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With the help of Miss Jessie's Salon in New York, Sharon transitioned from completely relaxed hair to completely natural.

NaturallyCurly is celebrating its 15th Anniversary this year. To show you how far we've come, we're highlighting a few of your favorite articles from the NaturallyCurly archives!

Over the course of her life, Cassandria Milton has done nearly everything to her hair. She has pressed and chemically relaxed it. She has worn it in extensions and braids. It had been long and short, and every length in between.

She was 36 years old when a stylist encouraged her to go natural because of the breakage caused by the relaxer. Having tried everything else, Milton was game.

"It took me a while to get used to it," says Milton, a Denver, Co. resident. "But I figured it would be better for my hair in the long run."

Samya Zeigler, an 18-year-old from Savannah, Georgia, is just starting the transitioning process. After having her hair relaxed since the age of 10, she wants to go natural.

"Everyone thinks I'm weird," Zeigler says. "But I don't think my hair has to be straight to be pretty. I don't feel like straight hair is the real me. Natural is the best way to be."

Like Milton and Zeigler, a growing number of woman of all ages are transitioning to natural hair. And thanks to the wide variety of options, a wealth of new products and the growing acceptance and appreciation for natural hair, the transitioning process can be easier then ever.

Making the transition from straight to natural hair can be difficult, whether your hair be loose curls or tight kinks. It can be as challenging for someone who has blowdried their waves straight their whole lives as for someone who has chemically relaxed their hair since they were a child. It is about learning to accept the texture with which you've been born rather than trying to mold it into something else.

"We're definitely seeing more people transitioning from permed hair," says Miko Branch, co-owner of Miss Jessie's Salon in Brooklyn, NY. "People are realizing that natural hair -- whether kinky or curly -- can look good."

Making the decision to go natural can be the hardest part of the transitioning process. Many people spend years thinking about it before they ever take the leap.

T'Keyah Crystal Keymah

"When you're used to doing one thing with your hair and you decide to do something completely different, it's a serious transition and shouldn't be taken lightly," says actress T'Keyah Crystal Keymah, author of "Natural Woman/Natural Hair: a Hair Journey." "Before you do it, you should take the time one takes with any serious transition. So many people say they tried to transition and didn't like it. But they hadn't really accepted the weight of what transitioning really means. If you've had permed hair since you can remember, you need to ask yourself why you're doing it and what it means to you."

Branch says she asks all clients considering transitioning if they have really thought about it.

"Although there are a lot of style options, you have to be ready for it," she says. "It's a big decision."

Natural hair expert Diane Da Costa, author of "Textured Tresses," and creator of the Tai Texture line of hair products, also encourages her clients to think long and hard about transitioning before they do it.

"If you don't, you'll really be in shock," Da Costa says. "Your natural hair texture is going to be dramatically different."

She encourages clients to look at pictures of natural styles they like, and visualize how they want to look throughout the whole process. They can wear wigs and weaves to prepare themselves mentally, and to gain confidence in their new look.

"You have to be comfortable with yourself," Da Costa says. "You have to believe that you look gorgeous no matter how your hair looks. You are not your hair."

Women no longer must face the "Big Chop" if they want to have natural hair. There are numerous ways to go natural, depending on the look and style you want.

"It depends on your patience and how long you want to grow the natural hair," Da Costa says. "There are some people who want natural hair right away, and they may feel comfortable cutting their hair after a few months of new growth. Some will want their hair to be as long as it was when it was relaxed."

A lot of women choose to wear braided extensions or weaves while they're transitioning.

"It gives them the flexibility of not having to be concerned about styling or setting their hair when it reverts back," Da Costa says. "You just have to make sure you condition before, during and after every session of weaves or braids."

You also can do natural sets that create a wavy pattern using a setting lotion or mousse and some spiral perm rods. That can help hide the demarcation line between the natural and permed hair. Coils, twists and cornrows also are attractive styling options as the hair grows.

Miss Jessie's does a non-chemical process called "shingling," in which styling products are combed through the hair to stretch and smooth the hair and encourage curls.

Some people may flat iron the new natural hair while it's growing out to match the permed hair. If you choose to do that, make sure you're using moisturizing conditioners to protect the new growth.

