What does being “natural” mean?

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

The natural hair movement is a movement that encourages women and men of African descent to keep their natural afro-textured hair. It originated in the United States during the 1960s, with its most recent iteration occurring in the 2000s.[1][2]

The movement designates Black people who wear afro-textured hair in its natural, coiled, kinky, or tight curly state. The word ‘nappy’ has been subjected to denigration since the Atlantic slave trade. Thereafter, some Afrodescendants have positively taken the word back. In francophone countries, it is often reanalyzed as a portmanteau of ‘natural’ and ‘happy’.[3][4][5][6]

We of African descent gave up “relaxing our hair and allow it to grow in its natural texture. To relax your hair means to chemically straighten it, which can be done professionally or you can purchase a kit at a grocery store for home use.”.[7] Their hairstyles can vary by the adoption of hair twists, braids, or even dreadlocks.[3][8] Not everyone who wears their natural hair forgoes all (non-chemical) forms of straightening or styling. “being natural” does not show strict adherence to any product or styling regimen; nor should it tie with certain social or political beliefs. There are many reasons African American women decide to “go natural” The primary reason for the movement is for women to redefine what beauty is or means in the black community.[9]

The question I raise, how do you define being “natural.”

Princeton’s WordNet defines natural as

1. (adj) existing in or produced by nature; not artificial or imitation

2. functioning or occurring normally; lacking abnormalities or deficiencies

3. used especially of commodities) being unprocessed or manufactured using only simple or minimal processes

4. Lifelike, that is free from artificiality

Webster Dictionary defines natural (adj) as a fixed or determined by nature; essential; characteristic; not artificial, foreign, assumed, put on, or gained; natural color

So now how do you define “natural?” Is it having textured hair with or without color? What are your thoughts?

I have read several articles where people believe that natural hair refers to texture, not color. But by its definition, hair dye is a chemical. Because it changes the chemical makeup of your hair.

Hair dyes remove the natural color and/or add color to the hair shaft. They can be natural or synthetic. We get natural dyes like henna from plants. We can divide synthetic dyes into two general categories: temporary/semi-permanent and permanent. Permanent dyes cause chemical changes that increase the penetration of the product into the hair, bleach the natural melanin, and create color molecules that get trapped inside the shaft.

Hair is a very important aspect of African life. The thickness and healthiness of the hair mirror positive attributes from the culture for both women and men. Normally it is the elders who style all the hair in one’s family and it is important for others to learn how to do so. The tradition of braiding and styling hair is so sacred that there are actually a lot of rules and guidelines for it including when and where to style, differences based on gender, different rituals, and customs.

Each woman has her own reason to retrieve her authenticity; some of them want to preserve their hair against aggressive hairstyling methods such as weaves being too tight or harmful straightening chemical products. Other women prefer their natural hair despite the pressure from the dominant aesthetics.[14][4][5][43]

We frequently use several words in the vocabulary of the natural hair movement:[13][8][64][65][66]

Creamy crack

Chemical relaxers. We coined the term with the thought the use of relaxers is addictive for those women who strive for permanently straight hair texture.


The texture characteristic of natural Type 4 hair, whereby the configuration of the strand resembles a small-diameter ink pen spring.[67]


A hairstyle achieved by taking small sections of wet or very damp hair and smoothing, while rotating the sections, one by one, from root to tip. Tiny styling combs or a finger are typically used.

Big chop

Cutting one’s chemically straightened hair to let it grow in its natural texture.

Bantu knot

Hairstyles that comprise of twisted hair rolled up into small buns.


The period when one is transitioning from straightening their hair with heat/and or chemical products to wearing hair in its natural state.

Protective hairstyle

A hairstyle that protects natural hair from the elements. Includes braids, extensions, wigs, and weaves.

TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro)

Short Afro haircut.


Double strands of hair wrapped around each other.

Twist out

A hairstyle where twists are unraveled.


A hairstyle that is similar to the mohawk hairstyle.


Because natural hair typically has different curls and textures, in its natural state it appears shorter than it would straighten.


Washing one’s hair with conditioner instead of shampoo.

Wash and go

Wash one’s hair and going on about one’s day. This means there is no drying or styling involved and the application of the product is minimal (usually a moisturizer or anti-frizz serum). The wash and go is also sometimes referred to as the “shake and go” which further emphasizes the lack of actual styling involved. The goal of a wash and go is to define natural curls.[68]


A hairstyle where the hair is braided with extensions or with natural hair.

Braid out

We unravel braids.


Matted or sculpted ropes of hair.

Senegalese twists

Also known as rope twists where synthetic hair is used and twisted in with the natural hair.


A hairstyle created by combing the hair away from the scalp, allowing the hair to extend out from the head in a large, rounded: shape, much like a cloud or ball.

Kinky Hair

Tightly curled hair, tightly coiled hair, or hair without defined curls.

Box Braids

A form of protective styling done through braiding synthetic hair along with real hair. This promotes hair growth and protects hair from breakage and other damaging factors.


A style of braiding/plaiting hair into narrow strips to form geometric patterns on the scalp. A form of protective styling.

Protective Style

Any coiffure configuration that keeps hair ends safely tucked away. These hairdos require very little daily upkeep and help strands stay moisturized.[69]

Hair Porosity

Natural hair can have low, high, or medium porosity. Low porosity hair cuticles are very tightly closed and don’t absorb water or product easily. High porosity hair cuticles are very open and absorb water and product easily. Medium porosity absorbs and gets rid of water, product, and moisture easily. In order to best treat naturally curly hair, celebrity hairstylist Andre Walker created a hair typing system. This categorizes hair into four categories based on how tight curls are coiled.

What are your thoughts about being natural? Leave a comment!

Meet Rozialyn from We 3 Girls

Rozialyn is a mother of two beautiful and creative daughters. Rozialyn started W3 Girls | Homemade Body Care Products because of both her daughters suffer from eczema. With no products working, she decided to make products that would not only help them but be good for their bodies.



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