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Transitioning to Natural Hair Isn't for Every Woman

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 4

Natural hair

Natural hair care has it's challenges!

For black women, there comes a time in many of our lives where we may struggle with our hair and how to mantain it.  Depending on the woman, and her own ideals of what is acceptable, the internal battle can be pretty insignificant or an all out war.

Commonly, at some point, quite a few of us will end up applying the "creamy crack", better known as relaxer, to get our kinks, coils and curls permanently straight.  This can be a viable option and the hair can thrive with proper care and upkeep.  But the challenge comes into play when those that had previously gone straight decide that removing the kink from their hair is no longer an acceptable option.  

Choosing to no longer relax (or even continuing to do so) is a personal decision.  Some decide that the chemicals involved are too harmful to be used on the body (scalp).  Others want to show the world that coils and kinks are acceptable and nothing to be ashamed of.  Then there are those that have daughters that are natural, and they'd like to show them that "mommy's hair is just like yours".   The reasons for deciding to no longer relax are just as varied as the woman making the ultimate decision.

Transitioning to natural hair, in it's basic form, just means to no longer relax it with chemicals.  You are allowing your hair to grow out, back to it's natural texture, from the root.  

Where it can get tricky AND frustrating is when the new growth (the roots) and the previously relaxed hair, meet.  Since there is no way to revert the chemically straightened hair back to it's natural form, you are now left to cope with two totally different textures (straight vs kinky/coily/curly).  A lot of times the two different extremes do not play together nicely.  The straight strands are typically easier to comb through, condition and keep tangle free while the latter is generally quite the opposite.  

Transitioning is a personal journal.  No two ladies will experience it in quite the same way and depending on how long the hair is, the transitioning time frames back to completely natural are varied as well.  

There are two main ways to attack the problem of being left with permanently straightened tresses:

  1. Trim as you go - Cut off a set amount of relaxed length at intervals determined by the wearer.
  2. Do not trim at all - Allow the hair to grow until the chemical free portion is at the desired length and then cut off the remaining straight strands.  This is also called a "big chop".

Though either way of transitioning is appropriate, for some women, these solutions just will not do.  Going to battle everyday with their hair is just not something they can commit to.  And though they try and try to make it work, after dealing with excessive knots, dryness, tangles and split ends for weeks, even months, at some point they throw up their hands and say ENOUGH!!

Either way you cut it (pun not intended), for many it is no small task to go from one extreme to another.  With that said, making the switch from straight to natural isn't necessarily the easiest thing to do, but for many, it is one of the most rewarding.   



Jul 23, 2013 2:56pm
I am a white man who has had a few African-American girlfriends. And the thing that most upset me, not because of anything other than BS societal norms, were issues about their hair and nails ("good" hair vs. "bad" hair, and I know you know what I'm talking about, Pink Chopsticks).

All I wanted for them was to feel comfortable in their own skin with their own hair and nails, and whenever the least little bit of "nappy" showed up at the temples they were off to get their hair straightened, or hard set, or something. It told them not to bother, but none of them ever listened to me. Just once I wanted any one of them to let things be!

This is a GREAT article because it not only brings such things to the fore (and Spike Lee nailed it in his movie "School Daze") it also tells me you are a woman willing to accept what you have and work with it. And that is the most important thing.

Yes, I know there are challenges with natural hair. Yes, I know there are care issues at work. But, I'll tell you--some of the most beautiful women I've ever seen (and this includes one I saw on a Greyhound Bus about 2 months ago) are the African-American women who have close cropped hair that is HEALTHY and THEIR own! (And I told this woman how much I admired her when we stopped off in Memphis, Tennessee). You should also write more things like this from this perspective--such articles can be eye openers. Thumb's up for a really good topic.
Jul 23, 2013 5:02pm
Thank you for reading and responding Vic. Yes, the dynamic between black women and hair is very...complex.

When someone is told and shown that what they have or even worse, what they are, is not acceptable, change is inevitable for some. I was never one to be ruled by chemicals (though I did relax my hair off and on over maybe 10-15 years of my life), it was always about being a simple solution to a headful of thick, course and what I perceived as unmanageable hair.

I love my hair in all it's kinky coily glory though I won't try to fool you and say it's the easiest thing to deal with. It definitely is not LOL. Can you say tangles galore? Don't get me started on how long it takes to flat iron it, which I do maybe once or twice a year. However, there is a regal beauty to any black woman, hell, any woman period, that choses her natural goodness over mainstream societies norms and ideals of beauty.

I will definitely be submitting a few more articles pertaining to this realm. Thank you again for your response!
Jul 23, 2013 6:26pm
Love this article! I watched Chris Rock's "Good Hair" and was blown away by how much it took to maintain an "unnatural" style. I hope more African American women start embracing their natural hair, but first their Hollywood counterparts need to lead the way.
Jul 23, 2013 6:39pm
Don't get me started on that movie lol!!! Honestly, I didn't really care for it but you are right, we do invest a ton of time and money on our hair upkeep (generally speaking of course). But there are a ton of black women going natural these days and I love it. My hope is that it's a commonplace going forward. I have absolutely nothing against those that chose to relax. If that helps them save time, feel gorgeous, save money, etc, i am all for it. But my selfish hope is that more women ditch the chemicals.
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