Here are tips 3 and 4 in the Step Away From the Relaxer series. These are some encouraging tips for those who have recently done the big chop or are transitioning and have now come to the ‘awkward’ stage of their journey. Some people give up at this stage and go back to relaxer. I hope you find these helpful and they give you a few ideas to get through this point. The results are worth it, so hang on in there!
3. Accept the facts and remember the benefits of natural hair. I believe caring for natural hair requires more effort and the sooner I accepted this the easier it was for me to adjust. It is not going to be like when your hair was relaxed. If you keep comparing the two experiences you will put unrealistic expectations on you and your hair. When my hair was relaxed I didn’t have to worry about detangling it and shrinkage was never an issue. When I went to bed I didn’t have to worry about stretching it out to style it the next day.
However, with natural hair, it simply isn’t the same experience. In spite of this the benefits make it worthwhile. I personally didn’t like how flat my hair looked when it was relaxed. I would prefer it a couple of weeks after, when it appeared thicker, as opposed to when it was freshly relaxed. I have always liked big hair! Now, my hair is the longest it has ever been. When my hair was relaxed it always grew to a certain point (halfway down my neck) and it would not grow beyond that point. I also believe natural hair is much more versatile. There are many more styling options with natural hair that I was previously unaware of. Check out my posts: The Versatility of Natural Hair parts 1 and 2 for inspiration. To be honest I don’t miss the harsh smell of relaxer, neither do I miss the burning and the scabs on my scalp that followed!
I’m a lot more conscious about ingredients and always scrutinise labels. This goes for hair, skin and food products. Overall, I’m no longer only concerned with the health of my hair, but with my skin, body and overall health. Hair is the least important part of our bodies so if we are going to make an effort with caring for the health of our hair, how much more for our overall health. It’s not just about avoiding relaxers but other harmful chemicals and ingredients. When you understand the health benefits of your actions it encourages you to continue doing what is best for your health. So perhaps research the effects of the chemicals they put in relaxers (sodium hydroxide for example). Once you know the facts you can make an informed decision. It’s a personal choice but nothing should be done out of ignorance. Since most of us got relaxers when we were kids I doubt we were fully aware of the facts.
4. Learn how to manage shrinkage. This is one of the main challenges for kinky, coily hair. You will experience it after washing and if you are wearing your hair out during the week it may gradually begin to shrink up. When you wake up in the morning you may find your hair has been flattened from laying down all night and you have to spend time fluffing it out again. This can be annoying, especially when your hair doesn’t cooperate and you don’t have time. I found that I relied heavily on blow-dryers when I first went natural because I wanted my hair to remain stretched out. If I had known what I know now, I wouldn’t have used them. Please refer to my previous article: How to stretch out your natural hair without heat. Basically braiding or twisting your hair stretches it out. So before bed you can put it in 5 or 6 medium to large-sized braids. Also, remember when your hair has shrunk and you want to handle it to style, always add water before trying to comb or pick it out! Otherwise you’ll be dealing with tangled hair and if you are in a hurry you are more likely to cause damage to your hair. I always wash my hair in twists or braids so that the shrinkage is minimised, and your hair is reinforced when it is in braids, making it less fragile.
How do you manage shrinkage? What benefits have you experienced since going natural?