Women color it, relax it, blast it with dryers and smooth it out with 400-degree flat irons — all in an effort to achieve that illusive "good hair day." For some black women, trying to reach that goal can be all-consuming and expensive.

But, after decades of relaxing their hair, getting weaves and donning wigs, many black women are embracing their natural hair.

And it's not just happening on the red carpet, where the likes of Zendaya, Alicia Keys and even Oprah have been showing up with big, beautiful hair.

Locally, Nicollette Davis is helping women find their way to a more natural look.

"I got my first relaxer when I was 5," says Davis. "My mom did it. But I have eczema on my scalp, and it was terrible for me. So, last year I decided to go natural."

She was not alone.

Thirty women showed up when Davis called to order the first meeting of the Natural Hair Support Group at the East Baton Rouge Parish Greenwell Springs Branch Library, where Davis is a technician.

"I knew others were probably in the same situation as me," Davis says. "I started the support group so we could get together and share tips and concerns … talk about products and how to use them, and if you don't like something, give it away to somebody else to try."

The women were soon joined by men who were dealing with their daughters' hair, their own natural hair or "locks," hair that is styled in ropelike strands.

"It's a very diverse group — men and women of all ages," Davis says.

At May's meeting, 20 people gathered. One of them was musician and vocalist Angela Dunn, who started growing her dreadlocks 14 years ago.

"It took two 12-hour days to install them and another four to six months for it to lock," says Dunn. "Somebody else started them and I maintain them. … If you're considering locks, think long and hard because it can be very frustrating in the beginning."

"It's definitely a journey," adds Courtney Banks, who got her locks 10 years ago. "It's a lot of work to keep up natural hair."

That's because black hair doesn't just look different, it is different, members of the group say. It's drier, grows more slowly and breaks more easily than Caucasian or Asian hair.

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"Natural hair is actually more work," says Johnette Roberts.

"It takes a lot of experimenting," adds Davis.

"I'm just over the whole hair thing," confesses Elizabeth Doomes. "I'm middle-aged, and I just want to be more comfortable in my own skin. It's nice to wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and see the person God intended you to be."

"It gives you a different feeling all right," adds Tameka Roby, with a laugh. "It says it's all right to be black and have big, poofy hair."

Robyn Merrick agrees. She went natural almost two years ago.

"I decided to go into a new year with new hair," says Merrick, executive assistant to the president of Southern University. "I relaxed my hair for 40 years, since I was a little girl. … That was just the life we knew."

Going natural is not something she thought she would ever do.

"I just couldn't see it," says Merrick. "But my hair was not what it was when I was younger."

She debated between locks or braids before ultimately deciding to just let it grow and see what happened.

"I didn't know what was going to be under there," she says with a laugh. "I was born with this hair, but it took until I was an adult to learn to deal with it."


Natural Hair Support Group

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday, July 12

WHERE: EBR Greenwell Springs Regional Branch Library, 11300 Greenwell Springs Road, Baton Rouge

INFO: (225) 274-4440


Follow Pam Bordelon on Twitter, @pamspartyline.