The “Straight” Natural Hair Debate

The “Straight” Natural Hair Debate


L4L 3.19-1

Last weekend I had my naturally curly hair professionally straightened using the Beautiful Textures Texture Manageability System. The reaction from family, friends and even strangers has been…interesting. To say the least.

I’ve never lived for anyone else. Likewise I’ve never styled my hair for anyone else. But, from the reactions I’ve been receiving you would think I have. After seeing my hair straight for the first time a co-worker told me “You’re beautiful!” as if she was seeing me for the first time in almost two years. *side eye* For the next few days she tried to encourage me to get a Japanese hair straightening because “I have the perfect hair for it.” Huh??? *second side eye* A stranger of another ethnicity stopped me on the street minutes after leaving the salon to convey in his best attempt at English “you so sexy. You beautiful.” *third side eye* Over the past week or so I’ve experienced other forms of “admiration” and “compliments” and while sweet and enduring they’re starting to get on my last nerve.

For the longest time I wondered why other women would tell me “I can’t go natural like you” or “I wish I could go natural…” THIS IS WHY! I guess because I’ve been living in my natural hair bubble and I have such a take it or leave it attitude I never really grasped how the negative comments from others can really affect you. But, now being on the other side I can see why a woman who is already not the most confident might be hesitant.

L4L 3.19-2

If you check out my Instagram pictures you’ll see several pictures of my new straight ‘do. However, while most would take this time to brag that “they hair is laid hunty” my ONLY goal was and will remain to encourage other naturals to be good to their hair and it too will grow. I wanted to expose other naturals to another straightening alternative. Finally, I wanted to further highlight the beauty and versatility of natural hair.

A tiny part of me can’t wait to go back curly in hopes of quickly getting the focus back to the REAL issue at hand – how beautiful I am regardless of my hair. It saddens me that people I’ve known over a decade have commented “THIS is what I love…your kinks are cute too but…” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!? In my opinion it’s NOT a compliment – at all. It shows me how much work still needs to be done. Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, color and hair textures!

Has anyone ever given you a hair “compliment” you could have done without or thrown some shade? How did you handle it? Let me know in the Comments Section.

If you’re interested in how I get my curls back and my journey back to curly be sure to follow me on Instagram and my blog.

  • L. Eller

    “You’re about half white, your hair is supposed to be long.” A friend’s comment when I showed her a picture of my hair about a year into my HHJ. She never said “nice” or “great work” or “it’s beautiful!”, just snarky comments or “lol” but when she would get her neck length hair done, I would exclaim how beautiful it was and tell her how much I liked it.

    I called her out about that (and other things) late last year and we haven’t been friends since.

    Your hair is beautiful by the way!

    • Thank you! That is so unfortunate…for HER! Honey, listen, one of my new favorite phrases is “haters gon’ hate”. We don’t have time for toxic and/or unsupportive “friends”. I’ve been there and I always feel so much better when the dead weight is gone. #bloop LOL

  • I always get waaaaay more attention when my hair is straight. It’s odd.
    Your hair is beautiful, though. How is the system holding up? My hair always reverts soooo easily when it’s straight.

  • Li

    Is this like a keratin treament? I tried to read up on the product but Didnt totally get it. It says it lasts for 6 weeks, is that when Washing with sulfat free shampoo?

    Interesting observations you have done. I think long hair always make an impression on people and when the hair is natural, you can’t really see the length.

    I think it is even more interesting how the market so desperately wants our money. When the natural trend started they tried to get us to buy all these products. Now when a lot of naturals has minimized their products use or started to make their own products they desperately need to come up with something to compensate for the income loss for relaxers. I also have never seen so many texturises around.

    • There are a lot of these Systems on the market. Essentially it loosens your curl pattern temporarily. I am washing it this weekend so I’ll be able to give more info on my “bounce back” then.

