This is the first in a six-part series featuring real Black women and their thoughts about their natural hair. Join us each Monday (until the end of February) to celebrate our natural Black hair and ALL that it means in our lives. We hope these stories help you to enjoy a feeling of empowerment about your coily, wavy, or curly hair no matter how you choose to wear it!
My Natural Hair Journey: Patty John’s Story – Learning to Love My Natural Hair
I love my natural hair now. I didn’t always love it and sometimes felt ashamed of it. When I first went natural, I was terrified.
Growing up, I had very long hair and everyone would always compliment my hair. As a darker skin little girl, I internalized that beauty was light skin with long hair.
When I had a perm in my teens, the comments and compliments on my hair continued. People only seemed to notice my long, straight hair.
In my 20s, after years of perming, I noticed my hair was thinning and I followed advice to stop perming it. I got it blow-dried and flat-ironed; the stylist would also trim the permed strands.
Recent CurlyNikki articles on hair damage:
It bothered me that my hair wasn’t straight enough and it was getting shorter. I started to do my own washes instead of leaving it to the stylist and it was a relief to partially do my own hair again.
And when I would go out in a fresh fro to get my hair done, I would notice people staring and I was uncomfortable. I also tried out different hair stylists to straighten my hair. I had some stylists who would complain about how hard my hair was to straighten and that I should go back to a perm…I was frustrated.
When I first went natural, I was terrified… As a darker skin little girl, I internalized that beauty was light skin with long hair.
I decided to do my own blow drying and flat ironing; it was a great learning process. Still, I noticed that my hair wasn’t healthy and I didn’t know what to do. I got some advice from a few family members and friends to go completely natural. I was scared at the thought, but I did it.
At the time, there were very few women wearing natural hair. When I made the change, I received so many hurtful comments and I would often get stares. It felt weird and painful… this is how my hair grows out of my scalp, yet a lot of people were repulsed by it, especially people of color who were also born with a similar hair texture.
There were also people who said my hair was a “throwback” or happily encouraged me to stay natural. There were people who weren’t Black who wanted to touch my hair or ask questions… this was annoying at times.
I kept with the process and tried different styles like wash and gos. I learned about using the right combs and tools. I listened to advice to try this or that product. Most of it was geared towards making my hair look curlier or laid, but it wasn’t growing back, especially the damaged sections. I just wanted my hair to be healthy like it was when I was a kid.
… this is how my hair grows out of my scalp, yet a lot of people were repulsed by it, especially people of color who were also born with a similar hair texture.
Then I started researching and reading more natural hair articles and watching YouTube videos for my texture. I started to learn about using different oils as well as moisturizing methods, protective styling, and more natural products.
I still received negative commentary about my hair and I pushed back more. I was taking control and simply treating my hair and I wasn’t concerned about people’s opinions.
As my hair grew, I learned how to create low manipulation styles like braid-outs, twist-outs, cornrows, flat twists, mini twists, and low puffs. Already knowing how to braid made it easy to learn.
I then experimented briefly with braided updos, box braids, and Marley twists at natural hair salons. I even learned how to create headwrap styles through online tutorials.
Learn about protective styling in these recent articles:
Now, no matter how I choose to wear my hair naturally, I’m proud of it and no one can tell me otherwise. I want other Black women to be confident in wearing their natural hair. The styles that we can create with our own hair are numerous and can be worn anywhere.
We are beautiful and we need to show our society that there’s nothing wrong with Black people’s hair. No one should have to straighten their hair unless it’s a personal choice not based on negative societal pressures or expectations of what’s attractive or professional.
Now, no matter how I choose to wear my hair naturally, I’m proud of it and no one can tell me otherwise. I want other Black women to be confident in wearing their natural hair.
People who aren’t Black do not know about our hair. Some of them have a negative mindset about it because of institutionalized racism and/or they haven’t been accustomed to seeing our hair. The real problem is from our own people and if we remove the stigma that we’ve inherited about our own hair, we will see more change.
And we’re already seeing changes because of the natural hair movement. It’s amazing to see Black women of all ages with natural hair everywhere. It feels like we’re finally loving ourselves as we were created.
It’s also great seeing other women making content, such as articles, videos, and social media posts, to help their fellow sisters. We need to support each other and ask each other questions. I don’t know where I would be without learning what other women have gone through or their process.
There needs to be more content that encourages Black women of all textures. All of our curl patterns are beautiful and we should feel empowered to style our hair in any way.
Find words of encouragement and hair care tips for your natural hair journey:
And, be sure to check our recent feature on an up-and-coming Black-owned hair products company:
Understanding what our hair needs, having positive vibes about our hair, and developing a healthy process eases the journey. Women who choose to chemically process, straighten, or use texture-changing products should be aware of the long-term effects on their hair, scalp, and overall health.
All of our curl patterns are beautiful and we should feel empowered to style our hair in any way.
It’s okay if you want to experiment with styles to alter your hair, but ask yourself why. Ask yourself if you are doing this to be creative or are you doing it because you can’t deal with your hair, don’t want to learn, or you’re listening to naysayers. Let’s be honest about how we view our hair.
Being natural IS for everyone IF they choose and it doesn’t have to be a complex, lengthy process no matter what your texture is. You just have to know what you’re doing and be committed to the health of your hair…it’s just a self-care routine.
I am proud to wear my hair naturally. I enjoy sharing hair advice and educating those who have or don’t have our type of hair. And I hope that my love for my hair inspires others to love their natural crown.
Patty is a writer and editor from New York City. She is the Founder of Perspectiv.words, a group blog website that discusses current events, motivation, social issues, and other topics. You can read more about her here: www.perspectivwords.com/team/patty-john/