The Pros & Cons of Being Natural or Relaxed: Which One Are You?
Written byGuest Writer
As of today, I am 6 years natural! But before that, if you were to ask me what is natural hair, I legit wouldn’t have anything to tell you. I didn’t have a single clue. I grew up believing that having relaxed hair was the only option. I knew that when my roots got curly, it was time to crack open the relaxer container. But since then, times have changed, dramatically. The natural hair community has grown so much, and the relaxed hair gang is still standing strong. Then you have some who are in transition and not sure which way to go. Having been both, I can say both have some good benefits. So I wanted to share some pros and cons of being natural and relaxed, then you can decide for yourself.
What Is Relaxed Hair
Having relaxed hair is caused by a chemical opening the cuticles of the hair and making it straight. It remains in your hair until it has grown out. Typically, most people get a touch up every 6-8 weeks, depending on how fast their hair grows.
Pros of Relaxed Hair
Having convenience is something we all seem to be striving for these days. And being relaxed is a sure way to achieve it. Having straight hair is simple because you don’t have to do anything to it. Most times at night you wrap your hair in a circular motion, throw a scarf on it and unwrap the next day. Your hair will come out nice and bouncy. So on the days when you may be running late, just know that you wouldn’t have to spend much time doing your hair. I remember the days where sometimes I wouldn’t take my scarf off until I got to my destinations parking lot. I just unwrap, create a part on the right, and continue my day.
Depending on the hairstyle, you won’t have much manipulation. Once your hair is straight, there isn’t anything left to do. Whenever you want to rock a particular style, you will always be starting out with straight hair no matter what. Once your hair begins to grow out some, you will notice that your roots are different than the rest of your hair strands. So if you aren’t getting a touchup that week, you may need to break out some hair gel. When wearing ponytails or just about any style, using gel or cream even will help to tame the edges. It will lay them down so the rest of your hair will be in one formation.
Easy to Manage
Managing a relaxer is a breeze. Like I mentioned earlier, once your hair begins to grow out, your roots will look different from the rest of your hair. That will indicate that it’s time for another relaxer. Now, you’re not going to relax the entire head, just the areas where the hair has grown in. Applying relaxer to the entire head will cause over processing. You don’t ever want that because it can then become severally damaged.
Also, purchasing a relaxer is a smooth process as well. Most general convenience stores sell them and also all hair stores. Purchasing it won’t hurt your pockets either since the price ranges between $15-$25 depending on the brand. If you get a large container, it may save you money down the line since you won’t have to purchase every time you need it. Once you apply and rinse out the relaxer, just blow-dry and straighten your hair and you’re good to go! Literally, that’s all you need to do. Of course, you can still do a deep conditioner if you wish.
Have you ever heard someone get upset because it’s raining and they don’t want to get their hair wet? Well, most times it’s not coming from a person who’s relaxed because the weather doesn’t affect them. Since there is a chemical all throughout their hair strands, it simply keeps the hair from getting puffy or frizzy.
Cons of Relaxed Hair
Let’s be honest, yes, your hair is straight and beautiful but, to keep it that way, you must continue to apply the same harsh chemical on your hair. There isn't a way to get around it, and truthfully that’s not 100% healthy. Starting with the fact that you must wear gloves to apply the product says a lot. Because it's a chemical, your hands shouldn't be exposed. I say shouldn’t because there’s some who don’t wear gloves. So be careful. I remember growing up, my Mom use to put Vaseline all on my forehead, neck, and ears and I had to wear an old towel around my shoulders. That was all to ensure none of the relaxer dropped on me in any way.
Side Effects of Chemical
When applying the product, you must work at a relatively fast rate. The product cannot sit on the scalp for a long period, or it will begin to burn. At the same time, you don’t want to apply it and then hurry, and it rinses it out either. You want the product to sit long enough to be effective but not long enough for it to burn. There are alternatives such as a natural relaxer but even those can cause scalp irritation. Be weary when trying different relaxers and make sure you choose what works for you. Just make sure you read the box for specific instructions when applying. Having a scalp burn or irritation is never fun. But once the burn heals, it will just turn into a scab. It also doesn’t take long to heal.
There may come a time when your hair may not be strong enough to handle a relaxer anymore, and it will begin to get weak and cause damage. Relaxed hair isn't the easiest to manage. Your hair can begin to get dry and start breaking off. There are even some cases where people have lost their edges, or they get thinned out. It’s important to know that whenever there’s a strong component in your hair, always make sure you’re conditioning weekly. Whether it’s a deep condition, hot oil treatment or protein treatment, make sure you’re consistent with it. Conditioning the hair should be done after each wash. Keeping the hair very moisturized is strongly recommended. It's possible to have healthy relaxed hair as long as you take care of it. Make sure you maintain the upkeep.
The thing with being relaxed is it can get a bit boring at times. Because it’s straight, there’s no way to alter the hair strand without adding heat to it or wearing rollers. No matter what style you wear, it’s always going to give off that straight look.
What Is Natural Hair
Being natural means your hair is in its rawest state. Hair that is simply grown straight from the scalp without any alternating chemicals. Now, some people think that when you get hair color applied to your hair (semi or permanent), then you’re no longer natural. I disagree with that. Although its a chemical, it’s just changing the color of the hair and not the pattern of the hair strand. So, to each is own.
