What No One Tells You About Going Natural: Real Women Share Their Hair Journeys

From embracing your grays to saying goodbye to lengthy chemical processing, these Indy women might make you reconsider your next appointment.

It may seem trivial to discuss how someone chooses to wear their hair, but in a world that often discriminates against or devalues a woman who dares to show her age or natural hair texture, the decision to go au naturel is worth talking about—and celebrating. These ladies have made the decision to embrace what nature gave them and the results are positively inspiring.

Considering that it was only last year that California, New York and New Jersey became the first three states to enact laws that ban race discrimination based on natural hairstyles, the decision for a woman to wear her hair naturally isn’t always simply cosmetic; there are often complex, personal emotions and societal implications that weigh on the choice.

Andrea MoreheadFor seven-time Emmy winner and WTHR Eyewitness News Anchor Andrea Morehead, the decision to grow out her natural hair followed a breast cancer diagnosis. “After chemo, surgery, and radiation for breast cancer, I lost all of my hair. I returned to air in November 2018 wearing a short wig. As I walked into the ladies room at work one afternoon and saw my mirrored reflection, I looked inauthentic, and I immediately took the wig off and decided to go on the air that evening with my buzz cut,” she told us. “It was an “A-Ha” moment for me that I still feel to this day. It represented freedom, liberation, and walking in my truth. It was a bold decision that I didn’t discuss with anyone, not even management. I just did it, without fear of repercussions or potentially negative criticism from viewers. In fact, I have only received massive community support and continued encouragement.” 

“So often as women, we spend so much time and money caring for our hair, and allowing our hair to define us and our vision of beauty,” Morehead continued. “When I review my 30-year career, and the many hairstyles, colors, and lengths, this new look in my life is by far my most cherished. My smile is wider and my glow is brighter.” 

Morehead’s courage to share her hair journey publicly has been immeasurably inspirational to so many women in the community, and she offers this advice to others who may be considering wearing their hair naturally: “I hope my journey inspires others to be unapologetically real and natural, however you define that for yourself, and to breathe, talk, walk and live in your truth—that’s what ‘natural’ means to me. Whatever your hair choice, if it makes you feel good, go for it, and refrain from judging other people’s choices,” she says. “You will learn a lot about yourself along the way, which will help renew your spirit and nourish your soul.”

About a year ago, beauty and motherhood blogger Whitley Howard, who goes by the professional moniker “Splitwhit,” decided to stop using heat and boxed hair dye on her naturally curly hair because, “Growing up, it was not easy managing my curls, and quite honestly I didn’t really know what to do with them. I was embarrassed by my natural hair. As I got older, I realized that embracing what I was born with is okay, and I wanted to learn to love myself and everything that I come with and more.”

Howard has detailed the progress of her “curl journey” on her Instagram page (@splitwhit), which has quickly earned 16.8k followers. As far as products go, Howard is a fan of DevaCurl’s “No-Poo Original” shampoo and “One Condition” conditioner, as well as the bond-building hair treatment Olaplex: “This saved me from going back to heat in the beginning when my hair still wasn’t looking so great naturally,” she says. “I also added deep conditioning treatments about twice a month and bought a satin bonnet cap to wear at night to help keep my curls soft and frizz free.”

Sariah BoromSariah Borom, a senior at Indiana University Bloomington and a former intern at PATTERN magazine, realized as a teenager that she wanted to take a more natural approach to styling her hair: “I was in my sophomore year of high school and began to understand that my beauty did not have to be defined by Eurocentric beauty standards but by my own beauty standards, so I decided to stop relaxing my hair and using heat to straighten it.” Borom offers this wisdom to others who are looking to wear a natural style: “My biggest piece of advice is, ‘Don’t look for people to validate you; validate yourself and understand that you are wonderfully made.’ Also, try not to get discouraged during the process, because finding the perfect hair products for you takes time and requires lots of patience.”

