Going Natural: My Hair Journey in College

I spent the first eight years of my life being natural. By natural, I mean no chemicals, dyes or strong treatments has ever touched my hair. I also grew up “tender-headed,” so the comb running through my thick hair was excruciating - sounds dramatic but my scalp is sensitive - and the pulling involved in the detangling process was no joke. This frustrated my mom, who spent that time detangling and styling my hair. She decided it was time for me to get a relaxer. A relaxer is a hair treatment, commonly used among black women, that involves strong chemicals loosening my curls in order to leave my hair pin-straight for an extended amount of time. As a result, my mom was able to save time and reduce the stress of my wash day routine and daily styles.

At first, I thought the relaxer was an ally. My hair stretched and almost reached my back within a couple of years. What I hadn’t anticipated was the breakage my hair would endure soon after. It was a tough process for me to maintain my relaxed hair, and if I had missed a hair appointment - well, then good luck! As my hair got shorter and shorter, I started exploring different protective styles such as braids, twists and extensions. The beauty of black hair is the ability to adapt and change styles every so often, but what I had to keep in mind was to let my hair breathe at some points to allow for growth and to heal the breakage.

Upon entering college, I had still been relaxing my hair and during my first summer semester, I decided I wanted extensions with minimal leave out (some of my real hair still being visible). I continued to relax my hair because I needed it to match the texture of my extensions. Eventually, I came to terms that I didn’t have the best understanding of how to keep my hair healthy and promote growth. My mom has a completely different hair texture and it was hard for her at times to style my hair since she had never dealt with it before.

My confidence had begun to dwindle as I felt increasingly less connected to the hair on my very head. My roommate would try to help me since we had similar hair textures, but I still felt clueless. On campus, a girl I often crossed paths with caught my eye because of how neat her natural hairstyles looked. It was empowering to see a woman with similar hair texture embrace her natural hair and seem so radiant with it. I approached her at some point to ask her how she went natural and what her journey looked like. Something I deemed comical in the moment but resonated with me was when she said that every black girl goes natural in college. I was new to this space, so I thought she was exaggerating, but I then started to notice the trend.

I knew I had to gain information through my own research of what products to use, what steps to take, and how other women had overcome this. I began speaking openly about my low self-esteem when it came to my hair and how I grew up not knowing how to manage it. I felt as though I had entered a network of women who faced similar struggles and had advice to pass down. Pinterest was also a helpful tool, with a plethora of boards and different routines and products.

My journey officially began by cutting my hair during freshman year. I hadn’t felt fully comfortable rocking my short, natural hair so I dabbled in protective styles. As I implemented more techniques to retain moisture and style my natural hair, I started seeing the beauty in my hair. I was able to rejoice in owning my hair again and felt my self-confidence growing. The journey continues as I find new products and test new things out to find what’s best for me but taking the plunge has been one of the most fulfilling things as a black woman. I urge you to go for it if you are thinking of going natural because there are so many resources out there to guide you during this journey!

All photos courtesy of Lauren Gordon.

Want to see more HCFSU? Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest!