Sunday, August 5, 2012

Do Relaxed Black Women Hate Their Hair?

Why we relax our hair goes deeper than we like to admit. I always wanted a relaxer so that I could wear the styles I saw on Sebastion models in magazines. I wanted hair extensions so that I could finally have long flowing hair like I saw on white women in Pantene commercials. I still love Sebastion haircuts, and Pantene hair weave; they are beautiful. Aside from the heavy media influence, the local beautician informed me relaxed hair was easier.

Only speaking for my own experience, my areata prone scalp hated chemicals. My scalp would feel very irritated, and burn with every application. I had to cut off a head of hair at every retouch so my hair never grew long enough for any of my favorite styles. It did have bounce when I left the salon. The stylist made it look as long as she could. I always had a fresh haircut. The hair was thinner in a relaxed state, but I assumed that was because the texture was removed. One day I dreamed of having long flowing hair that would blow in the wind, so I could do my own commercial.

A close family friend got a weave, and I was in awe of her hair. The day she walked in with thick hair replacing her thin traction alopecia filled snatched out looking overprocessed hair- blew my mind. She had her Pantene commercial, and I wanted mine. I remember drooling over her weave, telling her how good it looked, and asking her all sorts of questions. Let's just say I wanted that hair too. My desire to have this look allowed me to happily endure hours of pulling, tugging, scolding, and head aches in order to look beautiful.

When we say we have relaxed hair because it is easier; there is a unspoken end to that sentence. We have relaxed weaved up hair because it is easier to achieve the european look of beauty we are accustomed to seeing in the media. Europeans are beautiful, I love my straight haired sisters. My real people, European friends don't look like that media images we all aspire to, but that is another blog. Straight hair looks longer than curly hair does, and curly hair looks longer than kinky hair. Having a relaxer makes it harder to wear a twist out, or afro, but it easier to wear straight.

Some say natural hair takes too long to style or it is unmanageable (too wild). Natural hair takes a long time to style when the goal is to make it appear more relaxed. It takes a long time to find out how to perform the perfect twist out, because most people use the twist out to relax their curl pattern and show more length. It takes a long time to learn anything new, that is why we go to school.

Calling natural hair unmanageable again has to do with a desire to make it more relaxed and socially acceptable. My hair is about as kinked as it comes, but I can easily put my hair into a short tightly coiled professional looking manageable afro.  African men have been doing this for decades. Secondly, afro textured hair easily conforms to cute bun styles at shorter lengths than my straighter haired peers. Thirdly, natural hair does great braided or twisted styles. Of course, these styles have yet to enter mainstream, so we may not want them.

Others say it takes hours to do natural hair. In my experience I spent hours doing my permed hair, it took hours to get my weave right, and it can take hours to put twist into my hair. A good haircut on any type of hair takes hours. I would be very upset if I paid a stylist $200 dollars for a cut, and they just cut off my pony tail in one minutes and was done. My naturally straight haired friends take hours blow drying, and styling their hair. They are wearing extensions just like I did, because we have all been looking at the same media. It can take hours to do any great hair style until one is accustomed to it. My natural hair goes into a pony tail faster than straight hair, and it stays much longer. I can pick out my Afro and shape it with my hands in no time. I am a slow braider/twister but a stylist can braid my hair in an hour. In each of these styles my edges are nappy, just like Gabby Douglass, and we both look good. Of course if I were trying to make my natural hair look relaxed, natural hair would take too long to style.

We wear perm because of the slave/colonization process inundating us with images of white is right. During the slave and Jim Crow eras appearing white was a survival technique. It allowed us to pass into society. It made sense in that forum. It can only be imagined how hard it must have been to learn to bleach the skin, relax the hair, and disguise African features at every turn. It must have taken years to learn, and many people must have been maimed getting the formula right. Straightening the hair meant progress, it meant a better chance at survival.  Now it is so much a part of our culture that is is easier to exist in an unnatural state, than the one we receive from God.

House slaves ate better, and had a more comfortable life. House slave spent less time in the sun, so they were lighter, many are said to be mixed with European. It was a career goal to achieve a better job with benefits. House slave was perceived as the highest career achievable. Even today, we find out what people dress like at the job, and try to fit in.

Slavery is illegal today, so the tools of slavery are outdated. These images are now cultural, and are pasted down from generation to generation. We no longer remember that we are conforming to a culture that ceased to exist. We are attempting to please a master that we don't have. We want to be accepted by someone that died hundreds of years ago. We are asserting our right to use the whites bathroom, and not have to drink out of the colored only fountain, when they don't exist.

Relaxed hair is cultural. If we are honest, it takes a lot of time to maintain pretty relaxed hair. It is what we are used to, because it has been pasted down through the generations. It is all we know.


  1. I dont relax because of pop culture, i relax because my hair is easier to maintain. I may have to do more to it but its worth it. When i was natural my hair feel out to the point that i had to cut it off. For the health of my hair i will remain relaxed. And hair can be healthy when it is relaxed.

    1. I agree that some ladies have very healthy relaxed hair, and I applaud you for taking good care of your hair. You have pretty hair.

      At the same time no one taught you how to properly take care of natural hair, and you clearly tried, and went back to what you know for the health of your hair.

  2. From the standpoint of a white person, this is very interesting - and honest. Thank you. It is hard for me not to wonder about what sometimes seems an obsession that many women of color have with their hair. I am not saying it is wrong, it is just different. Until I moved to a small town in the South, I have never known anyone who wore wigs, had extensions or other hair attachments. I just couldn't wrap my mind around it :) My husband had a hard time recognizing his female students, because they will come in with a completely different hairstyle every day :) By the way, I think that natural hair is gorgeous!

  3. I love this post! I went natural because I wanted change. It just so happen this change was something I needed to help find myself. I am not against relaxers, however I think every woman (regradless of race) should experience having natural hair. You can have healthy hair with relaxer treatments but the many risk aren't worth it.


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