At this point, it’s just plain dishonest to deny the positive impact of the natural hair movement. It has encouraged millions of black women to embrace our hair textures and to rock our natural beauty. Black women like Lupita Nyong’o, Janelle Monáe and Viola Davis often proudly sport their gorgeous coils and locs on the red carpet. Likewise, manufacturers and retailers of hair-straightening relaxers and texturizers are seeing a steep decline in sales, with an over 25% decrease in demand.
But with every movement and revolution, there are draw backs, and the natural movement is no exception. There are plenty of black women who continue to struggle with their hair even after going natural, and these realistic stories are often overshadowed by the success stories. So I’ve decided to be the change I want to see and share my experience having natural hair as well as to reveal the various reasons why I still struggle to love my 4C locs on a daily basis:
I Have A Tender Scalp
Natural hair is absolutely stunning and it naturally draws attention to itself—it’s just that unique. But sometimes the attention comes in the form of annoyingly long stares, unwanted touching and in worst case scenarios, it can cause you to be a victim of natural hair workplace discrimination. But there’s nothing like the struggle of having natural hair and an extremely sensitive scalp. Regardless of which comb I use, or how gently I try to brush or finger detangle my hair, I will usually still experience pretty sharp and severe scalp pain.
This happens in spite of whether my hair is relaxed or natural, although when natural it hurts moreso. I’ve visited doctors and specialists all in the hopes of finding a solution, but nothing has helped to figure out exactly why it hurts so much to deal with my hair. If you’re like me and you have a sensitive scalp, know that going natural isn’t always the only option—there are also natural hair wigs and weaves you can wear to get the same look and achieve the same effect. There’s also braids, crochet, and rocking your hair short or shaving it all off!
I'm Still Working Through Anti-Black Sentiments and Self-Hatred
I'd be willing to bet that a large portion of black people still struggle with self-hatred and low sense of self-worth. Just because you are "woke" and aware of the systems of oppression that work against you, doesn't mean you're suddenly immune to their impact. We still live in a very white world. And under the system of white supremacy, it's no surprise that sometimes a black woman such as myself would look in the mirror and wish she had looser curls, straight hair, a thinner nose and thinner lips.
Similarly, every young black girls grows up subjected to the often very blatant messages from society and the media, that silky, straight hair is the way to go. Stories about black women being discriminated against in the workplace because of natural hair are commonplace. And according to the “Good Hair Study”, many people—including black people—have a bias against the naturally coarse, coily texture of black hair as well as the typical hairstyles worn by black people, such as braids, afros, dreadlocks, etc. The study states, “a majority of people, regardless of race and gender, hold some bias towards women of color based on their hair”.
It’s simply unrealistic to encourage every black woman to go natural, without being honest about the very real negative impacts of doing so. The aforementioned study states that black women are more likely to suffer from anxiety around hair issues and twice as likely to experience “social pressure” to straighten their hair than white women. And it’s true that rocking your natural hair is a rebellious move and a rejection of European standards of beauty, but not everyone wants to be a martyr. Sometimes it feels like we black women spend most of our time fighting against systems of oppression, instead of simply getting to live like other races of women. And this is not by any fault of our own, but as a result of the nature of the world in which we live. Natural hair is as far from European standards as you can get, and while this truth is empowering, it is still a burden to bear.
Society Only Praises Long Natural Hair or Looser Curl Textures
While I’ve surprisingly never had a problem growing long hair, I know some people (including friends and family) who struggle to get their hair past chin length. And while for many women, having shorter hair is a source of pride, in a society that worships long hair, it can leads to self-esteem issues and lowered sense of self-worth in other women.
Thus, we can’t blindly encourage all black women to go natural and shame those who aren’t when we haven’t created a safe space for all black women to go natural. Whether you have 3C hair, 4A or 4C, all types of hair should be celebrated. And although there are movements within the natural hair trend that aim to correct our focus on 3C hair and looser textures, we’re simply not there yet. In other words, it’s not good enough.
But the reason I say all this isn't to whine about my 4C hair. It's to start a conversation about the ways in which our prejudiced world continues to affect the daily lives of black women, particularly dark-skinned black women. Hashtags and movements like #blackgirlmagic and #carefreeblackgirl add a little ray of positivity to our lives, but it’s also important to continue to be honest about our difficulties and create spaces for vulnerability and healing.
Lastly, rocking your natural hair is an honorable goal and you should absolutely be commended if you’re able to do it. But it’s a tough road, and if you’re not willing to put yourself through the struggle or to open yourself up to further scrutiny and judgement from society, don’t let anyone shame you into feeling bad about it. As I mentioned above, if you’re unable to rock your actual natural hair, consider rocking natural hair textured wigs or weaves instead. At the very least, do what works for you.
"Grace is a freelance writer and blogger from Canada. Her work has been featured on HerCampus, 21Ninety, Read Unwritten. She is a voracious reader, a dog-lover and a self-professed pop culture junkie. Her other hobbies include watching sappy romantic comedies, consuming too many strawberry-filled doughnuts and people-watching. Grace currently attends university, where she is working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Pre-Law."