From natural to straight. Here’s why naturalistas are opting to straighten their hair again
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It’s so beautiful to watch how society and the media have finally started to embrace women in all their natural splendour.
Women are now more than ever confident to show off their bodies regardless of shape and size. We’re seeing fuller models at fashion weeks. We’re seeing real women with rolls and dimples in swimwear and lingerie campaigns.
From the palest to dark chocolate, all skin tones are aglow in beauty campaigns. From freckled skin, wired braced teeth, small eyes to large full lips, your uniqueness is what makes you stand out instead of fade into the background.
The natural hair movement forms another important part of this change.
Now more than ever women are embracing their natural hair. Whether it’s spiral curls or kinky coils, women are wearing their hair in ways that just a decade ago would not have been considered “beautiful”.
Over and above the fact that we’re finally living in a society where women can freely be who they are and just be happy in their own skin, is the fact that women now have choices.
Having a choice means you can do whatever you please to do with your hair or body. However, women are still judged for the decisions they make.
If someone decides that they would like to have larger breasts, should they be judged on wanting to do so?
Why is it still frowned on when a woman wants to get botox or injectables if she feels she wants to keep ageing at bay?
Can a woman not get that tummy tuck if she feels like it, not because of external pressures, but simply because she wants to, without being chastised for doing so?
The same applies to how women choose to wear their hair.
Hair has always been a contentious issue among women of colour. While we’ve struggled to make natural hair acceptable in western society and it has in fact now become the norm, there are still women who continue to straighten their hair.
Even though many think that choosing to go natural should be the obvious choice, not too many people understand the struggle of going natural and the that the journey isn’t always an easy one.
One of the most extreme ways to start the new journey is to shave your hair and not many women feel brave enough to walk around with a buzz cut.
Then there’s a misconception that natural hair is low maintenance, but any naturalista will tell you that the list of products to care for and maintain healthy hair is a long one. Not to mention the hours spent on achieving those perfect curls.
Therefore it’s understandable why women are now faced with the dilemma to go natural or continue relaxing their hair.
Digital content creator and hair and beauty influencer Deogracious Dube grew up relaxing her hair and later made the choice to go natural, but has now gone back to relaxing her hair.
She tells us her hair story about why.
Dube says that growing up, relaxed hair was a big part of her culture as a black woman in South Africa.
“Going natural had never been an option for me, to be honest, it’s not something I had ever given a second thought. I would even go as far as to say that we didn’t even know going natural was an option” says the popular YouTuber.
In 2016 she started to notice more women wearing their natural hair out, but it was mostly on social media and it was mostly American women. After watching natural hair tutorials on YouTube she says that for the first time she saw natural hair as beautiful.
“The women who made these videos spoke with so much passion about their hair and they made beautiful natural hair seem so attainable. I was so amazed at how cool and chic they looked and they wore their hair with so much pride. I wanted to be part of those young women who had big Afros and were unapologetic about who they were.”
That was when Dube made the decision to cut off her relaxed hair and go completely natural.
Through short Instagram videos, she proudly shared her natural hair journey, offering tips and advice to others on the same path.
“There was a lot of natural hair content on YouTube but I found there wasn’t much local information for South African women. I really enjoyed making videos because I knew that I was helping a lot of women feel more confident in taking care of their hair and as a result, they felt more confident to wear their natural hair too.”
Earlier this year Dube made a radical decision to relax her natural hair even though she had sworn never to relax her hair again.
“I was tired of having to constantly think of my hair. Unfortunately, when you have natural hair and you wear it out 95% of the time it can become quite a lot of work. I got to a point where I felt like my life revolved around my hair, especially because I was a natural hair content creator as well.
“As much as I loved my natural hair, I was really craving a change and I wanted an option that would be very low maintenance but could still allow me to enjoy styling my own hair from time to time, and that’s when the idea to relax crept in my mind.”
She admits that she was nervous about making the decision. Not because she wasn’t sure, but because she was anxious and nervous about what people would think of her.
“I felt some people might think ‘less’ of me or that I was a ‘sell out’ to the natural hair community. I know it sounds silly to say but there are some people in the natural hair community who are very anti-relaxer and can make others feel like they’re anti-black or don’t love themselves enough if they choose to wear their hair relaxed.”
Needless to say, she chose her own happiness despite what she thought people might think or say.
“At the end of the day it’s my head and my hair and ultimately my happiness and comfort and I have no regrets. I still love my natural hair but I don’t miss it” says Dube.
“Women should be allowed to wear their hair as they choose without fear of judgement. At the end of the day it’s about your own happiness and it’s just hair, it’ll grow back. I think we’ve come a really long way and people are less judgemental of how other people choose to live their lives, which is honestly so freeing.”
Dube’s story is one we’re hearing more and more often these days.
Influencer Ashley White is one of those people. Through her YoutTube channel, All About Ash, White shares a few videos where she explains her decision to transition from natural hair to chemically-relaxed hair.
In one of her videos, she explained that her decision to transition had to do with how time-consuming it was to maintain her curly hair.
“I also have more freedom when it comes to styling my hair. When I was natural, honestly, the only styles I ever did were a bun or a ponytail, or I had it braided up under a wig. It was just a lot for me,” White said.
“But now that I am relaxed and I can moisturise my hair, and it’s doing so much better, and I can have the freedom to do more styles,” she added.
Another content creator from the YouTube channel, Faye In The City, shared her experience with going between having natural hair and relaxing it.
She said people were disappointed, sad and gave her “an attitude” when she chemically straightened her hair.
However, she was also surprised by the number of natural-haired women who told her they wanted to relax their hair as well. In one of her videos, she told her viewers that they should do whatever they want with their hair, regardless of what people say.
“Unfortunately, in today’s society black women are the most policed women when it comes to beauty standards,” she said.
“If we are natural we are told our hair is nappy, unruly, untamed, unattractive, not sexy and just a mess. If we are relaxed we’re told we have European beauty standards and we don’t love ourselves, that we’re lazy, that we’re broke because we can’t afford natural hair products.”
“Whatever you want to do, do it. Make your own decisions for your own hair,” she said in a video.