In 2014, I decided to adopt a better health routine: eating, working out, skincare, and hair care. I started working out more and being intentional about cleaning my face each night and washing my hands. I also made an effort to cut down on sweets, eliminate sodas, and drink cranberry juice almost every day to boost my immune system. There’s been a lot of ups and downs, but I have certainly felt the difference. One decision in particular proved to be both personal and empowering. I decided once and for all to go natural. For the last 8 months I have officially been transitioning my hair. I have not flat ironed my hair since April 28th and I haven’t had a relaxer since April 18th. The decision was not an fast one, and it hasn’t been easy to stick with, but I’ll tell you why I made it. When I was in high school I played A LOT of golf, and I was usually in the house, so my hair was the least of my worries. When I was practicing (nearly every day for much of 11th grade) I put my hair in a quick ponytail or simply brushed it back, stuck it under a baseball cap and went on my way. If it was a normal week where I wasn’t in public often I didn’t do much to my hair besides the normal wash, condition and moisturizing. I rarely flat ironed or curled it and some days I didn’t even pull it back, I just let it run wild and free because, who was going to see me anyway? There was no one around to tease me about it, no one to impress, nothing that I had to “look presentable” for. I was free to focus on my activities and let my hair grow with little manipulation or damage. On special occasions (two or three times a year) I would get it relaxed and that was about it. Before I knew it, my hair had really grown. But I didn’t recognize this until I got my thick mane straightened for my high school graduation. My hair was the longest it’s been in my entire life! It was collar bone length, long enough for me to feel on the back of my neck when I put it in a ponytail. I was ecstatic, to say the least. Around this time I also learned about bantu knots and ways to wear your hair if you were going natural, styles that I tried a couple of times. However, with college came stress, and the pressure to look nice all the time, which led to using more heat products, and with such a busy schedule I rarely spent enough time nurturing my locks, not even wrapping it properly at night. Before I knew it, my hair was breaking off in the back and I had lost a lot of my length. I was back to the chin length hair I was used to having before and it’s been a struggle to get it back. I began to do “No Heat Summers” where I refrained from using heat or chemicals on my hair for the three months that I was home from college. I also only used about two relaxers a year: one at the start of each semester. Before I knew it, I was almost back to my old length by junior year. I also started to read more about natural hair and learned about the transitioning method (caring for your hair like it’s natural and waiting until you feel comfortable with the length of your natural hair to cut off the relaxed ends), which was much more appealing to me than the big chop. I decided I wanted to make the leap.
I realized that I didn’t really know what my own hair was like–I had no idea what my curl pattern was. The very hair growing from my head suddenly didn’t feel like my own, it felt very much like an imposter, and I didn’t like it. I looked at natural women and their hair was beautiful and healthy. I didn’t want to damage my hair any longer, and more importantly, I didn’t want to change the hair God gave me. Chemically straightening it felt like I was altering my body when I didn’t have to, when I didn’t even have a reason.
Since April I have trimmed my hair and seen it grow and become a lot healthier, but seeing old pictures or curly haired pages makes me restless, as I won’t be satisfied until my hair is that long again. And I know I can get it longer. I used to think that I couldn’t look pretty or be accepted by society if my hair was anything other than bone straight, but the more I read about hair and spend time with my tresses the prouder I am of them and the more I realize those thoughts were wrong. It takes a great deal of time to learn how to care for and style your hair correctly, but it’s so rewarding. Sometimes I get frustrated, and sometimes wash day seems like a large task to conquer, but I’m already seeing how amazing and stellar my hair can be, and every day I’m proud of deciding to take care of my own kinky curls and braving all the criticism that comes with it. I feel more myself than ever before.
While this isn’t a hair blog, I will be sure to post updates for other people to see, and hopefully it will inspire someone. Oftentimes, transitioning and big chopping is such an awkward and difficult stage in the hair process that there are few blogs, videos, etc on this stage, leading to an online hair community of women who have already achieved the “holy grail” of natural hair. While I am far from the promised land, I will be sure to share pictures and tips along the way to document the real journey from relaxed to natural, including all the good and bad days in between. Right now my goal is to retain all my length, so on graduation (1 year post relaxer) I can straighten my hair for my cap and gown, then chop off all those straggly straight ends. Going natural isn’t going to be easy, and you may not like it all of the time, but it’s worth every twist, product, and emotion that comes with it. There’s no reason not to embrace who you are, and learn how to love and work what is unique to you. Here’s to good hair days in 2015!
“A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” Coco Chanel