“I would love to go natural but I would hate the ‘ugly stage’,” says the warm, chocolate-complexioned Morgan Bray, a sophomore at Saint Augustine’s University. Morgan wears a long punk rock mohawk with a wavy texture of long, layered tracks down the center.
Her dilemma is shared by many women who want to wear their hair in a natural style: deciding whether the transitional process they must go through is worth it.
Many want a change from the hairstyle that many African-American women wear: straightened hair with relaxer or curled with a texturizer. Many want to eliminate their chemically induced hair in favor of naturally textured hair.
The change can be difficult, says Camille Reed, owner of Noire Natural Hair Salon in Silver Spring, Maryland. “It is more than a transitional hair period, it is a whole transformational make-over,” she says.
Reed, who has been specializing in natural hair for 15 years and has held her cosmetology license for over 17 years, said it wasn’t until years after she had been doing natural hair that she gained enough confidence to start her own natural hair process. She thought her bright yellow complexion mixed with the texture of her tightly coiled hair would make her look “outdated, like a woman of the 70’s,” she says. But once she had accomplished that globe-like bush, she formed thick locks, which she still has today.
Reed says that women who wear their hair naturally often have a personal story to share about why they decided to make the transition. She explains that they are confident in how they were brought into this world, proud of how their ancestors looked before them, and tired of being dictated by magazines, tabloids and media on how the Black woman should look.
“When I was comfortable with all of the above is when I decided I was ready to cut the perm out of my hair,” she says.
Audrey Afari, the manager of Noire — and a former Saint Augustine’s student — explains that she only wore her hair out for a week or two and decided that she was going to continually twist her hair to eventually let each twist solidify and form locks. “I found out over time that I could accessorize and style my
locks so that the ‘ugly stage’ was less ugly,” Afari says. These words are the same words she uses to motivate her clients to remain natural rather than relapse and turn back to chemicals.
“Most people view the short hair stage as the ‘ugly stage,’ but there are ways to get around it,” Afari says. “Start by accentuating the length of your hair. If it’s cold, wear head wraps, bows, and hats (beanies, caps, etc.) but mainly focus on the perimeters of your head.
“If the weather is warm, add one or two charms to your hair if you have locks and, if not, add a moisturizer and water to give it a wet look. Most importantly, when your hair is shorter or you are going through the ugly stage it is always great to accentuate the outline of your face with detailed jewelry and accessories. Whether it’s big and gaudy, a matching set or small and sparkly, accessories always do the trick.
“Lastly, bringing colors that I highlight your hair may also help you feel more confident in your new natural look. You always have the choice of make up
and or actually coloring your hair.”
— Naomi Afari