My Natural Hair – A Four Year Journey of Lessons Learned
This is me today – a Florida-born diva, turned Georgia Peach. One of the biggest decisions I made when I moved to Atlanta four years ago was letting go the “creamy crack” and turning natural. There was really no real traumatizing thing that happened. The last time I relaxed my hair was September 2007 during the weekend of the Atlanta Classic (Go Rattlers!). As I was slathering the stuff into my hair, I asked myself, “Why am I doing this?!” After I washed it out, I looked at my hair in disgust. It had done its job; it was straight – but it was limp, short, and thin. As I attempted to style my hair, it ended up in a pony tail with blunt cut bangs. It was cute, but I was so over wearing my hair out. Here’s where it all began…
It was 1988 (yes, I can remember back that far in life) and I never forgot the day my mom wanted to do my hair and had this very box with her in a bag. Actually I don’t think I forgot any times my mom did my hair when I was younger – it always turned in to a boxing match. I had THICK hair (think Rudy Huxtable with those big, poofy ponytails), but was tender-headed! Combs were from the bottom pit of hell so whenever there was hair time and a comb involved, I had the tears. So back when home relaxers became the “it” thing to do, my mom decided to give me one.
Not her fault, by no means. At that time, no one knew all the things we know about them now. So that particular day, she relaxed my hair. At that time, I knew that it would make my hair alot more manageable and my hair would look like the little girl’s on the box (I was 4; I really thought that!). Since that very day, I knew that this is what it took to maintain my unmanageable hair.
As time passed, my hair was long, but it never grew past a certain point. I grew up thinking that my hair was always thin because of genetics. Never once did I pin point it to the relaxers. Ironically, I grew up loving the big, curly hair of those I saw on TV like Freddie from ‘A Different World’ and singer ‘Cherokee’. I was told that I would have to cut all of my hair off and start over if I’d ever want hair like that. Well – so much for that!
Fast forward past high school, prom, to college. Weaves, cuts, and hair dye – lots of hair dye. Red hot Red, Jet Black, Midnight Blue, Chestnut Brown…I did it all. By my junior year, I’d cut my hair into a bob and by senior year, I cut it ALL OFF. Then came 2007…the turning point.
2007 – Hair relaxed with barely any curl and thin edges
After my first month of transitioning, I was doing the blow outs on my hair. It had a nice bounce to it.
FAMU Homecoming 2007 – 1 month into transition
By November I was over it and decided to get braids and sew ins to help me. I had fashion show after fashion show to perform in at that time, so the easiest thing to do was to keep it done. I would leave it in for a month, wash it, deep condition it, then headed back to get it done again. I did this for about 8 months.
After leaving my hair alone for months, I decided to seek out someone that knew how to blow out natural hair that wouldn’t use a scalding hot blow dryer to get it straight (*cough-cough Dominican Salons). I found a salon that did and after I saw the results after 8 months, my hair and I had a love-love relationship.
My hair was silky once he was done, never giving my curls a chance to ever be seen or thrive. I knew once I wanted it done, I would go to the salon and get it done. No worries. I could brag on being natural without actually having to have curls. In a nutshell, I was afraid of how I would look with natural, curly hair. ‘How do you do it?’ ‘Will people think I’m a new-age black panther?’ ‘What will it look like?’ Even as a natural, I didn’t want to have the typical styles that you see with naturals. I just had too many hang-ups to rock curls.
In 2009, as I was getting my hair blown for the umpteenth time, my stylist says, “Now you’re still natural, but you’ve lost your curl pattern from me pulling on it from the Marcel irons. The entire time I couldn’t think of nothing else going on, but that statement. “I lost my curl pattern?!” After that day, I decided not to go back to him. When I washed my hair again, I was left with a head full of straight pieces. I might as well have relaxed it!
After a while, I began doing my research (which I should have done to begin with) on how to care for natural hair and what works best for me within my zone. I bought a number of products, tried styles, mastered some and ditched a few, but I was learning the best way to care for my God-given tresses. I went for months without any heat and when I did put heat to it, I always used heat protectants and only pressed every 3 or 4 months. With doing this, along with washing, co-washing, deep conditioning, moisturizing, and minimal manipulation, my curls started to show again.
Then last summer, my Soror hipped me onto her hair stylist. She explained that she understood my concern with letting anyone touch my hair again. After weeks of conversations about him, I decided to give him a chance.
As we built a relationship, we discussed hair goals I had along with proper maintenance and hair care that I could do when I wasn’t in the salon. One of the biggest goals was gaining my curl pattern back. As I continued to go, he slowly helped me get that back without having to totally chop off the straight hair and start all over again. After only going to him for 6 months, along with the habits I set for myself with minimal heat, he’s helped me regain about 65% of my curl pattern back. Not to mention it’s super thick and healthy. My goal is 100%. I’m still a work in progress.
Almost 4 years later, here I am!
Now after a few years, I don’t claim to know it all about hair, but I do know my lessons learned! If you are thinking of taking the plunge, here are a few tips that I’ve learned along the way:
When transitioning, your hair is doing just that. You cannot continue to style and handle it in the same manner as you did when you were relaxed. Matter of fact: you won’t be able to use the same PRODUCTS after a while. It’s not going to work no matter how much you fight it. You will have 2 different textures and over time will begin to break and shed.
If you’re like me and did not want to do the BC (big chop), I suggest you leave your hair alone. Wear your hair in protective styles. Please do not forget to wash and deep condition your hair underneath. Also, weaves are not meant to be worn for longer than a month. I learned the hard way.
Find the products that provide you with the ultimate results. Stay away from alcohol, silicones, parabens, and sulfate filled products! This will only make it harder for you in the long run. Your hair is not magic once you’re natural. You still have to treat it with care and with respect.
You are what you eat! You can’t eat fried foods and a bunch of junk. What you put in your body is what you will get out of it. Take vitamins regularly and make water your best friend!!!
Embrace your curls!! I hear so many girls say, “well I’ll go natural, but I can still get it pressed.” If you need a refresher of what will happen over time if you’re not careful, re-read this post. If you live in the south, try all that “pressing” when it’s a humid 100 degrees outside. There’s a time to press and a time to leave it be and let it flow.
Heat is not the ultimate enemy if you learn the proper techniques and ways to handle it. Remember: handle it in moderation. You will not lose your curl pattern after ONE sitting. It’s gradual and happens over time.
Honey, EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), mixed with cheap conditioners (like Herbal Essence’s Hello Hydration) are your best friends for deep conditioning! And if you’re planning to press your hair, avoid the dreaded “frizz up” by making sure your hair has been conditioned with protein.
Don’t be discouraged. Keep at it! Find products that will work for your hair
Enjoy not running from the rain or water if you wear it curly (why didn’t anyone tell me about this natural thing years ago?!)
Just because you see your relaxer grow out does not equal your “natural hair”. Yes it’s thick, but until you actually transition fully, you will not get the full effect of what your curls look like until you get it out of your system. Don’t let edges be your excuse for not doing it. Trust your hair – it knows what it’s doing! Stop stunting it’s potential.
Make your natural journey one that’s enjoyable. It’s hard. It sincerely takes patience. This journey is not for the weak. We as women want instant results. That’s totally fine, but understand it’s a process to “unprocess” what you’ve been doing to your hair. You do NOT have to be “mixed with something” or a certain skin hue (this burns me up) to have curly hair. You already do!! Embrace it. The results are so much more worth it! After 19 years of relaxers, you can see the results of my journey, and it’s been worth every step!
Who gives a rip about natural hair?! It’s yours, rock it! Let go of your hang ups and love who you are.