The decision to “go natural” is one I made years ago, but it was only just over a year ago that I finally had the courage to start the journey. Many people opt for the big chop, but that was not for me. I did not want to be stuck with short hair should I decide to give up after a couple of months, and revert to the creamy crack that is hair relaxer. I also wanted to avoid the negative running commentary that comes from the anti-natural-hair-brigade. Few people even noticed what I was up to for the first six months.
As we speak, I am one year and four months into my transitioning journey. I can safely say it was the best decision I could have made. It wasn’t as difficult, and complicated as many people said it would be. It did however involve a lot of research… *high-five to all the natural hair bloggers*. Below are a few pieces of advice that I hope might help anyone else hoping to transition, or even just hoping take a long break from relaxers.
- Ignore the naysayers.
The best tip I ever came across was to ignore people that have negative comments about natural hair. Some of the negativity will come from people close to you, so you have to be prepared to deal with it. It’s your hair, and your journey. There is no way anything that is naturally meant to grow out of your is head ugly.
- You need to be organised and always plan ahead with what you are going to do with your hair.
Protective hairstyles are going to be your best friend. Plaiting, braids, weaves and wigs. This boils down to personal choice. I personally survived with braided twists, soft dread, and weaves. By alternating these three, I found myself not stressing about what to do with my hair. Not having a plan, after undoing your hair will make it more likely to succumb to relaxers. With that being said, your hair and hairline need short breaks in between braiding.
- Say goodbye to excessive use of heat to dry and manage your hair.
I was a previously certified flat iron addict. Though I air-dried my hair, I depended on my flat iron for that silky straight relaxed hair. When I started transitioning I thought the iron would be my best friend when it came to managing my growth. I thought that a flat iron would help my roots blend better with my ends. A really bad idea, I’m glad I didn’t take up.
The juncture at which natural and relaxed hair meet is fragile, therefore you have to treat your hair with extra care. This means avoiding the use of heat to dry your hair. During the early days, shrinkage won’t be a huge problem. However, this is the time you want to start practising how to do twist outs, use flexi-rods, and do bantu knots to stretch, and style your hair. The effects on your transitioning hair will obviously be different from what you will get when you are fully natural, but it’s a perfect way to hide that you have two hair textures.
On days you do need to resort to heat, use low temperature settings, and remember to use a heat protection product. I have to say, that by minimizing heat, my relaxed hair did not break off during my transitioning, I only experienced the normal shedding from the root.
- Health over length. Trim your ends regularly.
The ends of your hair are also weak. Split ends left unchecked will result in extra hair breakage. By trimming your ends every few months, you are helping maintain the health of your relaxed hair, which in turn means the health of your natural growth. As the months go by, and more of your natural hair grows out, start cutting off longer, and longer sections of the relaxed ends. I am one final chop away from being completely natural. Exciting times!
- Don’t get carried away with buying new hair products.
While you are transitioning, it is tempting to buy an arsenal of hair products that every other naturalista swears by. If left unchecked, this can quickly turn out to be a ridiculously expensive process. Another good piece of advice I got was to finish the shampoos, conditioners, and some of the moisturisers that I was already using, while slowly introducing new oils and deep conditioning habits. Virgin olive oil and coconut oil were my best affordable friends, but there are other options out there. I rely mostly on olive oil for my overnight pre-poos and coconut oil for sealing in moisture on a day-to-day basis. Pre-poos really need to become a habit if you want healthy moisturised hair.
- Protect your hair while you sleep.
The use of scarves to protect hair overnight is not new to anyone with African hair. But cotton is not good for the hair because it readily absorbs moisture and oil leaving your hair dry. Now is the time to invest in satin or silk scarves, as they retain moisture, and they are gentle on your hair and edges. I’m a fan of Lavish Atelier’s satin-lined dorags. They are perfect because they come in yummy colours. There are two sizes depending on the length and volume of your hair/protective hairstyle. The LA dorags are a great investment because they also double as daywear for those dreaded but inevitable bad hair days. Check out their online store https://solavish.co.za/collections/all
There is plenty more advice out there, and it is worth taking time to find what works best for you.