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From Embracing Texture to Chopping it Off: 7 Women Share Their Natural Hair Journey

For some of us, giving up perms and chemicals is more than just a beauty statement. It’s the long history of the natural hair movement in the ‘60s. (Thanks, Angela Davis and Diana Ross.) It’s the increased representation on television, festivals and advertisements. It’s also dismantling negative perceptions that natural hair is “bad,” “unprofessional,” or “dirty.”

And it’s a decision that’s deeply personal and variable, involving anything from a big chop, to a commitment to eliminating chemical relaxers to simply switching to using natural hair products. It’s been seven years since I started embracing my natural hair and it’s still a learning process.

Read on to hear from seven women who’ve been through the journey and come out the other side.

9 Things You Should Stop Saying to People with Natural Hair


Sable Gravesandy

Hair Protection Is Key

Sable Gravesandy, Student, 27

What inspired you to start your natural hair journey?

I was perming my hair and it was starting to get thin, so my mom suggested I loc my hair. I’ve had my locs for almost 16 years. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I think I’m finally learning how to really take care of them.

How would you describe the relationship with your natural hair?

When I first started, I had no idea what I was doing, so I really damaged my hair by over-washing and using gels that cause buildup. But I finally learned that less is more, and my hair has been growing a lot more in this past year.

How has the natural hair movement impacted you?

I’m very happy to see women loving and protecting their natural hair. I think protecting your hair is more important than anything because I’ve seen what perming, pulling and build-up can do down the line.

Nakeisha Campbell

Embrace Your Unique Texture

Nakeisha Campbell, Assistant Editor, 30

What inspired you to start your natural hair journey?

I've actually been natural my entire life. But even though my hair was never relaxed, I struggled to keep it moisturized and retain length. I did hot-comb presses pretty often and did blow-outs (without heat protection), which messed with my natural curl pattern and led to some breakage. Seeing excessive shedding, and having to go through multiple trims, I felt more like it inspired me to change how I dealt with my hair.

How would you describe the relationship with your natural hair?

As a child, I was really insecure because I was taught that 4C hair is not professional or beautiful. It's why I always felt the need to apply heat or hide my hair under straight styles. But now, I absolutely love how full, thick and versatile it is. I love how it defies gravity. I love that I can shape it into cool patterns and add different extensions.

How has the natural hair movement impacted you?

I think the natural hair movement is one of the main reasons why so many people in the Black community rock their afro-textured hair today. It reminds us that the significance of hair in Black culture runs pretty deep and more importantly, it continues to challenge European standards of beauty.

Sharmari Coleman

There’s No Such Thing As A “real” Natural

Shamari Coleman, Publicist, 27

What inspired you to start your natural hair journey?

I went natural when I was 19 years old. I think I was just SO tired of the upkeep of braids, sew-ins and relaxers that in my mind I thought going natural would be easier. Boy was I wrong!

How would you describe the relationship with your natural hair?

There was a lot of trial and error and learning how to embrace and love my hair. After my big chop, I was so scared to wear my natural hair out that I wore protective styles like wigs for the first two and half years until my hair grew out. After getting my first blowout—post big chop—and seeing my hair be the longest it’s ever been, I realized if I could love and flaunt my hair when it’s straightened out, I have to learn to love it when it’s poofy and full of coils.

How has the natural hair movement impacted you?

I think that some focus entirely too much on certain hair types, and use one million products to achieve a certain “look.” You should avoid feeling like you have to fit a certain mold to be a “real” natural. If you decide to do a big chop and then wear a bunch of protective styles, cool, do you. Don’t feel like you have to do what everyone else in the community is doing to be “real.” Do what works for you.

Cortney Moore

Hair Representation Matters

Cortney Moore, Journalist, 27

What inspired you to start your natural hair journey?

During a summer beach trip in 2008, I saw a little girl and noticed she had long curly hair with small ringlets. I had never seen such a thing in person before. At the time, relaxers and Dominican blowouts were all the rage where I grew up in the South Bronx. I was astounded by the little girl’s hair and called my mother over to point it out and say how beautiful it was. To my surprise, my mother scoffed at me and said, “That’s what your hair looks like when it’s not relaxed.” On that day, I took a vow to stop relaxing my hair with the goal to get my curls back.

How would you describe the relationship with your natural hair?

Since my hair was relaxed at such a young age, I was completely ignorant of what my natural hair looked like for a good chunk of my life. What I thought was my natural hair—those frizzy waves— wasn’t actually anything like what grows on my scalp.

How has the natural hair movement impacted you?

I wonder if “movement” is still the right word to use because natural hair almost seems to be the norm in my opinion. I hope one day we get to a point where hair is just hair and people who have texture won’t have to worry about whether their hair will be viewed as acceptable or not.

Stephanie Sengwe

It’s Ok To Alternate Between ‘fros And Braids

Stephanie Sengwe, Associate Editor, 28

What inspired you to start your natural hair journey?

I officially went natural back in 2011. There weren’t really that many products that catered to 4C hair back then so I had been perming it for like two years. The damage was so dire that I basically had no hair at the back of my head. Fortunately, the summer before college, Rihanna came through with the pixie cut trend and I cut all my hair to mimic hers. When that didn’t work, I decided to just go back to braids and spent the next year and a half transitioning and just braided it for about four years straight.

How would you describe the relationship with your natural hair?

Like any other relationship, my ‘fro and I have our moments. There are months when I don’t want to deal with it at all. But when I leave it in braids, I find myself missing it sometimes. Overall, I’m very happy with being natural. My hair has always been fuller and healthier without chemicals in it.

How has the natural hair movement impacted you?

It saved our edges! Honestly, if we were all still perming our hair I don’t know what would’ve happened to our curls and coils at this point.

Hortencia Caires

Videos And Blogs Can Help You Feel More Connected

Hortencia Caires, Influencer, 32

What inspired you to start your natural hair journey?

My curly hair journey was a journey of self-love. Like a lot of curly girl stories, I grew up hating my curls. From family and friends telling me it looked better straight to not having the knowledge on how to fix it… it was a constant battle with my hair ever since I was little. In my early 20s, after years of flat ironing and chemically straightening my hair, I decided to chop it all off into a pixie cut and start fresh.

How would you describe the relationship with your natural hair?

Even though the journey wasn’t easy, I love my curls now. I definitely have my days where I wanna put it in a bun and forget about it, but it’s a much better relationship than before.

How has the natural hair movement impacted you?

The natural hair movement helped me find countless resources to help me take great care of my hair. Without the help of different videos, blogs, etc, I’d still be very lost. I love that there’s so much knowledge out there for everyone.

Whitney Eaddy

“by Honoring Your Crown, You Honor Yourself”

Whitney Eaddy, Founder and CEO of Juices & Botanics, 38

What inspired you to start your natural hair journey?

After going away to school my first semester of college, I had experimented so much. I remember feeling my roots in between relaxers and one day I noticed how amazing my natural texture felt. My roots felt healthy, full of life and at that moment it was almost like I wanted them to be free!

How would you describe the relationship with your natural hair?

I remember all of the “traumas” that I’ve endured related to my own hair. I know that universally Black women have never really been taught how to take care of our natural hair. That’s where I come in! Natural hair is like a language that I speak. I’ve learned our hair. I know our hair. I believe in our hair. I ultimately love our hair.

How has the natural hair movement impacted you?

I think the natural hair movement now is more of an awakening. More people are coming into their own natural beauty and defining their own beauty. I believe that by honoring your crown, you honor yourself. By honoring yourself, you honor who you were created to be.