In the News: Is Kinky Hair Unmanageable?

I’ve taken issue with a lot of natural bloggers with kinky textured hair who write posts or make videos with titles like “How to Tame Unruly Hair” and “Products to Make Your Hair More Manageable”. I fully reject the notion that kinky hair is more difficult to care for, manage, and – the absolute worst – tame, because I think those notions are rooted in ideas about what “good” hair is supposed to be. I roll my eyes whenever I see a product that’s supposed to tame your curls. What does that even mean? Who am I taming it for? To which texture am I supposed to tame my hair to look like? Ultimately, I think that people who view kinky hair as unmanageable are subscribing to notions of hair texture hierarchy, which I don’t have time to rant about again, so read all about my feelings here. People think that because they cannot run their hair through kinky strands, like one can with straight and curly hair, that kinky hair is unmanageable. Since our hair rejects small-toothed combs, it is unmanageable. Since we can’t wash and go, it’s unmanageable.

WRONG.

Kinky hair is not unmanageable. It requires different management from other kinds of hair, but that doesn’t make it more difficult; it’s just different. The greatest example I can give of why kinky hair is actually the MOST manageable type is quite simple: our hair can be manipulated to look like anybody else’s. We can make our hair wavy, straight, and curly. You can’t make straight hair into an afro, no matter how much teasing and hairspray you try to use. It’s impossible.

fustrated-with-natural-hair

A great article came out the other day on BGLH by Candace of Kiss My Curls that challenged the notion of what makes hair manageable, based on a story from her childhood where she tried to do her white friend’s hair:

I was a freshman in high school in Milwaukee, WI. My blue-eyed, blonde-haired, straight-stranded friend Becky (yes that was her real name) wanted me to curl her hair for a special occasion that was coming up. I said sure! I was a whiz with hair, even back then. I grabbed her curling iron, thinking, “this was going to be a piece of cake.”

Yeah…not so much.

Even after using the hottest setting and spraying her hair with the stiffest hair spray, I COULD NOT get Becky’s hair to curl. She ended up leaving my house with one stiff lock of hair and the rest of it just as straight as when she first came over. I remember thinking, “For straight hair being praised for being ultimately ‘easy’, that was some hard ass work.” Since then, I’ve realized that someone with more experience probably could’ve figured out how to get Becky’s hair to curl beautifully, but I didn’t know the rules, so to ME it was unmanageable. Because I was UNFAMILIAR with straight hair, straight hair was UNMANAGEABLE. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Candace’s post was refreshing because finally, somebody understood what I’ve been feeling about this manageability situation! Bottom line:

It’s ALL about perspective.

I tried to get through this whole post without mentioning that a YouTuber with kinky hair – most well known for her remix Wash and Go’s Don’t Work on Nappy Hair – recently decided to relax her hair again. I say this with the absolute least amount of judgment possible, because some people are unwilling or unable to learn/relearn proper (I also reject the notion that natural hair isn’t for everyone). However, I’m curious if her decision to relax her hair again – and that of many women who tried natural hair and decided to relax again –  stemmed from the fact that they are trying to “manage” their hair in ways that are unrealistic, ways that are aligned with practices best suited for other hair types.

What do you think about the manageability of kinky hair?

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Comments

  1. I hate my kinky hair. With EVERY fiber of my being. Do I try my best to moisturize properly? Sure! Have I made a genuine effort to love and embrace it? Of course. Has any of this helped NO. NO. NO. When I go to sleep, with my hair covered, I still wake up to a crunchy mess. It’s trash and everyone who doesn’t have it s beyond fortunate. The natural hair world is total BS. If my hair was longer it would be different, but my shrinkage is the devil. Elongating my hair requires time and money that I don’t have. “Find you a great natural hair stylist” they say. Who’s going to pay for that!? I don’t know. I don’t know why I even wrote this. Just needed to get it out.

    1. I am SO sorry to hear that you’re so unhappy with your hair – but thank you for feeling comfortable enough to vent! It sounds like you’re struggling to find a regimen that keeps your hair moisturizer, and I’d be happy to try and help you figure that out. As for the natural hair world, I’m not sure what you mean by it being the devil – I’ve found camaraderie and advice within the community. Let’s chat via email.

  2. I totally agree. Whenever I also try to braid or do anything with my white friends hair, I’m totally super clueless, but when it comes to kinky hair I know what to do to make it look good.
    It’s all a matter of learning how to handle your hair.
    I’m also not too big a fan of super defined twist outs and all, because we often just want our hair to emulate another texture and once there is a bit more frizz than usual, the style is “ruined”.
    But anyway, I believe it is everyone’s personal decision if they want to relax again, but I understand your point that they are relaxing again, because their hair isn’t as “manageable” as they would have liked.

  3. This was a very good read. I can definitely relate with straight hair being unmanageable. I had a friend from the Philippines with the straightest hair ever. She wanted cornrows and I simply could not get them to look like mine- I was natural- or even to stay cornrowed. The whole thing fell apart.
    I relaxed my hair 9 years ago because I couldn’t ‘tame’ my natural hair, even though I knew one day I would get tired of having to put in a chemical to get it to ‘behave’.
    Now I’m transitioning to natural and am getting ready to wear my hair any way it grows out of my scalp.
    That said, I think straight hair can be beautiful, just as afro hair can be beautiful. I’ve maintained healthy relaxed hair, now I just want to move on. It’s a personal decision what anyone decides to do with their hair, just as some choose to wear makeup and others decide it’s unnatural.
    As long as you’re making the choice for you, I think it’s okay.

  4. Hmmm…I don’t know. I always say this ‘going back to your roots’ is like marriage; no one should try to force you into it. It should be YOUR decision and yours alone, ‘cos when all’s said and done, you’re the one who’s going to face the music. Nobody else. Just you. All marriages are marriages, but not all marriages are the same. I’m natural today, but far be it from me to question another person’s decision to return to a relaxed head. I don’t know what she went through, where she’s been, or where she’s headed, so who am I to question her decisions about what she does with her own head. Having said that, I’m the first to unfollow any former natural who returns to a relaxer; heck, I won’t even follow anyone who’s not 4c like me (I don’t care how wonderful her regimen or her results are). I just don’t see the point. I mean, we are not headed to the same results (indeed, we CANNOT have the same end point), and I do not want to frustrate myself with unrealistic expectations, so I’d rather not “hang out” with you in the virtual cyber world, thank you very much! 😀

    I do hear you though, per the effect such influential vloggers may have on the morale of budding and struggling new-naturals when they go back to relaxers. We often forget though, that even though we may think of such vloggers as ‘seasoned’, they have their own very real struggles (we don’t call relaxers creamy-crack for nothing!) lol!!!

    Anyway, that’s my two cents.

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