Natural vs Relaxed Hair
As more and more Black women discover the beauty of their naturally kinky hair, the feud between relaxed and natural women of Color is growing at an alarming rate. While some natural ladies feel as if women who choose to relax their hair are betraying their African roots, relaxed ladies feel that they are constantly under attack by the naturals over their choice to process their hair. It is a silly debate as well as an unfortunate one especially that over the decades African-Americans have had an on-going riot among themselves over such insignificant issues. Why should it make a difference how my sister decides to wear her hair? Would the way she decides make her more or less Black? When you think of it that way, it does sound ridiculous.
Black women who choose to relax their hair have the right to do so without being persecuted by their race. Women of Color choose to relax for many reasons not always conceivable to natural women. Most commonly, women who relax their hair chooses to do so because they find caring for their hair in the natural state to be a hassle. This can be because she may not be very well educated on how to care for natural hair or perhaps she may feel the processes involved are too time consuming. Most of us as little girls grew up having the luxury of a hot comb in our homes and loved the way our hair looked and felt after being pressed. As adults, some still enjoy having straight hair rather than kinky hair and find heat-straightening methods more tedious. Relaxers permanently reconstruct the texture of hair making strands straight. This works for many women because it is a convenient way to maintain the straight texture they prefer easily, without having to compromise styling due to humidity or weather conditions. Relaxing hair may make it more manageable but it also has its setbacks. When the bond is broken allowing kinky hair to become straight, it also weakens the hair follicle. Because of this, relaxed hair is more susceptible to breakage. By nature straighter hair is less dry and if this is the deciding factor between relaxed and natural, then relaxed wins easily. [pullquote_right]While some natural ladies feel as if women who choose to relax their hair are betraying their African roots, relaxed ladies feel that they are constantly under attack by the naturals over their choice to process their hair.[/pullquote_right]
Natural women, on the other hand prefer the versatility of styling, being able to revert between curly and straight styles. In some instances, women who prefer natural styling are at times frowned upon by relaxed women who sometimes jeer at their hair texture referring to it as nappy or rough. Not all women who choose not to relax their hair are "for the cause," so to speak. She may simply desire to rid her hair of chemical processing and avoid the risk of damage that may follow. She might also find processed hair to be somewhat of a nuisance and more difficult to attain fullness in her styling. She might find that she can grow and maintain longer lengths with natural hair. She may have conducted research on sodium hydroxide and its chemical counterparts and decided that relaxing was not for her. Having natural hair opens doors for endless styling opportunities and overall is a much healthier choice for your hair. However, with curly hair dryness and split ends are imminent. Rule of thumb, the curlier the follicle, the drier it is. Naturals find themselves working overtime to maintain the moisture and shine to their naturally dry hair. Humidity and weather condition like rain and snow, do very little to change the styling composition of natural. This is yet another plus in choosing to remain natural.
At the end of the day, to think that our sisters are at war with each other over the way she chooses to style her hair is almost inconceivable. Both natural and relaxed women have preferences, likes and dislikes with their own hair. Stereotyping within your own race is yet another vice in oppressing the Black race. We should not allow petty and frankly ignorant issues to divide us further, for we are all related through our African roots.
I am a freelance writer, photographer and graphic artist hailing from the fabulous islands of The Bahamas. I love all things beauty and mostly I love having the opportunity to share my wealth of knowledge and convey it to my readers in a fun way that they enjoy reading while being informed. I am also a makeup artist and I do plan to share a few of my video tutorials on Black Hair Media as well. I do thank you for reading and please do come back soon.
JUNE 22, 2014
Whatever make someone happy just go with it. Either it be relaxed or stay being natural. I am happy being natural, that's why I will stay natural. The key word here is RESPECT. Good day everyone. Love and Peace!
MARCH 2, 2014
So if I use heating products on my hair , but don't get relaxers do I have relaxed or natural hair ?
APRIL 15, 2014
Natural because the hair is not chemically altered...
