No doubt you've noticed an increase in women of color wearing their natural hair.Years ago, it was extremely unusual to see women with very curly or very kinky hair wearing their natural texture. In my case, the relaxer was a matter of convenience for my mom, who worked full time and had three children, two of which were girls. Adding to her difficulty in managing our hair was the fact that we had lots of it.
My sister's hair was very long, dense and exceptionally thick. Conversely, my hair, which was just as long as my sister's but had a softer texture, was extremely prone to tangles and could be, at times, very hard to manage. A chemical straightener seemed to be the perfect solution for a working mom who was on the go and trying to juggle her family's needs all at once. And so she decided to take the plunge and relax both my and my sister's hair. Simply out of habit, from my teenage years until about age thirty, I continued to relax my hair - even when I was fully grown and married with a child of my own.
One day, though, I suddenly realized that I really had no idea what the natural texture of my hair looked like, and I was extremely curious about it. I also noticed that I was regularly having to trim the ends of my hair due to the fact that they were constantly splitting, and no matter what I tried, there were no products that worked to effectively combat the damage that I was experiencing. Most products that were marketed towards women of color contained lots of petroleum, mineral oil, and, oddly enough, alcohol. They were also full of toxic chemicals that I often couldn't even pronounce. But I'll address that a little later. Anyway, after trimming my hair once again, I decided to take make a commitment and stop relaxing my hair.
Fast forward to the present. My hair is currently completely chemical free, and I have to admit that the journey has been time consuming and very exhaustive, to say the least. Nevertheless, it has been a truly liberating and invigorating experience that has also been extremely educational. For one thing, I gradually came to the realization that, while I never experienced severe hair loss or dramatic hair breakage because of chemical relaxers, I did experience thinning of hair and constant split ends. Loss of volume also came into play, since the purpose of the relaxer was to break down the structure of the hair to make it more closely resemble other hair textures that were smoother and straighter. Happily, when I stopped relaxing my hair, most of the damage problems actually went away.
However, I don't mean to give the impression that my understanding of my curly hair occurred overnight - that's far from the truth. Naturally curly hair has its own set of sensitivities, and it requires unique techniques and handling that are completely different from those of naturally straight hair. And though the cessation of the relaxer application stopped the split ends, it became increasingly clear to me that there are very few companies in existence that focus on nourishing ethnic hair and that provide products that are composed of natural ingredients that can make curly hair stronger, more manageable and more beautiful. So for those women who want to embrace their naturally curly hair, chemical-free hair care products can help them get liberated from the constant cycle of chemically changing their hair.
For instance, natural hair may not necessarily need to be restructured, but it still needs natural products that increase moisture and slip and make detangling and styling easier. There are synthetic versions of slippery elm, Irish moss and marshmallow root that exist, but these ingredients often have side effects that can damage a person's health, and over time, their results are questionable with reference to hair nourishment. In fact, with time, the hair tends to become even drier due to the lack of vitamins and minerals in these fake "conditioning ingredients." The opposite is the case with natural ingredients, however. In fact, with time, ethnic hair becomes more healthy and more vibrant when the real conditioning agents (like marshmallow root and slippery elm) are used in conjunction with other nutritive ingredients.
On the other hand, there are still many women of color who prefer to wear their hair straight and opt to continue to relax their hair. In that case, products that are based on natural ingredients that can restructure hair and that replenish moisture are still the preferred choice. This is especially true due to the inherent tendency of curly and kinky textures to be dry and lackluster. And when chemical processes enter into the picture, it's even more important for women with chemically treated hair to search for - and be able to successfully locate - hair products that will strengthen and rebuild the structure of the hair and moisturize and nourish it. Only hair products with natural ingredients, a low alcohol content and no mineral oils can increase the strength of the hair itself with little or no side effects to a person's hair or health.
So whether a woman of color decides to wear her natural hair texture or maintain her relaxed hair, one thing's for sure: Chemical free hair care is definitely the wave of the future. So strap yourselves in, buckle up, and enjoy an amazing adventure!
About the author: K. A. Satcher is the author of The Ten Hair Commandments For Girls With Curls, an e-book that focuses on finding hair care solutions for women with curls. She supports endeavors to provide chemical free hair care that reveal the true beauty of all types of hair.