When I first set out on my natural hair journey, I didn’t even realize it was happening. Truth be told, my mom stopped making my hair appointments, and I was simply too lazy and too frugal to visit another salon for relaxer. As I transitioned from high school to college, my natural curls replaced my fried, relaxed ends. I will be forever grateful about this happy accident—as it led me to where I am today, loving and embracing my natural texture as a Black woman. Although, it admittedly took a very long time to get to this place.
As I began to embrace my natural hair, I was amazed at the incredible community of support and wealth of information online, primarily on YouTube channels dedicated to all things natural hair. I learned how to care for my hair, and that there was an entire community of Black and brown women on a similar journey. Initially, I found the natural hair community extremely accepting, encouraging, and informative. But beneath the surface, I begin to uncover the more negative side of my internet research.
While videos of people washing, styling, and learning about their natural hair gained endless positive comments, praise, and acceptance in the natural hair community—I alternatively found an incredible amount of negativity on videos of Black women who chose to keep their hair relaxed, texturized, or in any other state other than natural virgin hair. Initially, I saw comments discouraging people from altering their hair texture or suggesting they break away from the "creamy crack." I quickly realized this was a much deeper issue.
Hate comments, bashing, and even violent threats are dished out online in the name of the natural hair from those who believe it's their place to tell others how to live. Personally, I love styling my curls, but I still love to wear my hair straight as well. Some extremists even find this temporary change (i.e. straightening my hair with a flat iron) as "dangerous" and insulting to the community. While I believe the natural hair movement is incredible and long overdue in this country, I also believe in respecting everyone’s ability to make their own choices.
To women rocking natural curls, altered hair textures, different colors, weaves, wigs and any other styling choice: Please know the natural hair community supports and appreciates you, regardless of your hairstyle.
Then, I noticed the subtle messaging portrayed by mainstream media. While trolls online believed going natural was the one and only option, commercials, television shows, and magazines had a different take on the issue. These mediums often reinforce the beauty of wearing your natural curly hair, but almost completely excluded kinky, tighter textures from this narrative.
Although women of color began to appear in hair advertisements with their long, curly hair—women with type 4 hair textures remain excluded. Even as larger companies try to cater to curly girls, the images are of women with loose curl patterns and long hair. Many naturals, like myself, feel excluded as the media continues to lean heavily into European standards of beauty. The message was loud and clear: Curly hair is praised, but nappy hair is condemned.
These realities only skim the surface of the many complexities of Black hair. While I have learned about my coils (and myself) with the help of the natural hair community, I will always push against unrealistic beauty standards. The length of my hair reaches my mid-back, but my tight curl pattern shrinks my hair to a few inches above my shoulders. And the pressure to stretch, lengthen, and loosen my texture can still feel overwhelming at times. This pressure to conform shouldn’t exist, looming over naturals like a dark cloud. This is especially true when those with tighter hair textures understand more shrinkage is a good thing, displaying my hair's elasticity and the strength my curls have to "bounce back." In the end, healthy, happy hair is a much better goal than conformity.
In the beginning of my natural hair journey, it felt like the trolls and the media were speaking directly to me. Personally, I struggled to love my natural hair texture and properly style it for years, which led to endless frustration and doubt. I felt like I'd be seen as a failure if I relaxed my hair—which, truth be told, was easier to manage. I was forced to remind myself my hair is only mine, and other comments on what I should do are completely irrelevant. To women rocking natural curls, altered hair textures, different colors, weaves, wigs and any other styling choice: Please know the natural hair community supports and appreciates you, regardless of your hairstyle.