Quick question, what is the natural hair community doing? Every single piece of advice is contradictory or outdated and it has basically become a space to go if you’re ready to be judged. Don’t even get me started on the hair chart that people take as the word of God. At this point, I don’t view it as a community, more so a perfectionist cult.
I remember when the natural hair movement really kicked off and to be honest, I don’t think this is one of those ‘the good ol days’ situations. I vividly remember there not being a common meaning of the term ‘natural.’ Some people viewed it as not having a relaxer but other things such as color were fine. Others thought that it was when you simply left your hair as is after washing. People fought to have their hair considered natural because when your hair is ‘natural’ you’re suddenly put on a high pedestal. This is ironic because when I think of the standards of the Black community, I don’t think many people are kind to hair in its natural state.
The Black communities standards on hair are suffocating. Long, loose and precisely defined curls or coils with no frizz. That is simply not how hair is going to magically behave all the time. Especially when trying to learn how to do your own hair is basically like navigating a labyrinth.
In my opinion, the natural hair community has somewhat screwed themselves in the sense that everything is so overcomplicated. Why do I need to use several different butters, creams, oils, etc. every single wash day and spend multiple hours styling? Can it even really be considered a wash n go after being manipulated to behave a certain way for hours on end?
There’s a lot of outdated advice that people treat like law which is pure insanity. So many of these techniques came from before 2016, posted by people who aren’t even hair professionals wanting to just share something they personally do. An example is co-washing which is just wetting and applying conditioner on your hair. Why is this considered washing when in reality, it is just moisturizing hair? I have no idea, but the whole point is a select group of people on YouTube have a whole community in a chokehold with the idea that shampoo is bad.
The borderline religious view on these hair rules has made the community a headache to deal with. If someone were to post their routine that differs from the norm, be prepared to read comments about how blasphemous what they are doing is. In a space with little wiggle room, where people are not granted the luxury of a learning curve, there is bound to be a lot of judgment.
I mentioned before how having natural hair is put on a high pedestal and the irony behind it. When you are a black woman with natural hair, it means that you love yourself and that you’re confident. But if natural hair is not absolutely perfect, then you’re lazy and messy, you clearly don’t care about how you look, you must not like your hair because you do not know how to do it. Because bad hair days are absolutely not allowed.
To avoid the fear of a bad hair day, people will resort to wigs, straightening their hair or wearing a protective style. Those come with benefits such as less effort having to keep up with hair, being viewed as put together, you’ll get compliments. But of course, women cannot do anything without judgment so when your hair is straight then you must hate yourself and want to be white. When your roots grow out in your protective style then clearly you’re too broke to fix it up. There is also absolutely no room for experimentation out of fear of disgracing the sacred status of being natural.
This is a reflection of a bigger problem that the black community faces and that is that we are too judgemental and hard on ourselves. I believe that this is a result of racial discrimination (as most issues the black community faces are). When constantly facing discrimination based on our appearances from non-Black people, it is hard for that not to be internalized. We don’t want to look broke or messy. Then those internalized statements get passed down and that’s how you end up with a generation not knowing how to do their hair because it was straightened their entire childhood. The natural hair community was initially supposed to fight back against this but even then you can still see these standards creeping in.
The loose bouncy curl fantasy or the desire for perfectly defined coils leads to insecurity when you look in the mirror and realize that is not what you see. The shame is in the back of someone’s head as they pick up the straightener. It’s somewhat sad but funny seeing the natural hair community turn into what it was initially fighting against. Younger members of the Black community have noticed this; despite having natural hair themselves, they’re distancing themselves from the natural community instead of choosing to just exist outside of a box. There’s a whole new group online seeking to simplify hair routines.
In terms of natural hair, the question that should be asked is, “who am I doing this for?” “Why should you have to be perfect at your own expense?” I hope that one day people can just be people in peace.