Natural Hair Recruiting: Are the Scare Tactics Really Necessary?

It’s no coincidence that the natural hair business and communities are booming. When I went natural almost five years ago, I was excited. With an absolute foreign sense of my own hair, I embraced my natural hair because I didn’t “know that it could do that.”

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When I finally big chopped and came to grips with my natural hair, I felt conflicted. Yes, I was happy to be in love with my hair, but I saw dissonance among the natural hair community; dissonance that although one was natural, you needed to be a certain kind of natural, that you had to enter the cause in another way and usually due to a political reason. It was in that space that I learned about a kind of “natural hair recruiting.” Not nearly as in your face as some other groups, natural hair recruiting can also be introduced as education or enlightening. I saw women show powerpoints and slideshows to their friends and their daughters because they wanted to “show them what we could be.” I was never opposed to the principle, but questionable of the method.

My issue with some natural hair recruiting methods comes from the incentive to go natural. Instead of showing beautiful inspiring pictures, they are often replaced with horrifying images of chemical burn or the “no edges crew.” Tales of self-acceptance are often replaced by stories of women permanently damaging their scalps through the misuse of relaxers, weaves or lace fronts. Words of encouragement are replaced by captions telling you to “go natural before it kills you.” I somewhat understand bringing the ignorant to the light, but why would such images be necessary? Surely the beauty is enough, right?

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But for some, it may not be enough. I envision horrifying tales of relaxers to the same involving steroids – yes, we know they aren’t good for us, but those who want to use them will do so anyway. Furthermore, with education it’s completely realistic to have healthy relaxed hair. Wearing my natural hair was the right thing for me to do, but it may not be the same for someone else.

People will stick to what they’re comfortable with. When women want to go natural, they will. We all have different journeys and we sell ourselves short by forcibly creating someone else’s.

Do you recruit other women to go natural? What do you think of videos meant to encourage women to go natural due to the dangers of relaxers?

This article also appears on Black Girl with Long Hair.

10 comments

  1. I don’t recruit at all. I respect that some people cannot or barely know how to manage their relaxed hair, therefore they wouldn’t fair any better being natural. If they ask me questions, I respond and give my thoughts but I honestly don’t care to have every one be natural. It’s not easy and does require some type of effort. I honestly can say I didn’t have really bad experiences with a relaxer, but I was concerned with the amount of heat on my hair. Actually, by the time I finally decided to go natural, my hair was pretty thick and healthy minus any color I put in. It wasn’t long cause I kept cutting it, but it was thick 🙂

    So I don’t think ladies should be recruited. If you can’t see that the perm is damaging your hair, well that sounds like a personal problem…

  2. Personally, I wish someone had used some scare tactics with my mother. I have suffered from extreme traction alopecia my entire life, because my mother pulled my hair into pigtails from when I was a baby and my hair was just beginning to grow (instead of letting it be, or learning how to care for it). She was not about to walk around with some nappy-headed toddler.

    Since I was a young girl, all I’ve known is baldness, and my family espousing that “hair loss” runs in the family, not realizing that it was ignorance that was running amok, which had nothing to do with supposed genetics that affected only me and my grandmother. By the time I was ten, and took over working with my own hair, the photos of pigtails disappeared. I was put on a regimen of the “creamy crack” and trying to work around a hairline that had already receded by three inches at one temple, and two inches at the other; not to mention the entire nape that was almost gone. Not a good situation for a young girl (or the woman in my twenties, thirties or forties that I became). It destroyed my ambition, carefree spirit, and trust in the world, and forced me into hiding my entire life.

    While I personally don’t engage in the scare tactics, I do try to offer information (without full disclosure, along with encouragement) that, unfortunately, my mother did not have.

    There is much discussion in our community about how women wearing weaves and perms ruins our edges. But, these are the conscious decisions made by adults. (They watch it happening and continue; their choice.) However, no one says anything in defense of our girls, who have “caring” women in their lives destroy their hair before they can even get to know it. I also feel it is psychologically damaging for our girls to see the adult females in their lives straighten their hair, almost exclusively.

  3. I always believe a person should go natural because they want to and not because of anything I said. It’s a personal decision and if they don’t like/want to take care of their relaxed hair, they will not take care of natural hair. To each is own. Thanks for sharing!

  4. If people stop me and want to discuss my hair then I will -but I never make relaxed ladies feel bad because natural hair is not for everyone! Its work-especially if your hair is thick and long like mine! And the leading reason I hear women wont go natual is “because I know my hair wont look like yours” and I usually say I didnt think my hair would do this either but I gave it a try and decided to love what God gave me.

  5. I have never recruited anyone to go natural but I have encouraged those around me who are considering embarking upon a natural journey. I had very healthy relaxed hair, I just got tired of the discomfort the relaxing processed caused me. True, it was only once every six to eight weeks but I started to dread those times, so I started transitioning. When my daughters saw my hair continue to flourish they decided on their on accord that they wanted to be done with chemical straightening as well. We are happy and in love with our hair. We share this love and joy with anyone that has questions on how to begin their on journey. I refer people to YouTube. I explain that I am a work in progress and that the ladies on YouTube have helped and are helping me with my hair. I know that was long winded. SN: Thank you personally Elle for your videos. I have learned alot from you, especially to research before trying products and to listen to my hair ( I haven’t named her yet, she hasn’t shown her true personality yet, lol.).

  6. Hello Elle,

    While I do not think it is necessary to engage in scare tactics to convince women to go natural, I do enjoy being a walking poster child for my family and friends to show them what their hair could be all by itself without chemicals or weaves. Due to how I am wired as a person, only I could have convinced myself to let go of the “creamy crack.” Thankfully, I did not experience balding edges or chemical burns from the relaxer, but hitting rock bottom for me was loss of length and wispy, thin hair. Now I can boast APL of full, thick, coily locks after 2 1/2 years of healthy, all natural hair practices. Again, my coils speak for themselves, no need to beat people over the head.

  7. I am enthusiastic about sharing knowledge if someone already shows strong interest in going natural and don’t know where to start. Otherwise, I’m from the “do you, Boo” school of thought. No recruiting.

  8. When I see a woman with bad edges or over processed hair I encourage them to become natural. They usually say” I don’t have hair like you.” Ugh! I think these videos are good educational tools. However people are going to do what they want to do.

  9. It is the opposite for me: those who are relaxed and wear weaves try to recruit me with scare tactics that I won’t further my career and men will not find me attractive. They think I will have no job or a love life so ii might as well hole up with my dogs and become a recluse. Comments such as “you will be beautiful if you straighten your hair” or “so and so natural hair is beautiful and she can pull it off because she has a better grade of hair.” You are right to each it’s own. I went natural because of having multiple head and neck surgeries for a recurring tumor. relaxing irritates the scar tissue and I am afraid another tumor will grow back. That is my 2 cents.

    1. Yes I went natural because of health issues too. People made rude comments like youre too lazy to do your hair. Kunta Kente! You used to be a 10 now you’re a 6 with your hair like that.its very sad how much stock people put into beauty instead of life.

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