      And, you’re right about long hair. What’s funny is my hair was longer relaxed. LOL. Go figure. And, you’re right about these companies. Everyone wants in on our pockets. I get it…I guess. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  • Amber Patrice

    Omg. I totally understand EXACTLY what you’re going through. If I’m not hearing, “you’re the exception… natural isn’t for everyone” it’s “you should wear your hair straight more often”. I never realized how much I let what OTHER’S opinions on my hair/”beauty” played into how I chose to wear my hair for so long. This is a really great post!

    • Thanks, Amber. And, how you doin’? *Wendy Williams voice* LOL. Hey, girl!

  • Caydence James

    I think you’re missing the point. You got complimented by several different people because they happen to like straight hair. None of those people knew each other so it’s not like it was some sort of conspiracy. They just happen to like straight hair and wanted you to know that you looked fabulous! None of those comments were negative or meant to offend (esp the man on the street-I mean come on! How was he to know that he shouldn’t say something nice?)- YOU turned their compliments into something negative because you want their standard of beauty to be different than what it is. But people like what they like. To this day I am amazed when people say that “more work needs to be done”. What does that mean? That work needs to be done to change other peoples opinions so that you can feel happy about yourself? The fact is that if people don’t like your hair-then they don’t. Maybe there’s somebody out there that well. Otherwise, you asking other people to change their opinions is like asking you to change your opinion about something that you fundamentally and essentially love, compliment someone for having and they scowl at you for it!
    We as Black women complain all the time that men don’t find us attractive or that no one ever says anything nice to us! But maybe this is why! Because it comes with a cost! Because when they do say something nice to us, then we want to control their opinion and what they say nice things about. It just seems like we cannot be satisfied! It just doesn’t make sense!

    • Hey, Caydence. Thanks so much for reading and commenting – comments are what truly lead to healthy, respectful dialogue. First, I would like to share (which is something I should have added) that I get complimented ALL the time, even if I wear a rag on my head because I have self-confidence. Period. My high level of confidence (and welcoming spirit – something I’ve been told) is what encourages people to compliment me on whatever look I am rockin’ on any given day. So, it wasn’t that I’ve never gotten complimented on my [natural] hair before. I definitely do by people of all walks of life. Second, I have no issue with the random stranger who went out of his way to compliment me. In hindsight it was actually somewhat endearing that despite an obvious language barrier he went out of his way to brighten a stranger’s day.

      The real root of my issue is HOW MUCH emphasis is put on “a look” not someone’s “preference”. I am A-Okay with preferences; we all have them. What I’m not okay with is people I have known me for years who are NOW telling me I’m beautiful. My hair is not what makes me beautiful. Since my hair has been straight people treat me different. It’s something I’m aware of but not self-conscious about (there is a difference!).

      Coincidentally as I was writing to you, my regular UPS guy came in and delivered a package, he said “your hair is different, it looks nice.” What was different about this compliment was that he has complimented my curly hair before and been very pleasant during each of our brief encounters. THAT is a compliment – someone who clearly has a preference (I saw the extra twinkle in his eye LOL) but treats you the same regardless of your hair.

  • Fiadah

    I understand what you’re saying. It’s not like you came to work with a different face when your hair got straightened. I think this is a big part of the problem. If the bar is white women with long straight hair, where do black women with curls and kinks and coilys come in?

    • LOL. Exactly! I was like “huh?” You are right. As this point I’ve decided create my own definition of “beauty”. 😉

  • Celeste Demby

    Mo, I get what you are saying. Its a microagression and shows some people’s bias towards straight hair or “white” standards of beauty. That is the most important thing to remember. I’m sure none of these people intentions were to hurt you or to even throw shade. I understand your frustrations when there is so much focus on your hair as woman and especially as black woman we are expected to be defined by how beautiful other people think we are when in actuality we care a lot more about what is in our heads than what is growing on top of it.

