Your Hair, Naturally Yours, Naturally Beautiful!
The natural hair movement is not a new phenomenon, images of women and men with gigantic and perfectly quaffed afros dominate some of our memories of the 60s and 70s. Women and men sporting locs have been prevalent in many black communities notably Rastafari. Generally, we have always been aware of our natural hair texture, some more than others especially when we were due a retouch *raises a guilty hand*. However, the emergence and surge of black women boldly wearing their natural hair carries the energy of the natural hair movement of the past with renewed pride and confidence. The natural hair movement signals the return of black women globally embracing their natural hair texture, learning to care for their hair but also creating a community unique and exclusive to black women.
Embracing natural hair
Embracing our kinks, coils and curls in all textures and lengths our tresses come in, is the power propelling the natural hair movement. European standards of beauty did not define the natural hair movement and naturals sought to and successfully redefine the term ‘Good hair.’ More and more black women are either going cold turkey or slowly weaning themselves of relaxers and embracing their new normal. Naturals in their droves are boldly wearing their Teeny Weeny Afros (TWA’s), locs and textured hair in various ways showcasing the popularity and influence of the natural hair movement on black women at large.
“Natural hair is not for everyone,” is a statement I have heard one too many times that is based on the lack of understanding of how to manage natural hair or that it is difficult to style natural hair for the corporate world. However, natural hair can be versatile, beautiful and can be for everyone. The idea of “good hair” (where only hair that has a EurAsian cultural mix is perceived as the best), has been redefined. As more and more black women are considering “going natural”, and as someone who’s been through the journey AfricanPostmark will help to guide you through the process and make it easier for you to “go natural” – you won’t regret it!
Natural hair community
The natural hair movement created a community and a safe haven exclusive to black women enabling black women to come together socially and economically. It helped to build a sharing community where we can support each other and goes beyond the obvious shared interest of our hair. It is a community where black women’s needs are met and we are at the centre of the community.
The concentration on natural hair enabled other discussions surrounding aesthetics such as body image, skin tone and general wellbeing. A healthy lifestyle became synonymous with the natural hair movement. My natural hair journey kick started a healthier lifestyle for me, I was so concerned about what I put in my hair that I realised what I put in my body was more important. A healthy diet and high water intake is repeatedly linked to hair growth and healthy hair. I learned to care for my hair and embraced my kinks and curls which was something I had never truly understood until undertaking my natural hair journey.
Representation of black women in the media is very important within the black community globally. Having celebrities unapologetically wearing their natural hair on the red carpet, in films and their everyday life is a powerful statement. Celebrities such as Viola Davis, Genevieve Nnaji, Ava Duvernay, Lupita Nyong’o, Solange Knowles, Maria Borges, and I could go on beautifully represent natural hair in its different stages, textures and lengths.
There are plenty of black women that have been natural all their lives but recently wearing your natural hair has created a new normal. I was once infatuated with natural hair and often overbearing with my views, however my third year being natural brought about the realisation that my natural hair journey came to an end. I felt my hair was not a separate entity from me nor my identity but an extension of many different aspects of who I am. I had truly embraced my natural hair.
Natural hair care
Learning to care for natural hair and the health of your hair became the most important feature of a lot of peoples’ natural hair journeys – healthy hair has become the definition of ‘Good hair.’ Whether you big chopped (drastically cut your hair to remove any chemicals) or transitioned (growing out your natural hair before the big chop), embracing your new normal was not simple for many of us. Learning to care for our hair through the experiences of natural hair bloggers and Youtubers helped many of us in our natural hair journeys. Myths concerning black women and our hair held us back from truly appreciating and understanding our God given hair texture. There is so much more information at our fingertips regarding hair care, products and styles. To start with, lets tackle some myths about black hair.
Our hair is very strong: Our hair could withstand a relaxer so of course it is strong. Learning to care for our hair showed us that the kinkier your hair the weaker, at every curl, kink or coil it is a point of potential breakage. Therefore, when dealing with our hair a gentle approach is needed.
