Beginning Natural curly Hair Journey
STAGE 1: Growing out my relaxer
I have decided to embrace curly hair and begin a natural hair journey. For years I have relaxed my hair with chemicals to make it more manageable and straight. Then when my hair became brittle from the relaxer treatments and regular use of heat, I resorted to hair extensions and weave to get the desired length and 'Swooshing ponytail' that I wanted. The photo above shows my frazzled ends and a tiny unrelaxed baby hair at the nape of my neck. That one curl is perhaps the only glimpse of what I can expect my hair might revert back to.
The main reason for starting this process is to regain healthy looking hair and length, which is something I have never quite been able to achieve. I also feel a responsibility to wear my hair in its natural state to stand against the sigma that afro-curly hair is 'Nappy' or 'untidy. I feel this has been socially ingrained in me from a very young age. However it is encouraging to see the opinion of natural curly hair slowly changing. Men and woman are taking pride in natural hair and embracing their curls.
On the flip side, this movement of 'natural curly's' could be a response to some of the negative cases of discrimination against afro curly hair, particularly in the work place (Read more...). Whatever the spark, I feel this movement is really positive in reshaping the ideologies that surround afro curly hair.
New studies suggest that the chemicals used in relaxer can be harmful. Over the years I have felt a noticeable discomfort and burning sensation when getting my hair chemically relaxed. I feel like something that feels the irritating on the skin, cannot be good for the body longterm. It's amazing how I have overlooked this for so many years out of desperation of wanting 'easier' & more 'manageable' hair.
Now that natural hair is almost becoming a movement, there is so much information and advice about how to transition and 'go natural'. I am thankful for this, as it has definitely made the decision to grow out my hair so much easier.
The first step to growing my hair out I will be giving up relaxer for good & heat for the next 3 months, at least. I am someone who has used heat daily in the past, therefore 3 months will be a real test to go without straighteners but will hopefully help me get into good habits for the future.
For those of you who don’t know, relaxer is a permanent way to straighten textured curly hair. It contains Sodium Hydroxide, which breaks down the bonds in hair, changing the structure. Relaxer can make hair more manageable as it changes the texture completely reducing overall density. However I discovered after relaxing my hair for 3 years that it actually resulted in my hair becoming very high maintenance and not 'more manageable'. I wake up most mornings to a handful of broken ends on my pillow case and end up straighten my hair daily to combat my curly new growth.
I got my first relaxer aged 11, after begging my mum for weeks (who was pretty set against me destroying my curls) she finally caved after unpicking another dreadlock (unintentionally formed from my lack of knowledge about how to manage my afro curly hair). From there it was a downward spiral, the more my curly hair grew threw, the more I would use heat to manage my natural hair and 3 years ago I resorted to regularly chemically relaxing my hair again.
The relaxer continued to weaken the hair causing it to become brittle and break off. This may be the reason I never reached the length I desired and resorted to wearing extensions. Even before I relaxed my hair, at school I would straighten my hair every week and top it up daily when wearing a straight style. Years of heat application left my hair unable to grow as it would just break off at the ends.
So here I am... effectively starting again. I will be transitioning my hair to avoid cutting off all the relaxed hair at once (this is known as 'The big chop'). It might take 2 years before my hair is completely natural but I think it will be worth it in the end.
I hope to give insight on my hair journey and share what I learn during this process. I would also love to hear from any other curly's who might have been on a natural hair journey themselves and have any advice or tips. Feel free to get in touch and stay tuned in the coming months for updates.