Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Things That Surprised Me About Going From Relaxed to Natural

Its been 3 years since I finished transitioning and chopped off the remainder of my chemically relaxed hair and went 100% natural. I'd been relaxed since I was 8 years old and it was something I'd never considered for years had only recently just a year prior began to appreciate the beauty and versatility of natural African texture and finally decided to give it a try.

Here's what surprised me most:

It takes much more work!

When I was relaxed, it did take much less effort to style me hair (except for the whole relaxer process, that is). I'd shampoo, condition, throw back in a ponty to air dry, then later flat iron and wrap up at night. Every few days, I'd throw some grease on it and I was good to go (So I thought).

If anyone has ever caught a natural black hair blog, its easier to see that natural doesn't always mean easier or less work. I've learned that to keep my kinky curls in check, I need daily moisturizing and had to create a very specific routine to keep my hair healthy and growing. Its still a work in progress and I"m still learning new techniques. But serious hair care needs serious effort.

My hair did not magically turn big, thick, or long.

I think I maybe had some delusions.

I think I did think that when I went natural, my coily hair would magically turn into this huge, fluffy afro or that I could create big, fat chunky twists and curls using all these methods I'd seen online. And if you see most of these pics, its easy to think that all natural afro hair is big and voluminous. Or that I'd grow this long, hair all down my back

Truth is, I was born with fine, thin hair (thanks mom!) and I will always have fine, thin, (and I just learned the term "low porosity") hair. On a very good day and with some good product buildup, I can create the illusion of thickness but the reality is I don't have thick or full hair. And the rate of my hair growth is the same: 3-4 inches for year. On top of that, my hair is also very fragile. I have the kind of hair that breaks if it regularly touches clothing which is why I have a touch time getting past shoulder length. So it still takes a LOT of patience and a LOT of protective styling to retain any length at all.

Its much harder to color my hair.

When I was relaxed, I stayed with highlights in my hair. I used to color my hair every 3-6 months, trying new colors, sometimes mixing them up. It was so easy. I'd buy whatever $5-6 color I could find, put it in and BAM, new highlights! Soon as I cut off the rest of my relaxed ends and tried to color the same way, I was shocked when I pulled that towel off my freshly washed hair to find it the same way it was before. It didn't take. And the next didn't take and the next. I'd never had an issue coloring my hair before and now nothing was taking. I had to actually buy a hair lightening kit to get any color in my then very dark brown hair. After that it got easier but still, its very hard to get the same color I see on the box. As I did before.

My natural hair does not always photograph well.

In the mirror, I am happy with what I see. When I take a pic, it oftentimes looks TOTALLY different! Which is why I have far fewer selfies and pics on my Facebook than before. Perhaps, its the lack of sheen hitting the lighting or the fact that the eyes cannot distinguish the texture as well as with straight hair or because my curls are so tight, the camera just can't capture that much detail but I have come to find my photos since going natural are really a hit and miss. When my hair was straight, I had a much higher satisfaction with the pics I took.

Its not hard at all to get my edges relaxer-straight.

I'd had relaxed hair since I was 8 years old and because if this, I'd never really styled my hair in its completely natural form. So when I considered going natural, a concern was that I would have this totally frizzy, hair that I'd never be able to get back into a sleek ponytail or bun without bushy edges sticking out.

Not so. One of the surprising things about natural hair is, the same way I smoothed my edges down (water and moisturizer and a tiny brush) the same exact thing worked with natural hair. In fact, getting smooth, straight hair, also is not nearly as hard as I thought it would be and its very possible to get natural hair just as straight as relaxed with the right tools and methods.

My husband digs the afro!
When I met my hubs, I was weaved down my back. In fact, I remember having the uncomfortable conversation when I revealed that what he saw was not all me. Being a total sweetheart, he did not care but surprised me more when a few years later, I expressed the interest in going full-on natural and he not only was all for it but was my biggest supporter (love you shmoopie!). The next surprise was while I am not in love with my natural afro on me, he finds it sexy. Um, bonus!!

The fear that stinkbugs (or other bugs) will get caught in my 'do.

Never had this fear while relaxed but I remember the day I was at work and a stupid stinkbug started flying around. When it whizzed past my head, I was actually scared to death that it would somehow sly right into my hair and get stuck and then I'd have to run around like some crazed cartoon, crying for someone to get it out!! True story! Another reason to hate bugs!!

Going natural has been a learning experience but overall, a really good one. There is something liberating about breaking away from long-held beliefs that something about your physical self is not acceptable and embracing the real you, the way natural intended. My hair is still a work in progress and I am still learning new hair care methods and what works and what doesn't but I am much happier this way and I hope to never go back to the creamy crack.


  1. I hear you. I had a locust in my curls one year and I did run around crying. Luckily a friend pulled it out. Your hair can grow but I have found that coloring it is my enemy and is often the cause of me having to chop it again and again. Coloring requires extra care (deep conditioning under a hooded dryer, hot oil treatment, yawn, not interested). Another thing that pisses me off, my hair texture has changed, mostly around the front. I think from too much straightening. So now I have 3c hair everywhere but in a small section in the front where it looks like 4a which is new to me and requires a different way to style (twist or pin curl). I just want long hair!

  2. OMG, I didn't know about the locust!! Ahhhh! I love color but I need to take a good break so I can increase my growth. You know my whole story! Such work!