    • Hey, Celeste. I totally agree with you – the comments were definitely not meant to hurt me. But, what’s *actually* frustrating is that people don’t understand this is just a topic. I have WAY too much going on in my life to sulk or even think about this after the comment has been made. Lol. YOU know what it is. 😉

  • A young man told me “I love your hair, is it real?” at a gas station one day. My friends said my head spinned around, which it probably did. I had to ever so nicely school him that you don’t EVER ask a black woman if her hair is real. I told him to just stop at the compliment next time, but thanked him for his compliment. It always amazes me that people ask black women that look like me (Brown Skinned Betties) if their hair is real. They forget that skin tone does not determine hair texture or length.

    • I’m glad you schooled him, Dee. He should know better! Brown Skinned Betties tho… #iCant LOL

  • CaraNautrally

    Hey Lady! I remember straightening my hair after being fully natural for about a year. When I went back to curly, an older family friend (a jheri curl wearing one I might add!) says “aaaaaw, what happened to that beautiful hair of yours?” Guuuurl, I had a 30 second out of body experience but before I exhaled, my brother came to my rescue and says “it’s right there!”. I didn’t even bother to engage her because she’s a southern septuagenarian stuck in the “good hair” era and I didn’t want to appear disrespectful. The larger issue for me was the Natural Nazi who felt that somehow, because I chose to style my hair differently, I should have my natural card revoked! I did engage her, I spoke to the versatility of our natural hair as being something to be embraced, then I told her to respect my natural and I kept it moving! You would be beautiful if you were bald! Keep doin what you do! Muuuah!

    • Cara! Hey, gurl! Yassss. I love that your brother came to the rescue. These Naturals on their Soap Box stay doing theee absolute most. It’s so sad. I’m glad you let Ms. Jheri rock on that one because you definitely would have hurt her feelings. Lol.

  • little miss

    I’m a texlaxer chick, most of the time my hair is in a braid, twist, bantu knot out and never silky and straight. When I do flat iron my hair it’s like they’ve never seen me before. Smh it’s sad.

  • I’m just going to say this then walk out…I always wondered what made people comment dissertations on certain blog post. Is it creating dialogue with genuine input, an “act of messiness”, or because they have a “lack of life”?!?!

    As a side note, I love the straight and curly…I definitely love that your hair is less of a distraction to your face with straight! 2 cents placed! LOL @curlsandmo:disqus

    • LOL. Girl, bye! …less of a distraction… You’re right tho. I noticed that, too. To the 1st point… *No Comment*

  • terezbaskin

    Real talk. I had a close friend I’ve known for years. She’d never seen my hair straight before I big chopped last year. She was like feeling around in my scalp looking for tracks. This is one of my girls. I just chuckled. I have always fluctuated between straight and curly styles. I know people who have their preference. But I don’t let that change my day or how I feel about myself or my hair. This year of all natural has really opened my eyes. I’ve gone natural before, but I was getting an Egyptian blow out each week girl. I keeps’em guessing. I think the point is that you felt different that people you knew and didn’t know went out of their way to take note. A back handed compliment can push on. You don’t like it, say that. You didn’t like it natural. YOUR problem. My mother is that way she is old school. She doesn’t think natural hair looks polished or professional, and over the years she’s learned to keep that POV to herself. XO, T

    • THANK YOU!!! Yes to allll of that. Thanks, T!

  • Acal

    First off, I enjoyed this article and the conversation it is meant to envoke. However, I have mixed feelings on your interpretation of these people’s intent and opinion on the matter. I have shoulder length hair that I usually style with weave after a bc last year. My hair is an incredibly thick 4a/4b that is millions times better than my relaxed. However, I cannot count how many more compliments I receive with weave, or when I had my damaged relaxed strands, all surrounding length. How tragic women are taught long hair=beauty. But that is the way of the world. Even though you knew these people, to be offended they did not prefer your curly hair is ridiculous. It is like when celebrities change up their hair. Some styles either flatter better, or are a general preference. And to place so much emphasis on compliments is ridiculous as well. You state you are a confident women, then you should know beauty is a shallow concept. I enjoy my curly hair. However, I also understand it is not for everyone, as silly as that sounds. As long as it is respected, I really could care less how people percieve me as “beautiful”. To put it best, “What are we really aiming for here? Do we want society to acknowledge that there are many forms of beauty? Or do we want society to start pretending that there is no such thing as beauty? Because that’s where we’re heading at the moment, and that way leads to disaster. We’re telling people, “Everything is beautiful. Everyone is acceptable. Beauty is subjective, and therefore there’s no possible way to say that any one particular thing we see before our eyes is not beautiful. Thin is beautiful, fat is beautiful, dressy is beautiful, messy is beautiful, everything is beautiful, and don’t you dare say otherwise.”

