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Curly Nikki

5 Rules of the Natural Hair Community

By January 27th, 202139 Comments
5 Rules of the Natural Hair Community
by Amanda Starghill via NaturallyCurly

I always find myself in a position of informing people that this
unofficial natural curly movement is not about rolling out of the bed
and not doing anything to your hair. As I began to read, watch and
interact with more naturals, I discovered that there is a niche of women
who do just that to their hair, nothing.

In every culture and community there are unwritten rules and
standards. The natural hair community is slowly but surely starting to
build its own as well. Imposing your own standards on others is
undoubtedly wrong, but does that notion still hold true when applied to
an occasion? Are there such things as professional and unprofessional
hairstyles? What is considered formal and what is considered casual?

Is the same measuring stick that is being applied to Solange’s
care-free coils also being applied to Charlotte, who’s a partner at
Jones & Associates Law Firm? Is it because of social reasons? I have
no idea, but I have noticed that we might tell Solange to “do yo
thang,” but give our cousin Portia the side eye because she opted not to
do a flat-twist out for the wedding.

Again, is there a standard? That’s between that person, her tresses
and possibly her employer. But beyond that I have noticed that there are
basic unwritten rules in the hair care community that I must say I am way over.

General Styling

“There is this thing about getting your hair done,” Nicole Ari Parker
said on Melissa Harris-Perry’s “The Politics of Black Hair,” and I can
relate to this notion too well. Because women are so excited to learn,
experiment and share incite from their hair care journeys, whatever has
been identified as the staple or go-to product, technique or style has
become the standard. Is there anything wrong with that? Not at all. Is
there anything wrong with applying that communal standard to others? Um,
yes. I’ve learned from experience that the most intricately styled hair
is not a reflection of health. So leave the sista alone who wants to
rock the big, undefined afro! Ask to touch her hair; it might be softer
than yours.

Curl Definition

I get it, I get it. You want to maintain the water-wave look, but why
react aversely to it when it dries? The gel and pudding police is on
patrol, and if your hair has the slightest trace of frizzyness, run,
because they’re coming full force with the flax seed gel & coconut
oil concoction and it’s about to go down! Some ladies don’t have the
best luck discovering a curl definer that doesn’t leave their hair
crunchy. Even more women could just care less about curl definition. How
your hair reacts to high dew points
can be a reflection of dryness, but it can also be a reminder that you
are no longer relaxed. Don’t mistake the obsession with curl definition
for porous or damaged hair. It’s okay. You just look natural.

Smooth Edges

Constantly trying to lay your edges down will be the death of them.
People always tell me I have a perfect hairline and ask how I maintained
it. Because flat-twist outs
are my staple hairstyles, there’s no need to lay my edges down. Not to
mention I couldn’t care less. I’m natural, and hair that’s less than an
inch (baby hair) is bound to stand up. Do I know how to lay my edges
down for a sleek look? Yes, but it’s definitely not a daily concern.

Professional Hair

Can anyone explain to me what professional hair is? I am completely
lost. I guess our picked-out afro is equivalent to the messy bun that
straight-hair ladies wear effortlessly when they go for a quick run to
the store. Is everything else fair game? Does color matter?

Formal Hair

I’m glad that the instinctive reaction to pull out the pressing comb
for the annual gala is starting to whither. Women are slowly accepting
that they can wear their hair in its curly state instead of
straightening it for formal events. Esperanza Spalding definitely
inspired other women when she rocked her signature picked-out ‘fro at
the 2012 Academy Award. When I went to prom, I saw a few straight haired
ladies who only gave their hair a few passes of the Chi iron, so why
would it matter if I opted to pass on the curling pudding?

Final Thoughts

Everyone has thoughts that run through their minds when they see
something that’s not their cup of tea, but I don’t see the point in
making efforts to hold a public discussion around it. Unfortunately,
society teaches us that we should be concerned with the appearance of
other individiuals and even judge them at a higher standard than we
judge ourselves. Discussing the appearance of others has always been a
hot topic in dull conversation, but maybe next time we should think
twice instead of taking it to the the street (i.e. web).

What is your take on unwritten rules and standards in the
natural curl community? What are your own standards? Does the occasion
dictate the style of your tresses?


  • Luz M says:

    I am trying to live by my own rules but there are a lot of messages about rules that lay deep in the subconscious. I have embraced my curls for the most part and have gone to semi formal events with it styled up using its natural sate but will often think I need to go to the salon and have it straightened. I go back and forth and sometimes feel guilty if I do blow it out It is silly I know. I have learned that I love looking around at the diversity of the may looks and styles and natural textures from strait to curly to coily kinky and they are all beautiful! We just need to go through life's journey and be happy with ourselves the whole person inside and out ever evolving and accepting of others.

