Saturday, 18 January 2014

9 Reasons Natural Hair is Hard Work

Yeah, I said it.

Many, many people I know want to go natural. I don't think it's a trend or anything. Most have just noticed that, after years and, in some cases, decades, of chemically straightening their hair, it's not as thick or healthy as it used to be. So they stop relaxing and, for those not brave enough to cut it all off, start braiding. And that's where they get stuck. Living in braids and weaves to grow out their relaxers but too scared to wear their natural hair out once they successfully transition. Most of them see natural hair as unmanageable, hard to style and hard to maintain. 'It's just too much work', they say, 'I can't do all those things you do' and, my favourite, 'It's not like I can run around in matutas (three-strand braids)'.

kamatano with matutas
And you know what? I agree. Natural hair isn't easy. Infact, it's bloody hard work!

1. You have no clue what to do
Yes, it's our God-given hair as it grows out of our heads but, growing up, we never had to deal with it ourselves. Cornrows was the style favoured by most parents growing up and that's what we wore all the time.  And nothing fancy either; straight front to back, 'pussycat' or all going up to the center of your head. With every.single.strand braided in.


Every 2-4 weeks you had them undone and your hair washed, blowdried and rebraided straight away. If you were lucky, on special occasions you got to wear it out, but that was it. Which means when you decide to return to natural hair in your adulthood, you have zero clue how to deal with your hair.

How to cope: there is a growing community of naturals who are only too happy to share what information they have, trade war stories and offer a shoulder to cry on. Join online forums, read local blogs and attend local meet-ups. 

2. Information overload

So you decide to do some research online and you start reading blog after blog on all the products that you need to maintain your hair. The list of things you need is a mile long, let alone the extras that make your hair do all the fancy stuff you see online. You start seeing terminology like pre-poo, no poo, DC, parabens, sulphates, sealing, shingling and they may as well be speaking Latin for all the sense it makes. It is overwhelming. And many new naturals really struggle to figure out the basics of natural hair care from all the information.

How to cope: less is more in this case so filter, filter, filter. Do google searches for basics of natural hair care and stick to those until you are ready to venture further. 

3. Cost

what I currently own...

what I actually use..

You've finally trawled through the mountain of information and decided to take the plunge anyway. Now don't get me wrong, this need not be an expensive venture but the initial outlay may hurt your wallet a little. Take heart though; apart from conditioner, the other products i.e shampoos, oils, butters and styling products, last ages.  The trouble is, many naturals are product junkies. Always in search of the holy grail of products for soft hair/more shine/less frizz/more curl/more definition/more hold/more name it, there's a product out there promising it. And there's a natural out there buying it (me!).  This is especially  so with new naturals.  So you buy, buy, buy! Which means your costs in the early months may be quite high in comparison to when you're more experienced.

How to cope: Beg, Borrow or Steal. Ok not that last one. Try before you buy should be your motto. Ask for product samples, look for giveaways (usually at meet-ups) and split costs with friends. This phase should pass within your first year. Unless you're a junkie. In which case you can't be helped.

4. Product Availability

what shelves look like after a naturals raid... (that's probably shampoo left on the shelves)

I'm not sure if this is a problem experienced everywhere but even if you do get over the hurdle of cost, sometimes finding the actual products is impossible. I buy in bulk when I find products here as I never know when I'll next see them again. And that goes for regular supermarket stuff as well as more specialist things imported by individuals. 

How to cope: local bloggers and online groups often update on what products are available, when and where so keep your eyes peeled. Alternatively, stock up when you do find them. This is not kind on your pockets but is a Godsend during dry spells.  

5. Not understanding your natural texture

A.K.A curl envy. A.K.A wanting your hair to do something it can't. You've seen the videos, you've met the real life naturals and you have serious hair envy. You want your hair to look like whatsherface down the road. So you buy the products she has and try the techniques she uses but your hair just. won't. play. ball!

How to cope: 'Learn your hair' I used to want to bitch slap people when they used to tell me this in the beginning but there's no getting around it. Yes, you'll probably still try and yes, you will sometimes be disappointed but you learn through trial and error so stick with it.

6. No time, patience or desire to do your own hair

After virtually growing up in the salon, being thrust into this world of doing your own hair can be traumatising. Suddenly all the money you're saving by doing your own hair doesn't seem worth the (wo)man hours you're spending on it. Braiding up every night, wash days that drag on and don't even get me started on detangling! It is hard work and even many experienced naturals get hair fatigue.  This aspect in particular of being natural is not for the faint hearted.

How to cope: Phone a friend: develop a buddy system where your friend helps you and you return the favour. Afterall, a problem shared is a problem halved. Check out up and coming salons and hairdressers dealing with natural hair and look for reviews on them. Put your hair in a protective style when you get burn out. Most natural REALLY miss their hair after a while without it. :)

7. When it all goes pear shaped

We've ALL been there.  You spend ages doing your hair with plans to wear it out a certain way once it sets. But natural hair has a mind of its own. And all too often it doesn't do what you wanted/expected.

How to cope: We've ALL been there. Remember that. Then improvise. Bobby pins and hair accessories are your best friend.

8. You don't feel as styled/confident with natural hair

HOW is that not glamorous?! Teyonah Parris

My kinky hair means my edges don't lay flat. So I used to miss slicked back styles like crazy when I first went natural. You miss flicking your hair back (if you could, that is), you miss combing your hair, you just miss straight hair darn it!

How to cope: Think of all the wonderful things you are doing for your hair and scalp health and be proud. Think how versatile your natural hair is. Think how you stand out in a crowd. Buy a bright lippy and channel Lupita Nyong'o. #thatgirlisworkingthatTWA!

9. Negative feedback and unwanted attention
Your husband doesn't like it, your mother thinks you look like the village mad man, your father offers to pay for a visit to the salon, your friends call you 'brave' and your colleagues make comments about the shortage of combs. Complete strangers talk about your hair like you're deaf and everyone touches without asking. And you're fed up to high heaven.

How to cope: Get your mean mugging on...

PS - This post is dedicated to the person who gave up the fight and turned up at my house today with her hair relaxed. #anotheronebitesthedust #youknowwhoyouare


  1. Lol for real it can be hard work especially to some of us who are just plain lazy when it comes to hair grooming. I went the locs route which works out perfect for me because the maintenance is very low key (my personal opinion, some people think locs are a lot of work). Once in a while I see a healthy head of fro and get tempted to try it out but not just yet.............

  2. Yes, it really is hard work with the natural hair styles. I am a stylist and everyone that I meet says the same thing. I do have a love hate relationship with my hair. I've tried everything there is and am exhausted. As I get older I don 't like the feel of any oil in my hair and that is a problem. I am wearing the crochet braids and plan to keep them in for a month. My hair grew faster when straighten out vs. kinky in natural state.