Transitioning from relaxed hair to natural: my journey to self acceptance
Transitioning is that awkward stage between the old and the new. It can been easy for some, but difficult for most. Transitioning from relaxed to natural hair was a royal pain to me. It was like being in hair limbo. Seeing my real hair emerge was shocking to say the least. Its wasn’t just about hair any more. It became a journey of self acceptance
Since I can remember my hair has always been chemically straightened. I never thought much about it. It was just something black women do. I remember watching my sisters get their hair straightened. And I couldn’t wait until it was my turn. It was like having a makeover,” That girl with the ugly hair is gone, and now my hair is straight and normal.” This is sadly how many black girls think. I don’t remember what age I got my first relaxer. I’m guessing I was probably ten. The first thing I remember was that horrible smell. It made my eyes water, and cleared my sinuses. Oh and the deactivating shampoo smelled like rotten eggs. I also remember the pain, yep I said pain. I learned at a young age, that beauty is pain and chemical burns.
Fast forward 12 years; and by this time I’m absolutely sick of relaxers. I’ve discovered that black women have been programmed to believe their natural hair is ugly. I don’t know exactly when, I made the choice to go natural. I just woke up and thought relaxers were ridiculous. They really don’t make you feel pretty. Ironically they were reinforcing poor self-image. How do I know this? Because of the reactions of other black women. My mom for one was very displeased that I had stopped relaxing my hair. She would say things like “ Are you going to leave the house like that?” “you need a relaxer your hair is getting wooly“ and my favorite “you need to do something with that mess” I knew my mom didn’t mean any harm. In her mind it was like a man not shaving his beard. It was just something black women have to do.
when I was 14 I tried to go natural, but I didn’t have enough self-esteem. I couldn’t take being ostracized by my peers. But this time was different. A quiet confidence was rising. I decided my hair was beautiful. After 8 months of growing out my relaxed hair, I was determined. One day my mom said to me before church, “Do you think God would be pleased with you wearing an afro in church?“ My response was, “Yes and He loves my afro, because he made my hair like this!” Nothing else was said after that. This was a pivotal moment for me. When I said those words out loud , it clicked. There was no going back to relaxers.
I’m not saying chemically straightening your hair is wrong. The history and motives behind it is negative. African American hair is unlike any other type of hair. It is tightly coiled, spongy, puffy, and fragile. It’s the identifying characteristics of someone of African descent. When a white person perms their hair its just a hairstyle choice. When a black woman relaxes her hair, it’s often done to hide perceived ugliness. This is the primary reason I dislike relaxers. Along with being unhealthy, relaxers undermine healthy self image.
I decided against the big chop. I couldn’t handle being bald so I settled for monthly trims. after 17 months transitioning, I was fed up with my hair. It was puffy on top and the ends were stringy. It looked terrible. So I decided to get the last of the relaxer cut off. And boy was I happy. The first thing I did was wash my hair and watch it curl up. I was so fascinated by my hair in its natural state. I loved pulling my curls and watching them bounce back. It was a whole new world for me. My friends gave me tons of compliments. I made friends with other naturals, who helped me learn to style my new hair. Eventually my family came around. My mom even likes it. She gives me lots of compliments now, especially when I wear an afro.
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