If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re considering–if you haven’t already–leaving behind the “creamy crack” of the relaxer and going natural. If you’re still in the “maybe” phase, below are 10 tips that should help you get closer to a clear “yes” or “no.” So without further delay…
1. Decide if it’s something you REALLY want to do.
You’re beginning to notice a lot more afros around town and on television than you did just a few years ago. You think, “Hmph…maybe I ought to go natural, too.” Uh…no. That is NOT ideal, girl, because going natural is not a venture for the faint of heart. You must first DECIDE that it’s something that you MUST do, don’t “try it out” without knowing what you’re getting yourself into. By definition, to decide is to cut off all other options, leaving yourself with only one. Many naturals who fail, do so because at the time they go natural, the don’t know if they really want to be natural, i.e. they haven’t decided. And what they end up doing is wasting their time, trying to treat their hair the way they’ve always done. In the end, they’re left with way less hair than they started with and a mirror full of regrets. Don’t be that person. Consider the following questions: Am I prepared to style my hair with different methods that support my new texture? Am I ready to love my hair, regardless of the texture? Am I ready for possible negativity from my family and friends? Will I be self-conscious of my new look? Those are just a few! Regardless, decide if it’s something you want to do and if you should find yourself unsure, do yourself a favor and WAIT.
2. Research, Research, Research.
There are few good reasons in the world for you to go natural without prior research. You literally have the world at your fingertips and if you’re reading this, chances are you have the internet. Now, I’d consider this article a part of your research, but please don’t stop here. You have access to countless videos on the web, numerous articles (like this one) as well as forums filled with naturals–veterans, “transitioners” and the curious looking to have their questions answered before making their decision. Before I went natural, I watched women document their transition journeys on YouTube as well as weighing the pros and cons of transitioning. I found women who were unhappy with their journey, as well as those who would never return to relaxed. Research is your greatest tool for coming to a sound decision.
3. Decide how long you want to transition.
Some ladies, once they decide, know they don’t want to transition for a long period of time. One months, three months tops. And then there are the others who don’t want the drastic change in length and would like enough time to say “goodbye” to their old hair–their old images in large part. You know yourself better than anyone else. Do your research and determine whether a long or short transition suits you best. I personally planned to transition for 8 months, but I became restless and impatient. I thought I was one of those “I don’t want to lose my length” girls, but once I realized I had ‘divorced’ perms forever, I found no reason to keep the straight ends. I came home from work one day, found the nearest pair of scissors and I got to “big-chopping” a mere 2 months after first deciding to go natural. It was liberating to shed society’s views of what my hair should look like and I’ve never looked back. But that’s MY experience. You’ll know when the time is right. Trust your instincts.
4. When transitioning, keep your “fresh” roots and processed ends healthy and moisturized.
As you’re transitioning and your natural hair texture begins to emerge, it’s vital to keep both textures moisturized and healthy. When the strands of the hair are well-conditioned, they are by default less fragile. Less fragile strands means more hair on your head! (At least, while you are transitioning.) Please understand this. When your hair contains two vastly different textures, something’s gonna have to give. There is something called the “line of demarcation” where the fragility of the hair strand is the most pronounced. If that entire strand is not healthy and flexible, that strand will break–without fail. Each and every strand of your transitioning hair is like this. Unless you want half-fuzzy, half-hot mess hair, your goal is to keep it juicy. Now, here’s the bad news: Keeping you hair moisturized is great, but it only delays the inevitable. At some point, healthy or not, your permed hair is going to break off eventually, if you transition for long enough to find out. The good news is that the hair you end up with will have had a very healthy debut.
5. Transition style may help (braids, twists, quick weaves)
When you’re transitioning, you may opt for what I think is the MUCH easier route: using a “transition style” to help lower any possible stress or inconvenience. Some women opt for braids or kinky twists, with or without extensions. Others go for simple wigs or weaves. Still, the idea behind a transition style is to keep your fragile hair free from being ‘over-handled.’ If you plan to transition for any length of time longer than a few months, I’d consider using a transition style during much of the process. Not to mention it helps to pass the time of the transition period while your hair is coming in. While transition styles are convenient, many women make the mistake of thinking they don’t have to do anything else to keep their hair healthy–WRONG! Please see tip #4 for further information.
