Why Some Black Women Are Leaving the Natural Hair Movement to Go Back to Relaxers

Beginning in the early aughts, a generation of women, like White, entered young adulthood under the natural hair community’s digital umbrella. Now, there are myriad bloggers, vloggers, and other online spaces dedicated to helping people along their natural journey. A Google search of “best products for natural hair” will currently produce over 900 million results, and last year, a report from global research firm Mintel noted that the Black hair-care market’s growth is driven by regimen-focused products.

It’s often assumed that women who have natural hair are conscientiously part of a bigger — politicized — natural hair movement, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Daisha Hooper, 28, also based in Austin, makes hair tutorial videos on her YouTube channel, DaishaView, and had been natural for a decade prior to attempting to relax her hair last December. But while White felt an affiliation with the digital community, Hooper did not.

“It wasn’t like a conscious decision of, ‘Oh, I want to be a part of this movement,'” she says of her initial decision to go natural. “It was just more, I’m tired of my hair breaking off. I’m tired of getting this chemical that burns on my head. I just don’t want to do it anymore, so I’m not.”

But Hooper’s hesitancy about straightening treatments changed suddenly, and she decided to attempt an at-home relaxer. “I was being a little bit impulsive with it and I just kind of got frustrated with dealing with my hair and I was like, let me just like straighten this out,” she says. Hooper’s experiment ultimately failed because she didn’t apply the product correctly and consequently, her hair didn’t take to it. Her curls remained intact, which she says was relieving because she had made the decision in a moment of exasperation.

Hooper ended up opting for locs instead, with the goal of keeping her hair natural while reducing the time she spends on it. “Locs are the style that works for me the best. It’s easy to care for,” she explains.

Unlike Hooper, White has maintained her relaxed hair, despite some backlash from the natural hair community she experienced after her video went live. “I would get some comments like, ‘If I relaxed my hair I’m trying to fit into certain beauty standards,’ or ‘If I relaxed my hair, I don’t love my Black skin,'” White says. “Coming from other Black women, it wasn’t really encouraging or helpful.”

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