Black Women Revealed The Moment They Decided To "Go Natural" After Years Of Relaxing Their Hair, And It Shows The Impact The Natural Hair Movement STILL Has To This Day
The 2000s "natural hair movement" was transformative. For me, I never knew what my natural hair really looked like until college, when I fully began wearing my curls and started seeing more natural hair representation than I'd ever seen in my life. I had never gotten a relaxer, but growing up, I wore my hair in braids, and by middle school, I always flat-ironed it. And I wasn't the only one; for many Black women, straight hair often seemed like the only "acceptable" choice.
European beauty standards, racism, and discrimination in the workplace, media, schools, and other settings made having textured hair never seem like an option. While the natural hair movement has origins in the 1960s during the Civil Rights movement, this new era made a big impact on social media. More natural hair content circulated online as YouTubers and bloggers shared their journeys and advice. People felt less obligated to straighten their hair with heat or chemicals, some decided to get the "big chop," (cutting off their relaxed hair all at once), and others grew out their hair and trimmed off relaxed ends over time. More and more Black women were embracing their natural hair — a lot of them for the first time in their lives. And many are continuing to do so.
So, we recently asked the Black women of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us what made them decide to go natural, and what they've been loving about their journey. Here are their stories:
And remember: There's NO shame here. Whether you wear your hair natural or relaxed, you're free to choose whatever works for you.
1."I went most of my life hating my natural hair and not knowing what to do with it. I finally decided to give it a go, and it has been a journey! However, my curl pattern has completely changed. My hair has never been this healthy and long (I have a ton of shrinkage!). I have fully embraced and love my natural hair. No regrets here."
2."I went natural because I permed my hair, and it began to fall out. That had never happened before, and I had to make a decision for the health of my crown! It also caused me to reflect on why I was doing it in the first place. Who said there was anything wrong with my hair? That question has caused me to do self-reflection, appreciate my natural state, and dig deep into who I am."
"I am excited to loc my hair when it grows out. Another journey of 'self love' ❤️."
3."My HBCU had a swimming requirement to graduate, and I had another class right after. I’d wrap my hair in Saran Wrap under the swim cap to keep out as much water, but the combo of regular relaxers and daily swimming (with no immediate rinse-out) absolutely destroyed my hair. I did a big chop a few months after graduation (10 years ago) and have never been happier with my hair. My mom first put a relaxer in my hair when I was 2; I hadn’t known my real texture until my adult life, and it’s gorgeous."
"It’s healthier, longer, and stronger than it ever was with a relaxer, and I used to think it was so long and healthy with a relaxer 🥴. I’d never get another relaxer, and I save so much money on hair care."
4."Bre from Cycle 5 of ANTM. I was MESMERIZED by her hair and wanted to see if my hair possibly look like hers if I went natural. It didn’t. HOWEVER, after learning how to take care of my hair and learning to love how it naturally grows from my scalp, it's been a fun (although tiring and sometimes frustrating) journey. I went natural for about three years after college, and then again once my daughter turned 3."
"It’s been nine years now, and I can’t imagine my hair any other way now."
every day thinking about bre scullark
5."I've had relaxers in my hair since I was little and ALWAYS dreaded the process, but I was always somewhat self-conscious without one. Then, at the end of 2019, I saw videos on the internet of people doing their big chops and growing out their natural hair, so I got inspired to let my hair grow naturally. It was my 2020 New Year's resolution actually! So, I grew it out for three months before doing my big chop in March of 2020. The natural hair movement was so freaking empowering and came at the perfect time as well! I don't think I would have had as much motivation to continue being natural if it wasn't for the movement."
"Plus, I felt connected as I thought I was the only one who relaxed and straightened their hair for years. I cut my hair again in February of 2021, and it grew even more! I'm still learning how to do my hair since I grew up thinking that my hair was 'bad,' and I'm still learning about what my hair needs because of neglecting its beauty for so long! Also, I LOVE my afro! My hair is so beautiful and gives me so much confidence! I've loved every second of my hair journey, and I cant wait to see what happens in the future."
6."I went natural because I wanted to see what it was like to have my own natural texture. I have been off and on with natural hair for over 10 years, and I noticed my hair is the healthiest when I am natural. Additionally, when I found out I was pregnant in 2021, I was diagnosed with several uterine fibroids. The link between fibroids and relaxers is documented, so I will probably never relax my or my daughter's hair in the future."
7."My daughters didn't want to straighten their hair. They were roughly 16 and 14 years old. I decided to join them. They are now 26 and 24 years old, and still not perming. We bleach and color our hair from time to time, but we keep our natural curl pattern. For me, I love the freedom. My afro, my choice ❤️."
8."I went natural because I hated all the time and money spent at the salon on weekends. I struggled for about a year (people made me feel insecure about going natural as a new doctor) before I had my last relaxer. I loved the big chop because of how LIBERATING it was, and then, I got to learn my hair as it grew."
"Eventually, it got too consuming for me, and I decided to go back to chemicals. I miss my curls, but I don't miss how my hair became a burden once again. I had my first relaxer in 2003, big chopped 2013, and I've gotten texlaxed since 2021."