    Read more:

    • Thanks for reading. It’s unfortunate that yet again, my point was missed. I’m not offended that people have a PREFERENCE. I personally think (and this is MY opinion) that it’s unfortunate that someone only considered my beautiful when I straightened my hair. I think the bigger issue is that people don’t realize the impact that [their] words have. There’s no emphasis placed on the compliments, these were observations I made over the course of a week that turned out to be great for their intended purpose – this dialogue. Cheers! 🙂

  • Li

    I Think it is very interesting how the Culture and society you grow up affect people expectations. I live in Scandinavia and it is the oposite. Here, very few people would wear wigs. Some people have extentions but that is mainly to prolong or thicken their own hair type, not to wear a totally different texture or hair style. Im relaxed and never wear wigs either but a friend of mine gave me a curly fro for fun. I wore it at a cocktail party and I got so much compliments, people asked me how I did it and if I had cut it etc. Nobody would ever Dream of it not being real.
    Also, hear, they Believe that african hair can grow much longer than Scandinavian hair. They have seen artists like SADE, Diana Ross and african women with long braids and they Believe that african hair is the most resistant and strong hair. That is why i couldnt Believe when I started to read american hairblogs that people believed that african hair cant grow. I had never Heard that Before.
    So to ask somebody if their hair is real or not, depends very much on how likely it is that it is not real. And in a society where it is not usual, it wont even cross peoples mind.

    • Oh, wow! Cheers to you all the way from Scandinavia. I hear what you’re saying and I agree. Our hair is very strong but because people mistreat it oftentimes it doesn’t grow or when it does it’s weak.

  • Guest

    I was natural for two years before I put any heat on my hair. I straightened it for the first time in two years and I had coworkers walk straight by me not recognizing me at all. All sorts of people came out of the background with “compliments.” Some were nice, but some were a little annoying. For example, for a week straight from the same person I got – “wow, you should wear your hair like this more often.” Now, come on. Even my own mother was like please keep it this way, I like it. My point, I use to feel exactly like you. Now (2 years later) I realize that it isn’t about the compliments you receive when you are straight, it is about the lack of compliments you may receive when you are curly. It makes your self esteem shift and that is why we get so upset, because up until that flat iron hit your hair you were under the impression that you were beautiful with curls. Then all of a sudden, seemingly everyone else around you thought otherwise.

    No amount of time will go by that will help people accept our curls. We just have to learn to say thank you to every compliment no matter how sly and keep believing we are beautiful no matter what.

    • Arianna

      It is so refreshing to know that I’m not being “emotional” & others understand what I go through & feel the same way. Thank you for your post!

  • Amen!! Thank You!! I’ve been saying this for years. People’s reactions to our straight hair vs. our natural hair is humorous. On one hand, people congratulate you and big you up for rocking your natural, but in the same breath they’ll say “But I can’t go natural because…” I think it’s because straight hair gets so much positive encouragement but natural hair gets nada except from other naturals or people that find natural hair sexy. Nah…the chick on the job….that was a straight dis I’m sorry. I’ve experienced that same thing in the office back when i used to flip flop back and forth between curly & straight. People see you one way and then you come into work straight and it’s like “Wow, I didn’t realize how pretty you are” or “Is that a weave?” O-0 Side eyeing like a mug.

  • GW

    Thanks for this entry. I’d like to try this product too. But you’re right, it’s ridiculous how people you knew for years would suddenly ‘ooh and ahh’ after a change like that but then you get no compliments (not that we expect any) when we were natural. I have a story to tell. This might be long. Here it is.

