Relaxed vs. Natural Hair: Pros & Cons
So is it just me, or does there seem to be a battle between the naturals and the relaxed chicks? With the natural hair community growing ever so rapidly, there seems to be an uproar of opinions on how people should be wearing and not wearing their hair. I have seen commentary about natural vs. relaxed, curly vs. straight, good hair vs. bad hair, and even untrue stereotypes. As black women our hair is a sensitive, and sometimes overly discussed topic. It is JUST hair, ladies. Why do we put so much emphasis on our tresses? It’s quite vain how important hair has become in our community.
As a girl who has worn her hair both natural and chemically treated, I see no reason to fight about which is better or worse. All hair has its negatives and positives. How you choose to care for your hair will determine its health and beauty.
Let’s look at some common PROs and CONs.
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Thickness: Natural hair does tend to be thicker. This is because your hair follicles are textured. The natural hair follicles have lots of disulfide bonds which create the curls in the hair and give it texture. Chemically relaxed hair has been altered. The follicles have been broken down so that they don’t curl. This decreases the amount of texture, therefore leaving your head of hair to feel and appear thinner.
- Natural hair is easier to achieve a full and big hair’d look
- Relaxed hair is easier to flat iron, and achieve a straight, “silky” look
Tangles: Natural hair is definitely a challenge to detangle. Though there are several methods that can help reduce the detangling process, it’s still a process. Relaxed hair is straight, and therefore can in some ways be easier to manage on a daily basis, and even on wash days.
- Relaxed hair is especially great for air drying before styling. You can easily air dry and then straighten for less damage
- Natural hair is great if you enjoy the “wash n’ go” look, but if your intending to style hair detangling, and possibly blow-drying will be necessary
Growth Rate: It is a myth that natural or relaxed hair grows faster than the other. Your hair growth rate depends on two things: your internal health and how you care/maintain your hair. Natural hair is just as susceptible to damage as chemically treated hair. Often, those who go natural feel like their hair is growing faster because they aren’t styling their hair as much, and therefore, aren’t damaging it. What is really happening here is your hair’s retention rate has increased.
- Natural hair that is worn natural and isn’t messed with a lot has the potential to retain more length.
- Chemically treated hair has been weakened, and therefore, extra care is necessary to retain length. With the proper care you are able to grow long, healthy and beautiful relaxed hair.
- Neither style guarantees faster growth.
Styling Options: In my personal opinion, black women have the most options when it comes to styling their hair, whether natural or relaxed. What is more of a styling limitation is length. Longer hair has more things that can be done to it.
- There are many styles that can be accomplished by both natural and relaxed heads. Some of these styles will look better with relaxed hair, and others with natural hair. This is all opinion based, and what may look nicer to some, might look terrible to others. The most important opinion is that of the wearer.
The point is, we shouldn’t judge. Everyone should have the right to alter and change their hair as they please. What makes them feel beautiful is up to them. To say that you “lack” confidence because you choose to be relaxed, or that your hair doesn’t look “well kept” if it isn’t straightened are statements far from the truth. Whether you’re relaxed or natural, hair can be beautiful AND healthy, no matter the texture, color, or length. The most important factor in all of this is educating yourself and trying different things.
Join me, Blackdoctor.org, and other hair experts on Friday, March 7, 2014, for a Facebook discussion on healthy hair and relaxed vs. natural hair myths. We seek to create unity amongst our women by sharing that all hair should be embraced, and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
For more hair care articles, visit the BlackDoctor.org Healthy Living – Hair Care center.
For more healthy hair conversations with me, click here.