So before we even go any further on the issue, i’d like us to look at a few words i came across, rather interesting i must add. Why? Well, before you can talk about something even remotely effectively, you must first understand it in order to adequately express yourself about it. So with that said, what exactly are we talking about when we call something “Natural”. I had a look at Dictionary.com and the Merrian Webster dictionary to better understand the word and these specific definitions stood out for me from the rest.
A lot of definitions, i know but bear with me, the more we have, the better we can understand what we are actually talking about. So looking at what i managed to get, i realized that there were a few things that were common and repeated. For one, the fact of existence without human interference, not containing chemicals, and occurring through and entirely by nature itself. What does all of this have to with hair? Let me explain.
You see with the natural hair movement and keeping to our roots as a community, i had for a long time thought that being natural was about embracing my curls and my kinky hair and saying goodbye to the pressure of society trying to shove straight hair down my throat. I still partly stand by that, but veer off when it comes to what it actually means to be a natural in this worldwide movement.
Just as we have seen from the definitions above and as we know from nature itself, the natural things are those that occur untouched by human beings and that thrive tucked away from interference. Think of forests, wildlife and the Eco-systems contained therein, air, oceans and the life therein, they are a testament of how nature can and does take care of itself, well up until we start cutting down trees and encroaching on animal reserves , then things just start spiraling out of control, but anyway, i digress.
The fact however is this, for us to qualify something as natural, it has to be at it’s rawest state possible, fruits from the orchard that haven’t been chemically engineered or enhanced, oils that are extracted in a way that does not disrupt their rich preexisting composition and grains that have not undergone refining that strips away their nutrients.
With natural hair however, i feel like though the initial idea of reverting back to our curls was indeed the best idea yet, i fear that the glitz and glam of hair products, regimens and routines may have excited us quite a bit off track. What do i mean?
You see, hair grows naturally from hair follicles as its root draws it’s own protein and nutrients from blood vessels in the scalp, and as it begins to grow out of the scalp it passes through oil glands that coat the hair to protect the hair shaft and keep it shiny and soft. We as human beings have through our own inventions also come up with ways to aid in the hair’s own natural growth process by coming up with shampoos for clarification, conditioners for maintaining healthy manageable strands of hair, treatments to handle hair growth, dryness and breakage, as well as oils to lock in and retain moisture on the hair. The problem however comes in when as good as all of these inventions may be in maintaining healthy manageable hair, over-dependence on them may in the long run deplete the scalp’s own natural ability to perform all of these processes naturally and on it’s own. Yes, the body does do have it’s own way of taking care of what grows out of it.
All the hair on our body goes through the Anagen (growth), Catagen (transition) and Telogen (rest or shedding) phases which all vary according to where the hair is growing from. For instance, the hair on your scalp will have a longer Anagen phase as compared to the hair on your arm, hence the length. The hair on the scalp will however have a shorter Telogen phase as compared to the eyelashes, arms and legs, hence the shedding experienced from the hair on the scalp. What am i trying to say with all this scientific mumbo-jumbo?
Well, the body by design is catered to grow out and maintain the hair that is coming out of your body throughout these stages, providing the nutrients that are needed to grow, maintain and eventually get rid of “old” hair. Does this mean that we should abandon the hair to take care of itself? Hardly.
Whereas the body does naturally grow out hair, we need to make sure that we take care of cleansing the scalp and skin to avoid clogging of the pores with sebum (which is the natural oil that lubricates and coats the hair shaft) and dirt particles (that we may come in contact with), as well as dealing with the shed hair. This however is the part where most of us tend to get “hand crazy”. I admit, i’m very much to blame in this department. Detangling, treating, conditioning, oiling and cleansing among others , while helpful can and will actually disrupt the natural hair growth and shedding process by either accelerating, decelerating or just disrupting it altogether to bring about faster hair growth, deal with hair issues such as breakage and dryness etc. etc.
This disruption may work to our advantage when the hair grows longer and is more manageable. It can also work against us when we have clogging and practices that encourage over-manipulation or layering of too much product that not only weighs down hair but also clogs pores and disrupts growth that may lead to hair loss among other scalp conditions. What then are we to do? Pretty simple actually.
I particularly fell in love with this definition- “Marked by easy simplicity and freedom from artificiality, affectation, or constraint” because it summarizes quite a lot. At the heart of every hair article or guru out there are the familiar words, “Leave your hair alone.” There have been no truer words for the natural community than these. The scalp and hair can do it’s thing and all we have to do is support it in it’s own natural process. That is after all why we’re naturals, because we are growing our natural hair and what better way than to let the hair grow without our interference, with as simple a regimen as possible, free of artificiality, which compromises the very thing we obviously care for so much, otherwise we wouldn’t all BIG CHOP our former “crowns”…haha.
We can debate to infinity however the definition of Natural hair and the care of it, however, from one natural to another, i believe we must first question our very cause to abandon anything harmful to our natural hair, even though that something might be our own selves.
All in all, let us all proudly let our curls down…once in a while…haha.
You can also check out my videos on the same discussion on you tube;