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The Guide to Going Natural: 5 Natural Hair Myths and Misunderstandings

8:00 AM

When the phrase "natural hair" is mentioned, all sorts of images,word associations, and assumptions are conjured up. Furthermore, when edging along the decision to "transition" to natural, the over-abundance of online information and how-to YouTube videos can be down right intimidating. That is why I'm starting The Guide to Going Natural series -- to get to the crux of the most relevant, useful, and solid information. Today, we get started by addressing the most common natural hair myths.

Hair Myth #5: Wearing my hair naturally makes me a member of the Black Panther Party or a neo-soul singer.
No offense to those that embrace your natural hair texture as a public declaration of your African roots. Really, no shade thrown your way at all. I completely understand how inherently powerful and revolutionary it is to loose yourself from the shackles of psychological oppression that have, for hundreds of years, deemed our phenotypical features as inferior, worthless, and ugly. If that is why you decided to go natural, then more power to you and I understand 100%. However, going natural does not have to be an issue of identity politics for everyone. Some people just simply crave healthy hair, and want their hair to live up to its full potential. (Ironically, creating the opportunity for your hair to thrive does (generally) require one to step away from products and practices that are essentially associated with the pursuit of euro-centric standards of beauty.) I guess ultimately, the reality of this myth lies within the consciousness of the person doing it. You are not bound to reading Frances Cress Welsing's Isis Papers if you decide to embrace your natural hair texture. If you do, more power to you. If you just want healthy hair, more power to you as well.


Hair Myth #4: Going natural is a quick fix to the damage I've caused my hair.
I'm sorry that somebody lied to you, or misrepresented the truth. I could just tell you that damage is damage, and there is no solution to the complete and utter havoc you have wrought upon your hair other than to cut it. But that is cruel, and would mean that I would have to cut about 6 inches of my own hair off as well (and let's just face it... that ain't happening).Damage comes in all forms. There is heat damage, chemical damage, split ends, traction alopecia, breakage, and the list goes on. If you have permed or colored your hair, you have effectively chemically altered the natural properties of your hair. For an in-depth explanation of what perms actually do to your hair, click here. To make a long story short, you cannot un-perm or un-color your hair. Breakage, brittleness, dryness, and other chemical-related damage must be either chopped off (leading to what some ladies consider the Big Chop or BC), or coddled until your hair reaches a length where you are comfortable letting that damage go. Regular conditioning, deep conditioning, moisturizing, and gentle protective styling are the best ways to coddle your damaged hair (and give your new growth a new lease on life). When it comes to split ends, the debate door has been swung wide open, thanks to a "reconstructing complex" found in a few product lines, such as Tresemme Split Remedy (I will be posting a blog about this soon). Conventionally speaking, split ends must be cut before the damage travels up the shaft and leaves you with less hair than you would have had, had you just trimmed the split to begin with. The best thing for split ends (if you aren't ready for the BC) is to again, coddle your ends with moisture, sealing, and protective styles, while incrementally trimming over time.

Hair Myth #3: The second I use product x, y, and z in my hair, I will have the perfect curls or 'fro, just like so-and-so in that YouTube video or magazine.
No, no no. No you will not. Did I mention that you won't? This isn't meant to discourage you, by any means. However, I would like to prevent you from hyping up your hair expectations, then becoming discouraged enough to reach for the creamy crack or yaki #4, when it doesn't perform as expected. A part of the natural process is understanding your hair, knowing its capabilities, limitations, and conditions in which it thrives. My hair isn't coily enough to have a fro, or a poofy-esque style. On the other end of the spectrum, my hair doesn't have enough of a uniform pattern to do just a wash-n-go (without some twisting/manipulation). I used to be upset about it. But I chose to embrace my hair, and understand the best styling options for it. I encourage you to do the same...otherwise, you're headed for a world of disappointment.

Hair Myth #2: Going natural = juices and berries.
Total Coming to America reference, haha. Just because you are in pursuit of natural hair doesn't mean you have to slather your tresses in edibles. Don't get me wrong, you can definitely find some foods in my haircare repetoire -- from oat flour to coconut oil (from the cooking oil aisle at Whole Foods). However, plenty of naturals incorporate non-food, non-organic, non "pure, whole, handmade with love by environmentally responsible villagers empowered by each purchase" products into their haircare regimen. Tresemme, Aussie, Herbal Essences, Suave and Nexxxus are all popular, mainstream brands adored by naturals. Sure, you can press your own oils, whip your own shea butter, and adopt Ayurvedic principles if you want to. But you don't have to.

Hair Myth #1: Going natural is easy and low-maintenance.
I almost quoted scripture here to prove a point...
The reality is, if going natural were easy, don't you think everyone would do it? The hour-long (plus) detangling sessions are enough to make anyone run for the nearest hot comb. Add to that moisturizing, sealing, and styling -- with extreme care. Translation = SLOW. Not to mention the amount of time you would spend researching, searching for, and trying out different products on your hair. You practically have to build your day around your hair. Sounds crazy, right? Determining how you wear your hair in the morning begins the night before. Are you going to twist? Braid? Just cover? Detangle? Wash? Condition? Bantu Knot? You see where I'm going. Then, the next morning comes: Do you protective style, or are you wearing your hair out? What clothes cause the least amount of snag on your hair ends? What if your style goes AWOL midday? Do you have a few small containers of your products just in case? Are you going to the gym? Do you have scrunchies, clips, scarf, etc. for your hair while you work out? There is absolutely nothing low-maintenance about natural hair. The second you start slacking on your routine, your hair will let you know. Going natural is an investment -- with an amazing return. Treat it that way.


I hope I didn't scare you. What are some other natural myths you've heard? Let me know!

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3 comments

  1. Balding edges and traction alopecia was the reason I went natural- best decision ever. I used Castor Oil with great success! I blogged my regimen, and result pics here:
    http://napturalnicole.com/2012/07/21/27667512368/
    Thanks for bringing attention to this issue!

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  2. No problem! Our healthy hair journey has to have a holistic approach! Congratulations on your journey! Your edges look great :)

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  3. Greetings fellow Angeleno!!! You need to get out of my head!! lol.. I know this is an old article, but I just found your site.. So much of what you write here kinda speaks to WHY I choose NOT to discuss haircare routines with other naturals.. I found WAAAAYYYY too many naturalistas in person and on the internet who will look at you cross eyed (and with a touch of pity and sadness) if you reveal that you are using any products that are not "pure, whole, handmade with love by environmentally responsible villagers empowered by each purchase".

    "A part of the natural process is understanding your hair, knowing its
    capabilities, limitations, and conditions in which it thrives. My hair
    isn't coily enough to have a fro, or a poofy-esque style. On the other
    end of the spectrum, my hair doesn't have enough of a uniform pattern to
    do just a wash-n-go (without some twisting/manipulation). I used to be
    upset about it. But I chose to embrace my hair, and understand the best
    styling options for it. I encourage you to do the same...otherwise,
    you're headed for a world of disappointment."

    In truth, my hair has been natural for over 5 years, but it was only
    last year (Nov, 2013) that I finally stopped wearing my weaves/wigs/braids/hairpieces as a protective style
    and went au naturelle.. I have stuck it though though some days things weren't cute at all.. lol.. STILL learning (trying a NEW product today as we speak), but things are much cuter today than a year ago..

    Anyway thanks for your blog.. it resonates with me..

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