I Can’t Go Natural! My Hair Is Too Tough (part 1) 6

Photo by Charisse Kenion

“I can’t go natural! My hair is too tough”

I can’t count the number of times I have heard this statement. Even when I share my experience of going natural, it usually isn’t enough.

I’m the lucky one…

My hair is just “soft”…


I used to use Optimum Super Plus relaxer and left it in longer than the recommended time. The first time I had my hair relaxed (I think I was 11 or 12 years old) it didn’t take.

I have kinky, tightly coiled hair, that shrinks to what looks like a TWA. I laugh out loud when people tell me my hair is just easy to manage.

I have certainly broken a few combs in my day. I remember constantly having to replace the comb attachment on my blow-dryer, and this was when my hair was relaxed!

Re-growth annoyed me because the more re-growth I had the harder it was to manage my hair. So I would relax my hair every six weeks without fail, whereas most of my friends could wait at least eight weeks.

I have terrible childhood memories of the first attempt at relaxing my hair. The first time, my mum used a ‘kiddy kit’ and it was as if she only put conditioner in my hair.

Nothing happened.

Then we tried again a few weeks later, with an adult relaxer. My aunt, who happened to be a hairstylist, left the relaxer in for a long time, despite my scalp burning.

My hair had barely straightened.

I was so disappointed. It was really important to get my hair relaxed because I was picked on in school for still having natural hair. When my hair wasn’t braided it looked a mess.

On the third attempt, it finally worked, but my hair never stayed sleek for the full six weeks. After two weeks it would start to look frizzy. So, for as long as I can remember I used super strength relaxer.

If anyone was to say their hair was too tough to go natural, it would be me!

Many still have the belief that natural hair is unmanageable, time-consuming and unkempt. Oh, and my favorite is….

“Natural hair isn’t for everyone.”

Excuse me while I roll my eyes.

After years of believing that lie I had to really ask myself; why is it people of other races can manage their hair with no problem? Was using harsh, scalp burning chemicals our only option?

The pain of combing my hair when I was a kid only reinforced the idea that there was something inherently wrong with my hair.
The solution for this was relaxer, as it was for most of us.

So what changed?

Well, I grew up and was no longer an impressionable kid trying to fit in. I was a grown woman approaching thirty, who refused to believe that there was something wrong with my hair or, that afro-textured hair had to be fixed.

I realized I had never really learned to look after my hair in its natural state. I had only learned how to alter it.

I was curious to see what it looked like natural. Perhaps if I learned how to manage my hair it wouldn’t be so unattainable to leave it natural. I stumbled across some helpful advice and information on the internet and saw positive examples of women with natural hair on YouTube. If they could do it then surely I could?

I was tempted to dismiss their success by telling myself they were the exception. They were just fortunate to have “good hair”, or maybe they were mixed. I know…. terrible!

I cringe every time I hear women make such statements, to convince themselves going natural isn’t a possibility.

The number of black women wearing their hair natural continues to rise. Sales of relaxers fall, despite the growth of the black hair care industry. Companies that make relaxers are taking note and releasing their own natural hair care lines (sorry too late ha!).

Photo by William Stitt

Women with afro textured hair are learning to manage their hair and no longer relying on relaxers.

In the natural hair community, you will find all hair types, some more high maintenance than others. All this means is there is different knowledge required for each person. People learn what is best for their hair and practice good hair care techniques.

It’s not about spending a fortune on products either. It’s about learning the basics of natural hair care.

There is greater awareness of the dangers of relaxers too. The effects they have on the health of our hair and scalp are well known now. Many women with natural hair testify to finally having healthy, long hair they never thought was attainable, since ditching relaxers. I certainly never thought I would be approaching mid-back length, ever!

The American Academy of Dermatology states that highly textured, curly hair is by its nature, more fragile than naturally straight hair. Therefore, relaxers weaken Afro hair by stripping it of its elasticity and causing it to break off at the ends. I’m convinced relaxers are the reason black women have been stereotyped as not being able to grow long hair.

My hair is the longest it has ever been simply because I handle it with care, detangle, keep it well moisturized and wear protective styles from time to time. Most importantly, I avoid chemicals.

Afro hair is very diverse and no two heads of hair are the same, even within the same family. Some of us have more kinks than curls or more coils, while some have a combination of all of these. If the principles of managing afro textured hair are applied, you will have healthy, manageable, and yes, long hair!

We all face challenges with our hair. It may grow at different rates, vary in thickness or retain moisture differently. But if you learn how to manage your natural hair, it will thrive.

It is our lack of knowledge that is the problem, not our hair. There is nothing wrong with your hair; you just need to learn about it.

Any hair that is dry, knotted and damaged from styling will be harder to manage, whatever type of hair it is. I have always had very thick hair and that was one of my biggest challenges. Now, the very thing I hated about my hair is the main reason I receive compliments.

I have learned to manage my hair so I no longer consider it ‘unmanageable’.

In part two I will list some of the information I learned about natural hair. This information gave me the confidence to take the next step and continue on with my natural hair journey.

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6 thoughts on “I Can’t Go Natural! My Hair Is Too Tough (part 1)

  • Natural Fantastic

    In the western society we live in the external pressures have always been there. I have recently been reading a book called Hair Story and the authors explain the origins of negative attitudes towards natural afro hair. After slavery former slaves were scared to look ‘too ethnic’ through fear of being persecuted for it. It’s amazing how these attitudes still exist today, that underlying fear has been passed down through generations.

    Thanks for commenting! It is always good to hear different perspectives. Glad to hear that your wife and daughter are enjoying their hair just the way it is. It is encouraging to hear stories like that :]. God bless.

  • Natural Fantastic

    Exactly! So did I lol. It’s only through experience that you learn. Thanks for commenting.

  • Sanctified Brother

    I’m a full-blooded male so I’m likely not your target reader! Nevertheless, I have a wife and daughter who insist on natural hair. My daughter is a princess who loves her braids and beads. Her thick, dark, shiny hair gets treated with coconut oil, JBCO, and some other ointments she and my wife decide on. My wife wears many styles, ranging from short fades to long locks (it takes getting used to so many different looks).

    I celebrate and encourage their choice to BE natural. Sisters don’t GO natural because they’re BORN natural. They opt to go UNnatural when they go the chemical route. My belief, having been around sisters all of my life, is that external pressure and self-image clash, often resulting in going the way of the “perm.”

    Neither of these beautiful women in my life concern themselves with public perception of their hair. My daughter is a tween in a gifted and talented school and my wife is an educator. They certainly come in contact with others who believe “straight is better” yet continue to value their choice to remain natural. God bless them!

    One of the more popular concerns I’ve heard from others include not wanting to appear “too ethnic” among their peers (typically white women with roots to various parts of Europe). Interestingly, I wonder how many of those women would think that their long, blonde hair or curly, red locks would be seen as too ethnic around the sisters…