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Monday, October 12, 2015

My journey to natural hair

October 12, 2015

Hello, hello, hello!

So when someone decides to go natural do you wonder, why did they do that? How did they do? Will they be able to keep it up? 

If you had asked me when I started my hair journey if I would ever go natural the answer would be a resounding NO! Maybe even more emphatically a Hell No! Maybe I was prejudice against what it meant to be natural and what I perceived as unkempt and unattractive. Or it was simply because I liked straight hair. I am not sure but it did take me quite a while to even entertain the possibility of getting off the creamy crack and while my initial reluctance is a faded memory, the reason I decided to relax is crystal clear and really quite simple.

Why did I decide to go natural? Relaxing was an unnecessary step in the process of getting my desired end result. Wow, it's so unimaginative right? I didn't have a stroke of self enlightenment or anything so grand. I am practical at heart, and one day I was thinking about all the steps I did when I wanted straight hair and I thought to myself, "Self, do you really need this step?" That step being relaxing my hair, and my self said "No. You really could skip it and save time, energy, money and an unnecessary chemical process."  Dang, those sound like good reason to give it up! 

But wait, wouldn't it be hard? I mean 25 years of history, me and the creamy crack have a history! We have had a long relationship! And unlike so many others I didn't really suffer from the burning scalp and sores that lead some many before me to breaking up with Creamy crack. I wondered did I really have what it takes to give it up? So I went back and talked to myself some more (If you don't talk to yourself, I suggest you try it. You can have some really great conversations!) "Self, can we do this? I mean why do I relax in the first place?" Hmmmm, that is a damn good question. 

Well, relaxers make my hair straight and I love straight hair! But wait, did it really make my hair straight? Well, after I blow dry it and then flat iron it, then it was bone straight! I love that! But I have to relax it, then blow dry it and then flat iron it?! Right? Shouldn't I just have to wash it and it will dry straight? WRONG! Well, in a perfect world It should be say right, but that was not my truth. Air drying lead to poofy hair, and I do not care for that look. 

My hair needed attention to achieve the desired straight look. Which lead me to go back and think about my journey so far. By the time I reached this point in my journey I had successfully stretched my hair for twenty weeks, more than once and I believe I was on my next stretch with the goal of seeing how long I could last. When I got my last relaxer, I felt that I could have continued for quite a while. I didn't have delineation breakage issues. I blow dried and flat ironed my hair and didn't have a problem achieving the straight look through the length of my hair. I thought I dealt with the new growth just fine, how hard could it be to deal with a head full of the stuff.

But what will your natural hair look like? It didn't matter to much. I was planning to wear my hair straight, so kinky, curly zig-zaggy (hmm zig zagging is not a word! Well, it is now!) didn't matter because it would all be straight in the end. Although, during my transition I struggled with this question a lot. 

So the why of it was a really easy decision to make, it just took time to get there because I don't remember my hair every being unrelaxed. Natural hair was a foreign concept to me and my only point of reference was afros's and I didn't want an Afro. It took time for me to learn that natural hair could be lots of different things and that with it, I had more versatility and more options. Not only that, with my un-chemically treated hair, I could achieve the exact same results. That sounded pretty spiffy to me.

How did you get to that point? Well, the how is much more complicated and It took a long time to get there. That's why it is important to have a journal or even a log of your progress as you start any healthy hair journey because that is what lead me down this road. I mean, I watched tons of YouTube videos and eventually the relaxed person, would end up transitioning or chopping all there hair off and going natural. I thought they were all crazy! But then they would explain the why of it and they had health or spiritual reasons that sounded great for them, but I could not relate! I think curly hair is pretty, I think a big/little Afro is pretty, I think straight hair is pretty but when I look at myself in the mirror, I like to see straight hair.

So how? I started my hair journey. I started it in 2009 I think because I had a patch in the back that was broken and damaged and way shorter than the rest of my hair. It was embarrassing and I wanted to fix it. So I started doing some research and started coming across a key phrase or acronym (Healthy hair journey or HHJ) if any of you are on a hair journey you know exactly what I was seeing. There were steps and rules and things that you needed to do. A plan! I could get with a plan.

So the main thing that lead to to a relaxer free life is the stretching. The rest of the stuff I did made the stretching manageable, if not out and out easy. I started small. 

Stretch progression chart:
1st stretch:      6 weeks (That was tough. It had grown out enough that I was in unfamiliar territory but not terrible.
2nd stretch:     8 weeks (This was super tough because a week before I was to relax, but scalp went stupid! It was so itchy, like it was begging for that relaxer!)

Picture: June 2012 stretching, texture shot.

3rd stretch:    10 weeks (I was feeling pretty epic! I had survived that 7 week mark and discovered that deep conditioning improved my flat iron results.)
4th stretch:     14 weeks (So I thought I was spiffy and bumped my progression from adding 2 weeks to 4 weeks and it was tough! So tough I did it twice!)
5th stretch:     14 weeks 
6th stretch:      20 weeks (That 2nd stretch of 14 weeks solidified my process and confidence. I didn't even want to get this relaxer but I did)
7th stretch:      20 weeks until now. (By the time I got here, I was a pro at stretching and was sure that transitioning would be easy!)

Please note that throughout this whole process I was flat ironing my hair. It was my style of choice and I loved it.

Picture: June 2012. Right after a relaxer early in my my stretching

So I went from a ride or die relaxed girl to a transitioner (hmm that is not a word either! Oh well, it fits perfectly, so it stays) and it took about 1 year and 5 months! I had to do the math as I wrote this because I didn't really plan on going longer and longer, I believe my goal was to stretch for 8 to 10 months but it got so much easier each stretch I figured my natural hair wouldn't be that much of a challenge. By the 20 week mark I had waves and stuff and I got very curious as to what my natural hair would look like. As a newly natural with about 2 years of growth I can say it isn't hard to deal with. Transitioning on the other hand was a tricky two years!

My last relaxer was March 6, 2013

Picture: April 2013 (1 month post last relaxer)

Wow! This post is super long, so if you are still with me, let's wrap it up. I cut the last of my relaxed ends off in March 2016. I am now a straight-hair natural. Please look for a future post regarding my current process.

Do I have any advice?
To those of you who are relaxed, I ask is the relaxer making your life easier? If yes, keep on the good work. But I would stretch to at least 8 weeks to give yourself some cushion of new growth to avoid over processing. 

To those of you who are natural-curious, I suggest stretching to at least 10 weeks. At about 10 weeks I had enough new growth to struggle with. Get used to it, see if you can deal and that time you stretch will help so much if you do decide to go natural. If you decide to go natural and chop off all your hair I still suggest you stretch because you will have new hair. It's like having a new car with extra features you have never seen before but may wreck you if you don't use them properly.

To those who are interested in going natural, if you aren't in a rush, try a gradual process that you feel comfortable with before you transition or big chop because it can be hard and it would suck to put all that hard work and effort in to give up because of inexperience.

I think that's all folks! Be well and have fun!

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