Are You “Unnaturally” Natural?

definition of natural hair

Have you ever considered what it means to be natural? What the “true” definition of natural hair is? In the information age and with the explosion of the natural hair community, there is a never ending list of opinions and schools of thought on exactly what it means to be ‘natural’. For the vast majority, being natural means not using chemicals to permanently alter the curl pattern or texture of your hair. But what happens when other conditions are at play?

Over the years I have seen there is a definite “hair-archy” to being natural that unfortunately can be rather divisive in terms of the sense of community many women of color seek to engage in. On a scale from styling to relaxers, where do you fall on the “Natural Hair-Archy”?

Relaxers/Texturizers

This one is pretty easy. Just about everyone will agree that using relaxers and texturizers would not be considered natural, as they permanently alter the curl pattern or texture.

Color

Aside from henna, to color your hair you must use chemicals. Generally speaking most naturals are staying away from chemicals, so is it possible to be color treated AND natural? Even henna, while not a man-made chemical, can change loosen the curl pattern. On the flip side, proper color treatment does not alter one’s texture or pattern (though some naturals do experience a slight loosening of curls), so if you are color treated with kinky/coily/curly hair but not considered natural, what are you?

Heat

There are levels to using heat and being natural. There are some naturals of the opinion that ANY use of heat is unnatural, others who believe the occasional use of heat is okay, and those who believe using heat to “train” the hair is unnatural. However going back to our working definition, even if used in excess (such that it causes damage) heat is not a chemical. So natural or unnatural?

Weave/Braids

Many are of the opinion that women who wear weaves, wigs, extensions, and braids are not natural (regardless of the condition of their real hair) because their natural texture by covering or “hiding” (worthy of a book for another day) their hair. What are your thoughts?

Products

There is an ideology that using products on your hair that include ingredients such as silicones, sulfates, alcohol, preservatives, etc. There are assertions that we don’t need products for hair health, and that using products to make our hair do anything (curl, hold a curl/style, etc) it can’t do on it’s own is both unnecessary and a reflection of how we like and value both ourselves and our hair (a series of books for another day).

These are just the more popular points of contention—from a very high level—regarding what it means to be natural in the hair community, but it is clear there is no one definition to “natural.” Being natural isn’t black and white, but instead a cultural distinction based upon a lot of personal experiences and values.

So how do you define being “natural?”

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