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Curly Nikki

The Natural Divide – Eight Points of Dissension

By January 27th, 202120 Comments
The Natural Divide – Eight Points of Dissension
by Tammy Goodson of CurlyChics

In the natural community, we have many things we agree on, such as natural hair is the healthier option, and natural hair is beautiful. While we all share a sisterhood of sorts on these issues, there are a few talking points surrounding the lifestyle.

Curl definition
For some, curl definition is the ultimate goal. We twist and braid, we scrunch and plop, all in effort to create the perfect coil formation. We hunt endlessly for the cream or butter that will produce the perfect “S”. Products that promise to “define your curls” take advantage of our desire to achieve certain results, only to leave us with the disappointing realization that they merely enhance existing curl patterns.

For others, curl definition is nice but is not the end all be all of being natural. Why not embrace what your hair “naturally” wants to do. Every mane is different, some with more coils than curls and some with more texture and density, all of which is beautiful. Embrace your texture, whatever that is.

Mineral oil (grease, mineral)
Mineral oil has been at the top of the DO NOT USE list for many naturals partly because of the old school mentality that is usually associated with its use but mostly because it is can clog pores and attract dirt. This makes it difficult to absorb water and slows the ability to eliminate toxins. However, there are some naturals who have started to make peace with the grease, so to speak. with the latest revelation from Curly Nikki on her experience.

Silicones, silicones…these sneaky little ingredients have naturals up in arms. While they do help with frizz, combat humidity, and provide slip making for a much smoother detangling session, they also give a false sense of moisture. They leave hair feeling uber soft and give it shine; however, these results are only temporary. The other concern with silicones is that they leave build up on the hair. This is typically a concern for naturals who do not regularly use sulphate shampoos, which are the only sure fire way to eliminate the build up and leads me to the next talking point.

Sulfates (sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate), which are the agents that provide the lather and suds some people love, have a tendency to dry out hair and strip it of its natural oils. The squeaky clean feeling you get and can sometimes hear, is a clear indicator that something is missing, besides dirt. Those naturals who regularly use sulfate cleansers do not disagree that it strips the hair of its natural oils but respond by following up with a great conditioner to replenish those lost oils.

Another concern is the potential carcinogenic link. Although the link has not been proven in experimental studies, it has been proven to cause significant epidermal changes when applied. According to Beauty Brains…sulphates “will not strip your hair of oil any worse than other surfactant bases. All shampoos strip your hair of natural oil. That’s how they clean.”

Definition of natural
What is natural? “existing in or formed by nature (opposed to artificial): a natural bridge.
based on the state of things in nature; constituted by nature: Growth is a natural process.
of or pertaining to nature or the universe: natural beauty.
of, pertaining to, or occupied with the study of natural science: conducting natural experiments. in a state of nature; uncultivated”
This is the text book definition of the term natural. Seems cut and dry right? Wrong. There are several definitions of what it means to be natural depending on who you ask. Does it refer to a specific hair style? Does it refer to texture or color?

Some believe if you chose to color your hair, you are not natural because:
• any type of chemical on your hair automatically removes you from the “natural” category and color is a chemical
• color CAN change your curl pattern which removes you from the natural bucket

Others say that natural simply means being relaxer free and has nothing to do with color application.

You will often hear chants of “heat is the devil” from naturals when it comes to straightening your hair. Not just because of the heat damage involved but because it temporarily alters the curl pattern.

  • you are only considered natural if you wear your hair in its textured, tightly coiled state.
  • heat CAN change your curl pattern which removes you from the natural bucket

Others say that having natural hair is about versatility and having the option to change the look from curly to straight is one of the greatest benefits of being natural.

Using all natural products
Sometimes wearing your hair natural leads you to examine other areas of your life that may benefit from a change. Eating organic foods and becoming physically fit are both examples of this. Choosing to use products only containing natural ingredients is a conceivable next step, particularly if living a green lifestyle is important to you. The use of natural products limits exposure to toxins and harsh chemicals which can be damaging to the hair.

Does larger expense equal better results? Some would say no and that it is not necessary to use all natural ingredients because the associated costs is too high and not worth the expense when you can achieve the same results with non natural or organic products. It is a fact that synthetic chemicals are cheaper than high-quality, natural products, however, the fillers used in many of these products have potential health ramifications.

