As I’m writing this post, I have no clue if it’s going to be a long one or a short one. However, I do know that’s it’s going to be hella honest.
One of the questions I get asked most since making the decision to go natural with my hair is why? Why now, after
years decades of chemically relaxing my hair straight, have I decided to go natural? I think it’s imperative for me to first state that going natural when I was younger didn’t seem like a viable option. Whether it was the lack of resources, the lack of girls/women in mainstream media with natural hair, or the fact that every woman in my family also relaxed their hair – I didn’t see evidence in my everyday life that rocking your natural locks was accepted or even beautiful.
Becky with the Good Hair
The first time I got my hair chemically relaxed was when I was 10 years old. I had just chopped off much of my hair and my mom thought the answer to my hair problem was to get straight hair. So we did. And I loved it! I felt pretty for the first time in my life because my hair was like the girls at school, on TV, and in magazines.
There was only a handful of times in my youth when I went natural. There was a short stint senior year in high school, which I’m pretty sure only happened because we couldn’t afford to get my hair relaxed at the time, and then again my senior year in college when I couldn’t come up with the funds to pay someone to professionally relax my hair. As a result, I quickly learned that I must set aside a budget for relaxers every year, so that’s what I did.
Professionally relaxing your hair isn’t cheap. Typical costs are $90-$110 for each session and depending on hair type and maintenance, sessions can happen every 8 to 12 weeks. When Kevin and I moved to Arizona, I panicked because I couldn’t find anyone who knew how to relax hair and you can’t leave that type of service to a rookie. That could seriously damage your hair and scalp! So one day I went to a drugstore and bought an at-home kit to do myself. A few scabs later and some damaged hair, by the time we moved back to Virginia I was a pro at relaxing my own hair.
But somewhere down the line, something changed. When Dove launched it’s Love Your Hair campaign and showcased beauty and hair diversity I was intrigued. The brand was encouraging young girls and women to embrace the different hair types, textures, lengths and colors and to embrace originality! I was lucky enough to share my part in the campaign, too! But Dove’s message struck a chord in me, especially because, here I was chemically relaxing my hair while trying to convince my daughter her curly hair was beautiful and part of her identity. I felt like a hypocrite.
Fast forward to earlier this year when I went to Cancun with my job and accidentally got my hair wet. I wasn’t prepared to be potentially rocking my natural locks but I did for the remainder of the trip. Coworkers kept commenting on how pretty my hair was and that they wouldn’t have guessed it was naturally curly. For the first time ever, I was being accepted with my curls. When we got back from the trip I decided to go a few more weeks with the natural hair. The more and more I wore my hair curly, the more compliments I got. People even noted that my curly, “wild” hair fit my spunky personality. After a few weeks of the curls, I finally made the decision to pump the breaks on the relaxers and transition my hair to its natural state. As of today, I’ve been rocking my natural curls for six months.
This is probably a good time to mention that I am far from a hair expert, especially when it comes to the transition process. For the last six months, I’ve been doing a lot of research. I’ve spent hours on Youtube, I’ve Googled just about every article on transitioning from relaxed to natural hair, and I’m even considering meeting with a Curly Hair Expert. Yep, those exist. If there’s one thing I have learned thus far in this process, it’s that while the transition from relaxed to natural hair has been an empowering experience, it’s also been a major struggle. Taking care of, maintaining, and styling hair when it is in-between textures (in my case, straight and curly), can be confusing and difficult to manage. But I haven’t, and won’t, let that deter me.
How I Help my Hair Look & Feel Healthier
When I first started this process, I considered doing the “big chop”. If you’re not familiar, the big chop is when you cut off all the relaxed and damaged hair into a short style. According to many articles, it can be therapeutic and liberating as it empowers you to accept your hair in its natural state. Ultimately, I chickened out. But in the last few months, there have been a few things I’ve done to help my hair look and feel healthier during the transition.
// Co-washing. Co-washing is used to supplement shampoo, it’s a process that uses a conditioner to cleanse and hydrate your hair instead of using shampoo. This method is used to add moisture to your hair, which If you weren’t aware, is very necessary for curly hair. Because of the added hydration, co-washing also helps reset your curls. So, it’s not that you don’t shampoo your hair, it’s that you’re doing that step sparingly in an attempt to keep the moisture your curls need to thrive. I shampoo my hair every two weeks to remove product build-up from hair.
// Protective hairstyles. Experimenting with protective hairstyles has been a godsend for me. From past experience, I know that simply pulling my hair back in a ponytail or bun is actually bad for my hair. Doing that thins out your hairline and can damage your roots. Instead, try a protective hairstyle like braids or twists because it helps new growth. A few days after my wash-and-go, I typically comb out my curls, remoisturize, and faux box-braid my hair which I wear pulled back in a low bun for roughly 3-4 days. This helps me not have to fuss over my hair for a few days and promotes hair growth!
// Flexi Rods. Because my hair is transitioning (and I’m still dealing with straight sections due to my last relaxer) I like to use Flexi Rods to disguise the fact that my hair isn’t all the same texture. This is a new method for me but so I’m still trying to master putting them in. Flexi Rods make it possible to still rock bomb-ass curls while managing the transition process. Since they are foam and cushy, they help prevent tugging which can cause breakage.
// Satin bonnet and pillowcase. Prior to the transitioning process, I was already using a silk/satin pillowcase to help prevent hair breakage. Once I decided to go natural, I realized that I had to take it a step further. A satin bonnet helps keep my hair hydrated and helps keep my curls’ shape without causing kinks and bumps. It also prevents hair from getting frizzy and poofy.
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For my ladies in the transitioning process or those that are al natural, what are some tips and tricks you recommend?