    One day a German friend and I decided to go for a mini road trip. We stopped at a gift shop on our way back home and there was an aisle that had different kinds of wigs. We went over, tried some on, took pictures, laughed at all the ugly wigs etc etc…

    One wig that I picked up was a loose curl afro and it was BIG. I stuck it on my head and turned around for her to see and she gave me this wierd smiley face look and loudly exclaimed (with many other people milling around the shop), “Even if you were full Jamaican, Your hair would never look like THAT!” And laughed.

    Even as I type this, and though this happened four years ago, I still shake with anger and embarrassement. That stung. I have mixed curl patterns/textures all over my head. I believe I might be a type 4-something but have been relaxing since I was 12. Oh, and at the time, I WASN’T relaxing. I actually did the BC months prior so my hair was an untrimmed afro square. I didn’t even know where to begin after she said that to me. I mean, at first I was in disbelief. Even one of the white customers in the store gave her a side eye. I thought maybe it was lost in translation? She speaks good English though, so it couldn’t be that.

    I didn’t want to cause a ruckus in the store so I just left. I was seeing red. I remember she kept calling me louder and louder – which added to the stares and embarassement – when I was walking away and didn’t answer her. Finally, I whirled around and told her calmly that my hair happened to be like that wig but with much tighter curls. I even pointed at my head in case she somehow didn’t notice my ‘fro the past two weeks she was staying with me.

    “But your hair is nice”, she said. Well no f***ing duh! My hair is real, bitch! What’s worse, is that she kept denying my hair texture and tried changing what she said in the store. Uh, no. “First of all, I know my own hair”, I said to her, “Secondly, what you said was not okay and I am hurt and stop trying to change what you said because those words are now seared into my brain like a cattle being branded. Just own up to it”.

    Well, she denyed it again, brushed it off, and tried making me seem like I was overreacting. She finally said sorry but not the truly apologetic one…ya know, the one with the smirk? I should’ve left her there in that little town so she could cab her cheap broke ass back to my place where she was staying for a month on vacation. But I was the bigger person. If I was still angsty towards her after that or cold, or whatever negativity I was emitting, well, honey, that is her fault because she lost my respect and my friendship.

  • Shadae

    I have the opposite experience. When my hair is straight (relaxed) I’m practically invisible. When I do a twist/braid out I get lots of compliments. When I was at my predominantly white college people were so amazed at all the hair styles I would go through during a week when my hair was more textured (really it would be like 2 but they acted like I had 10 styles in a 7 day period). And then there was the natural who told me I would be so beautiful with my hair natural. I was like yea I know I’ve been down that road already. I look beautiful no matter what because of my face thanks.

  • Kat

    I felt that I should join in the debate, but from the other side. My hair is naturally dead straight. I have never and probably will never own a pair of hair straighteners because there is no point. My issue is that everyone seems to assume that I straighten my hair every day. One hairdresser after my cut said “Just take your straighteners and flick up at the ends in the morning to get a nicer look” Umm, no? I’m not buying useless hair straighteners for a ‘little flick’. In the mornings I just wash my hair, brush it and go. I don’t even bother blowdrying it.
    Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted curly hair. I think straight hair looks boring. Not just on me, but on other people. You know the kind I mean, the straightened to within an inch of its life, so it lies right next to the scalp and the ears poke through or make a hair tent on each side of the face. I’ve tried curling it before but by the time I’ve gotten round to the other side, the first parts I curled have gone straight again. It doesn’t matter what products I use, either.
    I guess I just don’t want to be universally viewed as a vain person who never leaves the house without straightening their hair (or wearing make up, which I rarely do so I guess that’s something).

  • Julissa

    that is so sad…eurocentric ideas of beauty have really messed up the world.

  • Julissa

    idk…im not bragging or anything but i feel i get the same amount straight or curly. well, nappy. its just a different crowd. younger, more attractive guys with straight hair or weird foreigners. & usually older men with natural hair, also foreign awkward guys.