  • Kendell says:

    Howard University's new rule about locs and braids only makes me more insistent that we define our own standards for beauty and professionalism. When an HBCU bows down like that, those of us in the real world must revolt and make bold and powerful statements. The powers that be may not like it at first, but they ALWAYS fall in line (except for those disgusting 'pants on the ground,')

  • Qubilah Harden says:

    Personally, it depends on the day. If I'm feeling like being a diva, I go for the jam or seeking products. But otherwise its a co-wash and leave-in w/ a headband or clips day. I was blessed with 3C hair and it doesn't require a whole lot. For moisture, I use a mixture of essential oils. Luckily I have a TWA right now and have learned what works best, so as it grows out I'm more prepared to have a fabulous head of hair for years to come.

  • Tiama Candyraindownonu Johnson says:

    I didn't know my natural hair had rules but i'll make sure i'll try to remember all this when also trying to hold down a complete household and trying to remember to breath….its just hair it should never be that deep….especially when you have women losing hair every day to chemotherapy….ijs

  • Esther Komolafe says:

    I make my own rules

  • Jessica Coletrain says:

    I love to do the different. I'm noticing that more and more of the ladies that I work with are going natural. Soon it will be the norm!

  • JojoFree says:


  • AfroBanger says:

    I'm so glad you posted this piece! I'm a proud afro-wearer, and I tend to get a bit frustrated with all the emphasis on curl definition. It's difficult to find natural or organic hair products that are SPECIFICALLY tailored for afros, that has a good slip and lasting moisturization. Anyhow, we have to learn that like people, everyone's hair is unique, and what may suit the masses doesn't also suit the individual. : )

  • Derika says:

    I agree! Being natural should be accepted just like any other texture of hair!

  • BlueCornmoon says:

    I work in education,too, and am also 50+. I teach in an elementary school with kids from about 30 countries & languages. The black teachers,myself included, wear relaxed & natural hair including me with my 4a KinkyCurly afro,some with locs,twists,twistouts,braids,press & curl, & wigs. No problem with professionalism. The white teachers wear their hair any way they want, they never have these issues. BTW, I wore a HUGE afro back in the 60s & 70s but went to curly perms. There was a lot more hair pride & unity back then & even curly white kids tried to wear afros. The Jewish kids called theirs "Jewfros". There wasn't the meanspiritedness & hateration there is today

  • hunnybun says:

    yh i agree once upon a time i spent upwards of an hour after cleansing etc just defining curls smdh

  • hunnybun says:

    +1000 and amen it's all about propriety

  • hunnybun says:

    I don't view the rules as oppressive the same way persons in the armed forces or other institutions don't. You learn to have a great respect for rules and regulations. On our own time we can feel free to express ourselves any which way we want to but not on company/ school/ the armed force's etc time. I acknowledge that like clothing hair can be inappropriate and it has nothing to do with texture, length, silkiness etc. loud large hairstyles that call attention to themselves are in my opinion inappropriate the same with loudly colored clothing and makeup. but on the weekends it is on!!!!

  • abrunnin says:

    I think your views on "i dont know why we find it hard to believe that our afros and big hair would be frowned upon" come from those rules that were forced upon you "Going to school in the caribbean we weren't allowed big eleborate hairstyles, or colours in our hair and locks had to be covered. I learned from young to just play by the rules." I wont disrespect your background, heritage but I just think it sad to be grown and still "play by the rules" just bc.

  • CurvyCurly says:

    You are correct, rules are self-imposed and imposed by society, especially within certain work cultures and environments. Some people choose to conform if they want their talents recognized or want to get hired for a certain job in corporate America. Actually, many public service jobs such as emergency management workers (police, fire, EMS) have written rules about hairstyles. If a person is not interested in conforming I'm certain they will then patronize places and work in environments that allow them to "be free" and express themselves in any manner they choose with no rules.

  • CurvyCurly says:

    Agreed. We had standards and followed rules while relaxed. Why throw everything out the window and assume rules no longer apply just because we choose wear our hair in it's natural state?
    Excellent point Keisha!

  • CurvyCurly says:


  • CurvyCurly says:

    I agree with "My thoughts". I believe it depends on your work environment and culture. Coming to work with a huge 'fro or dyed bright crayon colors with your power suit on may be frowned upon in certain corporate workplaces. This can and will be a distraction for both co-workers and clients. It's about looking polished and tailored and forcing others to focus on your talents and contributions to your company not your hair.
    On the other hand, some may work in a more relaxed environment where coming to work with whatever hairstyle and/or color you choose would not even cause a stir or second look.
    Of course, natural hair culture has grown tremendously over the years, will continue to grow and inevitably become mainstream. But until then, Solange can wear her hair to "work" anyway she chooses because of the type of work she does (entertainment) however for now, there are still those out there that must conform to a more "professional", polished, or dare I say "tamed" look to keep from being a distraction and looking a hot mess in their power suit.
    Most hair styles have the ability to appear neat and well kempt while the same style on others can look tragic if they are not maintaining it.

