Natural Hair Mag

Facing the Reality of Your Curls



I spent my Sunday morning cutting off the limp previously relaxed ends of a good friend. I watched as her excitement slowly evaporated into trepidation much like the water on her beautiful curls.

“If I have 4C hair, I’m getting a perm,” she said as she scrolled through Instagram, searching the hashtag #4Cnaturalhair.

The scene was eerily similar to my own big chop experience thousands of miles away in Asan, Korea. I worked and traveled throughout Asia following my graduation from Howard University and prior to enrolling in graduate school in New York City. In April 2012 my friend, Alana, commandeered my head after an afternoon of shopping and dining on Korean BBQ.

“We HAVE to get rid of those ends,” she declared.

I had unknowingly been going natural after realizing my lack of resources on the peninsula. Salons were all the way in Seoul, and boxed perms cost an arm and a leg. African American hair care products are much more difficult to acquire overseas. So after arriving in February, I had accumulated about four inches of thick natural hair atop six inches of relaxed ends.

Alana cut off those ends and I stared into the mirror in despair. My hair did not look like Miko and Titi Branch of Miss Jessie’s fame. It was dry, dense and tight. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have product on my baby fro or that my hair and scalp were damaged from years of chemical abuse. I was distraught.

I immediately got braids installed for months, then a sew-in full weave. In September, after my go-to hairstylist went to Thailand for vacation, I was stuck with my own, God-given hair: loose and free. I was forced to wash it, moisturize it, work with it and learn it. I was forced to meet the hair I had been chemically hiding for 17 years.

And slowly, I fell in love. It was thick, moldable, strong and healthy.

The time span between Alana snipping those ends off and me fully accepting and appreciating my unique strands took over six months, and everyday I learn something new about my hair.

What I have learned about the process of going natural, through my own experience and through working with friends and new naturals, is that is more mental than physical. You are transforming your outward appearance, but your psyche and diehard habits are not as easily snipped.

Fast forward to this living room in Lyndhurst, New Jersey- surrounded by inch long pieces of straight hair. My friend, the newly minted natural, continued to lament over her potentially 4C hair. This is why I do not like hair typing.

Many claim hair typing makes it easier to find products and styles that work best, but I have found it ends up opening new doors for bias, further dividing natural sisters.

In fact, most individuals have more than one hair type on their scalp. I have three. My hair is looser curled in the front, denser in the perimeter and it’s tightest at my crown. My looser curls actually give me the most problems while I wish my tightest curls were present all over my scalp.

Many people have a preconceived image of what their hair will look like and it leaves nothing but disappointment if it doesn’t live up to expectations.

Natural hair shrinks. Some hair grows upward and some hair grows down. Your edges will probably not “lay down” like they used to when relaxed, and a magical combination of curling custards might not take it from fro to bouncing, shiny ringlets.

That is the beauty of our hair. Like snowflakes, each scalp is unique and each curl is different.

It’s easier said than done that everyone should embrace whatever hair type they have, but I promise once you do, your wavy, curly, frizzy, zig-zaggy and kinky coils will flourish.


Alexis K. Barnes, Multimedia International Journalist mastering the craft at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

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  • Latresia

    I’ve been doing my own hair for years and I’m getting use to my natural curl. Now all I want is a great conditioner that is unscented( leave-in) and something besides Eco styling gel to hold the curls. The reason being is my edges are thin and I’m trying to get them to grow back.

    • Shelley

      Giovanni direct leave in conditioner on damp light sprayed hair of water then massage through very well and ends then add evo jell then castor / coconut oil mixed together to seal and my NATURAL sistas whatttt makes my curls POPPING All Day……

  • Wendy

    I agree it is more of a mental than physical change. It takes most people a minute to get used to their hair not being straight. Not to mention when you first attempt becoming a natural, you hair has no moisture. So what you she is not a true representation of what you hair can and will be. I have come to love my hair in its natural state and can’t imagine ever getting a perm again. My sister is still adjusting. We become so spoiled with straight hair. For so long we have believed that if you did not have a perm your hair looked unkempt.

  • I totally agree with this article. I’ve been fully natural for 3 1/2 years and just about a year ago I’ve accepted the fact that my edges don’t lay and for the most part (depending on the style) I don’t force them to. My wash n gos are frizzy, I’m okay with that. I refuse to pack a bunch of gel in my hair to get the perfect curl. Every other race allows their hair to do what it does naturally, I choose to allow my hair to do what it does naturally and I’ll keep it moisturized and well maintained. Not saying I’ll never straighten or manipulate for certain styles, I just don’t obsess over the perfect curl or laying my edges or frizz.

  • What an awesome reminder to take care of whatever it is given to you. There is always wigs, weaves, and braids to assist you with the “big chop” if you’r taken one-but the ultimate goal is to begin the journey to a healthy head of hair… 🙂 Love it.