Step away from the relaxer (part 4)

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This is not an anti relaxer series. It is simply to encourage those who are transitioning or have recently gone natural, to not give up and keep going. There will be both highs and lows in your natural hair journey. I was so excited when I did my big chop albeit a little apprehensive about having really short hair, especially as I have a round face shape and have never thought short hair would suit me. However, when I had my TWA (teeny-weeny afro) I enjoyed experiencing my natural texture for the first time, and I found my natural texture more interesting and versatile.  When my hair begun to grow out that’s when I faced new challenges and my hair care regiment had to change. It certainly became more time-consuming. I did experience more bad hair days at this point because I was still learning about styling and managing my hair. So over the last four weeks, I have been sharing some tips about getting through this difficult stage.  The following has been covered in previous weeks so go back to the home page and check them out, if you haven’t already:

1. Don’t forget about braids, wigs or weaves.

2. Moisturize correctly

3. Accept the facts and remember the benefits of natural hair.

4. Learn how to manage shrinkage

5. Beware of texturizers

6. Protective styles  give you a well-earned break

7.  Detangle.

As your hair gets longer, the more important it is to detangle regularly.   The sooner you get familiar with this, the easier it will be.  I like to detangle my hair before washing it and I detangle it in sections. Some people detangle in the shower but this doesn’t work for me.  I have 4b hair and I’ve heard the same from other bloggers with the same hair type.   I find that the water causes my hair to become more fragile and at risk of damage while detangling. Before washing I divide my hair into four to six sections and apply some oil to my fingers. Then I begin to work my way through my hair, dealing with knots and removing shed hair. Once a section is detangled I put it into a large twist and move onto the next.

Some people prefer to spray their hair with a solution of water and oil or a detangling product.  Then they simply comb their hair in sections. Using a wide tooth comb, they are able to detangle their hair and remove knots. This is a quicker process. Do whatever works for you and develop your own routine. If you do this regularly you will see the benefits. I have recently tried making my own detangling serum and trying the above method. Check out Kinky Curly Coily Me’s tutorial on making your own detangling cocktail. I found this to be a quicker process and I’m considering using this method from now on.

Finally, remember that your hair is not the same as it was when relaxed. So it should be handled differently; using a wide tooth comb instead of a fine tooth comb for instance. Also, I think combing your dry hair out before styling is unnecessary manipulation. This will simply put extra stress on your hair. When my hair was relaxed I would constantly be combing or brushing it. With natural hair you should never comb it while it is dry and of course you should comb it from the ends and gradually work your way to the roots.  Afro textured hair must be handled with a lot more care, as it is more delicate than we realize.  Combing it while dry would mean simply pulling and tugging your hair, and this will lead to breakage.

I find it easier to put my hair into sections before handling it. This was not something I did when I had a relaxer but is necessary with natural hair. Don’t just plow a comb through it! We have to be a lot more patient with our natural hair. When I do my hair in a hurry I have a lot more broken and shed hairs, so I try to avoid this by taking my time.  Always spray it with water to soften it before styling it, especially if it has been flattened and shrunken overnight.   It doesn’t have to be completely drenched either, just enough to manage it easily.  If you get into the habit of regularly detangling your hair and wearing it in stretched out styles (twist-outs, braid-outs etc), you will not need to spend a long time combing it out before styling it. I prefer to finger detangle whenever possible, rather than combing constantly.  We have developed many habits, from years of dealing with relaxed hair. When you change your mindset you will approach caring and styling  for your natural hair differently.

8. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

If you decide it simply isn’t for you, that’s fine. At least you gave it a shot. If you want to go natural again in the future, you can try again. Jill Scott explained how she likes to change her hair all the time. She got a lot of flack from some, in the natural hair community for relaxing her hair, but she simply felt like a change. She never ruled out going back to her natural hair in the future anyway (check out the post: Jill Scott, Relaxed or Natural?).  If you are at the difficult stage and feel like giving up, remember that a relaxer is permanent! That is what stopped me from going back to it when I was finding it difficult. I knew once I relaxed my hair, that would be it. In order to go back to my natural hair, I would have to do the big chop all over again.  It would take the same amount of time to reach the length I had reached, months and years even.

Consider trying a temporary alternative, before getting a relaxer.  After being natural for a year or so I did get my hair pressed. It was nice to have it like that for a week and I curled it with rollers when it started to revert back. I enjoyed the change but I haven’t done it since. Pressing or flat-ironing your hair gives you the choice of going back to your natural texture. If you are going to press or flat-iron your hair, I suggest you make yourself aware of the risks, as the effects of heat damage are permanent. Go to an accredited hair stylist as well. Some of these hair stylists don’t even use heat protectant, so do your homework and be willing to pay more, it’s worth it. Check out Natural Chica’s vlog, where she straightens her hair:

Don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to others who have been natural for the same length of time. They may have longer hair or a different hair type. Afro textured hair is very diverse. I have a hair type that is not as curly as others and I’ve seen women on YouTube do these amazing wash and go styles, that simply wouldn’t work on my hair.  Also, there are some YouTube vloggers  who haven’t been natural for that long and their hair is already BSL (bra strap length)! So don’t be discouraged just because your hair is different, that’s the beauty of natural hair.   I like subscribing to a variety of YouTube channels with women whose hair is both similar and very different from my own (and channels from people of different races). I enjoy watching videos that show the versatility of natural hair. It doesn’t mean that one hair type is better than another, it is something that should be enjoyed and celebrated. Take the tips and information that you receive and adapt it to suit you as an individual.

What have been your main frustrations since going natural? Have you transitioned or big chopped more than once?

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