For many women of color, the above decision is one that is increasingly cropping up as the natural hair is seeing a renaissance not witnessed since the days of the Black Panthers popularized the afro in the 1970‘s. After the ‘happy medium’ of the jheri curl in the 1980‘s, relaxed hair had been the main choice for black women for the next two decades until natural hair began to make a resurgence in the past few years of the naughties.
In this lighthearted article, we look at different categories and the question: in a battle between relaxed and natural hair, which would win?
Let the fight begin!
Relaxed: Relaxed hair in it’s untouched state is straight but it does not always have to be worn this way; it can be worn curly or crimped using rollers, or curly tongs or by simply braiding/twisting whilst wet and leaving to dry before removing the twists/braids.
Relaxed hair can be easily pulled back into a ponytail or updo.
However, no matter what technique one uses- it is near impossible to get relaxed hair that is longer than ear length to stand proud in an afro puff!
Natural hair hair is more versatile than it may appear. It can be stretched using various techniques to give ‘lengthier’ styles or allowed to shrink into a teeny weeny afro (TWA) for a completely different look.
One can do braid or twist outs on natural hair for defined curls or add heat by blowdrying and flat ironing or pressing for an ultra straight look. Straight styles may not last long, however because humidity or water can cause hair to revert to it’s curly state.
VERDICT: Both hair types offer versatility, however natural has the edge in that one can rock an afro puff one day and a head of sleek hair the next.
Relaxed: In order for relaxed hair to maintain a uniformly straight look, the roots must be touched up once every six to eight weeks. Although some ladies choose to stretch the time between their touch ups to longer than this, the two textures can appear starkly different and it takes a lot of work to keep hair from breaking.
Relaxed hair must be moisturized and deep conditioned on a regular basis to keep it in tip top shape.
Natural: Many women argue that the reason they relax is that their natural hair requires a lot of struggle to keep it looking good. The good news for natural ladies is that they do not need to spend anything to make their hair natural- it just is! Hair can be left to grow and do it’s own thing, however like relaxed hair it needs regular moisturizing and deep conditioning as well as thorough detangling in order to avoid the much maligned dry and ‘nappy’ look. Many naturals say they can just wash their hair, moisturize and go, so it’s also a matter of personal taste and whether you are happy to rock a free and easy afro puff or if you prefer to tame your locks.
VERDICT: For maintenance it’s a tie- both relaxed and natural hair require maintenance to stay looking good, although relaxed hair requires monetary outlay to buy the actual chemical process and possibly stylists to apply it.
Relaxed: The act of relaxing hair breaks down the bonds of the hair strand and leaves hair weakened so that it is vulnerable to dryness and damage, especially breakage. In order to maintain strong relaxed hair, care must be taken not to overlap relaxers and hair needs to be treated with strong protein treatments, whilst also balanced out with moisturizers.
Natural: As natural hair has not been altered by chemicals, it is less vulnerable to breakage as long it is kept well moisturized and not allowed to become excessively dry. Hair can handle chemicals in the form of color better than relaxed hair as there will not be any double processing
VERDICT: When it comes to strength, natural hair is the clear winner!
Relaxed: A comedian joked, in the film ‘Good Hair’, “If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If your hair is nappy, they’re not happy” Although this was said in jest, there still seems to be a perception that straight hair is more acceptable to society, especially in the workplace.
Others think that those who relax their hair are trying to be white or to conform to societal pressure.
Like it or not, relaxed hair is still seen as mainstream and the norm for millions of black women around the world. Funnily enough, a black man with relaxed hair is thought to be an oddity and the natural look reigns for men!
Natural: More and more of the younger generation of black women are choosing to keep or transition to their natural hair. Natural hair is still seen as exotic or rebellious by many and being a natural haired black woman can almost be taken as a political statement. Ladies with natural hair are often perceived to be more at peace with themselves and deeply confident.
VERDICT: The jury is out on this, there is no winner. One should be free to choose whatever image they like without being judged- it’s all a matter of personal style.
SO WHO WINS THE ‘BATTLE’?
Based on the above categories, natural hair has won this round however there are a lot of other considerations and relaxed hair need not give up the fight just yet- if there had been the category of sleekness relaxed hair would have won the day! Every lady’s lifestyle is different and it doesn’t need to be a battle- you have made the best choice for your lifestyle and the best thing about it?
It’s only hair, you can switch sides anytime!