Sharing hairstories and life experiences from a curl’s perspective. Find Tammy at her blog, Curlychics, on Twitter, and Facebook.

Where do you fall on these issues?
What steps will we need to take to bridge the gap in our community?


  • ChicaRizada94 says:

    I don't care much about the color and heat – the great part about being natural is that you can be flexible with your styles.
    However, I'm soo tired of hearing the constant bashing of silicones (which are actually good for your hair!) and certain sulfates.
    First, the majority of silicones (such as cyclopentasiloxane and cycloheptasiloxane) are water soluble. Meaning that when your hair is wet, they're present. However, once your hair has dried, these water-soluble silicones have disappeared. Non-water soluble silicones like dimethicone don't evaporate when your hair dries. Contrary to popular belief, it does not take harsh cleansers to rinse away dimethicone. Regarding sulfates: there are harsh ones like sodium lauryl sulfate and ammonium xylene sulfonate (used in dishwashing liquid) that do strip your hair of moisture and damage it. But sodium laureth sulfate is a mild cleanser and does NOT strip moisture from your precious tresses.
    Also, I'm not a huge fan of using "natural" products…primarily because I can't afford them (they're a little out of the range of a poor student). Second, I like to buy large quantities of products. Natural products tend to come in smaller bottles. Third, I haven't seen any benefit to using "natural" hair products. The one product I used with a larger amount of natural ingredients irritated my scalp to the point where it went numb and I scratched so much that my scalp was bleeding! Regular conditioners and shampoos like Alberto VO5, TRESemme, Suave, Bioluxe, and Aussie use "bad" ingredients such as silicones and sodium laureth sulfate, and my hair and scalp are happy. Why is it always assumed that just because you use a product with natural ingredients, it's better for you than a drugstore brand hair product? Manmade isn't always bad, and natural isn't always the best (with regard to hair products, especially). I wish more people had at least a rudimentary understanding of organic chemistry or biochemistry. That way, more individuals could evaluate products on their ingredients, and not just the promises written on the bottle.

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't like to be in a box about being natural, but I do I think natural means no relaxer or texturizer.

    THe other do's and don't about colour, cones, sulphates, etc… is too limiting for me. I have my usual go to products – which I keep pretty simple. But I also like to play with different products just to see how my hair might react to them from time to time.

    I think when we limit ourselves it takes away the fun. Life already has enough limits!

  • Sienna40 says:

    Great Article! I'm just finishing up the transition process from relaxed to natural (17 months) so I consider myself a newbie. I thought going natural just meant ditching relaxer. I never thought about the chemicals in styling products or color. I made the silicone mistake. But I quickly kicked the cones and went for low shampooing and cowashing twice a week. I'm avoiding heat now just to keep my curl pattern in check for a year. I may try a roller set but other than that I am anti heat these days. All in all the more I read from other natural women out there (especially 4b's) the more I realize it's all about trial & error & how unique the hair on my head is.

  • Harmony says:

    I appreciate the information shared in this article and within the comments. I'm on the 'no fuss' side of the fence and follow a hair regimen that does not take over my life. Understanding what works best for your hair texture I believe is the key and once that is understood, the battle can cease. I've been natural since 2001 and locked since 2007, gone through various products and discovered less is more.

    On the flip side of the 'product' debate, I am thrilled to witness the emergence of the natural hair care industry and I encourage that we keep this power in the hands of 'our' entrepreneurs. We have the opportunity to represent women of color who celebrate our true nature in contrast to decades of dependency on someone else's hair:/ Let's keep the momentum, push forward, and most importantly, educate our youth about their natural beautiful selves. (we can debate about the small stuff later;)~

    Peace and Love ~ Harmony (the sista in the group photo above to the far right…:)

    Photo Credit: Austin Roberts, Photographer

  • Rockstar says:

    I'm now 22 yrs old and my hair has always been narural. I never really had the interest of relaxing it. i can say that i have not been taking good care of my hair and i'm now interested in doing so. I like curl definition but have been finding it very hard to achieve this with my texture, twist-outs/ braid-outs, nothing really gives me curls. my hair just turns into a fuzzy mess.