9."I’m mixed. People would constantly corner me and ask me 'what' I was. I started using relaxers around the second grade, and a few years later, a group of girls I’d considered my friends told me I needed to keep my hair straight if I wanted to be popular. I still remember picking off scabs the chemicals would leave on my scalp. When I was 22, I dated a guy who gradually revealed his raging racism AFTER I told him I was half Black. He compared my sister’s natural curls to pubic hair. When I dumped him, I decided to go natural. Appealing to Euro-centric standards just to fit in and feel wanted wasn’t worth it anymore."
10."I was given perms when I was younger, and when I was older, I continued to get them. Then, I had a child. And for all the effort, my hair always looked the same — there was nothing distinctive about it. I let my hair grow out and chopped it off after a few months. My kid saw me and said, 'Mommy…you have new hair!' I’ve gotten more compliments with my curly, frizzy fro than I ever got with perms. I’m effortlessly me, and my character shines through."
11."I began to notice my own hair after each time I had braids or crochet braids removed. I liked having access to my own scalp and hair. It felt good. I began to think of how we are the only humans 'required' to straighten or cover our hair. I decided to be free of that nonsense and embrace what God has given me that grows toward heaven! I straighten my hair sometimes, once a year, just for kicks. But I will never feel ashamed, deny, or get tired of my hair. I find it hard to keep my hands out of it after over 25 years without relaxing it!"
12."I've been natural my whole life, despite begging for a perm when I was a child. Luckily, my mom always said no. Now that I'm an adult and actually have the choice, my choice is no. I finally realize how beautiful my natural hair is, despite the world constantly telling me otherwise. My big natural hair is a gift — it took me 22 years to find that out for myself, but I'm so happy a perm has never touched my head and never will. Thanks, Mom ❤️."
13."Six years ago, I looked in the mirror, and my hair was two very different lengths. After chemically straightening it since I was in elementary school, dye jobs of every color, and all the heating tools, my hair was finally at its breaking point. That night, I shaved my head, vowing to never let heat or chemicals touch my hair ever again. It took a while for it to grow back, but corkscrew curls eventually sprang up. My hair hadn't done that since I was a child. So, I let it grow. I feel proud whenever I look in the mirror at my healthy head of curls."
"I wasted so many years trying to live up to some standard that was impossible for my hair — all because I didn't know that my hair was special or that there were hair products just for me. I will not make that mistake again."
14."I had relaxers for a while, but I thought they were inconvenient and never left my hair in a state that was any easier to style. I spent just as much time on my hair every week, so I didn't see the point. Plus, I like the versatility of being natural. Everything I can do relaxed, I can do natural. BUT not everything I can do as a natural can be done on relaxed hair."
15."In sixth grade, I started getting perms, and I hated it. The burning/scabbing of my scalp no matter how much I wouldn't scratch or touch it, the having to wrap my hair every day, the constant having to do my hair. I disliked the whole process, but as a kid, I always enjoyed having long hair, and even with perms, my hair was still long — I just didn't enjoy the process. So, I told myself whenever I get older, I'm gonna get the 'Jill Scott.' The Jill Scott was what I would call my hairstyles before the perms, and my mom would do cute ponytails with bows and rubber bands. So, with Jill Scott in mind and growing older into myself as a 'rebellious teenager,' I would beg my mom to let me go natural. My mom was all for perms because I had very long, thick hair, and it made my hair more 'manageable.' I didn't care about any of that."
16."I went natural so I could learn how to do my own hair. I was an avid 'go to the salon every two weeks for a press and get my relaxer every six weeks.' Also, for health reasons as relaxers are linked to cancer and other health issues."
17."I'm busy with work and kids, and man, I rock the hell out of a short and curly look, so I just chopped it all off. And every four weeks, I cut it down again. I am not hair!"
18."I gave up relaxers seven years ago. It allowed me to stop feeling like I had to conform to a European standard of professionalism and beauty. I love seeing so many of us wearing out natural hair unapologetically."
19."I went natural because I couldn't go to the salon at the beginning of the COVID lockdown. When I noticed how much money I was saving, there was no turning back. I'm three years in. I still feel like I have no clue what I'm doing, but my hair is growing, so I must be doing something right."
20."I was in the 7th grade, and I had a teacher who had short, silver finger waves. I asked her if I could do it, and she encouraged me, saying she'd let my mom know the products to buy, but she thought I'd look better with an afro. That day, I went home and stood before my mother. I told her I don't want any more relaxers."
"I'm 24 now, and I've only had one since. Then, I shaved it maybe three weeks later and rocked it."
21."I went natural in 1997. Back then, the products on the market made it challenging. I went back to relaxers for my wedding in '98 because it was easier, and as soon as it was over, I chopped all my hair off. My original reason was that I wanted to be natural. I had heard somewhere that God made us beautifully just the way he wanted us — that I didn’t need to relax or correct anything. I wanted to represent that."
"I can’t say the journey has been easy, but I’ve never considered going back. My fondest memories were in the early 2000s when brothers would give compliments like, 'I love your wool, sister' and 'Your fro makes me smile.'"
