Natural Hair vs Processed Hair: Do You Have the Confidence to Sport Dreadlocks?

Paulla De Souza


 Paulla De Souza (Beautician/Costmetologist), for Woman to Woman            

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“There is something very liberating about ‘going natural’.”          

I was recently asked to comment on the challenges of natural unprocessed hair and/or dreadlocks compared to the trending relaxed hair and extensions. I was asked whether I preferred processed or unprocessed hair, and what were some of the challenges I experienced along the way.           

Singer, Lauren Hill


For some reason or the other, some folks seem to think that there is something unattractive about natural hair. Believe it or not, even the opposite sex appears to be more drawn to women who sport long, curly or straight hair or extensions.  I can testify to this as I have sported both processed and unprocessed hair. As a teenager, my hair was processed for manageability but in my 30’s I opted to experiment. Twice, I went back and forth between relaxed and natural hair before I made my final decision.  Along the way I have made some interesting discoveries.           

My first observation was that it takes a very confident woman to first cut and sport a low hair cut and secondly to allow her hair to grow out in its natural form. One better be confident in one’s own skin to pull that off!  There were moments when I wished I didn’t do the natural hair thing, especially when I look at my friends and other females enjoying the freedom of wearing their hair in a variety of different styles.           

Photo, Collin Craigg


I admired dreadlocks for so long but never seemed to have the courage to grow ‘a crop’ of it, as the dreadlocks posse would say.  I felt confident enough to try in 1995, when I cut my hair for the first time. I have experienced being stereotyped; was frown upon by other females, and had my “Oh no! She didn’t!”moments. I was also referred to as “nappy head”… lol, that one was way too funny not to mention.  Unfortunately, sporting dreadlocks is still being viewed in a negative way. Those who wear it are usually stereotyped as associated with Rastafarianism or ‘weed-smoking’. I clearly remember a friend making fun of me, referring to me as a “fake dread” just because I don’t ‘light up’. Wearing dreadlocks can bring out the natural beauty of a woman. Look at Lauren Hill, India Arie, Lisa Bonnet and Whoopi Goldberg, to name a few. These are all women who wear dreadlocks, proudly!          

Singer, India Arie


When my hair was long enough to braid, I experimented with braids; I tried it long and straight and other times long and curly.  I was amazed at the heads I turned just because of the choice I exercised. It was unbelievable, same woman, same body, just longer hair. The results stunned even me. All types of men noticed me more (PS: they are so superficial). Funny! I have one particular friend, her husband prefers her with long hair, so she is always wearing extensions. Sigh….The things women do to please men, but hey, that’s another story….           

There is something very liberating about ‘going natural’. And if it’s dreadlocks that you choose, it really has nothing to do being a Rasta or smoking weed. I certainly don’t experience the same hair woes as I used to, with relaxed hair. I have more freedom when I go to the beach or to the pool or just having an intimate shower time for two. The most tedious experience for me is keeping it neat because I chose to palm roll, over using the needle locking technique. Palm rolling is gentler on the scalp and hair line, something that is often taken for granted when hair is worn in its natural state.  I met a woman who recently had to cut off her 10 years locks because she lost her hairline. Too much pressure wear out the hairline. My advice is to watch the up do’s, avoid pulling too tight.           

Lisa Bonnet, Cosby Show


Locking the hair requires patience with the various stages.  The amount of time the hair takes to lock depends on the hair texture.  I thoroughly enjoyed every stage of my hair. I experimented with different hair colors, from shades of brown to platinum blonde. Coloring is a great option for adding interest to natural hair. For the first two years before I started to lock, I double stranded, twisted and braided from time to time. This gave me a chance to weigh my options before I made my final decision.            

With natural hair, it is important to take the same care as you would with chemically treated hair. Choose the best products that would compliment your hair texture.  You still need to shampoo and deep conditioned the hair as often as possible, so your scalp and natural hair is healthy and well managed. I recommend that you steer clear from waxes, heavy hair dressing. These get trapped in the locks as time go by and the build up causes the hair to break. Gels with high alcohol content dries out the hair, water based gels are better. The best product line I have used is by Jamaican Mango & Lime. There is a wide range of products to choose from.  I however prefer to use a shampoo and conditioner in one. I also like the new line of shampoo and conditioners by L’oréal. They are sulfate free. The Tresemmé line is also great, and the new Naturals is also low in sulfate. Because I color my hair, I opt for a shampoo & conditioner that caters specifically for my hair needs.           

Actress, Whoopi Goldberg


Five years ago, I made the decision to go all the way, dread locks baby. My hair is just about shoulder length and I am still having as much fun with it as I did when my hair was relaxed and yes I still experienced bad hair days, believe it or not. But I won’t trade my dread locks for relaxed hair or extensions or for anything else in the world! Whatever your choice is, ensure you are comfortable and you are taking good care of you from the inside out.           

One of my most interesting discoveries is that there are a few guys who love women who opt to wear their hair natural, and love dread locks. Winks!!!           

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3 thoughts on “Natural Hair vs Processed Hair: Do You Have the Confidence to Sport Dreadlocks?

  1. Gracie

    Hi Paulla.

    Great Article. It completely captures the essence of what we go through in trying to keep our hair natural. I must say though, that I always loved your versatility with the hair colors and styles. When I started mine, it was because I had tried all the other hairstyles and needed something new. But then when I started to grow it naturally, as it became longer, it became more painful to wash and groom and re-braid, so I started twisting it using the two strand method, not knowing what would happen. And the twists eventually started to lock. But I suffered at the hands of my own family who almost called the workplace to tell them that they shouldn’t allow me to the office with locks because they didn’t know ‘what is this I am getting on with’. But like you, after wearing locks, there is a self awareness that is developed so much that I can never relax my hair again. I began to love myself so much more. I find too that the men generally are not drawn to women with locs because as you say, they exude enough confidence to take such a drastic step which could have had them stoned many years ago. And of course those are women to be wary of!

  2. labelle

    I love your article so first off kudos thank you for sharing your journey. It’s so encouraging hearing every ones story about their natural endeavours. I locked my hair about a year ago and like you I can’t see myself going back to processed hair. I love the freedom i have of rolling out of bed and being on my way not having to worry about what to do with my hair. I love embracing my natural beauty there’s something empowering about taking what you naturally have and turning heads with it.

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