Once my hair length moved from bra-strap to armpit and finally settled at shoulder length, I had to call a state of emergency. I ended up doing a dramatic big chop in 2008/2009, and because I had not discovered the University of YouTube, I was clueless on how to manage natural hair. All I knew was that my growth (virgin hair) was always thick and curly, but once I retouched it became thin and straight.
I decided to apply the “lesser evil” in the form of a texturizer in a bid to retain the curls that my wet hair achieved but once again I was not content with the state of my hair. I made up my mind to transition in 2011, as I didn’t want to big chop like I had done earlier. The truth is the natural hair journey is only well known once you embark on it. However, I started to research and learn more about my hair and natural hair care, in general, to prepare myself, emotionally and physically to embrace the journey ahead.
Finally, I got enough growth to start taking care of two textures.
CHOOSING A HAIRSTYLE
I once tried to do a twist out, major fail! I ended up with puffy roots and stringy ends. Perm rod sets became my go-to hairstyle, as it worked great by blending the two hair textures. It was also a comfortable style because it was not that much different from the regular salon appointments which I was accustomed to. The only difference was the natural hair care techniques I had come to learn.
I started dreading washdays because of how tedious they were. I had to consider hiding my hair for periods of time by installing protective styles such as braids, faux-locs, Nyasubalocs and weaves (which are gentle on the hairline).
However, I still needed to spritz my hair with a D.I.Y spritz to ensure that your hair remained moisturized throughout the duration the PS is in to prevent breakage. Braids also gave me access to the scalp where I could wash, oil and massage as needed.
NEW PRODUCTS & TECHNIQUES
I started off with regular old Olive Oil for my pre-poo and just a basic conditioner for detangling. I also armed my natural hair care arsenal with a small spritz bottle.
I had learned to pre-poo my hair. I would section my hair, wash with a shampoo and gently finger detangle using a conditioner to cater for the natural hair then leave the permed hair for the stylist to take care of it.
I had embarked on a no-heat regime, therefore, I had stopped using flat irons and curling irons completely (in my previous life, I was addicted to the curling iron). The reason for this was because I was now dealing with a line of demarcation i.e. the point where the natural hair meets the relaxed hair. That point is a weak spot for transitioning hair and direct heat would have caused lots of dryness and breakage.
SAYING GOODBYE TO THE PERM
As much as I tried as much as possible to be gentle with my hair was gentle with my hair, the relaxed ends would break off at the line of demarcation. It prompted me to gradually start trimming my relaxed ends, which was easy to do because the whole point was to go natural 100%. I wasn’t there to mourn losing my relaxed hair.
My 2nd big chop happened in April 2012, this was after 8 to 9months of transitioning. I chopped off the relaxed ends and some of my natural hair growth because the heat from installing the perm rod set gave me some minor heat damage. Taking shrinkage into account, I had what looked like 1inch of hair. My transitioning journey was over but my natural hair journey had just begun.
LOOKING BACK OVER MY SHOULDER
Even after having done a big chop before, I still didn’t know my hair type. I looked at other naturals with different hair types/textures for encouragement and inspiration as I waited to discover and embrace my own natural hair. Websites like Kurly Kichana and Facebook groups like Tricia’s Naturals provided all the education a new natural would need. I am excited that there are more communities for newbie naturals to interact and learn such as Nurtured Knotts, Kurly Diaries, and Nairobi Naturals to mention a few.
What I regret, however, is not taking lots of pictures to document my progress. I just went on with it and my overall goal was to gain some length to warrant my 2nd big chop. I also wish that I knew about natural hair wigs. I believe that playing around with wigs of different Afro textures would have slowly helped me get used to the Afro look.
TIPS ON HOW TO TRANSITION FROM RELAXED TO NATURAL
- Know why you are going natural, to begin with, because this reason is what will keep you motivated mentally, emotionally and physically.
- Learn to be extra gentle to your scalp, hair, and hairline.
- Identify a-go-to hairstyle that works for you. It could be it twists outs, braid outs, bantu-knots, flat twist, perm-rod set, braids, faux-locs, Nyasubalocs, wigs or weaves.
- Split up your normal regimen, that is, your wash-days can be half natural hair care practice and half relaxed hair practice. This will slowly ease you into the new routine as opposed to going cold turkey.
- Identify natural hair techniques and process that work during your transitioning phase, such as, pre-poo, splitting your hair into sections and finger detangling using a conditioner.
- Cut off the use of direct heat such as flat iron and curling wards and gradually reduce indirect heat such as hooded dryer and blow dryers.
- Slowly introduce natural hair care friendly products into your regimen. That way you can easily tell what is working for you and what is not.
- Take lots of pictures to document your journey. I will also serve as your point of encouragement when you feel like giving up.
- Incorporate protective styles that are gentle to the hair and hairline to your hair care routine.
- Always keep your hair moisturized to prevent dryness and breakage.
- Experiment with Afro-textured wigs/weaves to start getting used to the natural hair look.
- Gradually trim off your relaxed ends.
- Do not to get overwhelmed when you decide to big chop, take the time to find out my hair characteristics, which includes hair type, texture, porosity and density then start buying products that are best for your hair. That way you reduce the amount of money you could lose buying products that do not work for your hair.
Remember that at the end of the day, the most important thing is to first enjoy the journey. Also know that it is a journey of trial, error & discovery that is unique to you. Expect to learn from the process and share with other Naturalistas who are in the same boat. It not only makes for encouraging conversation but also provides much-needed information for future generations.
Are you considering transitioning from permed/relaxed hair to natural hair? Do you have a plan in place? Do you have any questions you need to ask before you embark on your journey? Let us know in the comments section below: