It’s time to vent! I have a lot to learn about my natural hair. Transitioning from relaxed to natural has been an exciting process, but I would be lying if I said it were easy or even all fun. I’ve worn my hair relaxed since I can remember, so it came as no shock when a year ago I found out I had no clue how to care for and handle my natural hair. So I started (and still am) reading books, watching YouTube tutorials, following a lot of great blogs, and just experimenting. And believe me, I have had some rough patches (if my boyfriend were here to attest, he would :)). Yet, one of the major factors that keeps me going is knowing that other transitioners are going through, or have gone through, similar situations. It makes me feel less like I’m alone on this journey, and the success stories show me that I too can get through it. So, below are my top 5 frustrations. Hopefully, I can encourage someone or someone can encourage me, haha. Enjoy!
# 5: Moisture/protein balance
For those who haven’t read The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Sivasothy, you’re missing out. In a nutshell, it breaks down the structure of a hair fiber describing what it’s made up of, how it grows, and what it needs to be healthy. When you understand the make-up of a hair fiber, you can then better understand how certain actions affect the hair shaft (which the book also does a great job of illustrating). One of the points in the book is that it is imperative that a healthy hair care regimen include the right moisture-protein balance. I’ve read it. I understand it (theoretically at least), but I can’t for the life of me get it right! I’m beginning to think it’s because my relaxed texture needs more protein from all the years of relaxing and flat ironing, etc. However, my new growth (which is stronger than my relaxed ends since it has not been exposed to nearly as much damage and manipulation) craves more moisture. In an effort to please both textures, I’m finding that I have days of really limp hair (lacking protein) and days of tougher hair (lacking moisture). On the bright side, I’m happy I can tell when my hair needs one versus the other, and I do believe that with time I can more accurately read my hair’s needs and find the products that are the best fit.
# 4: It’s difficult to see progress
I love following blogs and hearing/seeing success stories. A lot of the stories are women documenting their journey since their big chop. It’s incredible the healthy length people achieve in just over a year. I love it! But I’m not big chopping. PC Disclaimer: There’s nothing wrong with it. In fact I agree that it’s the healthier way to go natural, but I actually like this process of slowly getting to know my hair, and mentally preparing for what a natural head of hair demands. It’s just a personal choice. Back to my frustration, Since I’m not big chopping, it looks like there’s not much change happening on top of my head. If I didn’t take pictures, I’d probably think I had the same length compared to five months ago! It’s easy to get discouraged. I’ve never had the desire to get another relaxer, but I often have the desire to chop it all off! But for those who do not want to big chop, two things have helped in this area. The first is hearing other success stories. I’ve mentioned it before, but Tara’s Transition Story encouraged me at a time when I was ready to have that conversation with my boyfriend (it’s time to chop!). Until then, everyone I had read about could no longer take the two textures, and preferred the teeny weeny afros (TWAs). But I read her story, and she transitioned the entire way. I knew I could do it too! What also helps is taking a lot of pictures, getting my mind off of my hair (length at least), then coming back a few months later to see progress.
# 3: Low manipulation styling (that still looks good!)
If I could, I would change hair styles no more than once a week (after I’ve washed). Other than that, I wouldn’t touch it. But I can’t do this. The first offender is working out 3 days a week, and going hard! My hair is dripping wet at the end of each session (gross, I know). Point being, I can’t keep a style. And even if I could, who wants to keep sweat in their hair for an entire week (ugh, itch fest). So I wash once a week and conditioner-wash once a week. This is to keep something close to a clean scalp. The second offender is just not being talented enough to do the cute protective styles. No seriously, I just learned how to flat twist less than a month ago (and even now I can only sleep in them, they’re not cute enough to rock outside). So not only am I “washing” my hair twice a week, but I’m styling it almost every other day. I try curlier styles like bantu knot outs and twist outs that require little manipulation, but I often have to re-twist each night because my relaxed ends won’t keep. What’s helping is that with time (and the right moisture-protein balance) I’m finding that my hair can better hold a curl (from twisting and roller-setting). I remember trying a twist out when I first heard about healthy hair regimens. I was maybe 3 month post-relaxer. My relaxed hair was so over-processed you couldn’t tell I had twisted anything! When I began stretching my relaxers, so that there was less relaxer overlap, I found that my healthier hair was thicker and held a curl a lot better. As I go even longer without a relaxer (and fully transition to natural), I’m finding that I have to do less to keep certain styles. Progress.
