By Erin Shields, NOW President’s Intern
Kinky, coily, curly, napptastically natural; these are all words and phrases I’ve heard used to describe my year-old untamed mane. I say year old because it was only last July that I stopped putting chemicals on my hair and scalp completely. I cut the perms and relaxers (even color, farewell to my burgundy low lighted streaks) and completely let my tress grow to its now ferociously fabulous state. ‘Going natural,’ as it is often referred to has been one of the most enlightening and rewarding promenade I’ve had in my 21 years of life.
I’d liken the journey of going natural to falling in a deeply obsessive and unrelenting love affair, although I wasn’t always this smitten. When ‘they’, those ominously adept natural voices of the world, tell you going natural is a journey they aren’t kidding. No hyperbole here. You begin like a baby taking its first steps and end up like a long distance marathon runner with big brand name endorsements. Personally, my natural journey began by accident which made my transition between chemical and chemical-free rough to say the least (pun intended).
Though I may have enjoyed the convenience of having ‘relaxed’ straight hair, the chemicals had made it limp, unhealthy, and prone to breakage. Eventually I gave up on taking care of my hair all together and simply opted to wearing extensions. Turns out, I had them in for so long my perm simply grew out. No fuss, no harm; or so I thought. Little did I know I had missed a crucial in-between step of the process where you learn to manage you natural hair for the first time. I found myself behind the curve. I didn’t know which products my hair liked or hated and my seeming frustration manifested itself into brittle curls and matted locks. I will be the first to admit I looked like a complete and utter hot mess. However embarrassing (read: mortifying) it may have been it forced me to invest in this new challenge because I certainly wasn’t going to walk around looking like Ceilie, from The Color Purple, for the rest of my life.
I spent countless hours watching natural hair tutorials on YouTube, reading natural hair blogs, and harassing my already natural friends for product tips and styles (I still do all these things today, over a year later, by the way). After investing so much effort in detoxing and maintaining my coils I became extremely discriminating with the products and methods I used on them. This is really the point where I began to love my natural hair. My hard work had paid off and my thick defined curls became my trophy, my crowning glory.
Whether you’re Black, White, Brown, or even Purple, as a woman you know everyday you’re assaulted with prescribed formula for beauty. Flat iron this! Gloss that! Want to seduce a man? Buy XYZ. Well I say: $#&@ that! Wear the hair that grows out of the top of your head; straight, curly, long, short, thin, or thick and love every second of it. Remember: Every natural hair journey is as different and unique as the person who’s on it. For me, it has been full of ups and downs but I certainly feel like I’ve come out on top. Even though it’s only a preference in hair style, the shift to wearing my hair unaltered is a continuous reminder to appreciate, even celebrate, my natural beauty and everyone else’s.
Though I’ll always encourage the women I meet to wear their natural hair, I recognize that it’s a personal decision. Make sure you do the necessary research and are devoted to the transition to healthy hair. Be bold, be beautiful, be powerful, and love your body, @$&# it! It’s the only one you’ll ever get.