Pros of Natural Hair
Yes, you’re all natural! 100%! When you’re natural, you get to watch your hair in its purest state. If you’re also a health fanatic, then going natural would most definitely be in your best interest. A cool mindset that most naturals have is if you can’t eat the products in your hair, then it doesn’t belong in your hair. I actually can attest to that too. It’s important to know whatever you put in or on your body can affect it. So just because you’re putting something on your hair doesn’t mean it can’t affect another part of your body. Most times it's affecting you but you may not realize it. I’m able to pour extra virgin olive oil into a pan and fry something up and then turn around and also add it to my hair; Along with a slew of other food or ingredients.
Being natural means your options of styles are endless. The awesome texture and look it provides for each style will surely have you looking your best. If you want to have your hair in an afro one day then a twist out the next, you can do that all without adding heat to your hair. We also have a love-hate relationship with shrinkage. Shrinkage is when your hair shrinks up and appears shorter than what it is. We hate it because sometimes it happens at the wrong times and you can’t do anything about it. We love it because as each day goes on, your hair stretches out and becomes bigger each day. It provides a different look each time. While rocking styles such as a twist out or wash n’ go, having shrinkage will definitely work in your favor.
The most common thing I hear while being natural is, “gosh, I wish I could do it.” And honestly, it always breaks my heart because everyone can be natural. One major thing that comes with this lifestyle is confidence. You have to seriously own who you are and not bothered by those who don’t agree with your look. Most naturals rarely straighten their hair, so when it’s big, that can sometimes give the impression that it's nappy. And all that means is that person obviously isn’t educated on what it truly means to be natural. Sometimes when we’re doing our hair, it doesn’t always come out the way we want it to, and truthfully, not everyone knows how to handle that. A lot of people believe that hair is a part of your identity, but it isn’t. So if you want to see how much confidence you have, become natural, and I promise you will be tested and also fearless.
Since there aren’t any chemicals on your hair, it's 100% natural and can grow out as long as it can. It’s rare if you see some women with really long hair while relaxed. I’m sure it’s many out there, but there are more people with even longer hair who are natural. I’m a firm believer that there may be some agent inside the relaxer that stops hair growth. There are so many people whose hair has flourished to great lengths after becoming all-natural. If you’re currently transitioning to being natural, then I encourage you to test this theory out!
Not only does your hair grow, but you get to grow as a person. I think being natural is special because you get to learn a new part of yourself. Watching your hair grow straight out from your roots is a great thing. You get to experiment and find out what you can and can’t do with your hair. Some people even have several different parts of their head where they have different hair patterns, or maybe one side is thicker than the other. However you look at it, it ends up being a great journey to go through.
Cons of Natural Hair
One thing that I hear often is that being natural is a lot of work. Honestly, I think it depends on how you look at it. I believe having a regimen is highly important when it comes to everything. And when it comes to being natural, at times it's time-consuming. Because your hair is in its rawest state, which means you need to take extra care of it. You may need to spend a little more time conditioning and doing treatments. But a lot of naturals also have a “wash-day” where they do all their hair “stuff” that day. If you’re feeling worried, just create yourself a detailed regimen so you can always stay on top of your hair and won’t feel overwhelmed.
Creating a regimen is great but alongside that is being aware you must do your hair daily. It’s nothing like being relaxed and unwrapping your hair and leaving for work. For example, if you are wearing a twist out, you must twist your hair each night to prep for the style. Or you could also do the banding method and tie it. However you look at it, you will be doing some kind of manipulation of the hair very often. But eventually, it will become second nature, and you won’t even think about it.
Prone to Breakage
Being natural and relaxed both carry this same con and same resolution. If your hair is in it’s rawest state, you must take extra care of it. Making sure you are doing the same conditioning process as being relaxed. Deep conditioners, hot oil treatments, etc. Just make sure not to rush this process since it’s important to take care of your tresses.
Unlike relaxed hair, if it’s raining out, you want to stay far away from it! Let’s face it humidity is not your friend while you’re natural. Neither are hot clubs and steamy showers, lol. Also, depending on which side of the country you live in also plays a major part as far as climate. One tip I can give you for this is to watch your local weather daily. Be mindful of the humidity levels and due, etc. Depending on what they are, you’ll know whether or not your curls will be in all day, or drop immediately.
Purchasing hair products, in general, can be costly, but when you’re natural, it may be a little more. I say may because if you love to make your hair products, then you don’t have to worry about the cost of buying them. However, if you’re just starting your natural hair journey, I can promise you that you’ll be going through many different kinds of products. You will endure a serious trial and error period, and that’s okay because it’s needed to know what works and what doesn’t work. One quick tip I’ll give you is when buying hair products, only buy from stores that offer returns. That way if you don’t like it after trying it out, you can return the product. Unless of course, you’re a "product junkie," then keep doing your thing! But I am in no way a "product junkie". All the products I have, I use.
So, Have You Decided Yet?
As you can see, whether you are natural or relaxed, it all comes out to being just hair! If you spend time on social media or blogs, you will find that so many people bash each other for being the opposite of the other. But honestly, it doesn’t matter. Both types of hair offer a range of pros and cons just like anything else in life. Nothing is perfect. It all just comes down to preference. If you want to rock relaxed hair and have a more conservative, easy type of look then go for it. If you want to become more in-tuned with yourself and stand out a little, go natural. Either way, I know you will be beautiful because it’s not the hair that dictates that! Let me know in the comment section in you’re natural or relaxed or have been both!