But if you think wearing your hair in an Afro is the only way to go natural, you're missing out on some great styles that are easy to maintain, look great in steamy summer weather and are good for your hair.
From braids to two-strand twists, Bantu knots and fro-hawks, and exotic updos, there are plenty of gorgeous styles that also keep your natural hair healthy.
Vanessa McGlothen, 30, of Oklahoma City, has worn her hair natural for 15 years, and in dreadlocks for half that time. As her dreads grew long and very heavy, McGlothen said she tired of the weight and the wear and tear, so she sheared off her locks and started fresh.
Her next hair challenge came when she entered the military.
“For me, having natural hair (in the military) proved quite a challenge. I couldn't sustain the maintenance like I wanted to,” she said. For that reason, she opted for braids and twists most of the time.
“You'll see a lot of military women with braids or things of that nature. The demand of the service greatly impacts our hair care.”
Protecting your locks
Most people's hair grows about a half-inch per month, but if you don't treat black hair gently, it will break off.
Many women of color choose to give their natural hair a rest, wearing it tucked up in protective styles for a couple months. A protective style can mean simply taming your natural hair into a style that protects the fragile parts, or adding faux hair, such as braids, over your natural hair to keep it protected.
Black hair needs to be well-conditioned, especially in the summer months when the heat dries the scalp. Many hair products marketed to black women contain ingredients such as petroleum jelly and mineral oil. These products can clog the scalp's pores and attract dirt to the hair.
Instead, look for products to keep hair soft and conditioned that contain no drying alcohol and sulfates. The women we talked to loved natural oils such as Moroccan, shea and argan. Other product favorites included Dove Leave-In Conditioner, Eco Styler Olive Oil Styling Gel, L'Oreal Ever Curl and Curls Unleashed.
Styling black hair takes a gentle touch. Many experts recommend using simple tools such as a wide-tooth comb, natural boar bristle brush and your own fingers to style your hair.
Help for natural hair
For help styling your natural hair, call Irving at 235-2233 (CAFE). For a wide array of hair products for women of color, visit Go Natural 24/7, 4721 SE 29 St in Del City.