To me, it means one thing: not having chemically relaxed hair, period.
Some people have broadened the whole meaning of having natural hair to include a lot of, in my humble opinion, irrelevant notions. I will iterate some of them and explain why I don't particularly agree with them:
A: Don't use "non-natural" or "non-organic" stuff
You might have also made a general commitment to go organic, eco-friendly and so on but that really has nothing to do with maintaining natural hair. If you've done that, great, but it doesn't mean natural-haired folk that have not taken the same oath are "not natural".
A note on sulfates
The only reason I avoid sulfates is because they dry hair out, not because they're synthetic, period.
A note on parabens
Once I realised parabens actually don't have an adverse impact on hair I stopped avoiding them like they were the plague.
As a new natural I heard folks talking about how awful parabens were for hair but after doing my own research I discovered it wasn't so. They have been linked to cancer in some studies but the results were so insignificant that both the US and UK government concluded the amounts in everyday products are safe to use. That said, I don't know to what extent big businesses bought governments to turn a blind eye so I do avoid parabens just not as much as before.
B: Don't wear make up
I posted a picture of someone with heavy makeup on the Facebook page yesterday and someone gave a little rant about how you shouldn't wear make up if you're natural. Needless to say, I deleted that comment.
Don't wear wigs
Why not? Wigs are a great protective style and if someone chooses to wear wigs it won't harm their natural hair in any way. They will need to ensure their edges aren't getting any thinner from abrasion but the fact that they have unrelaxed hair does not change.
Of course, if one chooses to wear wigs persistently and not ever show their natural hair, I would find it a little strange and to me, it would mean they don't like or accept their natural hair but that's my issue, right?
Don't straighten your hair with straighteners
Girl, it is your hair. The only thing with tongs is that overuse will lead to heat damage. If you went natural because you didn't want hair damage my only question would be, why do you want to damage your hair with straighteners then?
You're not accepting your African heritage
I was born and bred in Africa and there is a lot more to us than our hair.
It is true that some see afro hair as "not ideal" or "not appropriate" or even as "slave hair". Those people need to deal with their own negative stereotypes; it is not your problem.
I will admit that initially, I went natural because of hair damage from relaxer but over time it has evolved into a statement about me not wanting society to dictate what "ideal" hair should look like. Especially if that idea is not my kinky afro!
I want kinky and coily hair to become so ubiquitous that society (in the West, in Africa and beyond) accepts it as totally normal and acceptable. I also want people to accept and to be happy with the crop of hair that God gave them - as Whitney said, learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.
Even if relaxer was not damaging I would not use it because I do not want to make permanent, irreversible changes to my hair's texture.
End of the day, it is YOUR hair and you can do to it what you please, to be natural however, just means not making a permanent change to the structure - nothing more or less. What do you think?
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By Heather Katsonga-Woodward