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The great straightening debate

Avatar • May 4, 2010

I’ve learned recently that straightening is a very contentious issue among naturals. Some see it as increasing their styling options. Others see it as selling out/trying to look relaxed.

What’s your opinion?

BTW, this question was inspired by a discussion on the BGLH Facebook page.

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KMN
KMN
10 years ago

Well I’ve been a natural for almost ten years and when I first started out I straightened got heat damage and refused to do it again *except for blow outs* I now have locs and prefer that BUT for those who wish to straighten…let them…my opposition isn’t going to necessarily change their minds. All we can do is say this is what it can do to your hair anda then they have the option to press or not to press. I’ve got enough problems keeping my hair healthy and my daughter’s… It ain’t my style but it ain’t my right to… Read more »

KMN
KMN
10 years ago

I hope I’m not double posting…I lost my last post but basically it’s not my right to say why someone is doing something as long as they aren’t trying to get me to do it. I have enough problems trying to keep me and my daughter’s hair beautiful and healthy…I don’t have time to worry about someone elses…like they say if you like it I love it.
All I can do is educate but its up to the individual to use my words to help them the best…and i think some of the straight styles are cute…just not on me

KMN

Adriene
Adriene
10 years ago

I straighten my hair once every six months, in order for me to get a good trim on my ends! 🙂 I do not do it as a styling option. However, I think its an added benefit of the versatility of natural hair…you can wear it straight, curly, twist, braids…everything!

Michelle
Michelle
10 years ago

I’ve been natural since last November and it’s my first time being completely natural since age 8, and I will be 32! I wish that I would have done it along time ago. I think that a woman should be able to style her hair anyway that she wants, but what is worse is feeling as though you HAVE to straighten your hair. Once the stigma of wearing your hair the way it grows out your head naturally is no longer relevant..then whatever a woman decides to do with her hair will no longer be a big deal.

Afrika
10 years ago

Interesting topic. Well, I’m a guy so I don’t straighten my hair or anything like that. However, I don’t think women who straighten their hair are “sell outs. I think variety is the spice of life so I think it’s normal for some women to straighten their hair sometimes. As long as you love and appreciate your natural hair, I don’t think there’s a problem.

Loo
Loo
10 years ago

I think both reasons exist — for increased styling options or to achieve the relaxed look. It just depends on which straightened natural chick you’re asking. Each person’s reasons vary. It wouldn’t be fair to place all naturals who straighten into one category. The (very) few times that I’ve straightened my natural hair were for increased styling options … whether to get a sleeker, lengthier twist set or to rock a smooth stretched ponytail. Our hair is so versatile so why limit it to the shrunken fro. It can be stretched, straightened, twisted, braided, etc. My discomfort lies in when… Read more »

julia
10 years ago

I’ve been loose and natural, then had locs for 7 years — that I recently just chopped. So I’m working with a twa right now that is barely long enough to grab let alone straighten. That said, straightening — when my hair was loose and natural back in college, was just something I did on rare occasions to try out a different style or ‘do. If people made other assumptions about WHY, well, I don’t have time to challenge everyone assumptions on everything I do — none of us do. If people are straightening their hair so that it looks relaxed… Read more »

Jc
Jc
10 years ago

I agree with Loo, Afrika, Michelle, Adriene and KMN (probably others too but I have listed the comments than I can see now!) so I won’t repeat. Here is another twist, the less curly the hair, the easier it is to straighten. Some naturals know that in order to get their hair perfectly straight, they would have to use high heat and risk (if you want to call a certainty a risk) damaging their hair. I really do not think everyone can get their hair perfectly straight (i.e a relaxed look), it depends on texture. I also think that heat… Read more »

afrique68
afrique68
10 years ago

I have never had a perm but presssed my hair pretty frequently until 2008. Wearing our hair straightened is indeed just another styling option. I agree with Loo that chemically altering our texture is where it gets tricky because some are doing it as there only option to look acceptable or beautiful. Let’s just embrace and encourage a strong sense of self and identity as people of color no matter how we wear OUR hair. Smile.

Bee Michelle
10 years ago

I’ve straightened my hair QUITE a few times since I’ve been natural and I don’t see what the big debate is.(I’ve even had weaves- both straight & extremely curly) Even if I were wanting to achieve the “relaxed look” why would that be such a bad thing? I didn’t know that once I became natural I’d be inducted into a club that looked down upon those who had relaxers or who had straightened natural hair. I feel like I’m stuck in the middle. I like straightening my hair. I like rocking my fro. Am I not allowed to like both?… Read more »

Boogie
Boogie
8 years ago
Reply to  Bee Michelle

You said it best!!