Helpful tips: styling your hair when damp, less manipulation or finger detangling diminishes breakage. Less manipulation of your hair means less breakage and I am looking at the ladies who suffer from hand in hair syndrome (HIHS). Damp hair is easier to manipulate subsequently it requires less pulling or tugging at your hair. Finger detangling is gentler option than combing your hair, there was a point where I unintentionally ditched the comb because using my fingers just worked well.
Not all oils are created equal: The products we as black women used changed, long are the days we continued to use blue magic or pink lotion for example. The natural hair movement educated many of us irrespective of being natural about the dangers of mineral oils, petroleum, sulphates and silicone. Moisturising our hair with products laden with mineral oil was not actually moisturising but drying. Introduction of the butters and oils galore sealed the fate of the natural hair movement. Many naturals opted to become avid label readers, for example questioning why water was not the first and main ingredient in a moisturiser/leave in conditioner. Major companies and newly flourishing natural hair product businesses began to listen.
Helpful tips: read the label of products. The first ingredient is the key ingredient, so if you’re looking for a great moisturiser or leave in conditioner water/aqua must be the first ingredient. I have come across labels stating 100% pure castor oil then reading the ingredients list and the bottle includes five other oils.
Keep it simple: We all go through a product junkie phase and it is normal. Not every product aimed at natural hair is the best and not every technique is the best. Keeping your hair regime simple works well with managing not only your hair but your pockets too, natural hair products, oils and butters are not cheap. Eight months into my locs journey I have learned the principle of less is more, my locs thrive simply on water and oils.
Did you hear the joke about black women, their hair and water? Come on, who randomly likes to have wet hair? Who wants to catch a cold? Water is a naturals best friend and many naturals will testify to this. Not only just water but in all its other forms, such as moisturisers, conditioners and whilst cleansing. Moisturised hair is less susceptible to breakage and our hair thrives in moisture. Water and some oils can rejuvenate your hair. Remember, the hallmark of a good moisturiser or leave in is water must be the main and first ingredient.
Helpful tips: Co-washing, washing your hair with a conditioner was a hair changing discovery for me. When my hair was loose I co-washed twice a week which was a great injection of moisture especially needed when you live in colder climates.
Natural hair doesn’t grow: Shoulder length hair for many black women was the pinnacle of hair goals. Some of us subscribed to the notion that black hair does not grow. Busting myths regarding the strength of our hair or the adverse effects some of our favourite hair products have on our hair educated many of us about why we experienced stunted hair growth.
Helpful tips: Know the difference between hair breakage and shedding. Shedding is a natural occurrence for everyone so do not be alarmed. Shed hair s identified by a white bulb on the end of a strand. It is super important to trim your ends, the health of your hair is more important than length. Trimming your hair will help keep split ends at bay, split ends left to their own devises enables a lot of us to experience stunted growth.
Natural hair is unmanageable: I remember when I first went natural other people were concerned about how I could manage and style my hair. And, I did experience this issue. But learning to care for our hair enabled naturals to understand our glorious crowns and putting the health of our hair first is an important factor in embracing our natural hair.
Well it worked for her: The one size fits all approach to natural hair can be problematic, there are generic tips but know that no head of hair is the same. I always say listen to your own hair and figure out what works best for you. A certain product or approach works wonders for one person but may not work for you. Environmental factors such as hard/soft water or climate will affect how a person’s hair will behave. This does not mean you cannot take advice or tips from other people, just keep in mind that no head of hair is the same.
This is valuable information I have learned over the years being natural. A lot of them I learned the hard way and I am still learning. With natural hair it is trial and error and what the natural hair movement has taught me is that black hair grows. You can start all over again and your hair will grow. Going natural was the best hair decision I have ever made, my hair is the healthiest it has ever been. Go on give natural a try and share with us your natural hair journey – tweet us @africanpostmark or visit us on facebook.