For women of color that use a hair relaxer, the prospect of cutting off hair that you’ve committed a lot of time and money to can be frightening. A relaxer is a type of cream generally used by people with tight, curly hair that makes it easier to straighten by chemically “relaxing” the natural curls. It’s not just that the multiple years and money you’ve poured into your hair have suddenly gone to waste, but rather, questions like, “what’s next?” What will I do with my hair now?” “What will the texture be?” that scare any woman contemplating natural hair.
At least, these were my thoughts whenever I thought about going natural. I’d never really had natural hair before because, like so many women of color, I had been having monthly relaxer treatment since before I could remember. I depended on relaxers so much so that, whenever I’d hit my monthly mark, or my edges weren’t laid to perfection, I’d go running to the nearest beauty salon.
It took a consultation with the right hair stylist – who specialized in natural hair and had beautiful, natural hair herself – before I was 100% comfortable with cutting off my hair. I will never forget the first time I walked outside with my new look, feeling equal parts nervous and liberated. It was refreshing knowing that I no longer had to depend on relaxers, but I was scared about how those in my personal and professional life may react.
The reality is, not everyone is going to support the decisions you make with your own body, especially if it is not what is expected or assumed. Hair plays a vital role in the culture of people of color, especially for women, and because of this it can be a sensitive topic to approach.
Throughout history, people of color have been discriminated against for all aspects of their appearance, including hair. The repercussions of this can still be seen in modern day society - women of color are still conditioned to hide their natural hair, even receiving pressure from within our own community.
I was grateful that, for the most part, I received positive reactions to my natural hair. There were some who did not understand, or had questions about the process, which I was more than happy to answer.
I noticed some of the other positives of natural hair almost instantly, like the money I saved from no longer having to pay for the monthly relaxer treatment – the average salon charges approximately $40 for this. I also can’t count the number of times other women with natural hair have approached me for a chat about how we maintain our hair and the products we’ve tried, loved and hated. I found myself noticing women that had natural hair more often. I even unexpectedly joined a supportive, loving network of women with natural hair. It’s been six months since I went natural, and I don’t regret a thing!Going natural is just like any other decision you make about your body, such as losing weight or starting to work out. It takes time, and more so, lots of patience. You need to learn about your hair type, and the shampoos, conditioners and other products that will work best for it. In my personal experience, having a natural hair stylist to answer my questions and help me begin my journey was the best decision I made, and this is reflected in my beautiful, natural hair.
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