MARCH 31, 2015
you definitely still have natural hair. Thats a silly question. You did not use any relaxer so then why would you ask if you're relaxed or natural?....
FEBRUARY 21, 2014
1.Chemical treatments might not be the best solution- I agree that relaxers can do tremendous damage to the hair line, hair follicles, new growth, and older hair (due to overlapping of the relaxer and thus over processing). Texturizing is a method of straightening the hair somewhat with a mild relaxer..but it is difficult for even the most experienced hairstylists to "get it right". I am mixed. I am african american (black and irish), native american, and cape verdean (portuguese, british, and african). My hair has different curl patterns, and my hair is twice as thick and coarse as my sisters' hair, and I would guess three times thicker and coarser than my african american mom's hair (she is black, irish, and native american and her hair is thin/fine and 3a, waist length). Stylists have texturized my hair..the result..some parts are too bone straight (my hair there was 3a and 3b)..some parts are semi straight (my hair there was 4a) and other parts are not straight at all (it is still 4a/4b)...so i still have to spend hours detangling, blow drying, and flat ironing my hair. The practically bone straight parts take no time to straighten..but the different patterns of straightness makes my hair look messy..and my hair is weaker now..and damages more easily..and i still have to use multiple methods to straighten it (hair smells like smoke or burned sulfur and straightening only lasts 3 days but takes 4 hours to do). My hair is too thick!!
2. Humidity and african american hair - I live in a city where it is hot and humid 4 months a year...I braid my own hair extensions in the summer..check out youtube videos on how to braid extensions or on any other way to style hair..In this humid city I see black women sewing or clipping in extensions, wearing wigs, wearing braid extensions, wearing short fade cuts (if they have the face shape for it), or wearing their hair in a bone straight relaxed state. My facial features and bone structure makes me look totally caucasian, but my bronze skin and hair texture makes me look part black or hispanic. When my hair is straightened I look exactly like the white female actresses who wore bronze makeup to look like native americans/pocahontas in black and white/older films, or I look hispanic, like a woman from the middle east, cape verdean, brazilian, etc. I think it is awesome to assimilate and in the work place it is sometimes necessary " to take hair out of the equation" and wear hair straight in the workplace...but my hair and especially my thinning hair line has been punished or taken a terrible toll from the harsh treatment i have given it. relaxers and heat have caused irreparable damage and shortened the length of my hair and who knows what kind of damage they have done to my hair follicles/hair cycle. even excessive heat can damage hair follicles. also, going natural is not necessarily easier..i tried it for 1.5 years only..and it was too hard to manage...but it's harder to fight against my hair's natural state in a humid climate like this city where i just moved to recently...so I plan to go natural for once and for good like i was before age eleven and for that year and a half...braids and full, 3/4, or 1/2 wigs is what to wear..and roller setting in the winter or air drying and flat ironing on minimum heat in the winter for only special occasions is wise. Note: I might wear human hair wigs to job interviews.
What other people say: Most people like the braid or twist out style when I wear it since my hair is so thick. Some people say that my hair would probably look nicer straight since it is a "simpler" looking style. My boyfriend who is Persian does not care about what my hair looks like, but instead my intelligence and soul/personality are what he cares about. He says natural hair styles, or human hair wigs are fine to wear (easy, low maintenance, not time consuming, cost effective). I agree. My mom hates the natural look.she favors the relaxed or flat ironed style because she thinks it looks neater/ more professional/ more sophisticated...but she does not understand why I have to go natural because her hair is 2c/3a.and easier to straighten and keep straight.mine is 2c/3a/3b/4a/4b/and 4c and way too thick! it's totally wild!
