Perm Virgin: Diary Of A Natural Hair Lifer

November 22, 2013  |  


Baby Rana and her Natural Hair

How many of you natural hair, fro-having, twist-rocking sistas have been natural your entire life?  That means no perms, no texturizers, no hair-texture changing chemicals, no nothing. From what I can guess, many women of color have experimented with chemicals in their hair at some point in their lives. That’s perfectly fine. I’m here to tell my story about how I’ve been part of the “natural hair movement” for the past 22 years, or to put in layman terms, my entire life.

Not everyone I tell that I’m a natural hair lifer believes me. For some reason I’m sometimes told that I “must be lying.” Or, I occasionally get that “yeah right!” look. Those responses  have always puzzled me. Why is it so weird that I’ve never had a perm? Is there some kind of national law that mandates every black woman living in the 21st century needs to have had experienced the creamy crack lifestyle? Is having a perm a rite of passage that I somehow missed out on?  Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had my hair pressed, flatironed, and blow-dried before but this mane above is a perm virgin.

I have to credit my mother to my natural hair lifer-ness. From early on, my mother was very adamant about us wearing our hair natural and , in her deepest Jamaican accent, made sure to let everyone know that her daughters would NOT be putting “dem nonsense chemical inna dem hair.”

Having “natural hair” wasn’t always cool or the “it” thing to do. Wearing my hair natural in elemantary school was pretty tough. Most of my classmates used to get their hair permed and styled, while I rocked “doodoo braids,”as my classmates liked to call them. This was also around the time when girls started becoming conscious of their looks. During recess, my friends and I would go around comparing who had “good” hair. I was normally never chosen because my hair wasn’t long, shiny, or straight.

My best friend tried convincing me that I should let her mom, a hair stylist, give me a perm against my mother’s will. It would make my hair “softer” and more “manageable,” her nine-year-old self lectured. “Nah-uh, I’ll pass,” was always my reply. I knew I didn’t need a perm to make my hair more “manageable.” My friend once had vibrant and healthy hair. Once she permed it, her hair started falling off and she even starting getting bald spots. We caught up a few months ago and reminisced about those younger days. In college, she made the transition back to natural and  told me she regretted perming her hair when she was younger.  

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  • chelseamaxim

    I’ve never had a relaxer. I got lucky. My mom actually relaxed my older sisters hair at a young age and she had a bad experience. After her experience I told my mom at the age of 7/8 to never relax my hair. And she never did. I made that choice and I’ve never had to deal with relaxers.

  • kjstunna

    Proud hair-relaxing sista here! If natural hair is your choice, more power to you.

  • Layla

    this is all yall talk about now in this section and from the comments always bashing the women who get relaxers. But then yall want to get mad when other races judge black women. stupid heauxs.

    • Laine

      Nobody is bashing women with relaxers, please go and read the commenst again. I don’t think saying that you’ll never get a relaxer, never had a relaxer is bashing others that did. What you did, calling women the H-word is bashing….jeesh. Can’t you respect someone elses opinion??

  • bigdede

    I love how Madame Noire, a site for Black women, makes sure to separate us with this stupid articles about natural hair/perm hair. Please Madame Noire, keep up the drama! Trisha Goodard just had a show about this. One of her daughters is natural and the other is permed. She says hair is just hair and it’s her daughters’ choice. Too bad my aunt can’t be in these arguments. She had to cut all her hair off because of cancer. To her, hair is just hair as it should be. It doesn’t define her as a person. She is a strong woman with or without a perm, with or without hair.

    • juicifruit89

      The author’s not saying that her hair defined her as a person…she’s relaying her experience with being a life-long natural. We’re not all the same, whether it comes to hair or other activities, hobbies, etc., so not really seeing how this ‘stupid’, ‘dramatic’ article ‘separates’ black women. Maybe you’re feeling a bit self-conscious about people declaring their love for natural hair???

  • Kendra Shavonne Mua

    Finally I’m not the only one!! I have never had a perm!

  • Taneesha Culture Clash Thomas

    My daughter is 20 has never had a perm & has hair to the middle of her back…i decided when she was born that i would teach her to appreciate her hair. When she was going thru her pre-teen phase and all her friends were getting perms i told her watch them they’ll be bald headed next year & sure enough that’s what happened so i can relate to the article completely.