  • Adele says:

    I can relate to the article- I know it's because I am 50, but I want a defined curl, and I can get tha with the gel I use. It was an epic fail when I tried to tame my edges, and that baby haithas always been resistant to anything I ever tried. And because I work in education, professionalism is very important. But, my job held a black tie gala, and I am proud to say that I wore my hair natural well defined curls,and received lots of compliments, so little by little things are changing. We have been brain washed so much, that it is hard to change!!!!,

  • AC says:

    If your hair is naturally an afro texture, no it shouldn't be frowned upon…I'm not going to instill that you should change yourself or identity for someone else. Maybe that's okay with some people but it's not okay with me. I loathe straight hair but I don't go around wishing that everyone had curl or body in their hair in order for them to even be around me. Different people accept different things though.

  • MissyMani says:

    I am guilty of obsessing over slick down edges.. idk why but i hate when my hair isnt slicked down in the front.. I can have the most frizzy, undefined, humid ruined it, dusty looking tumble weed bad hair day, afro but i better have them edges slicked down.. smh idk what is wrong with me lol

  • My thoughts says:

    Hmm…. first, it definitely depends on your corporate environment and company culture. But, as a general rule, I think professionalism has mostly to do with the total package and how you put yourself together overall. For example, an afro puff can look very professional on one woman, but look a hot mess another. It has alot to do with maintenance, style and dress. Unfortunately, the hot mess ruins it for all of us…lol. The same can be said for locs and every other hairstyle. I've seen perfectly formed locs that are absolutely stunning and I've also seen locs that look exactly like yak hair.

  • Abstract says:

    This was pretty funny! Not your cousin Portia though?!! LOL. Professionalism has its place. However, when it comes to these topics of curl definition and slick edges, my HONEST opinion is that some people don't really like their own kinks all like that. But, hey that's no secret! Some tightly-coiled ladies are literally obsessed with curl definition. I don't judge them because self acceptance is a journey.

  • Abstract says:

    Yeah, in my opinion, self acceptance can be a journey and the destination is self celebration!

  • jmari says:

    Very truth-stating article.

    As far as the whole "curl-defining" bandwagon, I gave up on that about a good two months ago. I was tired of the constant search to find a product that worked. One of the reasons I went natural was to SAVE money, and spending it trying to find the "perfect product" defeated that purpose.

    When I do twist my hair, I coat my strands with a gel/shea butter mix for some definition when I unravel. Other than that that's it. If it does, it does, if not…..

    Slicked-down edges: Once again, after putting in my mix, if my edges stay smooth, cool, if not….I'm rocking Bantu knots and and a couple of "beady-beads" in the front of my hairline, but I'm not sweating. I also have all of my edges to :-p

    Formal hair: I plan on rocking my natural locks at my wedding next year, so hey…

  • Thetruthisoutthere says:

    Given time, there will no longer be "Professional Hair", and kinky natural hair will be as commonplace as jeans.
    Back in the 1930's-1950's, denim was seen as counterculture too. Now, denim is selling upwards of $300.00 a pair.

    I believe natural hair will be reveled in its exquisiteness soon.

  • Jamila Williams says:

    I do what works for my hair. I do often watch or read about other curlies regimens and appreciate them sharing, but ultimately i dont live by rules or the standards of anyone (except the lord). I do what keeps my hair healthy, and that makes me happy!!

  • Megan M says:

    Oh my goodness the natural hair police = the natural hair nazi's. I do what I like and what best for my hair and also what it likes. I stick to my staple styles the twistout/twist & curl. I heart this style to death. I really never try to slick my edges down they are going to stick up anyways straight or curly. I had a girl come up to me and try to push my edges down when I was in high-school I was annoyed. I keep my edges tamed with water, leave in, and a pomade like Carol's Daughter Mimosa hair honey, light smoothing with a soft brush and my satin scarf then I am done. If I want to go somewhere special I do my twist & curl or a blow out (tension method). But if I want to straighten it I am going to go for it because it is my choice plus I am still going to be natural:)

  • Carla says:

    Rules are guidelines that we self impose or allow societal standards to impose on us. As long as I look and carry myself in a professional manner that I see fit, Im more than less concerned about what others think. What's the purpose in going through the transition process if you're going to impose rules and adhere to societal norms? Isn't being natural in itself going against the grain? My two cents 🙂