Borom’s sentiment is shared by Shaé Love, the owner and operator of “Love Is In The Hair Design Studio” located inside of 506 Salon. Love is a cosmetologist that has catered exclusively to the natural hair community of Indianapolis for the past 9 years, and she agrees that the process of wearing natural hair can take time. “I want to make sure a client is ready for their ‘natural hair journey,’ because between spending a small fortune finding the right products and hours of detailing, pre-pooing, co-washing, sealing, curl defining, twisting in and twisting out—and discovering what all of that even means!—it is just that, a journey,” she says. Love advises that a client can choose to either fully transition with “the big chop,” cutting off all of the relaxed hair, or she can choose to wear “protective styles, so the relaxed hair is gradually cut off with regular trims and the hair is kept braided while it grows out.” Love also recommends identifying your particular curl pattern so you can choose what’s best for your hair. “Is it kinky? Is it coily? Is it curly? Is it wavy? Once you have identified that, research the best products for your type of hair. Don’t follow the natural hair blogger whose hair you love and envy—follow the blogger whose texture is similar to yours. See their wash day routines, see what types of products they use and why. And if you still have questions, schedule a consultation with a stylist that specializes in natural hair care.”

Cayla ButzAnother way some women are choosing to go more natural with their hair is by stopping their salon coloring visits. After the birth of her son Gabriel in July of 2019, cost savings was the major reason that registered nurse Cayla Butz of Fort Wayne made the decision to stop highlighting her hair. “I used to go and get my hair colored every six weeks, which would cost from $80 to $120 each time—not including tip. After my son was born, going back to my natural color was the best decision for me and my family. It was a no-brainer really,” she says, adding, “It was something selfless I could change that helped support my son, and that made all the difference in the world.” In order to make her transition as seamless as possible, Butz chose to take one last trip to a colorist to bring her hair back to its natural glossy chestnut brown, and she’s been thrilled with the results. “It has been 3.5 months since my last hair appointment and I couldn’t be happier about the color,” she says.

Whatever your hair choice, if it makes you feel good, go for it, and refrain from judging other people’s choices.”

After more than 20 years of salon visits and at-home root touch-ups, Stevie Cromer, Cultural and Enrichment Manager at LUNA Language Services in Indianapolis, is in the midst of transitioning to her naturally silver locks, and her only regret is that she didn’t do it sooner. “I can now confidently say I wish I would’ve grown it out years ago! It is incredibly empowering. I didn’t realize this prior to starting the process, but I now see that there was a part of me that felt hidden when I colored my hair,” she says, adding, “I think growing out my natural hair color has helped my confidence in a way I didn’t anticipate: It sends a message simply from appearance that what you see is what you get with me, and I very much like living my life in that way.”

Danielle Hartman, professional vocalist and Minister of Music at Central Christian Church in Indianapolis, decided to go back to her lovely natural salt-and-pepper shade after getting a flattering haircut. “It cut out most of the really bad coloring that I had done myself, and I realized that it looked okay—so I went with it. I got so many compliments on how great my hair looked; a lot of people thought that I had actually colored it,” she says. The only downside she’s found is that some people are quick to make assumptions due to her hair color: “Sometimes people think that I am my seven-year-old son’s grandmother. I went to pick him up from a playroom at the gym, and someone called out, ‘Hey, your grandma’s here to get you.’ My son didn’t listen, because he knew his grandma wasn’t there!”

If you’re considering growing out your gray, Lindsey Cooper, stylist at G Michael Salon, suggests either embracing the grow-out process with a shorter hairstyle, or adding a series of highlights to the colored portion of your hair to help it blend in with your roots. “In the event your hair is more of a salt color, I would recommend adding in foils and glossing with an icy toner to help blend everything while making the transition. If you have more of a salt and pepper shade, I would go for a highlight and lowlight combination to blend the highs and lows throughout,” she says. “And no matter which way you choose, this might be a fun time to try out some new headbands, hats or head scarves.”

Dana Huston, a Fishers-based advocate for women’s health and wellbeing and the founder of Facebook page “Graying Gracefully,” decided to stop coloring her hair when she turned 50 and has never looked back. “It’s crazy, because I get people almost on a daily basis that stop me and ask where I get my hair colored. I just laugh and say, ‘Honey, this is what God gave me. This is au naturale, I don’t pay a dime for color.’” Huston started her Facebook page as a way to speak to other women “who are trying to figure this later-in-life thing out,” and her advice to anyone considering going back to their natural color is to “Just go for it! It’s one of the easiest things we can change. I say, ‘Live large.’

Photos: Andrea Morehead’s photo: Faith Blackwell Photography; Danielle Hartman’s photo: Esther Boston ;Photography; Lindsey Cooper’s photo: Polina Osherov Photography

Stephanie Groves is a freelance writer in Indianapolis who once tried to dye her own hair platinum and ended up with a disastrous shade of marigold.