A few years back, I decided that I wanted to wear my own version of a mohawk. I told myself that in order to pull it off (especially during the summer months), I was going to need to bite the bullet and put a relaxer in my hair. Although using a texturizer (which is nothing more or less than a mild relaxer) was nothing new to me, it had been a long hot minute since I had worn my hair bone straight.
The look? It was cute. Super cute. But the scalp irritation, the little thinning spot on the side of my head that the relaxer (or the combo of it and the texturizers) caused and always remembering in the back of my head that pregnant women are advised against using relaxers due to all of the chemicals that are in them (question—if a pregnant woman should be leery of what Sodium Hydroxide can do to her health and the health of her baby, shouldn’t we all?!)—whew! Eventually, I knew that I had to let “white crack” go. Again. Hopefully this time, for good.
I shared that little tale of mine to be an aid of support if you happen to be someone who’s had relaxed hair for years (decades even) and now you’re ready to go natural. If that is indeed you, first read this article. Then get a copy of the book Nappily Ever After (or you can watch the movie version). And then, take the plunge.
Image Source: @naturallycurly, of @tylauren
I won’t lie to you—going from chemically-treated hair to your natural locks will be an adjustment. You’ll learn more about yourself than you probably have in a really long time. But after the transition process is over, I’d be floored if you didn’t look back and realize that one of the best things you ever did (especially for your long-term health) was leave those relaxers alone.
Why are you getting rid of your relaxed hair? It’s amazing, the things that we are able to accomplish in life when we know WHY we are doing it. When it comes to getting rid of your relaxed tresses, what’s your motive and reason? If it’s because natural hair is currently “in”, it might be harder to stick with the transition phase because trends come and go. But if it’s because you know that natural hair is better for your long-term health (and it is) or you feel like you’ve been afraid to let your natural light shine and you’re ready to do just that, then it will probably be easier to get through the challenging times.
Is your plan to transition or big chop? Once you know why you want to stop relaxing, the next thing you need to think about is the approach to your hair that you want to take. Would you prefer to transition your hair (keep your length as you go from chemically-straight to naturally curly) or do the big chop? There are pros and cons of both. The pro of transitioning is that you can “ease into” having natural hair; the con is you will probably have many frustrating days and nights as you try and make the adjustment from one texture of hair to another (especially if you discover that, like most curly girls, your natural head of hair has more than one texture to it anyway). The pro of the big chop is that you can get rid of all of the straight hair at once and start with a fresh slate; the con is if you’ve never worn super-short hair or you’re not planning to rock a wig or weave, the first week or so can be its own form of culture shock. Personally, I’ve never seen a TWA that I didn’t like because once a woman big chops, there seems to be a boldness and different approach to her style that comes out. But, either way, this is another question you need to be prepared to provide an answer to.
If you want to texturize your hair, are you aware that it’s also a relaxer? I’ll raise my hand in this class and admit that while, for most of my adult life, I haven’t had a relaxer in my hair, to a certain extent, that’s not entirely true. Although texturizers are a milder form of a relaxer (much in the way that “kiddie perms” are), make no mistake about it—a texturizer is a relaxer. It’s just that, rather than straightening your hair all the way, it loosens the natural curl pattern that you’ve got. Now that I have gone completely natural (no relaxer or texturizer), I see that years of texturizing did a real number on my scalp and is probably a part of the reason why I have some premature greying in areas. Plus, texturizers have their own way of causing irrevocable damage to your natural texture which means, when you’re ready for some length retention, you’ll probably have to cut the texturizer out…and that puts you right at square one all over again. So yeah, if you’ve been thinking about letting your relaxer go and, what you’ve been saying to yourself is, “No problem. I’ll just put a texturizer in it”, that is something you should definitely think really long and hard about.
Do you have a natural hair stylist to assist you through your transition? Moral support. You just might be amazed by how far it will take you. This doesn’t just include having loved ones who will rally you on concerning your decision, but also a hair stylist who specializes in natural hair care. These kinds of professionals are experts when it comes to understanding hair texture and porosity, scalp care and how to cut and style your hair in a way that makes your natural tresses look absolutely amazing. If you wanna see how much of a difference a natural hairstylist can make, check out this video, this video and this video.
Are totally committed to the process? If a professional hairstylist was putting your relaxer in, hopefully, they were taking good care of your scalp in the process. But either way, I’m speaking from personal experience when I say that when you go from chemicals to natural, you’re gonna notice that your scalp had at least a little bit of trauma. You will probably need to exfoliate (a combo of brown sugar and olive oil are great) it and massage it (lavender and peppermint both stimulate hair follicles). You will need to be committed to deep conditioning now more than ever. Regular trims and tying your hair up at night with a silk or satin scarf is a must. Research will be important (YouTube has a really strong natural hair community; just put “natural hair” in its search engine).
Bottom line, as you go from relaxed to natural hair, you’ll need to be totally committed and it will probably take a good year to really “feel out” what your tresses need—and don’t need. But if you are willing to take all of this on, as someone who has finally figured out my own natural hair needs and am seeing the fruit of my labor, you won’t regret making the switch. You really won’t.
Check out this article on transitioning as well.