  • Alwina Oyewoleturner says:

    It depends on what works for you. A lot of times we place our beliefs and values on others (i've had it happened to me and I'm sure I've done it to others as well). But at the end of the day, it's do you. If you work in a professional setting, play by the rules and if you work in a more casual setting, then be free as you need to be. Love your hair the best way you know how. Curly, undefined afros work for some ladies and not so good for others (waves hand). I'm learning as I walk on this hair journey of mine, it's what works for me. I willing to share what I have learned with others if it can help them, but it is up to them to do works best for their hair. I dare anyone to judge my hair as it is. Thank you for this article!

  • SavanahRae says:

    There's a time and place for everything. Simple.

  • keisha billups says:

    YES!!! This is funny but true. There are many natural hair nazi's out there. When I first began my journey I was soaking up all the info I could get. I thought I could only use this product and had to do this to my hair. I was taking my own products to the salon and telling my stylist she could only use this stuff. LOL. I even went out and got kinky curly at whole foods and spent $70. I dont even use it now!! Thankfully this only lasted a few months. There is a lot of info out there, don't take it to heart or so seriously. As far as professionalism and following rules, we had them when relaxed also. Just use common sense.

  • Andrea Dawn says:

    I always feel a bit uncomfortable when I see the words "rules" and natural hair" in the same sentence. When it comes to natural hair, the only "rule" I follow is my own: to wear my hair however and whenever I choose.

  • Alicia says:

    YES! I'd like to know who made the "rules" also? I have been natural ALL my life and haven't heard of such foolishness until recently when this thing became more popular. The way I choose to wear my hair (I'm more of a "neat" natural) is how I choose to wear it and has nothing to do with rules or anyone else. I can appreciate my sisters wearing big fros and wild hair, but I just choose not to wear my hair like that. I don't impose my hair style preferences on anyone!

  • mzcnnd says:

    Definitely agree with the statements about our reaction to frizz and not having sleek edges. Guilty as charged (raising hand)! Every natural product claims it controls frizz, but isn't our hair naturally frizzy? I mean. Yes we can whip it into submission with an army of products, but what if all we had to work with was clean hair and a little oil (like we did back in the '70s before there was a plethora of natural hair concotions on the market). If we didn't get great curl definition, would that be a horrible thing? Feels like we still haven't quite gotten past our desire for "attractive" hair by someone else's definition. As I've mentioned before in response to the "I Hate My Hair" post, I too wanted smoothy smooth, bouncy ringlets and silky edges, but it wasn't to be. Not without the help of some chemicals, which I swore I wouldn't go near again. I wasn't happy the first time I saw my "real" hair, unhelped by Scurl. I was a little suprised that my thin, soft hair could look so…nappy! But that's my hair. In all in natural glory. After wearing a combination of relaxed and or texturized hair for such a long time, it was sobering to see what I was really dealing with. But I am so aware that years of whitewashing is what has made us so hard on our hair and ourselves. (Even today, the John Frieda commercials drive me crazy with their desire to completely obliterate frizz as if it's the most horrible thing in the world!) I'm just thankful that I have finally come to the realization that our hair is unique and beautiful. A gift God bestowed upon just us. I truly cherish it.

  • LBell says:

    Same here…I think posts like this are purposely designed to stir up readers, and this time I'm only taking a quick nibble at the bait… 😉

  • hunnybun says:

    there is such a thing as professionalism and it applies to everyone not just black men and women and I think the problem is that following the rules aren't instilled early enough so when young adults go from institutions like highschool and college where there are no rules to the working world they don't know how to cope and you get men coming to interviews with jeans sans tie and women who think sexy secretary outfits are the way to go.

    with regards to hair the same way our white co workers are not allowed to dye their hair insane colors and tease it out, create beehives etc and men cant wear mullets I don't know why we find it hard to believe that our afros and big hair would be frowned upon. Going to school in the caribbean we weren't allowed big eleborate hairstyles, or colours in our hair and locks had to be covered. I learned from young to just play by the rules.

  • Miss Anne says:

    Who really makes the rules? I'm an individual and although I'm learning a lot from all the ladies on the online community ('specially CN) and YouTube, I learn most from listening to what my hair is saying and doing the necessary things to keep her happy and looking good. There are good days, great days and bad days. I learn everyday try to reflect a little of me in my hair.

    We style our hair based on how we feel most of the time. And inner happiness shows from your face, to your body to your roots and ends 🙂

  • Davina W. says:

    I go by my own rules, whatever works for me and my hair.

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