by Dr. Phoenyx Austin

Let me ask a couple questions: Were you afraid of going natural because you were worried what your employer/coworkers would think? Are you thinking about going natural right now, but hesitate because you think it will negatively affect your career?

The issue of “natural hair is unprofessional” was something I also struggled with before doing my big chop. I remember my mother and friends telling me that if I planned on becoming a doctor, I would have to keep my hair relaxed to “look professional.”

Despite their good intentions, fortunately my mother and friends were wrong. My natural hair has never caused an issue with employment or questions of professionalism. And interestingly enough, since going natural I constantly get approached by professional black women that are also interested in transitioning to natural hair. They are often surprised that I’m a doctor and that my hair has never been an issue. And while giving my opinion and advice on going natural, I tell them to answer this one question as honestly as they can: Do you really think that your employer/coworker will have an issue, or is it just that YOU have an issue with natural hair.

I ask this question because I’ve noticed an interesting trend in the whole “natural hair is unprofessional” perspective. I’ve found many times that a black woman’s perceptions of how natural hair might be perceived are oftentimes not reality, but just a reflection and projection of her own insecurities. Moreover, when I went natural it was interesting to observe that the only criticisms of unprofessionalism that I received were from a handful of other black people— non-black people didn’t seem to care. And it’s all of these experiences that led me to have the strong opinion that whether fellow black people, or people of other races like it or not, this is our hair and they should get used to it. No one should feel forced to put a relaxer on their hair and scalp, just to be “accepted” or to make other people more comfortable.

It’s true that certain industries require a more conservative look. But I ultimately still encourage women to transition to natural if they really want to. Why? Because it is possible to have a conservative look with natural hair. People that claim natural hair is unprofessional are just uneducated on how to care for and/or style natural hair. Basically when it comes to hair, natural or relaxed, neatness and maintenance are key. And when it comes to professionalism, how you carry yourself is even more important than how you wear your hair.

Want to know more about Dr. Phoenyx Austin? Then show her some love on her Facebook fan page! Dr. Phoenyx is a physician, writer, & media personality- empowering women by providing fun and informative commentary that encourages us all to be free and be beautiful.