After "liking" enough pictures of girls with voluminous natural hair or the perfect curly bantu knot-out, you have finally decided to take the plunge and go natural. You’ve see all the inspirational Instagram and Facebook feeds. You’re ready to stock your bathroom and kitchen with all the products (and produce) that has been alleged to make this an easy process. But which way do you go? Big chop and start the celebratory countdown of your natural hair anniversary, or transition so you can start with good length and get practice while you’re at it? Well, that decision is all yours. But in the spirit of gently bursting those bubbles that have been created by the great marketing campaigns in order to get you down the store aisle and line the pockets of hair companies, I’m here to give you some real tea and deconstruct the myths before you hop on board the natural hair train.
A few weeks ago, a young woman penned a story on Refinery29 explaining why natural hair isn't for her. She lamented that her kinky hair texture wasn’t conducive to transitioning and she was frustrated with products not curling her hair. I chuckled, but I couldn’t fault her for her feelings that were perpetuated by the mythical packaging of “Transition Kits” and the curly puddings/molds that are marketed by hair companies. In reality, transitioning does not work for everyone, regardless of the products used. Transitioning kits are simply marketing tools, repackaging individual products into a group so that consumers are more likely to buy more from one product line. Personally, I would be wary of any product that is aimed at “transitioners," especially if they promise the ever-so-elusive curly hair. Read the fine print on the bottle and understand the hair texture that product is designed for. If a product is promising to “make your waves and curls” do anything and you don’t already have naturally curly hair, it's probably not be the best option for you.
Your relaxed hair doesn’t need different product from your natural hair. With the boom of the natural hair care market, a lot of relaxed women have embraced the same products that are targeted at naturals. Natural hair is the bigger trend of the moment, so of course companies are gonna get in on the action. However, a good hair product will work on both relaxed and natural hair. Your hair does not suddenly become dry because it is natural. It was dry when it was relaxed, it’s just easier to coat the hair shaft with product when it is straight. Silicones react the same way on natural textures as they do relaxed hair. You’ll find more silicones in relaxed hair products due to the assumption that relaxed hair women tend to apply more heat to their hair on a regular basis. Flat ironing your hair, whether relaxed or natural, will require you to apply a product with silicone in it to protect the hair shaft from heat damage. Whatever you do with your hair, it’s always about knowledge and being informed.
The ease of transitioning highly depends on one's natural hair texture, density and porosity. Those with highly textured kinky hair, very thick hair or hair that has low porosity/hard time retaining moisture, will have a harder time with transitioning from relaxed to natural. But that doesn’t mean that transitioning is entirely impossible. It just means that having a realistic expectation of how your hair will perform will save you from a ton of hair heartbreak.
For the super kinky gal, it’s going to be rather frustrating trying to manipulate bone straight hair, with hair that has super shrinkage and coils back into itself. No one is a fan of limp ends and unless you plan to heat train your hair, constantly applying direct heat or flat ironing your hair will be counterintuitive to the goal of healthy, natural hair. Protective styling such as braids, wigs or weaves are a good alternative but part of transitioning should be getting to know your natural hair texture, so hiding your hair underneath protective styles may delay that mastery. Also, you still have to take care of your real hair, regardless of the protective style that it is in. So washing, deep conditioning and allowing it to breathe are very important.
Women with extremely thick hair are also going to have the issue of shrinkage and your roots being extensively more puffy than your straight ends. The issue of thicker hair in transitioning can be resolved with trimming more frequently throughout your transition, so it’s not so noticeable between the super thick natural roots and straight ends.
There's also a struggle specific to low porosity hair that has a hard time retaining moisture. Your hair wasn’t particularly easier to moisturize when it was relaxed. But if you decide to do anything close to the curly method that requires you to not use products with silicone in it, there will be a learning curve on finding the right products that can fully moisturize your hair while retaining hair styles. Yes, you will travel down the slippery slope of loving and hating glycerin heavy products at the same time, but it’s not all bad. If you have low porosity, even while relaxed, you may want to lessen your use of silicone heavy products, as most silicones block your hair shaft. This leads to product build up and stunted growth. Again, it’s the same principle for both relaxed and natural. Read the ingredients and find the ingredients – not the product, that moisturize your hair.
As always, I'm happy to dispel any myths perpetuated by hair companies, save you some coins, keep your sanity and help you achieve healthy hair with whatever decision you make.
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Natural Hair Columnist