Tanya
Tanya
10 years ago

People read way too much into natural hair. Why is it “selling out” to want to change your hairstyle? I have natural hair, but I’ve also had short relaxed hair, long relaxed hair, bald head, and fro, and they’ve all simply been hairstyles. I’m not natural because of any societal or political belief or anything like that. I just like my hair the way it is. I’ll probably flat iron at some point to switch things up and I reject any notion that it’s done out of some kind of self hate. We shouldn’t judge people because of their choice… Read more »

Gisele
Gisele
10 years ago

I ‘straighten’ by rollersetting each week and my hair usually looks as straight as when it was relaxed. I prefer the ease of maintaining it like this and the fact that I seem to lose less hairs when combing/brushing it in that state. But poker straight hair (use of heat) isn’t worth the damaged ends.

target queen
10 years ago

its your hair, style it the way you want to..Im really tired of Natural Hair nazis giving women a guilt trip cuz they want a cute straight style. I dont like the way straight hair looks on me, but if another woman likes to wear a straight style why should I care?

Eryana
Eryana
10 years ago

You know, I dont know how or why people feel as if it is their place or duty to regulate or police what anyone else does with their hair, their life, their body, whatever. Selling out is not something external, it is a mindstate. Since none of us can read anyone else’s mind, we don’t know whether they are selling out or not, and honestly, even if they are that is none of anyone’s concern. Simply choosing to straighten your hair once in a while does not automatically mean you are selling out, nor is it even that serious of… Read more »

thepegster01
thepegster01
10 years ago

do you boo!

ANONYMOUS
ANONYMOUS
10 years ago

WHY IS THIS EVEN AN ISSUE…LIVE AND LET LIVE WHY DO WE HAVE TO CRITICIZE EVERY DECISION A BLACK WOMAN MAKES.….STRAIGHTENING IS NOT PERMANENT ITS JUST ANOTHER OPTION…LET NOT PUT EACH OTHER IN A BOX.

ANONYMOUS
ANONYMOUS
10 years ago

@thepegster.…took the words right out my mouth @ ERYANA…I AGREE WHY IS THIS EVEN AN ISSUE.…THERE IS SO MUCH OTHER TOPICS AND INTERESTING THINGS TO LEARN AND BLOG ABOUT.…WE ARE OUR BIGGEST ENEMIES ALWAYS POINTING FINGERS AND DIAGNOSING EACH OTHER WHEN IF WE PUT THAT MUCH EMPHASIS ON OURSELVES ALOT OF US WOULD GET ALONG MUCH BETTER WITH EACH OTHER ..ARE WE THE ONLY RACE OF WOMEN THAT JUDGE EACH OTHER ON THE HAIR STYLES OR SKIN CHOICES WE MAKE…THE ONLY WOMEN THAT FEEL THE NEED TO TELL EACH OTHER HOW TO WEAR OUR HAIR ITS BAD ENOUGH SOCIETY DICTATES THE… Read more »

regalfro-ness
regalfro-ness
10 years ago

Me personally, I dont straigten my hair. I try not to use heat on it, because it can be damaging. I have done it twice before, once for a blow out, and once when I got box braids done. I dont straigten it cause I find straight hair to be boring, I love my coils and curls!! Plus I have had relaxed hair from age 5 to 18, I went to natural to have something new! So I rarely rarely straighten it. But to each their own, everybody likes what they like. Some people like locs, some people like free… Read more »

Kathryn
Kathryn
10 years ago

For me straightening your hair is okay as long as it’s a style, not a LIFEstyle.

Kels
Kels
10 years ago

I went natural because I wanted to grow my hair out and I wanted it strong and healthy. I also went natural because I had gone organic and no longer wanted to put dangerous chemicals on my scalp every 8 weeks.

I am not against pressing my hair. It’s something I’ve only done about 3 times a year, because I don’t want to risk heat damage. But I see pressing as just another option that comes with the versatility of natural hair.

For me, natural is about being against chemicals.

Anon
Anon
10 years ago

I agree with target queen. The natural nazis seem to be seeking validation by criticizing the hair choices of other women. It seems like overcompensating to me… Unfortunately not everyone understands that the “natural movement” is about freedom of choice more than anything.