3. Hormone changes = hair texture changes. My hair was bone straight until I was 2 years old and as I got older it got curlier every couple of years or so. My hair texture changed the most due to hormonal changes when I was 11. It became twice as coarse and thick and I asked my mom to hot comb it..which damaged my hair also and so what was once below waist length super thick hair before age eleven, became an inch below shoulder length hair which has never grown past that and I am in my thirties now. Before the age of eleven..my mom only used a johnson and johnson no more tangles spray, a regular comb and soft brush, water, and petroleum on the ends and on the scalp sometimes but not often. I think the petroleum helped to seal moisture into my already wet hair. I would wear my hair in a ponytail or ponytails for a week and before bed the hair elastic that bound my hair was unbound but the braid stayed in tact, and in the morning my hair around the crown was brushed back, and the elastic was rebound. My hair was washed every week, and it always took my mom 1.5 to 2 hours to detangle my hair (ouch!)
4. Products/solutions in a bottle - keratin treatments and alternatives have formaldehyde and other aldehydes..do your homework. don't try them. Also..everyone will tell you about products that work for them or their kids...but everyone's hair is different. Experiment to find products that work..return products that don't. Sally's, walmart, and target allow returns. Some companies give away free samples...like biosilk (I believe).
suggestions: use protective styles like braids that are not done too tightly, experiment to find the right products, don't chemically treat her hair (including texturizers/"mild" relaxers).(some safe* conditioners can loosen curls temporarily). She will almost never have a bad hair day if she wears her hair braided or twisted. some of my relatives who are native american/white and native american white and black (like my mom) always wore their hair in one or two braids and their hair was healthy, shiny, and waist length. my mom flat irons her hair on a low heat setting (takes 30 minutes) so although her hair is waist length, her hair's ends are a bit damaged/uneven. She only applies a few products to her hair. One of my sister's hair is healthier than mine and waist length too..her hair is thin, 3c/4a and natural. She wears her hair in braids or does "braid outs" ; and she only applies water and olive oil to her hair.
SEPTEMBER 6, 2013
I have had my hair relaxed since I was very young. I remember getting my hair hot combed and permed all the time. I really didn't care to much for my hair when I was younger, because I didn't see what the big deal was, I was picked on most of my young life for having short and nappy hair. its really pricey both natural and relaxed hair, but as I got older I seen that my hair would break off more when it was natural then when it was relaxed, if you relax your hair you should make sure your using the proper daily treatment and hair care methods to take care of your hair and it wont break off. I noticed that when my hair is relaxed and my natural hair starts to grow in It starts to break off if I comb it a lot and use a lot of heat. I remember when I would go to the salon to let them take care of the relaxing and trimming and washing and conditioning, my hair grew longer, its never been past my shoulders, but if I would of kept up my visits to the hair salon, I know It would have made it to a longer length. at the moment I'm trying to decide weather or not to go back natural or stay relaxed and honestly I think I'm just going to stay relaxed and use proper treatment. relaxing your hair is damaging if not cared for or done right and same goes for natural. I think I'm just going to relax my hair and keep it trimmed and conditioned, and maybe ill wear it braided sometimes to keep it from breaking off. but as far as the natural vs. relaxed WAR goes I think its ridiculous, you shouldn't make someone else's life choices your problem. you only live once.
JULY 30, 2013
My mother decided to relax my hair for the first time when I was 11 years old. I am now 21 and I have never gone back to being natural ever since. I remember my natural hair being so difficult to manage that combs would break and Afro hair dressers refused to do my hair. For me, I prefer relaxed hair because I believe it looks better on me and it's more convenient to manage. You can still have relaxed and HEALTHY hair, you just have to choose your hair products wisely and I always go organic/no lye.
I didn't even know there was some "war" going on about this and it's just stupid in my opinion. How women wear their hair is a personal choice so let then be! All because mine is relaxed, doesn't mean I've betrayed the black sisterhood..c'mon now!
