Natural Hair vs. Relaxers

For years, women of color have struggled with the problem of how best to wear the hair. Before the 1960s, a popular hairstyle for curly and kinky hair types was to straighten it with a hot comb, and then curl it. Then, the afro hair style became popular, and curly girls began to embrace their natural hair texture. In modern times, both relaxed and natural hair are beautiful and in vogue, but which is the best way to wear Type 3 or 4 hair?

Au Naturel

Natural hair is gorgeous. With volume for days and even more texture, no wonder people idolize Disney Princess Merida’s iconic look. If you have been blessed with such hair, many would argue that relaxing is a waste. Whether or not that is true, it does seem to be less expensive.

Caring for natural hair is a lot less expensive than relaxing, as you don’t have to thin out your wallet every time you go to the salon — which can be up to twice monthly.

Less expensive; relaxing requires monthly and even biweekly trips to the salon, which adds up fast

Did you know that relaxed hair is super fragile? Type 4 hair is fine enough as it is, but perms and relaxers both contain similar ingredients to what you would find in a bottle of liquid Drano. These chemicals dissolve the very proteins that give your hair texture, and often burn your scalp in the process. They are also associated with respiratory problems and hair loss from continued exposure, and linked to certain cancers (Atlanta Black Star).

Unlike relaxing, which requires commitment to a straight hair with an occasional date with a curling iron, natural hair is versatile. It can be twisted, coiled, piled into a bun, braided, straightened, dreadlocked…you get the idea.

When you wear your hair natural, you experience a freedom that those who relax have given up. You don’t have to act like a character from H2O: Just Add Water every time you walk by a fountain or the weatherman predicts rain. Natural hair loves humidity, and looks amazing when wet. And getting sweaty at the gym? No problem.

Wearing your hair natural challenges the traditional perspective that beauty requires textureless, “well-behaved hair.” But best of all, wearing your hair means radiating confidence and loving yourself just the way you are.


Natural Hair vs. Relaxers

As humorists like Curly Hair Problems and Tall N Curly point out, wearing and maintaining natural hair can be a real pain. Relaxed hair looks great, and arguably feels even better, perfecting sleek chic. And if you like the straight look, relaxed hair tends to be straighter than it would be if you did it yourself.

From a practical perspective, relaxed hair is much easier to manage — it’s not as thick, so there’s fewer tangles. Day-to-day styling is relatively simple, and when you need a touch-up, you can let someone else do it at the salon.

You might spend a lot of money paying people to relax your hair at the salon, but least you don’t as many products to keep it in line. Natural hair can be unbelievably high maintenance. Even without relaxer chemicals, it tends to be dry and prone to breakage, which means applying moisturizing creams and oils daily. And say goodbye to your hair dryer, because going natural means that air drying is the only way it’s going to

Styling natural hair can be a pain, too. Since it’s so thick, any style takes at least twice as long for you to accomplish the same look as anyone else with straighter, less wild hair.

And best of all, relaxing means that strangers don’t seem magnetically compelled to touch your hair!

The Winner

In this battle of hairstyles, wearing your hair natural seems to be the winner. Sure, you need a ton of hair products and your hair takes hours to style, but it does a lot less damage in the long run. That being said, if you love the way your hair looks when it’s relaxed, go for it, girl — your hair is a part of you, and that means doing whatever makes you feel like yourself.