And “Amen” to Tanya… it’s not a political statement… “I just like my hair the way it is!” A woman’s politics may change throughout her life… self-love is way more enduring…

Tonya
10 years ago

Ooh, I think I love the quote Kathryn just put out there. “Straightening is a style, not a lifestyle.” Wow. I’ve only been natural for 7 months — and in that time I’ve gotten it “blown out” to trim my ends. The other day my friend blew out my 3 year old daughters hair to give her a good trim — and I was a little sad seeing it done. I can’t explain why really, it was just so long and so straight and I love her curls, I don’t want her to covet long straight hair. She really needed… Read more »

Anon
Anon
10 years ago

A few years back frequent straightening totally killed my hair, though. Ewww– it was a stringy mess and I’m still trimming off damaged ends. I’m not opposed to straightening my own hair every now and then, but it’s not really important to me. It’s not as bold of a look for me and requires too much effort with not so much pay off. Achieving a super straight look is out of the question. If I’m going to venture into straightening territory, I’m perfectly happy with semi-straight, big hair styled using a blow dryer on a cool setting and a curling… Read more »

Channelle
Channelle
10 years ago

I’ve been natural since October 09 and have yet to straighten my hair. I chose not to straighten all through my transition as well because I feared heat damage. I have 4a/b hair and a whole lot of it… not only would it take an extra load of damaging heat to actually get my already more fragile hair type straight but it would take more time than I’m willing to put into it. I don’t have any desire to straighten my hair, I love kinky, curly, coily hair. I’ll stretch it out when I want to show length but heat… Read more »

AMarie
10 years ago

I didn’t think this was an issue. I don’t use heat or chemicals, and that’s my choice.

Bozzly
Bozzly
10 years ago

People have different reasons for pressing/straightening natural hair. I think most people agree that there is nothing wrong with straightening for length checks, trimming and occasional style changes. It’s when it is not for those purposes that the natural community really disagree on when it’s ok to straighten. While it’s no big deal to me, I do think people take issue with the naturals that straighten for the following reasons: -people who say they are transitioning using a flat iron to ‘tame’ new growth. Maybe because these ones will usually go back to relaxing anyway. - Naturals who are 99–100%… Read more »

Randomness
Randomness
10 years ago

lol so many people getting passionate about straightening hair, even though the majority (if not all comments) don’t care either way. My hair is relaxed but from what I can see there aren’t any naturals on this board claiming that straightening hair is bad so maybe it’s a stereotype that we have created of the girl with natural hair as being militant about not having straight hair when clearly most do not care. I absolutely enjoyed reading the comments in caps, lool.

Sweet Bonita
10 years ago

i agreet with JC. i think straightening the hair several times can be MUCH worse for your hair than relaxing. the relaxer only touches natural hair once and should technically never touch that same area of hair again. the chemical process can be harsh, but if used correctely, it might also be fine and many relaxed ladies have long, healthy hair. on the reverse, if you consistantly use a high level of heat on the same hair, several times to get it straight, it would weaken that hair and alter it on a level you can not see with the… Read more »

DaliSalvadorAde
DaliSalvadorAde
10 years ago

I believe straightening your hair as a natural is a definite style option…and it is a nice, and pretty alternative to having your hair in curly styles. However, personally, I know that I would opt out for straightening my hair. I’m too scared of the amount of heat it would require and straight hair has never suited me…so I’ll just stick to my kinky, fluffy hair. lol.

LBell
LBell
10 years ago

Many good points have been made but ultimately I think Michelle hit the nail on the head with this: “I think that a woman should be able to style her hair anyway that she wants, but what is worse is feeling as though you HAVE to straighten your hair. Once the stigma of wearing your hair the way it grows out your head naturally is no longer relevant..then whatever a woman decides to do with her hair will no longer be a big deal.” This, to me, is the real issue behind straightening. All the PC “do you” and “why is this… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
10 years ago

I don’t have a problem with other people straightening. I just know that I really can’t because it would lead to irreversible heat damage.

kinks225
kinks225
10 years ago

I feel the majority of naturals are open minded its the handful of the hardliners who make the rest of us look bad. Most of us want to empower our sisters when we see their kitchen broke off from too much relaxing or heat so we’re passionate when we share how we were once in their shoes but we’ve now embraced our natural texture and are reaping the benefits. If a grown woman wants to straighten her natural hair then let that grown woman do whatever she wants to do with her hair. I straighten my hair every once in… Read more »

Xayide
10 years ago

Straightening in and of itself is not an issue to me. I have locs but even when I had loose natural hair I rarely straightened it to avoid heat damage.

