The Price of Going Natural: My Curls in Numbers

Yesterday Essence published an article that suggested that “going natural” may liberate hair from a chemical-based process, but certainly did not ease up on $pending. As gal whose list of reasons for ditching relaxers includes economic ones, I joined the natural wagon under the absolute assumption that there would be some cost saving going on here. But then I looked over at my cabinet of stylers, my bathroom filled with conditioners, my $27 comb, my drawers brimming with chicks with afros on t-shirts in every style….and I wondered if there was something to this Essence article.

In one of my earliest posts I did a calculation that I had spent over $15,000 in my life on relaxers (and YES mom, a lot of that was YOU before I was forkin’ it over for my own bills so thank you!). Seems like there’s no time like the present to put a price tag on this natural ish! Here we go: My Natural In Numbers.

(I’m going to high-ball most estimates just to set an upper limit of how natural costs)

Months I’ve been natural: 24
Average natural hair product prices: $15/bottle
Average monthly product usage- 1 bottle each of: conditioner, leave-in, styler, moisturizer
Average total monthly expenditure on products: $60
Total monthly expenditure on products: $1440
My Big Chop: $150
Average price of a trim: $70
Number of Trims I’ve had: 3 (please note, I should have had 5)
Total spent on Trims: $210
Total I SHOULD have spent on trims: $350
Blow Dryer + Diffuser: $25
Hooded Dryer: $40
Steamer: $120
Combs: $40
Clips/scrunchies/hair tools: $15

TOTAL NATURAL HAIR COST OVER 21 MONTHS: $2040

Now just for fun, lets see how much I would have paid getting relaxers over the past two years. Let’s see, that’s about 7 relaxers a year at about $150 bucks a pop. Thats $1050 a year or $2100 for two years!

THERE YOU HAVE IT! Going natural has saved me $60 smackaroos! Look at that! The proof is in the pudding! Natural hair is cheaper!!! GTFOH, ESSENCE!!! HAHAHAHHA.

Naw, I’m just playing, but seriously, the moral of the story is that going natural CAN be expensive, but it certainly does not have to be. If you look at that tally my biggest expenditure is products. Essence article also points the finger directly at a $38 jar of curl cream (been there done that and that stuff is NOT worth it.) Some people spend next to nothing on products and some people spend their small fortune running around trying everything (——–> me.) By being a smart consumer, you can really keep the product spending in check. But you can also try everything under the sun, which is also a fun thing to do! It’s just whatever your style is. (For a list of great $$$ saving product, check out NC.com’s stance on the cost of being curly).

But, it’s not just about money. As I said before, the economics were just a part of my decision to go natural. The other big factors were my overall health and lifestyle. In my two years this has meant no chemical burns, no running like a banshee from precipitation, swimming-as-much-as-possible, and the freedom to wake up and just be.

The bottom line. Going natural: 100% worth it.

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17 Comments

  1. Love this!!!! Cannot argue with numbers like that! :)

  2. I really enjoyed this cost breakdown. Plus, how much time is just wasted sitting in a salon waiting for a stylist… and then waiting again for the styling to begin… and then waiting under the dryer. As a natural — if I want to — I can wash and go!

  3. I really think it just depends on whether or not you consider your hair a “project.” I had a relaxer from the time I was 18 until earlier this year, so for a little under 6 years. During that time, I had maybe 3 relaxers per year, max, and I never paid more than $60-$80. The products I used (Profective) ran about $20-$30 every other month (for shampoo, deep conditioner, & 2 different creme products). And, keep in mind that I have relatively long hair. So the entire time I had my hair relaxed, I spent about $2520 (and that is a veryyyy generous estimate) coming out to about $420/yr. Actually, since I got my last relaxer around July 2010, I’ll take out one relaxer and adjust that to about $490/yr. That number would drastically increase if I were to add in expensive flatirons and curling irons, etc.

    Now, I’ve had my hair natural since April, my big chop cost me about $75 and in that time I’ve used the remainder of my Profective products, maybe $15 in shampoo, I experimented with a $26 jar of Miss Jessie’s that hasn’t disappeared yet, and I paid $8 for a buy one get one on Mixed Silk by Silk Elements deep conditioner & leave-in (which I totally recommend trying…for the price it works really well for me). So in about 4 months I’ve spent about $124, and for the year that would come out to about $222. I haven’t actually gotten a trim yet so I don’t know how much that might cost, but even if it’s like $60 and I get 2 trims this year (and I might not) that still leaves my total at under $350. So we’re looking at a 30%-55% cost savings.

    I feel like going natural doesn’t have to be this big project where you run around buying everything in sight. I literally wash and go. Having processed hair doesn’t need to be an obsession where you religiously get touched up every 2 weeks. Just keep it moisturized. Both can be something you just decide to do with your hair, and if you approach it like that, then natural hair is just inherently cheaper.

