Natural hair photo k2liuk

My hair after I got the big chop.

Growing up, I can’t remember a moment when my hair wasn’t relaxed. I remember having to explain to one of my best friends that when I got a relaxer in my hair, it suppressed my hair’s natural texture and made it easier to straighten and therefore manipulate. As I got older, no one could convince me to go natural and I promised myself I never would. I relished in fresh, relaxed hair and I had no desire to ever change it.

The difference between relaxed hair and natural hair in the black community is significant. Some people see relaxed hair as more “kept,” since the straightened end result usually emulates Euro-centric hair types that are usually deemed more desirable, and helps one achieve the the so-called "good hair" look. But to keep your hair straight, you need get it relaxed on a consistent basis, which can lead to breakage. For black women, the alternative to relaxed hair is natural hair, which comes in an array of curls from loose ringlets to tight coils. 

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My hair before I decided to go natural.

Image: Maya Coplin

Once I headed off to college, I tenaciously tried to manage my relaxed hair by flat ironing it consistently. I even attempted an at-home relaxer on my own—something I had never done before. Trips home meant Saturdays spent getting my hair done instead of spending time with family, only to feel dissatisfied again once a few weeks passed and I was again responsible for somehow managing my relaxed tresses. I finally had to admit that I was tired of trying to achieve a texture my hair wasn’t meant to naturally possess. I remember the sudden thought I had of going natural—which I quickly dismissed.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like natural hair—I've always thought women with natural hair were confident and beautiful— it’s just that I couldn’t picture myself with it. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I started getting relaxers at a young age, or that society tends to prefer straight hair over curly-kinky textured hair. I worried that the tighter my curls were, the worse people would view my hair. 

My decision to get the big chop, cutting off all my relaxed strands, was kind of spur of the moment. Once I decided to stop with the relaxers, I was quickly exhausted by trying to manage both my relaxed hair and the natural hair at the same time. So, I decided to opt for a new 'do and think optimistically about what the end result would be. For me, that meant less time and less expense in regards to my hair maintenance.  

After cutting my hair into a close-cropped pixie, I was a jumble of emotions. I realized that my hair was a big part of how I defined my appearance growing up. But in the end, the decision to cut the majority of my hair off made me realize how strong of a person I really am. People are likely to judge my hair according to their own beauty standards and preferences, but my natural hair doesn’t have to cause me to question my beauty. There really is no hair like black hair, and I’m excited to embark on this journey of natural hair discovery one day at a time.

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