Going natural for some women is like stepping out on the diving board twenty feet above the pool. It can be overwhelming. For others, it’s like ripping off that mask you’ve worn for such a long time and now you are free and exuberant! I didn’t understand what freedom meant at the time. I wore my hair treated with a cream relaxer and color for over 20 years. Every couple of weeks I went back to the salon for a trim and wash, and a touch-up every six to eight weeks or longer depending on the humidity. This routine continued until I decided I had enough of chemical treatments.
And it was the strongest decision of my personal growth. Let me first say wearing a relaxer for over 20 years produced no permanent damage to my hair. Although, I experienced dry scalp and split ends (which I later learned had to do with hair care maintenance, not the chemical treatment). I still had great hair growth, and I could go over eight weeks without a touch-up.
Was I scared to leave the relaxer behind? Absolutely! The last time I wore my natural hair I was still wearing pigtails. I no longer remembered how my natural hair looked. I feared my hair might fall out. Even more important, I didn’t know how to take care of or style natural hair. Furthermore, I worried about my image. Would I look drastically different? I was okay with looking different in a good way. But, I convinced myself it’s only hair, and it will acclimate to whatever I did with it, the same as ever.
I didn’t do a big chop or protective styling; I quit going to the salon. A few times out of the year I had a professional stylist trim the ends of my hair, but often I cut them at home. Sometimes I cut less than an inch of hair other times I cut several inches depending on my desire. This wasn’t the smartest idea, but I no longer feared the unknown. Instead, I learned how to respect each unique strand, and my hair soon acclimated. All things considered, I never had significant hair breakage probably because I was always cutting off the heat damaged ends and split ends. It surprised me how much I liked having shorter hair.
Yet, like a wayward child, my hair challenges me from its crinkled roots to its bushy ends. It brings me joy when I cut off an inch and it grows back even longer. And it provokes despair when the small area in the back of my head won’t hold a drip of moisture even when I saturate it with products. There were many times I stifled the impulses to cut my hair off and wear a wig because I felt frustrated with my hair. On those days, I dig deep to table my anxiety and remind myself that going natural is empowering.
My advice to you is to embrace the freedom your natural hair can give you! Freedom to wear your hair in different hairstyles, freedom to walk in the rain without fearing what the rain will do to your hair, and freedom to be in charge of your hair and not held captive to the salon where you rely on another person to make the decisions about what’s best for your hair. Accept the good, the rough, and the ugly parts of natural hair to maintain YOUR sanity while transitioning!
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