    • Rana Campbell

      Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Krista

    Ive never had a perm either and I’m glad that I never had one. I have never had the desire to perm my hair, or tempted to do it.

  • MAG!

    I’m currently transitioning (9 months in), but I haven’t permed my daughters hair and never will. She has asked on several occassions, but I keep reminding her how beautiful her hair is without it.

  • MarriedMomOf2

    My grandmother is 89 years old and never had a relaxer in her life, I even look at old pictures of her and see that and her hair is down to her back, but she wears her hair in a braided ponytail and wrap it up in an updo most of the time and she lets it down when she goes to bed. I want her hair, especially when I get to her age, her hair is beautiful, even my one of my daughters calls her Rapunzel. She is my hair inspiration.

  • Oh!JimmyJohns!

    I’m 24 and have never had any perms or coloring or anything of the sort in my hair. My mother put it to me like this when I was younger, “If you want a perm, you’re going to have to keep it up or all this hair WILL fall out…and you have to pay for it yourself” Imagine a 7/8/9 year old hearing that LOL so it just never happened for me. I wore my hair braided and kept my ends clipped and I attribute my thick, pretty and curly mane to my funny mom. I’m glad she helped me see that I was beautiful without it. Not to mention her will power to manage tis hair 🙂

  • Alisha21

    I’m currently 25 and have never placed any chemicals in my hair. Perm is crack for the black women’s hair that destroys it. STOP IT.

  • Yoli

    I’m also a lifetime natural…24. When people ask how long I’ve been natural I say since 1989 lol. I went to a white elementary and middle school and they were fascinated at my hair. it wasn’t until I started going to a black dance class that I started hearing negative stuff about my hair from people. Oh well, thank God for a Mom who didn’t play that perm stuff.

  • NVAdamzz

    My mother never relaxed my hair. My grandmother was the one who started putting them in my hair and did it without consulting my mother. I eventually told her to stop and that I wanted to go back to wearing braids. When I got older and cut all my hair off my sylist put a relaxer in my hair. I’ve been wearing my natural hair since I was 19. I’ll never put a relaxer in my future daughter’s hair and I will stomp every human excretion out of whoever relaxes her hair without my permission.

  • Dani

    Perms also depend on your age. We now know that perms damage hair, we didn’t know so much in the 70’s, 80’s, and even the 90’s. Perms for both white and black women were all the rage. Perms for black women straightened and perms for white women curled their hair. It was a phenomenon that nothing to do with race. Ask a white woman of a certain age if she had a perm, if she said no, her white friends would gasp as well. It was uncommon to not have a perm. Both perms were damaging to both races and no one experienced life long beauty from it.
    I was one of the girls with “good hair”. I had latino, mixed-black girl hair. I wanted a perm because I was misinformed. I thought that a perm would make my hair look like Pocahontas. NOT! My hair was so curly/wavy I had to wash it daily just to get a comb through it. I wore it in a ponytail most of the time because it was so thick and curly. Once I got a perm, my hair didn’t change for the better at all. It didn’t become more straight or silky. After every wash, my hair curled right back up and it was just as thick as before the perm. Perms did nothing for my hair. I have no choice but to be natural.

    • NVAdamzz

      LMFAO @ I thought it would make my hair look like Pocahantas!!

  • Raimi Nicte

    Lifetime team natural here! So is my younger sister. I understand the struggle of having friends and even family trying to convince my mom to relax my hair or the incredulous looks I get from my own people when I say I’ve never not been natural. I’m happy that it’s Catching on because there are now tons of new products and styling options that are readily available. I am annoyed though that stylists now charge an arm and a leg for styles now that it’s trendy

  • Lexi

    Never had a perm. Here’s a very once a week common conversation in the store when people ask me about products I use to transition: “I have no idea about the transition because I’ve never had a perm.” Reaction: *Gasp* Really?!. Makes me laugh every time.

    • Kendra Shavonne Mua

      Yeah it always amazes me how many people are shocked!

  • BabyBlue

    I’ve never had a perm and it was never a big deal. I just would get stank looks from the girls who wore perms. I would just get mines flat ironed every once in a while.