While watching some videos on Youtube one day, something off-topic came up on my ‘Auto-Play’ pane. A video titled ‘Dear Natural Hair Police’.
Ironically, this video popped up as I was in the middle of my wash day (aka a drawn-out process in which I wash and style my hair). I didn’t want to touch my computer with my hands — soaked with hair product/oil — so I just let it play. In short, the Youtuber goes on to talk about why she decided to chemically relax her hair after several years of wearing it in its natural state. She also goes into detail about the backlash she received from other naturals (what she refers to as the “natural hair police” or “hair nazis”) regarding this decision. The first thought that came to my mind: When did it ever become this serious?
I’m going to pause to define terms for readers who may not know what’s going on here:
Natural Hair Movement: a movement which encourages Black women (and men) to embrace their natural Afro-textured hair rather than chemically straightening. this movement spiked between the years 2008–2014.
Relaxer: a chemical straightening cream that is designed to alter kinky/coiled hair texture by a process of controlled damage to the hair’s protein structure. When not handled properly and over a long period, some consequences could lead to lasting or permanent damage to the hair and scalp.
There’s no doubt that, within this sub-culture, some reform is in order. I went natural for a few simple reasons:
- I Hated Relaxers — my mom can vouch for this. As a kid, I was not a fan of going to get my hair done. I hated the entire process: going to the salon, wasting what felt like an entire day, having chemicals in my hair that would eventually burn, not being able to get my hair wet afterward, not being able to scratch my scalp, etc. As I got older my sister started doing them for me, which was a nuisance for both of us. I may not have made a fuss about it as a teenager but I still hated getting them.
- Curiosity — I had my first relaxer by the time I started kindergarten, so I had no idea what my real hair looked like. I wanted to at least try it.
- Expenses — I knew that when I moved to Northern VA I was going to have to either find someone to do my relaxers for me on campus or go to some salon that would charge way more than I was used to.
The keyword here is “chose”. I didn’t feel I had to appease anybody on either side, I just wanted to do something for myself. And it should be the same way for anyone else. If you’re going natural (or staying natural) because of external pressure to do so, then don’t. Not everybody wants to, some people just want to try it out, and some people just don’t like the work or maintenance. Whatever the reason, it’s no one’s business but your own what you choose to do with your hair and body. The ‘police’ of natural hair is not interested in empowerment, but in having people conform to a specific standard of beauty in order to be considered adequate. Now, where have I heard this narrative before?