22."I went natural over 20 years ago in undergrad. I preferred wearing a wash 'n' go texture, even with a relaxer — but was nervous about a big chop until a 'life event' happened. When my father and ex-stepmother got divorced, I got a symbolic celebratory haircut. When I was 9, my dad asked her to relax my hair without my mother’s (or my) consent. He wanted it to be easier to manage while I lived with him. I got sick of the chemical burns, roller sets, curling irons, etc."
"I went back and forth a couple times with a texturizer and a second big chop; but it’s been over a decade since then, and I LOVE how free it feels to just let it grow how it grows."
23."I started going natural about four or five years ago in high school. I had been getting relaxers frequently from elementary to early high school. I never liked doing my hair because I am very tender headed, so it became so damaged that I had to cut about four inches of split ends off up to my ear going into 10th grade. Every now and then, I’d get box braids during the summer; one summer, I decided to just start keeping my braids in for the year. After a while, I became so in love with my box braids that I decided to start growing out my natural hair while keeping a protective hairstyle. I was terrified of a big chop! I had a really amazing hairdresser that would just do small trims whenever I washed my hair. Now, these last three years, I have been falling more in love with my hair and the culture that it connects me to."
"I’ve still been getting box braids or a blowout (and the occasional silk press because hang time, baby!) because my hair is very intimidating, but I'm still learning how to take care of it. The joy I get seeing my curls in the mirror makes me regret I didn’t start my journey earlier!"
24."My hair was so damaged in the back, and I had really bad dandruff. I tried all the shampoos that were supposed to be for dandruff, and nothing was working. And at the time, all the natural hair videos that showed how to go natural made me think I could do it. I will never go back to relaxing my hair. And I'm not judging anyone who relaxes their hair — we are all individuals, and we make the best decisions for our personal lives."
25."I went natural because I got tried of having to flat iron my hair to avoid a 'bad hair day.' Because the styles are simpler, and it doesn’t smell like burnt hair. I cut all my perm out 16 years ago, and now, my hair has its natural wave and is as long as it was when it was permed."
26."I've always had long hair. However, when I turned 22, my hair started breaking off due to the last nine years of perms. I asked my then-hairstylist for a trim…which turned out to be a cut up to my ears. At that point, I said screw it and just decided not to go back since they're expensive. My hair never looked so good, and I never felt as pretty as I do now since I've gone natural."
27."It was 2005, I was in high school, and the natural hair movement didn’t begin yet. I got my hair permed in second grade, even though all of my heroes growing up had curly hair: Hilary Banks, Scary Spice (Mel B), and Freddie and Whitley from A Different World. I went natural because I wanted my hair to be healthy."
28."I lost hair to cancer and never looked back. I finally forced myself to stop past attempts at assimilation. I refused to grow my hair out again and love my newfound freedom from relaxers and bi-monthly trips to the salon."
29."It started out by choosing my hair's health over other people's opinions and being tired of spending money on straightening my hair. Now, I feel much more comfortable wearing my natural."
30."My hair just would not grow beyond a certain length with relaxer and heat. It's been about 10 years now. I still don't have super long hair, but it's muuuuuuuuuuch longer than it ever was when I used to straighten, blow dry, and flatiron it."
31."I wanted to love myself more! I had been getting a relaxer for so long, and it was starting to break off my hair, and my confidence was low. I love being natural now because I feel like I have so much more versatility, and I feel way more confident than I ever did with a relaxer."
32."I just got tired of getting perms. I went natural before it was trendy, but I was still pressing my hair. When the wash 'n' go started becoming trendy, I stopped pressing and got on that trend. Now, I just wear my hair in an afro. My hair journey has been based on me getting tired of doing anything to it as my hair grows to my mid-back."
33."I did the big chop in 2019, at age 48. It was THE most freeing moment of my life. I was tired of relaxers and braids. I never wore weave. My hair has grown like crazy, even in a dry place like Colorado, and it's never been stronger. I feel fabulous all the time. Wish I had done it sooner."
34."I'm turning 50 this year and have had a buzz cut for years. I wanted to grow my hair and embrace my afro complete with grey hairs!"
35."I went natural originally so I could color my hair without too much damage. I had watched people relax and color their hair, and it fell out. I then realized that perms really weren't doing anything to my thick hair but making it have less frizz. Even after using a full jar of super perm, I still had wavy hair. I'm glad there are more products now because when I started, there wasn't. I've been relaxer free for 18 years."
36."I went natural at the age of 51, and it's the best thing that I have ever done. Until I went natural, I had no idea what my natural hair looked like. My hair had been pressed or relaxed for as long as I can remember; I had no idea that I had a natural curl pattern. Now, I feel like I have more control over the products and ingredients that go into my hair. I rarely ever use heat, and I'm a wash 'n' go girl. So, the time that I save on my hair can’t be measured. My hair and my spirit feel lighter, letting my hair grow naturally out of my head. I only regret not understanding natural hair growth until so late in life."
"I’ve wasted too much time and money believing that my natural hair would take away from my beauty, when what it actually does is enhance my natural beauty."
OK, I'm loving all these stories. If you're on a natural hair journey, what made you decide to go natural? Let me know in the comments below!
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.