  4. Well I do argue a bit with the numbers. A relaxer at a salon in New York is no where near $150 a pop. Try about $35 to $50 a pop. The amount of money I pay now for a treatment and trim for my natural hair is about the money I was spending to get my weave put in when I started wearing weaves. But before weaves I would spend about $50 on a relaxer and another $15 for a trim/cut. So although the cost may be slightly more it is totally worth it for my health and my hairs health. The difference for me is less time at the salon under the dryer which I appreciate.

  5. Let’s not forget that a lot of the $2100 was start-up cost. You’re not going to buy another Huitiful or Ouidad comb for a loooong time. The longer you are natural, the costs go down b/c some of the “new” things you buy are things you use multiple times. Some things like rollers or styling things you might buy either way, so that’s a wash.

  6. Good for you! I said basically the same thing you said when I read the article. You can spend a lot or next to nothing, it all depends on your person. If you’re a product junkie then chances are you will spend more on average. I have always been a product junkie, even when my hair was relaxed so in that sense I remained the same and love it! Lol
    “In going natural, it seems like many Black women are trading one costly expense for equally pricey one. Is that freedom? Maybe for our hair, but certainly not our pockets.”
    I think they should’ve worded things differently. We want to encourage people to become natural and stay there, not discourage them. Going natural is more than just “extra money in your pocket,” it’s accepting who you are and loving every bit of it. It’s about embracing your natural self and going against what society deems “beautiful” and if in doing so you want to go ahead and try every curly hair product out there then knock yourself out but those are NOT one of the requirements of becoming natural, it’s more of a luxury ;-)

  7. Cassadie, you are truly are a hair inspiration and my hair twin. Seeing you with the same kind of hair I have , keeps me motivated and feeling pretty. But on topic, I learned quickly in the game, that making my own shea butter mix and buying more affordable conditioners were the way to go. Every once and awhile I will spurge on some good coconut oil.
    Good post

  8. I’m just starting out, been in transitions since June 29 of this year. That’s probably why its more expensive for me bring natural. I’m in the stages of figuring out what products work well with my hair and learning my steam treatments. Before this process I never heard of someone getting a hair steam treatment. LOL
    So for me it is more expensive being natural but I LOVING this journey incredibly.

  9. i keep readin this article and love hearin folks take on it. ME personally, my bc cost $30 (sept 2009 wit an amber rose cut) everything else is on a person to person basis. As a PJ, i was droppin a good $100 a month for the 1st 8-10 months and that incl’d blk friday shopping and random sales here n there but by my 1st nappy-versary i was able to dwindle down to what my curls like n dislike. although i know what my hair LIKES and have my staples, the pj in me still pushes me to order moooore!! so its expensive yes, when u bein greedy, lol. i could easily keep it simple wit the norm, evoo, coconut oil, henna and a styler but i enjoy the fun of experimenting! i do my own trims and ATTEMPT to keep it simple.

    compared to my relaxed days when i only trimmed ONCE a year (i dnt believe in the trim ritual) barely DC’d and got my $50 perm once every 3 months. in between i’d hit up the dominican’s for $35 but other than that…i was a wrap n go girl and could care less about dc’in or shampooin every week. dnt fake like ur hair aint better while its dirty, lol. but bein in the dmv area u can always find a homegirl to do a bangin azz relaxer cuz salons be trippin!!!

  10. My take on the Essence article was that it made too many natural hair care assumptions… call me sensitive… but… i’m just saying.
    i personally say do what you want with your hair… but i feel that when you chemically process your hair it can keep you out of touch with the true health of your hair. there was a comment when a lady broke down the cost of her hair care it was astounding to see the savings! true indeed if you are a product junkie on either side your cost can sky rocket but when i think and consider (at least for myself) the initial investment and maintenance of my hair care wearing it completely natural vs what i was doing before (i’ve been technically natural for almost 20 years!) the money i spent on weaves and hair extensions for braids wasn’t entered into the equation. and i know many women are weaving and braiding it up! by the time i paid for hair… paid for the salon visit, etc… being natural has more than paid for itself within my almost two years of locking. i’d spend approximately $250 every three months now it’s down to $100 every 8 weeks… that’s a enough of a savings for me.. plus it’s my own hair i’m caring for.. not just buying hair etc and getting styled.. i’m more in tune with my hair’s health and my own throughout this journey.
    i have no idea if i’ve made enough sense… but i just HAD to comment! LOL

  11. As others have said, a lot of this will depend on if you’re aboard the ‘chasing down the perfect product’ train or not. Product junkies of any sort can easily spend thousands.. but it’s not a necessity.

    I keep my routine simple and it works for me.

    Though I think the aspect of lifestyle has so much to do with it. I embrace the freedom I have with my hair, more than anything else.

    Great read. :]

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