What Is Natural Hair? A Definition and In-Depth Look

Natural hair by definition hasn't been altered by chemical straighteners, including relaxers and texturizers. Pressed hair may still be considered natural because once washed, the texture usually returns to its unaltered state (as long as no heat damage has occurred).

Natural Hair Characteristics

In terms of natural black hair, there's no one size fits all when it comes to texture and growth patterns, but in general, natural black hair usually ranges from wavy to kinky-coily, with a wide range of variation between the two. (And yes, some black people have naturally straight hair as well.) In fact, texture differences exist not only in families, including siblings, but even on the same head of hair. In general, black hair types tend to be:

  • Drier to the touch than other hair textures
  • Extremely difficult to over-condition
  • Fragile

Natural hair can look strong, but this is a very delicate texture and needs to be handled as such. This means frequent conditioning and moisturizing and as little direct heat as possible to maintain optimum health.

Versatility of Natural Hair: Style Possibilities

One of the best aspects of natural hair is being able to enjoy a huge variety of styles. Some of these hairdos mimic chemically straightened locks, but many are unique to having no texture-altering chemicals on your hair. Hairstyles that work especially well with natural textures include:

  • Twists
  • Braids and cornrows
  • Afro or TWA
  • Bantu Knots

Can You Color Your Hair and Still be Natural?

This is a matter up for debate in some natural circles, but in most cases, colored hair is still natural as long as there are no texture-altering chemicals on the hair as well. The question of "real natural" comes into play when you consider that someĐ’ have experienced texture changes due to the dye (this also occasionally occurs with henna application). Unless your hair is bleached or colored several levels away from your natural shade, you probably won't experience any loosening of your texture. If you have no relaxer or texturizer on your locks, but you color it, you should still consider yourself to have natural hair. Sure, it's not 100 percent natural due to the color, but the texture is generally what many people refer to when referencing "natural hair."

Are Texturizers Natural?

Texturizers are chemicals designed to break down the protein bonds in your hair in order to permanently change the texture. Some products market themselves as "natural texturizers" or claim they can increase the manageability of your hair by application and heat. They usually contain the same active ingredients as relaxers, just in lower amounts. Unfortunately, some natural-haired women report being duped by hairstylists who apply these chemicals under the guise of making a person's hair "more manageable" without fully disclosing what the product contains. This is why some are wary of going to any stylist and choose to do their hair all by themselves. If you're truly interested in being natural, steer clear of any products that contain questionable ingredients.

Can I Press My Hair and Still be Natural?

As a straightening method, thermal styling is preferable to texturizing because ideally, you can wet your tresses and they'll return to their natural state. Some women constantly press their locks, however, and over time, their manes become heat-trained. Heat-trained hair has a different texture than hair that hasn't suffered this "controlled damage," so it's not truly natural, although it may appear that way.