"Some women prefer it like that always, even when their hair is natural," Da Costa says.

Many women opt for chemical processes that loosen the curl with a softener or texturizer.

"It gives you a more controlled texture and reduces the frizziness," Da Costa says. "You still get a curl pattern, but the look is a little closer to the relaxed hair while you're growing it out. It's a transition to the transition."

Branch says Miss Jessie's Silkener is a popular option for women who may not be completely comfortable with the transition from straight to curly or kinky hair.

"Those who need a little hand holding may look into a silkener because it gives you a shinier, smoother curl pattern," says Branch, who has gone natural over he past year. "It's a happy medium between completely natural and completely relaxed."

Marsha Coulton, creator of the Curl Junkie line of products, says she has gone natural two times during her life. The first time, she transitioned gradually, chemically texturizing the new growth every three months until her hair grew to the length she wanted it. She most recently went natural three years ago, cutting her medium-length hair into a short curly afro "right off the bat." She had two months of new growth when she did the "Big Chop."

"It was no fuss, no muss," Coulton says. "I think it's the easiest way to go natural. But of course not everyone is ready for short hair."

No matter what style you choose, the hair must be specially treated as you transition. Use gentle, moisturizing cleansers, and shampoo no more than once or twice a week.

"One of the big concerns is breakage when you're growing out relaxed hair," Da Costa says. "The curlier the hair, the greater the possibility of breakage."

The two types of hair must be treated differently. The new growth should be conditioned with moisturizing products, while relaxed hair needs products with keratin, says Da Costa. She recommends herbal hot oil steam treatments, where natural botanical oils are applied to the hair and the steam from a shower or a steam room is used to help it penetrate the hair shaft.

"No matter how you condition your hair, double that while you're transitioning," Keymah says.

The transitioning process isn't just about how to work with your hair. Women may get negative reactions from their mothers, grandmothers, friends and mates. Some people with relaxed hair may feel threatened by others' decision to go natural, viewing it as criticism about their own choice to relax.

"You'll get flack from all sides -- people who question why you're doing it and critics who don't understand it," Keymah says. "Even after you're done transitioning, your natural hair may not look right to them because you look different."

Keymah says she has lost roles because of her natural hair.

"I've been told by casting directors that they didn't hire me because of my hair," she says. "A lot of people think straight hair is pretty and nappy hair is ugly."

But for many women, the end result has been worth the effort.

Lisa Goddard

Lisa Goddard, CurlTalker "Webjockey," wore her hair stick straight for most of her life, except for a brief period when she sported a Jheri curl. When she moved to Austin, Texas, six years ago, she had difficulty finding a stylist who could work with her relaxed hair. She began experimenting with curlier styles, scrunching and diffusing her hair. After a Google search led her to NaturallyCurly.com, Goddard found other women transitioning from relaxers to natural hair.

"It never occurred to me not to relax," she says. "It was just something to do, and a look I felt comfortable and familiar with."

But with the encouragement of some other transitioning NaturallyCurly members, she decided to try it. They spent hours online comparing products, commiserating about breakage and debating when to "chop it all off." Ten months into it, frustrated by the difference between her healthy natural hair and the weak relaxed hair, she broke out the scissors and cut away.

"Over five years later, I'm still natural," she says proudly.

A year after her transition to natural hair, Milton says she proudly wears her hair in an afro, and she couldn't be happier.

"I feel more confident about myself," Milton says. "I"m not saying it's for everyone. But I'm more comfortable this way. It's easier, and I feel like this is how I want to express myself as a person. I don't ever want to go back."


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0 Comments
It is harder than ppl are making it out to be. Especially if you on a budget. N the breakage is unreal. I have really short hair and its becoming hard to find a style I can wear for more than 3 days. HELP!!!!
This article on, 'Making the transition' was a no holds barred type of editorial on the decision I've been making for a long time. My first big chop put me in a texturizer and it looked gorgeous of course because it was still being chemically changed. However, this is my fifth big chop and the first one without the texturizer. It is growing like a weed, daily and I'm keeping it conditioned and moisterized daily. I'll keep you posted on my progress. Peace, Love, and no hair grease!!!

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