One of the many topics women discuss while sitting in salons getting their hair done is whether to go natural, which means not using a relaxer or having a perm, or to use a relaxer in their hair.
Throughout the salon waiting room, women discuss how perms are burning, and how straightening combs are too close to the scalp. Let’s be honest. Women are very sensitive about their hair, but hair is not just hair anymore; it is a statement. When you turn on the television, search the web, or pick up magazines, you see women who have natural hair.
From teeny-weeny afros to dreadlocks, natural hair caused an enormous culture change. Commercials for natural hair care lines, such as “Dark and Lovely” and “As I Am”, have featured black models who have natural hair, persuading many women to choose natural hair instead of a perm.

Black women accepted hair breakage, burning, and permanent hair loss for a very long time. They accepted what society said beauty was.

But celebrities like Jill Scott and Lauryn Hill changed things by pioneering the natural hair movement during the 90s. Now, the argument is between both hair types.

Jaqueline Hill has experienced both types of hair. Even though Hill has had natural hair for three years, she did not intend to make the choice. Instead, she wanted to see how long she could go without a perm.

But once her perm and natural hair met, she realized how hard it was to manage them both. Instantly, she cut all of her relaxed hair off.

“When I was getting my hair relaxed, at that time, I thought it was okay. Usually, it was what we thought was the way to go. It was easier to manage, not knowing the harm it was causing. I was wondering why my hair line appeared to be lighter than the rest of my face. When I went natural, however, the light areas disappeared. My hair was unhealthy when I got the perms. It might have looked healthy, but honestly, it was not,” Hill said.

When asked about her natural hair, she excitedly said, “Oh my God, it is freaking awesome. It is thicker, it is healthier, and I can do a lot to it. Overall, I think natural hair is better because you are not exposing your body to all of those harsh chemicals.”

Many naturals like Hill often say that the harsh chemicals are what they don’t like about having relaxed hair. LaToya Hearn feels differently about her hair.

“I will never go natural no matter how much someone pays me to do it. I walk into the workforce and see women natural all the time, but I do not want to go natural. It is too much work. Power to the women who have natural hair,” Hearn said.

Maintaining natural hair takes time and hard work. It can be kinky and curly depending on your hair type.

To maintain healthy hair and retain length, it is good to practice regimens and daily routines. One thing to keep in mind is the Liquid, Oil, and Cream method. The LOC method is used to retain moisture and stop breakage.

The liquid is a leave-in conditioner, and it is used after washing your hair. The oils consist of essential oils, and the cream is any butter cream product.

It is important to wash natural hair every week and condition it every three days. Before bed, do twists to maintain curl patterns.       

A relaxer is a cream that women use to straighten their tight curls. It makes the hair very easy to straighten because the chemicals in the cream relax the natural curls.

Many relaxers give strict directions of applying the cream one-eighth of an inch from your scalp. Also, it directs users to put a substance, such as grease, around the parameters of the hair line. If not done correctly, it can cause burns or sores on the scalp or skin.  Relaxers include toxic ingredients such as sodium hydroxide, a strong caustic base used especially in making soap, rayon, and paper.

“You do not want to get a relaxer on your skin or scalp. It can cause an irritation reaction that can burn the skin. When you burn the skin, you can mess up the top layer and cause discoloration. The skin is very sensitive, which makes it easy to cause micro-damage which can leads to major damage,” said Dermatologist Stacey Haynes.

Haynes said she encounters patients who come in because of perm damages. Most of the time, it is due to a Relaxer Irritant Contact Dermatitis Secondary Infection.

She describes the infection as a big scalp that is yellow and contains pus. It is sometime bloody, crusty, yellowish, and you can lose hair in that area.

The National Medical Association explains the infection as an “Irritant contact dermatitis complicated by deep-seated staphylococcal infection caused by a hair relaxer.”
While browsing YouTube, you will see tutorials of well-known users who are now making videos about natural hair. Many YouTubers are showing naturals how to maintain healthy hair and suggesting products that grow hair and retain length. They are also showing naturals how to do twist out, braid outs and crochet braids.

What makes natural hair healthier than relaxed hair are the raw products like shea butter, black soap, and peppermint oil.

Madame C.J. Walker established her very own natural hair care line, which influenced other entrepreneurs to do the same thing. Today, most stores sell natural hair products that are only for that specific hair type.

The thought of being natural is now shaping others to understand that natural hair is here to stay. Women are allowed to wear their hair how they please.

Both types of hair can be healthy. Women nationwide are now taking the steps to accept their natural hair, and nothing is changing their minds. Women who are wearing relaxed hair are also holding on to their rights.

There are no real winners in the fight, and there is still much to learn. But it is important to remember that pain is not always a gain.

Amber Harris
Special to The Chanticleer

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