    I havnt done much with my hair, honestly and all it does is break but would really love some advice on the products i should buy, bcuz i've been going for the "all – natural" products, a lot of olive oil……lol

    No colour either but i'm not a colour fanatic, i prefer to put in couloured braids than colour my hair….been contemplating it tho

    But i ultimately echo the other posts, it's your hair, do as you want with it

  • Anonymous says:

    I must co-sign Beauti: I will be happy when it's "just hair" and these fine points don't need serious debate. However, I know we have a ways to go before we get there and I'm glad the conversation exists.

    Everything listed above, I've done or used. Some things I'm 99% sure I'll probably never do again (e.g. color) but then again I used to say the same thing about mineral oil-based products and now I have a jar of Blue Magic on my shelf. I stayed away from silicones for years…come to find out they help with curl/coil definition. I was a hardcore Dr. Bronner's user for some time…but when I was going through a product junkie phase I found that only sulfate shampoos gave my hair the type of clean I wanted.

    True freedom came when I finally understood that, especially in the grander scheme of things, it REALLY IS just hair. It doesn't have to have any special meaning attached to it. It's yours and you can do with it whatever you want.

  • hairscapades says:

    I'm with anon @ 11:04. Who says that we have to agree? We're not clones, so I would never expect there to be total agreement from groups of people on anything. It would probably be a pretty boring world if there was.

    Anywho, long story short, I use and do everything that "militant" naturals would say is a no-no (henna, sulfates on occasion, silicones on occasion, curl definining, mineral oil, commercial products). I do what works form me. I haven't straightened in a year though, but I'm planning on a blow out (unless I can get my hair properly stretched without it) in the next month so I can get twists.


  • Anonymous says:

    Great issue to have in this day and age- it means more of us are actually going natural. :)
    I agree with the find what works for you approach. Thank goodness we actually have O P T I O N S (grease, sulfates, heat and all).

    I view being natural simply as not PERMANENTLY (chemically) altering the structure of the hair. The only thing that does that is relaxer (including texturizers) compounds (and, well curly perms, but we ain't going there). :)

    As for me (if anyone REALLY wants to know) . .
    I use henna, a blend of ayurvedic powders, sulfate shampoos (very rarely), no heat, no mineral/petroleum oil, silicones, gel (ecostyler) a variety of oils and conditioners (love lacio lacio, and something called sesbollet-it contains mink oil) and haircutting shears.
    I know I'm not totally "politicurly correct", but I'm not trying to walk around here looking like a dry shrub.

    Live and let curl! Girl!

  • Anonymous says:

    I know two of the girls in the picture being used :)

  • Anonymous says:

    I think each of these talking points are simply a matter of preference for every woman. Here's where I stand.

    Definition- It's one of the reasons I decided to go back to natural in the first place. I started watching YT vids and reading hair blogs, learned about curl definition and decided I wanted it. I'm not against the undefined look (I'm rocking it today!), but I prefer my curls to be defined. I LOVE wash and gos because my natural curls are!

    Mineral Oil- I haven't tried it since going back natural. But I won't put it past me! I've heard it's an excellent sealer.

    Silicones- I'm pro-cone, lol. My fave condish is super coney, love it.

    Sulfates- I use them sparingly, but I'm very cautious when I use them, because I hate that squeaky clean feeling, always did. I prefer ACV rinses.

    Definition of natural – No Relaxer, Texturizer, etc. = natural. Point blank, period. I think this goes for heat and color too. I personally haven't used either, but I might when I'm further along on my journey.

    All Natural Products – All natural products are best, but I don't use them all the time.

    Whew, that was alot. Sorry, I love talking about hair. :)

    -Neesha Cherie

  • honeybrown1976 says:

    1. I like defined curls. That's just me.

    2. I no longer use mineral oil or grease and I try to limit use of silicones and sulphates.

    3. As for color, I henna my hair. So, I'm for it.

    4. As for heat, since I'm almost 18 months into my transition, I haven't used much heat. I think once a month or once every few months is fine.

    Therefore, to me, a natural is someone who is relaxer-free (no perms, relaxers, texturizers, texlaxing, whatever).

    I use both natural and store-bought products. I'm happy.

