, excessive heat styling, and a general lack of proper care.
Natural Hair Needs Grease
Many products you'll find in the ethnic hair care section of your local stores are full of ingredients that aren't the best for Black hair. Ironic, but true. Petroleum and mineral oil make up a large percentage of Black hair products and all they do is clog your scalp and attract dirt to your hair. You do not have to grease your scalp for it to be healthy.
As Brown told me, "Growing up in a Black household, there was always some type of oil, "grease", or lotion under the sink for our hair. Whether you were natural at a young age, had braids, or a relaxer; the grease remained in the house always. Thankfully, products have become better over time with quality ingredients."
Today's consumer has many more options than in the past. New companies are regularly cropping up that cater to the Black hair market with products full of good-for-your-hair ingredients. You'll find many that contain no petroleum, mineral oil, beeswax, and alcohol, all ingredients than can be harmful to natural hair.
Brown has a few recommendations. "One of my favorite oils to use directly on the scalp is jojoba oil because it mimics our natural sebum that our scalp produces. It's ph balanced, virtually odorless, gentle, and an excellent switch from the old school way of moisturizing the scalp. Another great oil that protects the hair from heat and provides amazing shine is Olaplex No.7 Bonding Oil ($28). If you are using it with a blow out or silk press, it protects the hair up to 450 degrees and is water soluble, so it doesn't build up on the hair."
Natural Hair Is Strong
Natural hair looks strong, which is why so many people accidentally abuse it with rough treatment. In reality, Black hair is fragile and needs to be treated with the gentlest of care in order for it to flourish. Wide tooth combs, natural ingredients, and your own fingers are the best tools and products for natural hair. You'll find that low-manipulation and protective styles usually help to retain length because constant grooming can be too much for some hair types.
So what kind of protective styles work for natural hair? Brown's favorite is the iconic wash-and-go. "Many don't really look at the wash & go as a protective style, but it truly is. Between not applying maximum tension on hair strands and allowing for your hair to naturally air-dry, this style can be fairly effortless especially when paired with the right products. A true fave that's in my arsenal is the Olaplex No.6 Bond Smoother ($28). This cream provides incredible hydration and definition on some of the driest of curl textures while also giving the hair added strength and repair."
Natural Hair Is Hard to Manage
Natural, textured hair can seem hard to manage if you attempt to treat it like straight hair. If you use the same tools and expect the same results that you would on straightened hair, you're going to be disappointed. However, once you learn to treat natural hair in a way that doesn't try to change it or alter it, it can be as manageable as any other type of hair. As Sango says, "Give yourself time to connect with your hair. The more you explore by using different ingredients and practicing different styling techniques, the easier it will become to manage."
Use this chance to try out different tools and methods of styling. Your fingers, a wide-tooth comb, natural boar bristle brushes, and natural oils are all good ways to treat Black hair. If you're used to dealing with straightened hair, learning new routines and techniques that work with your natural texture instead of against it will yield the best results.
Natural Hair Needs Protective Styles
Protective styles are incredibly important for natural hair health, but don't worry—you don't need them. The myth (which has been going around the natural hair world for years) says that if your ends remain protected, then your hair will continue to grow and waist-length locks will soon be yours. However, keeping your hair in a protective style for too long can cause breakage, tangling, knots and dryness.
If you love protective styles, focus on keeping them in for a short amount of time and allowing your hair to go un-manipulated for some time.
Sango offered the following advice, "If your hair is in a protective style for up to 4-6 weeks, you will need to keep your scalp clean and hydrated. After two or more applications of oils are applied to the scalp this creates build up and a barrier, anything else being applied on top will not get into the pores. Use diluted witch hazel on a cotton pad and wipe scalp on the partings to remove build up so that moisture will be absorbed and natural oils from the scalp can be provided. Use a leave in milk, such as Lush’s Supermilk ($20) to keep braids/twists hydrated."
Natural Hair is Expensive to Maintain
When the natural hair movement first took off, many YouTubers and influencers touted the benefits of having a long, intense, and oftentimes very expensive hair routine, filled with lots and lots of pricey products. But don't fret—you don't need an entire shelf full of products to take care of your hair. Find the products that work for you and stick with them, or make a budget for those pricey items that have absolutely changed your hair for the better.
Brown's advice? "I completely understand that budgeting for hair care can sometimes feel a bit daunting. However, I highly recommend that you invest in your self-care even if that means you’re not purchasing as often. It’s best to use products that are high quality to get the best results, so your hair looks great. By using high-quality hair care you are treating your hair with the love that it deserves. So, even if it means saving up those coins or skipping trips to the cafe for a week, it truly is worth it and so are you."