6. Chop it off, Girl. You gotta do it eventually.
This is the inevitable step that most soon-to-be naturals fear, and for understandable reasons. They worry about how they’ll look all natural, what people will say and of course…shrinkage. Fear not. Your hair will grow. You may not want to rock a teeny weeny afro like I did, but rest assured: Your. Hair. Will. Grow. When I decided to go natural, my permed hair was a good 4 inches below my shoulders. When I was permed, I had never cut my hair–only the ends–and that was the length I had fought for my entire adulthood. I went natural and my hair strands were longer than the relaxed length. That took 2.5 years and I’ve been natural for a little over 3 years. Your hair will grow, and fast, if it’s healthy. You’ll need the courage to chop, the will to care for your hair and the patience to wait. If going natural is a deliberate choice, this shouldn’t be a problem.
7. Keep your natural hair happy.
Okay. You big chopped. CONGRATULATIONS! Even though you are officially natural, you may still experience a few kinks along the way (pun so intended), though they should be few and far between. The best thing about being natural is that, despite what you may have heard from those who know jack shit about natural hair, it is unbelievably easy to manage. This is where all the time you invested in research begins to pay off, and quite handsomely. Having natural, healthy hair is a simple kind of happiness. Think about it: When else have you been able to wash your hair in the show before work–daily if you desired–and head straight out the door? Also, keep your ends snipped. I clip my ends roughly every 2 months. No need to get crazy, here.
8. Leave your hair alone!
I’m assuming you want your hair to grow. You’ve seen all the YouTube videos with the naturals who took the plunge some time ago, and now they have hair to their navels! You can’t wait for that to be you so you can make your own video and you begin to envision your own locs of natural glory!! (Hey, why not?) But peep this: You will never get there if you are trying out every single style you ever thought was cute every other day. Your hair needs a rest. In short–leave it alone for a while. Give it some space. Stop touching it every 2 minutes. (You know you do.) The simple fact is that the more you bother it, the more likely it is to break off. You hair is constantly growing, but overdoing it prevents you from retaining length. Just be mindful. Style it, yes. Punish it? No. (By the way, protective styles work wonders!)
Keep your natural hair happy by keeping your hair detangled. For this, a Denman brush is your best friend. No joke. And if you don’t have one, get one. Happy hair loves the Denman. They are relatively inexpensive, durable worth every penny you’ll spend on it. For detangling, I find the method that works best for me is to detangle my hair as much as possible before washing. Then while in the shower, use the Denman to gently brush through sections of my hair in the conditioning phase. Please do not–like never–try to detangle your hair from the roots. Break-off city. Take your time. Do it right. You’ll thank yourself when it’s time to style your hair the way you want it.
10. Stay Positive and don’t compare your hair to others
Lots of naturals go natural just hoping and praying that they get 3C or 3B hair texture because someone told them (or they told themselves?) that that’s the ‘good’ kind, as opposed to that nappy ass 4A and 4B hell. Newsflash, negrises: texture doesn’t make your hair ‘bad’ or ‘good.’ Your treatment of it does, though. Embrace your tight coils (if that phrasing makes you feel better.) I have 4B hair, the nappy negro kind, and I could not be more satisfied, because can’t too many broads rock a chunky fro like me. If I hit my head against something hard, I literally have a cushion on my head to dampen the would-be boo-boo. Pros and cons, y’all. The detangling process is a little more involved, but it’s a small price to pay for all the admiration a natural receives. And though you don’t necessarily need the admiration, it’s nice to have your authenticity appreciated by others.
Bonus: Enjoy your hair’s growth and health and your freedom from all those damned chemical burns. Need I say more?