I have recently aligned myself with what has been dubbed the “natural hair movement.” My use of quotation marks denotes the general confusion and haziness that surround the words natural and movement.
In December 2012, I got rid of most of the heat-damaged hair on my head by doing my own big chop with the help of multiple youtube videos. Since then, I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my curly girl labor sans heat damage.
But last week, something happened….I got an itch to straighten.
Now I must explain that I had a rough transition, constantly going back to my straightener and curling iron, but I hadn’t felt this particular way in quite some time. It caught me off guard how persistent it was, and after a few days I found myself Google-ing things like “Is it OK to straighten your hair if you call yourself natural?” and “How to safely straighten natural hair.”
I wanted to straighten my hair, there was no question about it, but I had a nagging feeling that I was betraying this so-called movement that had given me back my curls. Ultimately I decided that it was OK, because I think the most beautiful thing about any movement that encourages us to love ourselves is that we have the freedom to do that in any way we see fit.
I remembered the two-day straightening process I developed in high school, which seemed to match up with all the articles I found on safe straightening techniques. I thought that by letting my hair air-dry in a protective style, by oiling it and using heat protectant, that I could cheat heat damage this time around.
Unfortunately for me I have a really strong straightener, and it immediately damaged my burgeoning curls. With just one run-through, my hair is now less full and less voluminous and way less awesome. My curl pattern is more wavy, and I already miss how tightly sprung my curls had gotten to be.
I also have to say that I was slightly disturbed at how many people seemed to fall over themselves in order to let me know how nice my straight hair was, even though I privately felt that I looked boring and plain with such flat hair.
If you are wondering if you “should” straighten your natural curls, I want to remind you that it’s your decision. It’s easy to let outside forces influence you into thinking you are betraying an entire movement, but your decisions concerning how you style your hair should be coming from your own desires. It has nothing to do with what anyone else thinks of you or whether or not it’s in keeping with the alleged rules of being natural.
I’m glad I straightened my hair, but only because it taught me how damaging an act it still is. My goal is to have the kind of hair I once took completely for granted – huge, curly and healthy – and I can’t do that with heat. I encourage you to find out for yourself if straightening your hair is the right choice for you.