Why I Stopped Combing My Hair

I have to say this, I don’t think I owe anyone an explanation about my rather unusual decision. Moreover, I am by no means imposing my views on other black women. I further declare that I do not represent anyone or any group of people in particular, this is me and it is my personal decision.

I cut my hair short in the year 2014, and did a series of cuts then finally decided to start growing it natural. I only applied dye, just to have it colourful and not too boring. I also applied moisturising creams to keep it strong and healthy. My hair is curly, just as black hair should be. I used to comb my hair to have it look ‘neat’, but it would sadly break. The curls are so fine, every time I rubbed a comb, a lot of my hair would go out with it. The process of combing was painful. I then resorted to doing braids, putting on wigs and headwraps to protect my hair from breaking.

Much of the pictures I have been taking don’t have my real hair in them. About 5 months ago, I looked at myself in my mirror and started wondering if my hair was really meant to be combed. If in fact my hair should be combed, why is it then so painful to do it? Why is it that women of other races comb and brush their hair and yet it is not painful? I further asked what my goal for combing has been all along? Was it to look neat? And if my hair doesn’t look neat in it’s natural form that what is neat hair?

At that moment I decided to put away my combs and brushes and told myself that I wouldn’t comb my hair until I have reasonable and justifiable answers for the questions flooding my mind. I then continued to wear my head wraps. People were telling me how good my head wraps looked and some even joined me in wearing them. I didn’t really want to start discussing my reasons because I was still confused, and explaining my confusion was just hopeless.

While in my confusion, a group of young black teenagers started a protest to have their white-private school allow them to wear their hair natural. The protest made things worse for me, I still had not found my own answers. Teenagers knew what they wanted to do with their hair and why they had their demands, here I am, in my mid 20s and I am still puzzled. I followed their protests and tried to understand the root cause of their demands. I was amazed by the public response and support they had from the South African public. I then thought back of stories I had heard from girl children that go to school in my grandmother’s village, some of them are not allowed to have long hair at all. They have to cut their hair and keep it short because it is ‘unneat’. I couldn’t help asking myself who came up with the standard for neat hair? And what is neat anyway?

While stuck in my confusion, I randomly came across Alicia Keys on The Voice, and noticed she wasn’t wearing make-up, never mind it took me so long to catch up because I don’t really watch TV. Anyway, I was shocked when I saw her, but I also realised how beautiful she is with her natural look. I went on to the internet to find out what made her stop wearing make-up. I was comforted by the fact that we had similar reasons, well with my hair in this case.


From there on, I decided to maintain my decision not to comb my hair. But this time for the right reasons: Being a black woman is actually easy, but we have chosen to make it difficult for ourselves by choosing to cover our hair and skin, based on how society expects us to look. It’s not wrong to use makeup or wear the best quality weaves, if it your choice. Likewise, if I choose not to comb my hair for the fact that I like it kinky, hate seeing it break each time I comb it, it’s painful or whatever reason it may be, let me be. My hair is my crown. Sure, you may not be used to seeing girls walking around with so-called ‘untidy’ hair, but that is how best I express who I am. I stopped combing my hair because it’s my hair and I get to decide how I want it to look.

Cover Photo Credit: Nina Strehl

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