Breaking Free From The Creamy Crack- Transitioning From Relaxed to Natural
I’ve been relaxing my hair for longer than some people have been alive.
I got my first relaxer when I was in my late teens; that point in a young person’s life when they can “do what they want” with their own hair.
Prior to that, I used to blow dry my natural hair, or “light press” my hair when I was old enough to take care of my own hair.
As a child, my sisters and I got that “hard press”. Those of you who are old school know what I’m talking about. You sit in a chair, or on the floor between your mother’s legs by the stove. She pulls out the straightening comb, (not the new school electric comb), and plops it on a gas burner.
Next comes the Ultra Sheen – not the blue-green “grease” that my grandmother used, but the whitish, yellow creamy Ultra Sheen, which was especially formulated for straightening hair. It was more new school at that time. You used it if you didn’t want your hair to look like you just dipped it in a vat of oil.
Back in the day, black people who didn’t straighten their hair wore “naturals” or “’fros”.
My mother let my sisters and I wear our hair natural when we were middle school age. My sister Pamela, let our next-door neighbor cornrow her hair while my sister Kimberly decided to shave nearly all of her hair off in high school and sported a TWA, (Teeny, Weenie Afro).
At some point, it was important for me to have bouncing and behaving hair in my late teens, so I began to relax my hair at a salon. I almost immediately began experiencing hair breakage and just didn’t understand why. I learned over time that the “regular” strength relaxer coupled with the overlapping of touch up relaxers was basically dissolving the bonds in my hair and making it prone to breakage and shedding.
In 2000, I decided that I wanted to go natural for the first time. I began to transition from relaxer to natural over a period of 6 months. I grew really impatient with the process and then just decided to cut off the relaxed ends myself! Yes, my haircut looked whack, but at least the straight ends were gone. Doing braid outs helped to camouflage the bad haircut.
I didn’t have a clue how to care for my natural hair and became increasingly frustrated by my dry, frizzy, poofy hair.
I thought that texturizing was the way to achieve the faux-natural look that I wanted. Big newbie mistake! The first few times that I had it texturized, it looked okay. But when I was ready to get my third texturizer touch up, my hairstylist put a mild relaxer in my hair and then began to comb it through for 10 minutes! Needless to say, I now had straight hair again and had wasted several months growing my hair out.
The only thing that I learned from this experience is that I could achieve the smooth, straighter hairstyle that I wanted at the time with a mild relaxer, minus the breakage. I insisted that anyone that relaxed my hair use mild only and not leave the relaxer in for more than 10 minutes.
I experienced a lot of hair growth with this process. I constantly received compliments about how full and thick my relaxed hair looked. I also got a lot of funny comments like, “Are you mixed with something? Your hair is gorgeous”! (Yes, in this day and age, people still think that way).
Regardless of how my hair now looked, I continued to admire women who wore their natural hair loose and free. I didn’t want to wear braids, locs or twists; I liked loose hair and really admired black women with natural hair.
This admiration coupled with the fact that although my hair looked great, I was continuing to experience dry itchy scalp problems was the impetus to my deciding that I wanted to go natural again.
January 2012 was the last time that I relaxed my hair and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been slowly transitioning from a relaxer to natural hair; gradually cutting off my relaxed ends a few inches every two months.
It’s harder to transition than it is to just do the big chop in my opinion, but it’s my preference to gradually transition. I try not to get too frustrated with my hair during the process. I use a lot of the tried and true hair techniques to blend the relaxed hair with the natural hair as I’m growing my natural hair out: twist outs, braid outs, perm rods and flexi rod sets.
We should all do what we feel is best for our hair. Going natural isn’t for everyone. And I certainly don’t judge anyone who decides to relax. It’s a personal choice. Don’t let anyone make you feel uncomfortable for your choice to relax, or for your choice to embrace your natural hair.
Although I’m still in transition, for me, the best choice is to be natural. I needed to break free from the dependency on regular touch up visits, and the accompanying scalp damage. I love the texture and fullness of my big hair. An added benefit: It took several months, but my scalp has healed! I can only assume that the occasional scalp burns along with the harshness of the chemicals inherent in relaxers contributed to the issues that I was having with a dry, itchy, flaky scalp.
Going natural was the best thing that I’ve ever done for my hair and for me.
We want to know what you think. Be sure to leave your comment below.
Author: Dianne Shaddock
|“Changing attitudes about natural hair” is what we do at Natural Haircare News. Through informative articles, podcasts and videos, we go beyond just sharing the latest advice and tips on kinky, curly, wavy haircare – We shake things up and focus on the realities of wearing our hair natural.
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