Differences in the “Natural Hair Debate”

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By: Alysha Payne, Columnist

The debate between relaxed and natural hair has ripped apart members of the Black community for a while now. Hair in general has been a point of disdain for the black women, as everyone else has an opinion on the style she wears and what they would say about her character and the way she feels toward being black.

The “Natural Hair Debate” has been a crazy and heated argument against those who are natural and those who choose to put chemicals, heat, weaves or otherwise alter the natural state of their hair.

So, for this week’s article I have brought Kyndall Cunningham, a 4-naturalista, to the table. She and I, a life-long relaxer enthusiast, will answer questions about our experience with hair and what we think about this debate. So without further ado, here is our Q/A session.

How long is your hair?

K: I haven’t pressed my hair since I had it cut, so I’ve never seen it completely straight. When I stretch my curls, it passes my shoulder a little bit, but I assume it’s longer when it’s flat ironed.

A: It’s like arm-pit length.

What is your hair type?

K: I have no idea. I’ve never really researched hair types, because I don’t think they matter that much when doing your hair. It’s never hurt me that I don’t know.

A: 4B/4C. The only reason that I know my curl pattern is the part that I shaved over the summer (and it’s been a while since my last perm.)

What is your preference: relaxed or natural?

K: I was actually forced to go natural after I had relaxed hair for about four years. I was told, prior to getting a relaxer, by my friend that perms were, in fact, the “anti-Christ.” Pretty extreme. However, the honeymoon phase of my relaxed hair, aka the first year and a half, was pretty amazing. Getting out the shower and being able to simply blow-dry my hair to perfection was great. At that point, I became so obsessed with my soft, silky hair that I was applying an unhealthy amount of heat to it every day to maintain the straightness. Two years later, I was left with a heap of damaged, disgusting hair. For a long time, I had hope that it would return to a healthy state, but was eventually convinced by a hair stylist, while trying to get another hairstyle, to cut it all off. So I did the big chop and have been natural ever since. Having permed hair was definitely more efficient and a lot less work, especially in the beginning phases. However, I feel so much more comfortable knowing that my hair is perfectly healthy now that it’s free of all chemicals.

K: I actually prefer permed hair over my natural hair. It’s easier for me because I don’t have the time or patience to deal with my natural hair. I have gotten perm since grade school, I think, and once I get them it’s like a breath of fresh air.

What do you think about the natural hair debate?

K: As far as natural vs. relaxed hair, I don’t think that there should be a debate about it. Wearing your natural doesn’t make you any more black than the next person. Wearing your hair relaxed doesn’t mean you’re disowning your blackness. I do think that every black person should feel comfortable wearing their natural hair out to some degree. I doesn’t have to be your favorite way to wear your hair because it can honestly be a lot of work. I just don’t think black women should turn to other styles out of shame. Some women do.

A: I think it is ridiculous to judge and shame women over a hairstyle. There are various reasons to choose one hairstyle over another and no one should be ridiculed over the way they style their hair. I see hair as an accessory to your personal style. If you want to rock an afro one day and straighten your hair flat the next you shouldn’t be penalized because you’re switching it up. It just adds to a long list of complaints that are already established that work against the Black women and it’s over something so mediocre. The natural hair debate is childish and there are lots of other things that should be taking our attention.

Do you care if people touch your hair?

Kyndall: It would bother me if a non-black person tried to touch it. I get that some people do it out of sincere interest, but it feels like someone’s petting me like an animal.

A: Yes and I care if people touch my weave too. It’s just like touching someone’s face, your fingers are nasty and those oils (and germs) are terrible for anybody’s hair. So unless I give you explicit permission (which usual stands for a very limited amount of time, don’t take my permission and stroke my hair for 5 minutes), please back up.

What products do you use?

K: My stepmother got me a bunch of products from a hair show recently, most of them are sold on etsy.com. One is called “Healing Body Whip” from GoodGoods Naturals. I also use hair mayonnaise and coconut oil. EcoStyler is really good for gelling down your hair to achieve a waved look.

A: I’m not very good when it comes to caring for my hair. I constantly forget to moisturize my hair but I use Jamaican black castor oil, H20 hydrating masks, shea moisture stuff, Biolage Matrix deep conditioner and prayers when dealing with my hair.

How do you usually wear your hair?

K: During the summer, I did twist-outs. It was a lot of work because I would have to twist my hair every night before I went to bed. Now, I just tie it up with a scrunchie and wear it as a big poof on top of my head.

A: I almost always have my hair in protective styles (yarn twists, weaves, marley twists, cornrows, etc). It is rare that I wear my hair out and when I do I just French braid it back into a bun. I like to change my hair up all the time, that’s why I invest money into buying weaves and hair extensions. I like that I have the option to change my hair with an outfit, I think hair is the ultimate accessory.

Do you wear your hair differently for work or a job interview?

K: Sometimes, I worry if whoever is interviewing me views me as less professional if I wear my natural hair out. I’ve noticed that wearing straight hair or weave garners more attention or compliments from strangers, so it’s always in the back of my mind. I’ll never really understand it.

A: I just put whatever hairstyle I currently have back into a bun. I am usually concerned about what employers would think of my hairstyle. But it’s not so much of a pressing issue.

What is the best and worst part about your hair?

K: It’s a lot of work, whether I do it at night or in the morning. I don’t really have a curl pattern so I have to twits it or put some sort of gel in it to get the texture I want.

A: I’m not gonna lie, my hair is kinda damaged. But I love the options that I am able to have through relaxing my hair. My hair can blend really well with the weaves or wigs that I purchase because I perm or straighten my hair so usually people believe that the weave that I get is my real hair and it’s funny honestly. I like it.

What does being natural mean to you?

K: It means embracing my identity as an African-American. It feels like a statement because it allows me to stand out. I think the more often it’s shown, the more it will be accepted as a beauty standard.

A: Being natural is a choice. It’s choosing to embrace the hair you were born with. Just like relaxing and applying protective styles to your hair is a choice. Everyone should be given a right to choose.

So there you have it. Two opinions on the same issue from opposite sides of the spectrum. Notice how overall they say the same thing. Hair is hair. And what you choose to do with it is your choice.

What do you think of this issue? What side are you on? Let us know!

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