This is slightly off my usual path of reporting; however there is a burning need for this discussion.
As of late, there has been a wave of women from African descent going "natural". I am sure there are people from various backgrounds wondering exactly what that means, why that is a big deal and how exactly that has anything to do with you in your every day life.
I know this post will NOT answer all of your questions. This is not by ANY means meant to answer every question you have ever had on the hair plights of the Black or African descent community. Many have tried to do this and have failed miserably. Although I have been natural my entire life (minus the ONE time my mother took me to an unlicensed hair dresser and she burned my hair out resulting in being convinced to try a relaxer/perm to help my hair grow and I never had a touch up after the fact), I do not claim to know everything about every hair issue or every hair type.
Most of what I have posted prior to this line may seem like gibberish to you. Do not fret, I plan on trying to explain as much as I can.
For those of you asking why I feel I have some authority over the subject or feel I can post about it I say this; the black hair care industry is largely unregulated. Most of the information followed is through experience. Relying on a relaxer (also known as a perm) is something often learned early in life; therefore many of the women from African heritage have no idea how to care for their hair.
I state this not to look down on women who have religiously had relaxers since the age of two, but to point out why this is such a huge deal.
What is a "Relaxer"?
A relaxer is a chemical treatment used to change the natural texture of your hair to go from curly/kinky to straight. Women of certain descents have natural naturally "textured" hair and this is just one way to obtain straight hair.
What is a "Perm"?
A perm is like a relaxer in the aspect of it changing the pattern of your hair, however a perm gives you a distinctive curl instead of taking away your curls or kinks. I had both done to my hair.
What does "Natural" mean?
Having "Natural" hair means not having a chemical process done to your hair to change its pattern. People often refer to this as "going natural" due to years of relaxers to make their hair "manageable". This is a huge step for many women because it involves learning how to take care of your hair all over again. If you are of African descent, there is not a default texture or porosity for your hair. Unless you find an experienced "hair twin" you are pretty much on your own.
What is a "Protective Style"?
A "Protective Style" by strict definition is a style that allows you to protect the ends of your hair and reduce stress to your tresses. A good bun is considered a true protective style; however there is a segment of people who believe a wig or a weave is a "Protective Style". Although this could be considered protecting your hair, it also depends on how you add the hair that is not your own hair to your hair. Adding hair that is not your hair to your hair no longer makes your style a "Natural Hair" style. Although your hair may not have chemicals in it, it does have hair that is not yours added to it. For more information on this, please read this post.
What do you need to go "Natural"?
Going "Natural" is more of a mental preparation than it is a physical preparation. As a woman you will always receive scrutiny about your appearance. If you are truly determined to have natural hair, nothing will stop you.
Most people find help by searching "Natural Hair" on YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram; however this may discourage you. My suggestion would be to find your hair type and porosity then take it from there.
What does this have to do with you?
You may not be of African descent or you may not be on #teamnatural; however, you will probably encounter one of us. Our hair can be many things to us; our source of confidence, our fashion statement, our sense of racial pride, or even our worst nightmare. Please be careful how you criticize those of us going through our hair journey. Do not assume anything about our hair, and please do not touch it!