#2 Knots & Tangles
I remember my first experience with a knot because it was only 7 months ago. I was stretching my relaxer for the first time (before then I was getting relaxers every 6 weeks like clockwork. Horrible, I know.). I had reached 13 weeks I believe, and I was on vacation with my boyfriend. We were going to a water park so I was sure to bring all of my hair necessities. But the problem wasn’t lack of products, it was lack of time. I couldn’t deep condition like I needed to, so detangling was a monster! All I remember is finding an impossible knot, having zero patience, then seeing that knot in the sink. I cried, haha. My boyfriend likes to laugh at this story, and I can too (now), but boy do I hate knots! Cutting out enough time for deep conditions (and detangling), knowing the right products for my hair (thank you Herbal Essence Hello Hydration!), and even wearing styles that are less conducive to tangling have all helped greatly. But little tips like detangling in the shower, with the water running directly on the hair, has helped tons, as well as washing in sections (this was something that I thought would only work for full-naturals, but it has shaved a lot of time off of my wash days). Detangling with your fingers before you wash seemed to work as well, but it added a lot of time. All in all, knots and tangles are still there and still very frustrating, but I am having less of an issue with them, so I know I’m heading in the right direction.
#1 Breakage (cue horror scream)
Breakage is why a lot of women decide to forego the transition and chop it off. I must say, it is very hard to put so much effort into your regimen only to see strand after strand fall into the sink or get caught in the comb. I don’t have much encouragement for this one (which is why it’s my number one frustration), but I will tell what I’ve done lately to at least not stress myself out over it. I first realized that I was paying a lot more attention to my hair overall. The fact that I’m analyzing every single strand could exaggerate the number of hairs that were shedding or breaking. Back during my relaxed days I would have a floor covered in hairs after one styling session, but I never went bald, so I had to ask myself why was I stressing over even fewer hairs? The last straw was when I recently freaked out over what looked like a lot of breakage on my right side. I was like, “That’s it! Transitioning is not for me. I clearly don’t know what I’m doing. I’m making my hair worse!” I wanted to chop it off, again. As I’m sitting there looking at pictures of the thin spot, I start to look at older pictures. I found a picture from 10 months ago and the spot looked worse. It looked more like a bald spot. I look at even older pics, and I see that my sides were even thinner and this was when I was getting my 6-week relaxers. Comparing the older pics to the new one I was freaking out over, I realized my hair wasn’t breaking off, it was growing back in! This is where the gift of time comes in. I have to force myself to trust that I am following (at least) the basics of a healthy hair care regimen. I keep my hair clean and conditioned, and try my best at low manipulation styles. I no longer chemically treat my hair. I don’t use direct heat (flat irons or blow dryers). I finger come except for when I detangle in the shower. I’m really doing the best I can. I have to trust that it is working and let time tell.
My greatest learning is that it’s a journey. This means you’re going to experience situations that make you jump for joy, and you’ll experience situations that make you doubt the entire process. But patience (and a consistent, healthy hair regimen) is what you help you through. That and sharing your experience and learning from others’. I hope I could be of a little encouragement (or at least offer a laugh). Journey on 🙂
- Q&A: Detangling Help! (bellasugar.com)
- My transition (flykinks.wordpress.com)
- My Hair Story: A Love-Hate-Love Relationship (curlstories.wordpress.com)