After the past decade or so of cultural enthusiasm for all things natural, it may come as a surprise to witness the steady uptick of acceptance and longing for straighter styling options, specifically relaxers. During the early years of the natural hair community’s ascent to the forefront of popular culture, the values that were shared amongst people usually centered around healthy, mostly unaltered textured hair. Now that natural hair has become a way of life for so many, some women are considering whether those same values are still relevant to them and their current lifestyle.
For Black women, hair (whether worn naturally or not”>, is always seen as being central to our identity. So in this age of exhaustion from hair care routines, and a desire for a different look, many naturals are left wondering if it’s okay to flip the script on what’s important to them. Is it okay to not be concerned with taking care of my natural hair? To not care if I damage it, even permanently? To not want hair to be part of my identity?
The answer, of course, is yes. Hair belongs to each individual person, and there is no right way to wear it.
Certainly, it’s recommended that you seek out professional help for chemical processes like relaxers and dye jobs to guarantee that you get the best results, but you don’t owe anyone healthy hair. Whatever style you’ve been craving, whether straight, curly, long, or short–go for it!
Perhaps the newest evolution of the natural hair movement will be about feeling educated and empowered to wear our hair however we please, without judgment or guilt.
Read on to hear stories from two women about why they chose to relax their hair, their current relaxed hair routines, and favorite products.
Quonna Leshae, Makeup Artist
My mom started relaxing my hair when I was about 5 or 6 years old, so being relaxed before now, was not a choice of my own. It was just something I thought we all did as black girls/women. “Natural hair” was a foreign term to me for most of my life. Growing up I don’t remember any friends or family members having natural hair.
Around 8th/9th grade, I discovered YouTube. That is when I learned about natural hair. I was seeing these black women with beautiful curls – many talking about their transition to natural hair. Seeing those women embracing their curls and coils of all types and textures was inspirational, so I decided on my own in 10th grade that I would transition for a few months and then big chop.
For me, the main reason I decided to relax my natural hair was a combination of the effort and time commitment to wash days and styling my hair. When I was in high school, I had a lot more free time on my hands, so taking the extra time to care for my hair didn’t bother me.
However, right now, life is busy and I have more responsibilities than before. It was becoming an annoying chore for me to do my hair most days. When wearing my natural hair, I preferred it to look a particular way so there was never a “wash n go” or wake up and style quickly routine I had. That is ultimately what made me decide to relax. I loved my natural hair and thought it was beautiful, and I plan to return to natural hair at some point, but right now, I want to enjoy the convenience of relaxed hair.
I was definitely nervous about what the outcome would be. I had fears of my hair completely falling out or being extremely damaged, but the other side of me was not at all apprehensive. Hair is just hair for me at this point in my life. I knew that if I relaxed it and hated it or it got damaged, it would be an easy fix of just jumping back in with another big chop and starting over. I was okay with that possibility. Also knowing there are so many styles I could wear while I grew my hair back out (if necessary”> brought me comfort and confidence in moving forward with relaxing my hair.
When posting the video of me relaxing my hair, I was definitely mentally preparing myself for negative comments from the natural hair community, but to my surprise, almost all of the comments and feedback I have received have been positive. I think I have found through sharing my relaxer story, that many other women are feeling similar to how I was feeling and are also acknowledging that deciding to relax our hair doesn’t mean we don’t love our natural hair.
I think I have found through sharing my relaxer story, that many other women are feeling similar to how I was feeling and are also acknowledging that deciding to relax our hair doesn’t mean we don’t love our natural hair.
To be honest, I do not have as much of a “routine” with my relaxed hair as I did with my natural hair because it doesn’t require as much. I have been washing my hair 1-2 times per week, depending on how I’ve styled it. I condition every wash. Typically after washing, I use a leave-in conditioner and allow my hair to air dry.
When I was natural, I loved Melanin Hair Care and I’ve still been using those products with my relaxed hair. The leave-in conditioner leaves my hair feeling moisturized and soft every time. After air drying, I will run through my hair with the Tymo Beauty Straightening Brush. It takes less than 10 minutes. Then I either wear it that way or put it in some kind of simple style. When styling it otherwise, I’ve been wearing a lot of ponytails, braided ponytails, or buns.
Courtney Ayanna, Photographer
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“I got my first relaxer when I was pretty young. My mom had a difficult time managing my thick hair. YouTube and Google was not around in the 90s for her to research different natural hair products or styles; so she decided to relax it. I don’t have any negative experiences with relaxed hair as a kid. It was just normal then.
[I went back to relaxed hair because…] I was OVER IT! It was the 2 plus hour wash days just to walk outside and [have] the humidity ruin all my hard work for me. I liked to keep my hair straight even when I was natural, that was more manageable for me. I know it may be controversial to say but I prefer the look of my straight hair over my natural hair. The only time I wore my natural hair was when it was slicked back in a bun and that was still a lot to manage.
When I went through training for the military I had no choice but to rock my natural hair since we couldn’t use hair tools and it was a nightmare for me to keep up with. I was just ready to be care and stress free with my hair. I would literally stay inside if it rained and avoided swimming at all costs.
I definitely was scared my hair would fall out if I relaxed it. I worried about how much damage and breakage it would cause so I kept putting it off for a couple of years, but I went back and forth about it.
However, I learned you could have healthy relaxed hair if you take the time to properly take care of it. Overall, the response to me relaxing my hair has been positive. It’s important to do what’s best for you and not base your decisions off the fear of what others opinions may be towards your decisions. If you want to be natural be natural there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re over the natural, that’s fine too! Neither makes you better than the other, it’s not a competition.
I’m still so new in my relaxed hair journey so I’m figuring out what works best for me. Lately I’ve been using ORS Olive Oil Moisture Restore Creamy Aloe Shampoo (love this stuff”> and the Macadamia Deep Repair Mask as my conditioner . I also love the Curls Blueberry Bliss leave-in conditioner, and use a hair serum everyday for my ends. The most important thing I’ve noticed is to make sure my ends stay moisturized and I only use heat on my hair twice a month.”
Have you relaxed your hair or considered relaxing it recently? Share your experience and tips below.