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Published on Tuesday March 29th, 2016 by Afrocks

The Problem with Natural Hair ‘Problems’ : 3 Things That Gets Me Thinking

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That’s it, we have decided to put the relaxer away. We hardly wear weaves and wigs these days, and when we do, it is a protective method or a way to experiment with new looks or colours without damaging our hair. Yes, we are embracing ourselves, yes we are proud of our heritage and yes, we are beautiful black women… However, this newfound love for our hair needs to be alert and proactive because, I feel that the self-depreciating habits that we have all acquired through our socialisation or the constant exposure to the mainstream canons of beauty, can easily sneak their way on our path to self-validation.


Indeed, we hear quite often: I do not mind locs/afro/twist outs, as long as it is neat and clean. What does that even mean? These kind of statements were never associated with straightened hair. As far as I am concerned, hygiene or the lack thereof, is personal and not depending on one’s hair texture, or style.
Where does the idea of the unruly, dirty afro come from? Why is this obsession to conform still follow us in the midst of our liberation movement! Let’s talk about the problem with the natural hair “problems”: shrinkage, edges, naps, biddy beads and length.

One may ask why our edges need to be “controlled” in the first place, but just like our shrunk hair, it is almost impossible to  “catch” one of us with these untamed peppercorns.

Shrinkage

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Depending on our hair texture, once wet, our hair can coil back to half or a third of its length if we let it dry unbothered. This natural process called shrinkage is the giant that many of us are trying to slay with quixotian efforts. A good amount of gels, oils, tools are used to achieve the proper curl, the proper length, the proper wave that will give us the wild while neat look exemplified by the cover picture of this post (looking for a smiling woman with short hair and “peppercorn edges” has been proven fruitless on google). Apart from being time consuming and sometime frustrating, this process is seriously affecting our social lives. For instance, it will be hard to catch us, natural sisters, near water, diving in the sea with a full on afro or braid out. We also very aware that “One does not simply walk in the shower with one’s hair out”. This attitude of ours has been the butt of countless jokes, we do laugh, but hardly anyone “catches” us with shrunk hair in the streets, it’s a fact.

 

Edge control.

We all know about gel, but there is now a new potion on the market: the edge control. This super-duper gel promises to smooth the fuzz, the peppercorns, the “kitchen” away, leaving our nape and temples sleek, controlled, neat acceptable. One may ask why our edges need to be “controlled” in the first place, but just like our shrunk hair, it is almost impossible to  “catch” one of us with these untamed peppercorns.

I would really hate to trade one insecurity system for another. If you entered the natural hair movement, whatever your reasons, I am sure that it was not a masochist move to further self-hatred.

 

Length:

“long hair don’t care”. Have you realised that the end goal of our hair care routines is not merely healthy hair, but length?  I am persuaded that if someone came up with a “miracle” potion promising a monthly 12 cm of growth but dry hair, many of us would spend fortunes on it. We do seem to have an obsession with long hair and at the end of our “4 years natural hair journey” we demand bra strap length or we will feel cheated. Having a natural slow hair growth is often a burden for some of us and there are no insults as effective as “négrès ti chivé, tèt coco sèc” in my country. (We can loosely translate by “short haired black woman and dry coconut head woman”).

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The question is why? Why do we spend so much money and time on products and techniques aiming to “control” our hair, making it look neat and somewhat different than what it looks naturally? Do get me right, I am not advocating for some “no products” movement or length shaming campaign. Long hair is beautiful and the elaborate designs that some of us get their edges to do is admirable.  I am not against gel, mousses and growth oils. I am saying that this obsession with neatness reminds me of the days when a black woman had to have her hair pressed or chemically altered in order to look decent, beautiful, acceptable. These new dictates are contradicting the ethos of the natural hair movement. This constant pulling, gelling down, brushing is affecting our hair growth our hair health and our self-esteem.
Why should one be ashamed of these peppercorn edges or short hair?  I would really hate to trade one insecurity system for another. If you entered the natural hair movement, whatever your reasons, I am sure that it was not a masochist move to further self-hatred.
Let us therefore be vigilant, and question our intent, while buying and using the products, the classifications, the methods that are presented to us. Do we feel empowered and beautiful or secretly insecure? The road to self-validation is a winy one! Do not miss a turn, you may get hurt!

Nathalie Despois
CCO at Afrocks.
nathalie@afrocks.com

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  • Well said. I embrace my shrinkage and enjoy the characteristics of my natural hair. As you said embracing natural is a road to loving oneself just as you are. My natural hair doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. I am inspired by the different styles I see but ultimately my hair will look like my hair.

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