In February of 2014, I relaxed my hair for the last time. I had already been thinking about going back to my natural hair for a few months before that, but I swore this one was my last one and I never looked back.
I was inspired by celebrities who decided to ditch the relaxer in favor for their natural hair. No one around me was in my situation, so I looked to the stars for some guidance. I remember seeing Solange Knowles on Oprah a few years back and she talked about how she decided not to relax her hair anymore and cut it all off and get back to her natural hair. I remember thinking that wasn’t something that I could do! I thought it was so brave to just cut off all of your hair and start anew. Then I saw both Tia and Tamera Mowry do the same and I really started seeing this as something that I needed to do.
A couple of months into the transition
In 1995, I was graduating from the 8th grade and as a gift to me, my aunt sent me to the salon for my first relaxer. I was really excited about this because my hair was so long and thick and I had no clue what to do with it. I would sit as my mom attempted to detangle and put it in a style that was easiest for both of us: usually a ponytail or braid. I was in love with result of my newly relaxed hair even though I got my first taste of what a burning scalp felt like. That pain and the subsequent scabs on my scalp that occurred was not enough to stop me from getting that touch up six weeks later.
After a few times of paying the expensive salon fees, my mom and I tried out a more affordable option: Just for Me relaxer kit, that we could do at home. $60 or $6? The choice was pretty easy. So between the harsh chemicals that I was applying to my hair in combination with a blowdryer and flat iron, I was able to style my own hair for school and I was feeling myself like I was Ashley Banks from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, you couldn’t tell me nothin’.
After a few years, I could definitely see the damage that this was doing to my hair, but I’d get the split ends cut off and keep it moving. This continued until I was already in my 30’s and then one day, I got the bright idea that maybe I should stop all of this damage and get back to the hair that I was born with. I knew that it would take a lot of time, time that I wasn’t sure that my impatient self was ready for. I started telling people that I’d been thinking about this. I figured I’d transition for a bit and then do a big chop. Actually I didn’t use any of that terminology, I learned all of those words from my naturalista friends on Instagram and Pinterest.
So what would people say and think about my decision? Yeah, I thought about it for a bit, but decided that I could only be concerned about what was best for me, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those that matter, don’t mind.” Just a Dr. Seuss wisdom for y’all.
I didn’t know what to do with it when it was this short
Like a lot of natural girls will tell you: everybody’s journey is different. You can transition for a year or more and then big chop, or cut it all off the minute you decide to get off of the creamy crack. It’s completely up to you! There will probably be times that you look at your short hair and feel like there are no cute ways to style it. Or your hair may be in that awkward stage of transitioning, growing in thick at the top with the relaxed ends still hanging on and think that having relaxed hair was so much easier. Believe me, I understand. I’d look at my hair and wonder what I was thinking putting myself through this. And then there will be days when you realize you can throw on a cute head scarf and rock it! Don’t give up on the journey. Your hair may not grow as fast as you’d like it to, but it is worth it.
It takes time, but it does grow back!
After going back to natural, I was afraid to straighten my hair because I knew that I’d have to put a lot of heat on it. But about a year into the journey, I wanted to try. I was halfway done and I almost stopped because it was taking too long to dry. Honestly, it was more difficult to do without it being relaxed, but I still liked the way it turned out. It’s something I would try again, but not too often.
First time I straightened my hair without chemicals
I have had to learn to not use so much heat on my hair, regular trims are still important. Deep conditioners are necessary and coconut oil will become your best friend.
Warning: you may become a product junkie, completely justified because we’re just trying to find the best products for our hair (speaking like the shopaholic that I am). And if you’re like me, you might want to get creative and start making your own products. There’s many a conditioner and aloe Vera hair gel to be made. When the people around you don’t know if you’re making dinner or creating a new hair concoction in your kitchen, you’re on the right track.
Like I mentioned before, sites like Pinterest and Instagram helped me a lot and I hope that I can help you in some way too. Figure out what products and styles work for you. I’ve had a lot of fun trying out different styles on my hair.
And when all else fails, put it in a pineapple
So although I’m 34, I’m saying happy 2nd birthday to the hair that I hadn’t seen in about 20 years. It’s thick, unruly and wild…like me, ha! But it’s mine and I’m so glad that I have it back.
Thank you for reading!