Step Away From the Relaxer (final part)

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Check out the previous parts in the series if you haven’t already. Here are my top ten tips for those who have not been natural for very long and are experiencing the awkward stage of their journey.  This is usually the stage where such women decide to go back to relaxer. Over the last few weeks I have been giving my tips on overcoming this difficult stage. So far they have been:

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.

8. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

9.    Have a back up style

Afro textured hair can be unpredictable at times, especially when trying a new style for the first time. The first time I tried a wash and go was a disaster! I thought the concept was to literally wash and go. So I washed my hair and decided to put some Eco Styler gel in it and it was completely shrunken and almost looked like a TWA. I thought it looked cute and went out to dinner with that style. However, the next day was a nightmare because my hair was very tangled and was the most shrunken it had ever been. It took me a long time to detangle it, moisturize it and put it in large braids to stretch it out. I had to remain patient while doing this because I was tempted to rush and simply yank out any uncooperative knots! At times I did resort to that to be honest. I vowed to never do wash and goes again.   However upon further research I realized that I probably didn’t use the best technique and I haven’t ruled out using it again, probably using a curly pudding or butter. I’m not expecting curls that I don’t already have but I will give it a go and see what I’m working with.  Research, trial and error is the key to discovering new styles and techniques for your hair.

When trying out new styles, you may have some that go wrong and simply don’t work. I would suggest that the best time to try out a new style is when you don’t have anywhere to go that day. When you are at home chilling you don’t have to worry about a style going wrong before a major event like a party, wedding or date. When you know you have an event coming up and want to try out a new style, practice it first. Try it out on a day when you haven’t really planned to go anywhere. If the style turns out good you could arrange a last-minute outing with friends to showcase your style.  However I would not recommend trying a new style on the day you are due to go to a special event.

Another style that didn’t work for me was a flat twist-out. It was an epic fail! I did the flat twists at night and the twists looked great. I presumed it would look good in the morning when I untwisted them. I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The shape of the twist-out looked odd and there simply wasn’t enough volume, no matter how much I tried to fluff it out. Thank God I didn’t do the untwisting just before going out to an event of some sort. I did it when I was at home and didn’t have anywhere to go.

Natural hair can be unpredictable nevertheless, even when you are doing your favorite style. Sometimes your twists may not have dried fully before untwisting and your twist-out ends up frizzy.  You may have used too much product or it’s just one of those days.  In such a scenario it is always good to have a back up style. This is a style you do when something has gone wrong with the original style. This should be a simple style that you can do in less than five minutes but is presentable and chic. My back up style is the reliable puff. My other back up style is the or French roll, depending on how I feel.  When my flat twist out went wrong I just did two large flat twists along the sides of my head and pinned them up. Or, you can do one continuous flat twist around the parameter of your head. So find a good back up style. The style that you do the most in between washes and the simplest and quickest to do, is probably your back up style.

 10.  Keep it simple with products

When you first go natural I believe it is important to keep it simple and not get too overloaded with product information. On YouTube you will find constant products reviews. If a product is working for you stick with it unless otherwise and try new ones gradually.  You don’t really need fancy products as part of your hair care regiment. I rarely buy product brands and simply try them out once in a while, when the style I want to try requires it.   If you find it fun trying different products then go for it! However, if you simply find it overwhelming then don’t worry about it. Most of us would be fine using what is already in our kitchen or bathroom cabinets. If you have olive oil and water then you have most of what you need. I simply use raw Shea butter (not a particular brand where it has been put in fancy packaging and mixed with other ingredients). It is a lot cheaper than a branded Shea butter. Then I use extra virgin olive oil and water.  If I have those ingredients I’m fine.

I have been natural for over three years now and only recently started trying out different brands as long as they are reasonably priced. I purchased  a curly pudding for the first time and have discovered Shea Moisture’s deep conditioners, which I love!   It is nice to have a product with a beautiful scent and luxurious feel to it. I get my shampoo and conditioners from health food stores and I sometimes try different ones. I don’t really care about the brand as much as I care about the ingredients. So if the ingredients are good I can use any brand that has those ingredients.  If you don’t mind spending over $40 dollars on a curly pudding then go for it if you think it is worth the price.  If you don’t want to spend that much you don’t have to. I found a curly pudding/butter for a reasonable price when I went to Sally’s, that is the only reason I picked it up.

Don’t fall for gimmicks and brands that are all about fancy packaging but are full of harmful ingredients.  Remember most of these products don’t necessarily do what some Shea butter, oil or water can’t do. I find Shea butter is good for smoothing my edges like gel or even for giving me hold with my twist-outs or braid-outs. Water is what really moisturizes your hair and most of these products use water as their main ingredient anyway. Oil seals in the moisture so there you have it.

Finally…………

My most important tip in this series is not to pay attention to negative comments about natural hair. In the last few years there have been magazine articles, newspaper articles and blogs written about natural hair.  There have been documentaries, talk show segments and news features on natural hair. Celebrities have given their opinion on it and on YouTube there are videos of people giving their opinion.  There are YouTube videos where random men and male celebrities are asked what they think about natural hair. Who cares! Of course there are those who are complimentary about it but there are also those with negative opinions. Such negative comments have come from people you know, even from those in your own family. There are also negative comments from people within the black community. To be honest in my experience it has mainly been family members (although they are now supportive) and  people from my own race who have had anything negative to say.

I wouldn’t pay much attention to any of it, do their opinions change anything? No.  The majority of women didn’t go natural to impress friends, family or men. In fact many of us went into it expecting some negative responses from people.    When people make negative comments they are simply showing their ignorance, so I actually feel sorry for these people and desire to educate them. Besides, for every negative comment there are numerous compliments from people of all races about natural hair. So embrace the compliments you receive. I still get strangers coming up to me and telling me how much they like my hair. People aren’t necessarily use to seeing  black women with  their natural hair, as most women still have relaxed hair and that’s the way it has been for decades. So when people see you with your natural hair out they can’t help but notice. Remember why you went natural and don’t lose sight of that. I hope you have found this series helpful. Keep reading for more articles and information about natural hair and other topics of interest.

There are many reasons why you should step away from the relaxer and not give up on your natural hair journey. What has your experience been like so far? If you are at a difficult stage in your journey I would be happy to help. Leave your comments and questions below.

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