There is a movement happening among women around the world, but more profound here in the United States known as the natural hair movement. There are some who may be reading this and scratching their heads asking themselves well is not all hair natural and what is the big deal? Well for decades African-American women have used products to chemically and permanently change the natural curl pattern of their afro textured hair to straight. Western ideals of beauty have been a prominent fixture in how many African-American women perceive beauty in comparison within their own ethnic features, and how some struggle and endure dangerous processes to be beautiful the “American” way. The major way many women of color try to achieve this is by chemically straightening their hair. Some of the chemical processes that women have used in the past and continue to do so today are the Jheri Curl, Texturizers and Relaxers as well as lye soap and a host of other dangerous chemicals. These extremely alkali processes are typically made with sodium hydroxide which would break down the hair bonds, relaxing the curl and in turn straightening the hair. Most women who had relaxers in the past will testify to the uncomfortable burn, smell and irritation caused by the process. Sometimes extreme temporary hair loss, alopecia and chemical burns to the skin and scalp occur, and in about six to eight weeks they will do it all over again. The hair relaxer is one of those sub cultural things that is really ingrained in their lives, their families and their beauty. The goal is to have the bone silky straight “good” hair that blows in the wind; it is what looks neat, professional and clean. Total opposite of the adjectives many would use describing natural afro textured hair. So the relaxer has become a way for women of color to fit in just a bit more. It may be hard for many to believe that there are women would put themselves though this type of ordeal, but they have, they do and they will continue to do so to achieve what is most commonly perceived as beauty.
So, this natural hair movement that is sweeping across the nation is growing each day but is still comprised 0f a relatively small group of women who decided to say no to the relaxer affectionally dubbed “creamy crack.” They have decided to start creating their own ideal of beauty based on their own individuality and what grows naturally from their scalp. These women are not trying to become nonconformist or make a political statement rather they have just decided to embrace every kink, coil and curl that springs up from their heads even if it does not fit into the American norm. Now for many, this has been a really tough process, liberating but tough. Some experience negative comments at the workplace to complete strangers staring and touching their hair out of curiosity. And there are those who have been mocked and shunned by the African-American men in their lives because they no longer have the long straight flowing hair made possible by the relaxer or a weave but rather “nappy and kinky” hair that could never possibly be pretty. With all this against them they are still holding fast to what they know is better for them, their bodies and their own self-image of beauty.
I have seen a change in how women of color have carried themselves tall while rocking their natural locks in my city. The line on which beauty is defined is beginning to blur and the increase of kinks, coils and curls making their appearances in the media seems to be a result of America's natural hair movement and the message these curlies are spreading through their hair.