By Lurie Daniel Favors of Afro State of Mind
Sometimes, despite our intentions, our hair plans simply…fail. We get a great idea and maybe we jump in head first without really thinking about how to make that idea actually work.
That can happen when you make the initial decision to go natural too. A lot of women think that they can just grow their hair out and voila—a beautiful head of natural hair, twist outs and fierce Afros will follow. Little do these unsuspecting sisters know that transitioning from chemically straightened hair to natural hair is indeed a process.
This seems to be the road that one woman went down when she tried to go natural—and simply couldn’t make the transition. As reported over at Clutch Magazine, this sister wanted to go natural and began growing out her roots, but due to a variety of missteps, she was ultimately unsuccessful. She confessed:
I got the bright idea to go natural so I could run, practice yoga and take swimming lessons without scrambling to restyle my hair afterward. I grew obsessed with the wild, coiled, spiky look. Never mind I hadn’t shampooed, rolled or flat ironed my own hair in over 12 years or I only had a mere two inches of new growth attached to inches of bone straightness. I could still achieve a full ‘fro with the right product, Nikki Walton’s “Better Than Good Hair” and step-by-step instructions on a few YouTube videos, right? Wrong.
I was naïve about transitioning. Having been dependent on relaxers for nearly 25 years, I knew nothing about my natural hair other than it was coarse, itchy and lacked body when it was time for a touch-up. And despite the line of demarcation warnings, I still thought all that grease and water would prevent my thick strands from snapping.
Now when the article first posted the author took a lot of heat and some folks were super critical of her inability to transition. But I for one really appreciated her honesty. Especially since as I describe here, after I Big Chopped, I too gave into my own insecurities and slapped a texturizer on my head. Le sigh…
Listen, for those of us who started combing our hair after our mothers let us get perms, there is simply no reason to think we will know what the heck we are doing without some serious help.
Don’t Fail to Plan
If you’re thinking about going natural I strongly encourage you to do your homework first. Don’t just get addicted to hair porn and watch youtube videos of women who have a certain “type” of natural. When you’re just starting out you may have no idea what kind of texture you have so you need to be open to a variety of possibilities.
You have to be willing to get to know your hair. Are your coils kinky? Are they a loose curl? What is your curl pattern? What are the uniquely awesome things that your hair can do? For women who have a history of completely turning their hair care over to someone else, this can be a scary process. But getting familiar with your own head of hair really is part of the “going natural” process.
That said, you should also locate a professional natural hair stylist—someone who is familiar with helping women transition from one type of hair to another. This is especially true if you are someone, like the woman in that article, who typically outsources your hair care.
If managing your chemically straightened hair was not something you took care of on your own, it can be a major shift to jump in and care for your hair through the transition process. There are a number of styles that are useful when you have two different types of hair on your head (i.e. natural roots and straight ends) and you need to know how to achieve looks that will let you be comfortable with your process. A professional can help you navigate this transition.
What is Your Natural Hair Motivation?
Finally, try to figure out why it is you want to go natural in the first place. Everyone doesn’t have a “going back to the Motherland” experience when they cut out their perm. But by choosing to embrace the hair that grows out of your head in this society you may find that you need to unlearn some of the values that you had while wearing straight hair.
For example—finding the beauty in natural hair can be a challenge when you’ve spent two or three decades lusting after long, flowing, straight hair. Learning how to appreciate the unique awesomeness of kinky hair can be a bit difficult when you were raised to avoid nappiness like the plague. Unless you challenge those beliefs, chances are you may find transitioning to be a much harder process to get through.
The good news is that if you prepare properly, tap into a support group (whether online or in real life), and most importantly, educateyourself, you greatly increase your chances of a successful transition.
Either way—it is important to remember that loving yourself is one of the first keys to success. How about you? What was your transitioning process like? Were there tips that worked for you or advice that was a waste of time? Sound off in the comments.
For more of Lurie’s writing, check out her book “Afro State of Mind: Memories of a Nappy Headed Black Girl. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.