My decision to go natural was heavily influenced by the famous Coco Chanel quote, “A woman who cut her hair is about to change her life”. If I had known the truth about the ugly side of the natural hair journey, I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it at all.

The battle with my hair began promptly after my big chop. My hair stopped growing completely! I was stuck on the ugly stage of natural hair, a stage that sadly, no one tells you what to do with it once you’re in it. As an African girl, whether I want to agree or not, hair is a big deal. Short African hair is even a bigger deal.

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Slowly, regret crept in and I sat at the corner of my bed asking myself what change I was really seeking. I must have asked Google ‘ways to style short 4c hair’ on a daily basis. Only to experience gloom and disappointment as all the channels showed girls with longer natural hair than what I had.

The Ugly Side of Natural Hair by Joan Masinde

Who defines femininity?

Critics of short natural hair have been placed on this earth in abundance; and anyone who is at the beginning their natural hair journey can actively testify. I once overheard, in the halls of school, someone whisper, “Joan looks like a boy with her short hair. She should apply some make-up to look more feminine.” My insecurities became magnified in my mind; and in a way I can see how my love for turbans began. Due to that comment, my hair remained hidden for roughly 3 months.

I will not lie I want long natural hair. I know I am not the only one sitting at home lusting over Sheila Ndinda’s creative styling, Michelle Ntalami’s confidence and Tabitha Tongoi’s (Craving Yellow’s) hair length. Long nights have been spent in awe of their hair and in wonder why my hair won’t conform and just grow! Also why won’t society accept that all hair is beautiful whether it’s short, long, kinky, curly or smooth? We have all fallen victim of society’s conditioning that long hair = good hair.

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So what is supposed to happen when you have short hair? Does it automatically come across as ugly because it’s short, boyish and sometimes doesn’t want to behave? Is femininity still determined by the media standards of beauty – tall, almond eyed, narrow nosed, slender with long back length hair? What about those who don’t fall in that category? Should they stop feeling beautiful because their bodies have refused to conform to societal norms?

The Ugly Side of Natural Hair by Joan Masinde

Learn to love yourself for who you are

Over the years, my hair has grown in earnest! However, I have come to love my hair regardless of its length. The craze of length chasing is now less important because at the end of the day healthy hair has become my priority. I am slowly learning to dance through the ugly and to smile through the journey.

We should all be more honest about the struggles we face in the ugly stage of natural hair. Any advice would come in handy and it would help the short but depressing stages of ‘short hair sadness’ become manageable. If we must talk of anything, let’s speak about the art of embracing the individuality and uniqueness of our hair; rather than encouraging the active chase of long natural hair.

WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE UGLY STAGE OF NATURAL HAIR? DO YOU HAVE TIPS AND TRICKS TO SHARE ON HOW ONE CAN SURVIVE IT? LET US KNOW BY SHARING IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW:

Image photography by Neema Toya

Joan Masinde

Joan is an Electronic media and Public relations student who is a natural hair enthusiast. She loves to share her life experiences through written word.

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17 Responses

  1. Cindy says:

    Finally someone gets to speak out for the strugglers (me) with stagnated 4c hair. I’ve tried doing all youtube tutorials,buying all this natural oils but still!Nkt anywy we shall get there… hopefully.
    P.S Love the piece of article, very true!

    • hairpolitan_mag says:

      Thank you Cindy for your comment. We’re glad you found the article refreshing. Hang in there, the journey gets easier and more exciting.

    • Joan Masinde says:

      Thank you for the honest comment. I am with you on the struggers congregation. Continue growing and glowing through the process.

  2. Sly Wacuka says:

    Hey Joan !!! Thanks for being honest and standing up for other women who might feel they’re not enough because their natural hair isn’t long enough.
    Remember me ?

  3. zaka says:

    Wow!!I relate 100%. I had someone tell me to pierce my ears, so that I would be more feminine. But piercing ears doesn’t make hair grow…I mean c’mon!
    I learned that as long as I believed that I was feminine (which by the way is not wearing skirts, and lipstick etc), and that I was beautiful, I wouldn’t have to worry about fitting into a mold. I love my short hair. I’m so thankful that it helped me realize that I was more than just looks.

    • hairpolitan_mag says:

      Hello Zaka, thank you for your comment. You are right, despite what everyone tells you…believing that you are beautiful and enough is the key to happiness.

    • Joan Masinde says:

      You have just warmed my heart.
      I was told to put on make up to assure people of my femininity but does make up define a woman? Thank you for your encouraging words. I’m sure your short hair is beautiful 😉

  4. Josephine Awino says:

    It annoys me a lot when one is not tole of this other side. Like all the girls in them youtube videos be growing their hair long and curly when my is stuck at one stage. I’ve cut my hair twice but still got stuck at the same length. The annoying thing is seeing someone who did the BIG CHOP way after you having hair longer than yours. And i always just keep telling people that i trim my hair frequently so it stays the same length. But kumbe it has refused to grow and rebelled against my wishes.

    • hairpolitan_mag says:

      Hello Josephine, thank you for your comment. We’re sorry that your hair seems to get stuck at one length. Are you doing anything to accept your hair as it is?

    • Joan Masinde says:

      Everyone who did their big chop after me, their hair is growing, mine was stuck. I felt so bad and i became a youtube junkie because i was trying to diagnose my hair problem. Piece of advice, hair is as different as the person next to you. what works for them doesn’t always work for you so you have to take time to learn your hair. Patience is key and loving the journey is the secret. thank you for your comment and please keep us posted.

  5. Nasi says:

    This may be unpopular, but I didn’t go through an “ugly” phase..I actually felt way cooler with short hair..I think if you start the journey expecting your hair to move mountains coz of the pictures online, you’ll be terribly disappointed..case in point. All the best in your journey

    • hairpolitan_mag says:

      Hello Nasi, thank you for your comment. It’s quite true what you’ve said, the mentality with which you get into the natural hair journey determines your experience overall.

    • Joan Masinde says:

      Thank you for the advice Nasi. Slowly i’m learning to set my own standards for hair beauty. thank you again 🙂

  6. Bella says:

    Gotta say, I loved my hair short. I thought I looked fierce and unique, like I belonged on the cover of some magazine. I hate to admit it, but in a gathering (like church) I would look at all the limp relaxed hair and shake my head. Did the image in my mind match what others saw? Probably not. I saw the look that some people gave me. But honestly, so strong were my convictions thatit didn’t bother me. I would say to them, in my head of course, ‘dahrling, you just don’t know that you don’t know!’. Yeah, the natural hair snobbery was strong in me back then…

    TLDR: No, I didn’t think that was the ugly stage. I enjoyed my short fro and would often wear it in its shruken state- no twist outs even.

    • hairpolitan_mag says:

      Thank you Bella for your comment. Loving that you were self assured and confident in your short natural hair. It is important we share our struggles and successes so that those behind us can learn and have an easier time.