Friday, May 11, 2007

Going Natural Gracefully

I received this question in my inbox yesterday, and I thought it was interesting so I wanted to share it with others who may have the same thoughts.

I have a question: Is there a way to go naturally “gracefully”? I am really considering going natural after 10+ of having relaxed hair. I am going natural for several reasons, but was wondering, what is the best approach to this? Should I grow out my perm? Should I just cut it all off? In the beginning stage is it okay to wear braids for a while so the hair can grow? I am terrified of this and guess I should really give it some serious thought. Another thing is I am a recent graduate and in the market for a job. Will having natural hair scare away potential employers? I guess if worn the right way it won’t. Sorry for all the questions but I am really curious as how to approach this and go through with going natural, especially in the beginning phase and getting used the change.

My response:

Yes! You can absolutely go natural gracefully.

Growing out your perm vs. cutting it all off

This is a very personal decision. For many, cutting it all off is the best approach.

The pros to this method include 1) having a neat 'do right off the bat, 2) no stress about working with different textures, 3) speed (this is the fastest road to 100% naturalness), 4) no transition period (aka you have to get used to it quick and there is no going back).

The cons to this method include 1) having short hair (this isn't a con for everyone, in fact many people discover beauty they didn't know they had), 2) shock for other people (if your hair is currently long, other people may react strongly to a sudden chop, which may or may not be an issue for you), 3) no transition period (aka you have to get used to it quick and there is no going back!).

Transitioning also has pros, including 1) you can take your time getting used to it, 2) you never have to have short hair if you don't want to, and cons, including 1) you may face breakage and difficulty styling due to the different textures 2) you may miss the "natural awakening" many women report as a result of the drastic effect of the big chop.

I chopped my hair off instead of transitioning, and it was the best thing for me. No fuss, no muss, and although it took some getting used to I didn't wish I'd done it another way.

Transitioning with braids

This works for many people. My sister grew a head of healthy natural hair using braids to transition. You will want to watch out for breakage and thinning, both of which can be caused by improper braiding techniques and/or leaving the braids in too long. I'd recommend learning to braid hair yourself (it's really not as hard as it may look, and there are plenty of videos on the market) or finding a reputable braider through a recommendation (from someone without thinning or breaking hair!).

Transitioning and natural hair during your job search

In the years that I've been natural, I have never had a hard time finding a job due to my hair. I'd like to think this is because I'm qualified for the positions I've applied for, and I've presented myself in a professional manner. I have worn conservative styles to interviews, such as a low puff or loc ponytail. Although I love my big fros and twist outs, I think it's a distraction to most people (regardless of race or ethnicity) when they need to be focusing on my qualifications for the job.

All that being said, I was very self conscious about my locs when I first started them, and wore a wig to my interviews
(even I am shocked by that!). I took that wig off quick after I was hired, and no one batted an eye. I think the issue was more internal than external in my case.

I don't deny that there are some people who will take issue with your hair if it doesn't look right to them. Still, there is no way I am going to put a harsh chemical on my head for that reason. I think it's good to be flexible, but not to that extent. I think neatness and conservativeness are most important here.

Hope this is helpful!


Bronzetrinity said...

Your facinating blog/website has been featured on the Afrospear Online Newspaper at . It is a collection of rss feeds about activism, politics, opinion, news, entertainment, beauty, and history by and for members of the African Diaspora. We like what you are writing! If you know of any interesting blogs/websites we should add to the paper please let us know :)

Colormap said...

I totally agree with the natural transition in the job hunt spectrum. When I transitioned people of all ethnicities were actually jealous of my new TWA 'do! The key to transitioning gracefully is internal, not external! If you wear your TWA with confidence and juice it up with fun accessories you will love your hair and so will everyone else. My friend, Summer, who has blonde beautiful hair, always asks to trade hair with me!! But I always say yes because her hair is super cute too!! :-p I promise I'm not being a traitor to my natural hair though!!

Phoenix_Sun said...

I have been wearing my natural hair for almost thirteen years. I sport long locs. I want to get rid of my locs and go back to my afro. I had a beautiful Jill Scott afro back in the day, I would get so many stares and compliments from people. I too never had a problem with getting jobs due to my natural hair. I was self-conscious when I worked for a major NYC law firm. I think I felt that way because a lot of bw had a chemically relaxed weave. I also thought these white people are looking at my hair negatively. I was probably battling my own perceptions about a white corporate environment.

I don't want to go the bald route again like I did when I first went natural only because I have full face so being bald makes my face look even fatter. I don't think I have much of choice because you have to cut locs totally off if you want a change.

Does anyone know of an alternative of shaving it bald?

Kaya Casper said...

>> Your fascinating blog/website has been featured on the Afrospear Online Newspaper

Thanks so much bronzetrinity!

>> If you wear your TWA with confidence and juice it up with fun accessories you will love your hair and so will everyone else.

So true colormap!

>> Does anyone know of an alternative of shaving it bald?

phoenix_sun, you can let your locs grow out without retwisting them for several months. pull your locs apart at the root after washing to help prevent them from marrying too much. once you have the amount of new growth you want, cut the locs off from that point. you will have a decent sized afro to work with depending on how long you let the locs grow out. HTH!

florida girl said...

I am now 43 and begining to gray. For the third time in my adult life, I am going to go natural. I have a healthy head of relaxed shoulder length hair, so I appreciated your comment on using braids as an alternative to the big chop, (my choice of transition style the first two times). KC, your balanced no-guilt response will insure that I will to your blog and refer others as well.

Kaya Casper said...

>> KC, your balanced no-guilt response will insure that I will to your blog and refer others as well.

florida girl, I'm so glad you find the blog helpful. I believe that everyone has their own path. I don't care how you get here, just - get here if you can. :-)

Anonymous said...

This is so true. I am a young woman who is sporting a natural big afro which is really rare. Alot of black women I know wouldn't be seen dead with their natural hair which is such a shame. People even say to me you should perm your hair but why I am happy with the way my hair looks now. Many think it is not beautiful because the media only focuses on 1 type of beauty and then people think thats how everyone should look. I love my natural hair.

PS: My blog also speaks on this issue check it out sometime:

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just read your page. I am currently going natural also, and am considering wearing the two strand twist style until I have enough growth to loc. And the two strand twist style looks like locs, so you should be fine when looking for work. Good luck sweety.