by Jamila of College Curlies
This post is dedicated to the joys and pains of having natural hair in college. Let me know what you think of the list, and share your experience!
- easy transition: Transitioning to college is a great time to transition to natural. I found that it was a lot easier to make the transition from relaxed to natural in a time where most of my life was, well, in transition. College is a time where you establish new parts of your identity, new friends, new interests, etc.
- liberal environment: Depending on your college/university, the environment is generally going to be more liberal than that of a professional workplace. You can wear a funky updo one day, a fro-hawk the next, a twist out on the weekend (etc) without feeling constrained by a more conservative environment.
- support system: If you have one, this can be a tremendous joy. Having other naturals around you for inspiration and support is really great. A natural hair support system is great for product swapping and style ideas, and it’s always great to have someone who understands your struggles…misery loves company!
- time to experiment: College is a great time to experiment with different looks. Like I mentioned before, you can wear a variety of styles throughout the week. Your lifestyle in college is usually hectic and all over the place, one day you’re at in internship, the next day you’re volunteering, the next you’re going out with your friends, etc. College is a great time to experiment with versatile styles to suit your versatile lifestyle.
- forgiving of your crazy life: College is about the only time where it’s (somewhat) acceptable to wear the same style for three days straight, or throw your hair into a puff in the morning and go. Time is money, especially at school…so if you need to rock with that wash-n-go for a few days or keep your twists under a bonnet during exam times, you can do that.
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- living in a dorm: Trying to do your natural hair is one thing, trying to do your natural hair in a communal bathroom is an entirely different story. I’d love to be able to rinse out my deep conditioning treatment in the sink (without having to get back in the shower), or to be able to do a henna without getting the side eye from folks brushing their teeth. What should be a fairly private and personal routine becomes public super quick. Feeling compelled or pressured to explain your hair to people who, uh, don’t look like you can be annoying. Being made to feel like a zoo animal is never fun, and it’s almost certain to happen living in a dorm.
- being the only one: Depending on what school you go to, being the only one (or one of few) people with natural hair can be really isolating. Getting weird looks and strange questions or comments (from “do you wash your hair?” to “it looks good on you, but I could never do that!) can be exhausting and really annoying. It’s awesome to have a support system, and feeling like you don’t have anyone to talk to about your natural hair just kinda sucks.
- [no] time: This is one of the biggest pains of having natural hair in college. When I so much going on, sometimes a deep conditioning treatment is the last thing on my mind. I can’t be bothered with daily styling and maintenance. I literally have to plan when I’m going to do my hair, because if not– either it or something else won’t get done.
- [limited] budget: This can be a pain, but it doesn’t have to be. I have those days where I really just want to try a Heutiful steamer, or get a Deva cut...but my wallet won’t allow it. It takes a lot of willpower not to spend my on every product I see (though it is tempting!) Finding what products work best for your hair can be an issue when you don’t have any money to buy products to try…or running out of a tired and true product and having to wait until you get paid or your parents show mercy on you and help you out…not a good look.
- lack of access to resources: If you live in a College town like mine, finding a salon or a stylist who doesn’t scream and run when you walk through the door is a rare privilege. If you don’t have a car, finding a way to get to the store to buy your staple products (like conditioner) can be a struggle.
What are some joys and pains of being a College Curly?
I'm in my freshman year at college and decided to transition at the beginning of the school year. It has been a lot of fun and my roommates are totally encouraging me to not give up. They enjoy watching me do my hair and one even likes to feel the curls after I wash my hair!! It has been a process but I don't think I would keep going if it wasn't for there support included in my support team.
When I was in college I was the only black woman in my entire suite. I had a relaxer and took a 45 minute bus trip to the salon once a month to get my hair done. None of my roommates commented on my hair. One white girl did use my curling iron without my permission and burned her hair off b/c it was too hot for her texture. But she was really sweet.
Don't worry about what others think. Just be yourself. You don't have to spend a lot of money on products to look good. I have a tub of shea and a bottle of jojoba that's $10 total. That's it. Don't drop $20, $30 or more on products. If you need hair supplies, order from the internet or ask your parents to send you supplies. That's what my mom did for me. Or stock up on things when you come home for break. If someone asks if you wash your hair, ask them if they wash their hair. They'll get your point and leave you alone. Be yourself, enjoy experimenting with your hair and ignore the ignorant folks on campus. School comes first.
I actually was thinking about a similar topic today! My best friend has been telling me how (no offence to me she says) I have the SAME hairsyle every single day. She's actually right. I've been doing my hair in a fro-hawk every single day for the past year almost… My excuse is: I'm a senior in engineering school, my projects are more important then my hair, and my program is 80% men and I'm the only black person there, so nobody cares how I look anyway. And even if they did, my hair is too complicated for them to understand anyway. And how easy is to wake up, shake, pin and go. All in about 2 minutes! you gotta love it! I've been trying to think about other hairstyles to try to do over the weekends.. but when the weekend comes around I'm too tired from the week to start a time consuming hair project. I guess new styles will have to wait for graduation :p
Depending on your particular roommate situation, (and perhaps upbringing), just do your hair like it ain't a thing. (I would warn against looking unattractive to men in your dorms, those are prime dating options!). But 8 & a half extra special treatments in secrecy isn't necessary when half your hall is dyeing their hair blond or getting highlights. I mean really. I'm officially at the point to where folks are making natural hair transitions in college to be so bad to make money off of young women's insecurity. College is the LAST time where you can do stuff like blue hair (in traditional jobs), and growing your hair out is a big issue in the age where folks are gaming YouTube for wooden nickels? I did RELAXERS in my college dorm bathroom while my hallmates were DYEING their hair blond! We had chemical fumes parties with a bottle of wine. Just make your grow out routine normal, as changes should be in college.
Sigh. For the college ladies, you don't have to explain yourself to every non-natural/non-black person around. You CAN set boundaries and not be an educational experiment. I didn't live with a SINGLE black person/woman in college (and I didn't graduate that long ago >5 years), and didn't have to be "the educator". In fact, me and my White and Asian roommates shared products, tips, stylists, conditioners, blow-dryers, etc… . I'm aware that many black women in college these days grew up in only/majority black environments… but not everyone. When I found out about mousse in elementary school from a church going after a sleep-over with a white friend, my MOM stole the can I bought b/c she loved it. Part 1.
My pains are the same as yours pretty much lol except i'm not the only one. There are alot of naturals on my campus 🙂
I love that photo for the "Pains" portion. LOL
I love that it's super fast to do when I'm in a rush to get to class (a.k.a. EVERY day). My biggest pain is the annoying stares.
How come the kid in front of me can pick his acne and it's okay, but I can't be natural with you staring like my hair is a M.C. Escher drawing?
This pretty much sums it up….glad I started my transition once I got an off campus place!
learning about my natural hair in college was a challenge. This was a good post explaining the pains especially. Having a roommate while doing your hair can be…errr…awkward lol