  • Anonymous says:

    Very informative article…also check out my blog I have a video tutorial inspired by you

  • Anonymous says:

    To me – natural means no chemical relaxer. Heat, color is ok. When I was a loose natural – I loved me some Ms. Jessie's Baby Buttercream. Best double strand twists ever. It has mineral oil but I was like – whatever! I only use sulfate free – shampoos – they don't have to be all natural. I use silicones a bit – especially like the Carol's Daughter Tui Hair smoothie. I used it before as a loose natural and use it about once a month – now that I have locs. I like a lot of the products from Shea Moisture and Qhemet Biologics though because they are all natural.

  • GGmadeit says:

    great article! I love it!

  • Bridget says:

    I believe each natural should have the freedom to choose for herself what products she uses and what she does to her hair. For years we have been told by the mainstream to relax our hair and now we have chosen to go natural inspite of the mainstream views. There ought to be a freedom that comes along with choosing to go natural and not just another set of rules of what we should do with our hair. The natural community would be less divisive if we simply embraced the individuality and freedom of being natural. Each woman having the power to determine her own destiny. No rules necessary!

  • Auset Abena says:

    I have gone back and forth with a few of the things listed, including silicones, sulphates (I used a friend's Elucence MB and considered purchasing), and the use of all natural products. At the end of the day, I ended further up on the end of a cliche' natural. I use all natural products now (well, about 85 to 95 percent all natural), I don't color (never wanted to), don't apply heat (my hair is soooo fine, I'm afraid to even buy a blow dryer), and most likely will not be using mineral oil. But that is just what I'm doing right NOW. Things may change, that's life. I mainly went all natural with my products because my scalp was becoming very easily irritated, and switching to all natural products made a huge difference. I also have some curl definition that I don't seek to define with gel or anything besides a Kimmaytube Leave-In, an ACV rinse, or some aloe vera juice. But again, I think it is about find what is best for you and making a good decision for each of these on your own. I'm happy with my decisions.

  • Beauti says:

    I will be so glad when we as curlies get to a point where we all will just "be" with our hair. As a budding Cosmetologist it's interesting that the non curlies don't have the same issues as we have. They are not tripping when someone has straight hair has color, pointing the finger saying "oh… your not natural" LOL, they just come in for their trim every 6-8 weeks… or not, color… or not and just let their hair "be".
    I do realize that we have a long way to get to this point, and that it will take some time… but it will be nice when we all get there and just being curly, straight or whatever is just.. you know… Hair!

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't think that there needs to be a consensus on theses issues. The only the that I think that we can all agree on is that you are not natural if you have a relaxer or texturizer. For the rest, to each their own. As long as they are satisfied with the health and look of their hair, more power to them.

    I think the consensus that matters is self acceptance, hair care knowledge, and revamping the mainstream image of beauty.

  • Ashley Jane says:

    I'm a pretty lax curly! lol I like to straighten occassionally and as long as you have no relaxer or texturizer in your hair I consider it natural. I don't color my hair,use sulphates or grease, and I use silicones sparingly but not because I think using those things make you "less natural". I don't use permanent dyes because I henna and I was told putting henna over dye is a no no. I stay away from sulphates because I have never ending dry scalp and those only exacerbate the problem. Because I stay away from sulphates I keep away from grease and silicones since sulphates are pretty much the only thing that can rid my hair of those products. I do have a clarifying shampoo though. This is used on the occasional time that I straighten and put silicones on to protect from the heat. But to each their own. Whatever works, works. The only hard line I take in considering someone natural is with relaxers and texturizers.

  • Pecancurls says:

    My mantra has always been "do you." I say do what makes you happy and what works for your lifestyle….if that involves some mineral oil, silicones, color, heat, products that are not 100% natural…then go for it. Who am I to frown upon someone else's habits/practices? I consider "natural" to simply mean not having a relaxer. While I never thought about a "divide," I guess the best way to bridge this one would be to respect what people choose to do with their hair. You may not care to do the same, or even like it, but that does not give you the right to sit in judgment. Keep an open mind and you might just learn something from someone else that might benefit you. I don't mind mineral oil, silicones and I don't buy/use all natural. I do tend to stay away from heat simply because I had a bad experience that left my hair feeling like straw. :)I have never been a big color person, but I do like to admire it on others who can work it. I like to achieve curl definition —but that is just me.

    BTW, the sisters on that picture are all gorgeous.

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