Natural: The New Normal
Deciding to keep one's hair natural is never an easy decision - especially if it's a decision made on behalf of your children. For many parents it’s a process of learning to understand, care, and embrace their little ones' curls with the love and acceptance they deserve.
For young black girls, hair is not just something to play with, it is something that is laden with messages, and it has the power to dictate how others treat them, and in turn, how they feel about themselves.
Natural hair (by definition) hasn't been altered by chemical straighteners, including relaxers and texturizers. Pressed hair (hair straightened with a hot iron) may still be considered natural because once washed, the texture usually returns to its unaltered state - as long as no heat damage has occurred.
There's no one size fits all when it comes to texture and growth patterns, but in general, natural hair usually ranges from wavy to kinky-coily, with a wide variation between the two (and yes, some black people have naturally straight hair as well). In fact, differences in hair textures not only exist in families, including siblings, but even on the same head of hair.
Typically, natural hair can look strong, but it is in fact a very delicate texture and needs to be handled as such. This means frequent conditioning and moisturizing and as little direct heat as possible in order to maintain the optimum health of their hair.
When it comes to versatility, one of the best aspects of natural hair is being able to enjoy a huge variety of styles. Some of these hairdos mimic chemically straightened locs, but many are unique to having no texture-altering chemicals on their hair. Some of the hairstyles that work especially well with natural textures include twists, braids, cornrows and an Afro (yes, with a capital A because it's THAT important).
A 'side effect' of having a little one with natural hair is witnessing their hair shrinkage! Shrinkage is a decrease in length when their hair goes from wet to dry. When their hair is wet, it is weighed down so the curls stretch and fall to their maximum length, and as their hair dries, centimetres (and I literally mean CENTIMETRES) of length disappear to their roots!
Shrinkage may be frustrating when you're trying to grow out your little one's hair, or attempting a DIY protective style, but it's actually a sign of healthy, elastic hair. Just like you can't have your cake and eat it, you can't have their curl pattern without shrinkage - and the only way to eliminate shrinkage is to straighten their hair. But, since they're going natural straightening their precious little curls would undo all your hard work.
However, you can reduce shrinkage without damaging your hair - but that's a story for another day!
I'll conclude our very first Conversations over Curls (and the start of an exciting haircare journey) with one very important message: If you work on understanding your little ones natural hair wholeheartedly, loving it will soon follow. Embrace their crown of roots because not only is it theirs, but it is what makes them unique.