APRIL 26, 2014
The war isn't about just hair. It's about what causes us to be the only race of women who have to "go natural or return back to natural". It's about why people think that naturally their hair is unmanageable, unprofessional, not as beautiful as a european look. It's more psychological than a beauty argument but most do not understand that because they can't get passed the superficial part of it. Most relaxed ladies don't even know what they're putting on their heads and how it affects their minds and their bodies. Most do not know real black history either, it has so much more to it than "just hair." If it was "just hair" there wouldn't be a fight. It's sort of amazing how people think natural hair is hard to manage but our ancestors have been doing their hair for thousands of years. If you know exactly what you're doing it becomes quite timeless actually. When they say "you've betrayed the black sisterhood" it's because what the perm initially stood for and continues to stand for now even if people don't want to acknowledge it that the initial stand point was to look more european to be accepted into a white supremacist society. Now we've tried to cover that ideal up with saying "its just easier to manage, it's just how i like to look" but WHY? Because people don't know how to do it, because you've been conditioned to think this look is better. I hope this helps people understand more it's all about the underlying conditions.
JUNE 19, 2014
Here you go with that natural hair propaganda...Stop trying to convince other women that getting a relaxer is wrong or a sin. My hair is long, healthy and beautiful and I have a relaxer. Who cares what our ancestors did; this is 2014 and if a woman choses to get a relaxer stop trying to make her feel as if she has done something wrong because she hasnt. Stop judging women who get relaxers. It IS easier to manage my hair when I have a relaxer, in my OPINION. If you dont beleieve that then thats your problem not mine. You are not better than anybody just because you dont get relaxers anymore. Stop judging people because they arent falling on the bandwagon. I tried going natural and I didnt like it. I prefer relaxers; its easier for me.
SEPTEMBER 28, 2014
The problem I have with Natural vs Relaxed hair is that it brings no unity. It yet again separates blacks (people from African decent). History does not change the fact that it is just hair. I watch youtube videos and I see relaxed bashing Naturals, Naturals bashing relaxed and naturals bashing other naturals. At the end of the day our energy could be used on something that will actually make a difference.
APRIL 26, 2014
And you might want to check out what's in your perm before you want to claim that your hair is healthy. And check out the conditions that are healthy for black hair. It's different than a white woman's. You're hair is merely withstanding the damage. But i understand how you think it's healthy because it looks like it and feels like it but molecularly it is not. I hope this makes sense, it doesn't to most relaxed women.
JUNE 19, 2014
Please shut up because you sound ignorant. Just because you dont get a relaxer doesnt mean that your hair is automatically healthier. I cant stand women like you who talk down on others becuase they are not conforming to your idea of what beauty is. Nobody is trying to be european or white just because they get a relaxer. That doesnt even cross our minds, but leave it up to you to make it seem as if black women who get relaxers are brainwashed in some sort of way when in fact they get relaxers because they want to for whatever reason it is. Leave people alone and let them do what they want to do with their hair. Do whatever you want but dont impose your beliefs on to somebody else. What works for you may not for someone else. It is not a sin to get a relaxer and you are not above anybody because you dont get relaxers.
JULY 29, 2013
Hello, I'm 14 years old and I really need to decide how to wear my hair for school. I tried the natural hair this summer, but it was a little difficult. Having to twist it every night and detangle it all the time. Plus, worrying if you aren't doing it correctly and your messing up your hair. I have never had a relaxer before, but I do get press n curls ( hot comb and flat iron) since I was 10. Before that my mother just gave me twists and I had afro puffs. I would love to wear my hair natural for high school and then maybe straighten it on special occasions or even for prom which is a lot of years from now. I like my hair pressed, but I'm tired of getting burned by the hot comb and sweating it out at P.E. So all those natural hair experts please help me, how do you maintain natural hair? Do you have to style it every night? Do you still need to go to a hair stylist or do it all by yourself? Any styles that are easy to do in a small amount of time like if I forgot to do my hair the night before and had school the next morning? How do you keep it healthy and moisturized? How to keep it from getting tangled and matted? Please answer my questions if you have the time. I would deeply appreciate it. Thank you very much, have a beautiful day :)!
JULY 29, 2013
Also, my hair pressed goes a 3 inches past my collar bone. When it's natural, my hair is almost at my shoulders, if I stretch it, it does hit my shoulders.