My concern is with the idea that you can be natural but you must straighten your hair when you need to look professional or for formal occasions to make your hair look better.

Ambrosia
Ambrosia
10 years ago

Wow. I didn’t know people felt that strongly about this issue. I agree that no one should feel that they ”have” to do anything. You don’t have to relax or temporarily straighten your hair with heat but you don’t have to wear you hair curly all the time either. It’s up to the individual to investigate their own motives for why they do what they do. But no one should feel pressured to do anything other that what they want to with their own hair.

trackback

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Black Girl Long Hair. Black Girl Long Hair said: late updates to BGLH: what’s your stance on straightening #naturalhair? http://bglhonline.com/2010/05/the-great-straightening-debate/ […]

Alexis
Alexis
10 years ago

I don’t straighten…I have no interest in damaging my hair just to achieve a style especially since I’m trying to grow my hair long. I don’t care if other people straighten, it’s their head and their prerogative.

I don’t understand why people need to straighten or blow dry just to trim. Hair can be trimmed just fine wet or curly and dry.

BuenaventuraAvenu
BuenaventuraAvenu
10 years ago

If heat damage waesn’t a real threat, I would go for the relaxed look occasionally in the winter. But since I refuse to risk heat damage I’ll gladly stay stick to my natural texture.

: I don’t understand either. If you don’t wear your hair straight on a regular basis, why does it have to be straight to trim?

Whitney
Whitney
10 years ago

All of you have great points and ideas on this subject. When you get right down to the heart of the issue, it’s a personal choice, but I do agree with Bozzly. There is a difference between naturals that wear their texture hair most of the time versus naturals that wear their hair straight all the time. Personally, I don’t use any heat on my hair because I don’t want to subject it to damage that can be irreversible. When I graduate in two weeks and go to my medical school interviews, I will be wearing my naturally textured hair.… Read more »

Kinkylee
Kinkylee
10 years ago

and Buena — If you are type 4 you are not going to get an even trim with unstraightened hair which means you’ll end up with different lengths of hair and uneven styles i.e twists etc. Imagine wanting to put your hair back but one side is shorter than the next? Not everyone is 3c etc with hair that is easily cut wet or dry. Dry cutting on coily hair is not an exact science and greatly uneven hair from one of these cuts is not cute on afro textured hair.

Stacy
Stacy
10 years ago

Who cares?! Worry about the hair growing out your own head and let that other sisters work it the way she likes. Jeesh.

DM
DM
10 years ago

I address this very topic on my blog. Here is the post: http://nurturingmynewhair.blogspot.com/2010/04/push-to-be-natural-is-it-fair.html

BuenaventuraAvenue
BuenaventuraAvenue
10 years ago

Kinkylee, I see your point. I have type 4 hair that I trim when curly (damp or dry) but I must admit I don’t trim often nor do I worry about accuracy. So far I haven’t had any mishaps. I’ve also seen Blackonyx77 on youtube trim her hair curly and dry in really large sections with even results.

Freda
Freda
10 years ago

I straighten my hair every 4 months or so when I trim it. I have 4a/b hair and since I’m not a trained stylist it’s easier to see the ends when straight. It’s a lot of work to protect it while straightening which is why I only do it a couple times a year. I like my hair both curly and straight and I love the variety although I can’t deny the freedom when wearing it curly is like no other!

Ari Lourdes
10 years ago

I enjoy plenty of styling options without straightening my hair at all. I’ve been rocking it curly/fro’d out for over three years without ever straightening it 🙂

However.
I don’t knock women that do. Beautiful hair is healthy hair. And I’ve found that one of the best ways to maintain the health and body of our hair is to roller set it and then flat iron/curl the hair with a ceramic iron instead of blow-drying it wet.

If I ever straighten my hair I will try this out. They do it at a lot of Dominican salons…

LaLa
LaLa
9 years ago

saying: “It’s my hair and I’ll style it however I darn well please”…would be rather rude…wouldn’t it?

dawn
dawn
8 years ago

wow. late here. but for the most part, with a few monthly exceptions, you might describe me as being closer to one of those naturals that straighten most of the time. but i do it for a reason that hasn’t been listed here: it actually cuts down on detangling for me. i virtually have no detangling issues when it is straight. so the beauty of it is that i can go for longer without having to comb my hair- a whole week, perhaps- and not hafta suffer at the end of the week for not having touched it with a… Read more »

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