APRIL 26, 2014
Well the biggest mistake is twisting/styling every night. Try protective styles that last a few days or even a week or a couple of weeks. They keep your hands out of your hair which helps it to maintain health and length and keep moisture. Just check youtube there are MANY style options. Easy styles for when you forget is a puff, a bun, french roll to the back, ect. Ect.! Its all on youtube very easy (and beautiful) styles to do. I do my hair by myself and it's almost never hard. I do not have a loose curl pattern i just understand how to do my hair. Tangles and matts are inevitable but you get waaaaaaaay less when you keep your hair in a stretched hair style. i.e. Twist out, braid out, curl formers, flat twist out, bantu knots, and soooo much more. very helpful with dispelling mats and tangles. Only con to this is before you do the stlye you must detangle pretty thoroughly but they should last about a week with the pinapple method at night. That is if you wear the style out. You can keep the twist/braid/bantu knots/ ect. In for about 2 weeks and take it out and the longer you keep them in the longer the set lasts when you take it out.
JULY 10, 2013
I've spent most of my life natural - I have relaxed twice: Once in 6th grade due to peer pressure, and just recently at 22.
I love my natural hair, don't get me wrong...but there are a number of reasons I decided to relax, and none of them have to do with hating my natural hair or not knowing how to take care of it etc. The number 1 reason I did it is because I was bored and wanted a change. I thought about it for months, and I did many different styles in that time trying to find one that I consistently liked. I love my relaxed hair. It is much easier to deal with and there are more styles that I can do in less time than with my natural hair. I love that you can see the length and how sleek and shiny it looks.
I may only be relaxed for a short period of time, I'm not sure. I may one day miss my natural hair and decide to go back.
But I don't like all the judgement there is about relaxed vs. natural. Everyone should be able to choose what is best for them without getting flamed for their choice. There are so many reasons to be natural, and just as many to be relaxed. So what's best is completely dependent on the individual.
JULY 18, 2013
I understand what your saying but from a different point of view. I've been relaxed almost all my life. My first relaxer was at age 10. My mom simply could not deal with my all of my hair (trust me it was a lot!) so she decided it was best for me. At age 15 i decided i wanted my natural hair back. It was so beautiful to me where as in my friends eyesite they called a natural girl "nappy headed.
Wanting to be different i went natural. Only because i wanted dreads(in which i have and in the process of removing to have my natural hair without them). When i first went natural i didn't even know what to do with it so i wore my afro big and bold not really caring. I was then to my friends "Nappy Headed Francasca" which was fine because where they were having to style and try and look cute I felt beautiful because i had the feeling of this is me not trying to conform to your expectations.
As you said there are plenty of reason to go natural as well as plenty of reasons to relax. Beauty is in the HEART of the beholder.
JUNE 22, 2013
I was natural for 3 and a half years before returning back to a relaxer, and I tell you the truth. I would never go natural again, lol....I love my relaxed hair. I treat my relaxed hair like I did my natural hair and its working for me. I co wash, I don't use heat, and I don't use shampoo, (except at touch up time to neutrilize). I leave conditioner in my hair, along with EVCO, and twist my hair and let it air dry. NO PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER. As a matter of fact, my relaxed hair is doing better than my natural hair was, and again, I'm treating my relaxed hair just like i treated my natural hair. Natural is not for everyone, therefore, no one has a right to judge..I was recently diagnoised with Rhematoid Arthritis, so twisting natual hair and doing whatever else I had to do to my hair was not an option. I choose to stay with my relaxer
JUNE 5, 2013
Hi, my name is Nancy Mbugua. I am currently 19 years old in college and I've been natural for about two years now, my hair is medium length toughing my neck now (when straightened) and contemplating relaxing my hair again I decided to go natural due to hair breakage and damaged hair. I've been reading many comments about the difference between the two. I know that from experience it is still possible to grow out your hair to long lengths with permed hair since when I was young it was