Different people have different definitions of what “going natural” means to them, but for me, I made a conscious decision in the summer of 2016 to stop applying hair relaxers to my natural hair (Hair relaxers are chemicals that alter the hair texture). In my case, I applied hair relaxers to my curly/kinky hair to make it straight, and easy to handle.
Quite frankly I was in the middle of writing my dissertation, and I did not want to be bothered by the stress of braiding my hair, so the BIG Chop was inevitable.
I just really needed to reclaim control of my time.
In hindsight, what is it they say about women and a hair cut? It is said that
“a woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”
– Coco Chanel
I was about to conclude a crucial journey, one that culminated in a Ph.D., and I wanted ZERO distractions or extra stress (trust me, at this time my hair was one of my many stressors. I would drive 1.5 hrs ONE WAY, to get my hair braided), so I hit the reset button by chopping all of my hair off.
But I didn’t just cut my hair, I decided to STOP using hair relaxers on my hair. Now bear in mind that I had been doing this every 3 months since 1993! 23 years of perming my hair, and then I woke up one morning and decided I had had enough.
As a scientist, I often read lots of research papers to stay informed about the latest happenings in different fields. One day I stumbled upon a paper published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, that linked hair relaxers to the occurrence of fibroids amongst Black women. Black women are 2 or 3 times more likely to get uterine fibroids (noncancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during your childbearing years) than any other race.
In this study data collected on 23,000 pre-menopausal Black American women between 1997 and 2009 showed that there is an association between African-Americans girls who use straightening and relaxer hair oils and the onset of their menstrual cycle. This is earlier than other racial groups including African Caribbean, Hispanic, and White women.
The study raised the hypothesis that hair relaxer use increased the risk of Uterine Fibroids through lesions on the scalp by a burn from hair relaxers.
This NEW information, coupled with years of pain, and burns from the application of hair relaxers made me decide that ENOUGH was ENOUGH.
It took me a while to learn how to properly care for my natural hair, I cannot tell you how many youtube videos I watched, or how many friends I listened to, telling me what worked for them, and how much money it cost me trying out those products.
While there is ALWAYS room for growth, I have come to the conclusion that my hair requires 3 things
Good Hair Products
I quickly learned that words like “sulfate” in shampoos meant dryer hair (which I didn’t want) and that a good conditioner would make my hair nice and easy to manage. I learned the importance of a good spray bottle, a silk pillowcase, and coconut oil.
Tender Loving Care (TLC)
My natural hair like every important thing in my life required TLC! I learned the benefits of finger detangling, deep conditioning and caring for my hair myself.
I’ve learned that when it comes to natural hair, a great deal of patience is required. Whether in detangling, maintaining length, or even during wash days. You just CANNOT rush the process.
In the past, I had applied relaxers to my hair to make it smooth and silky, and easy to manage. I had to unlearn all of that. I had to realize that thick and super curly was just as easy to manage, I just needed to learn how to go about it.
I usually have my hair in braids throughout the week. This is my signature look, and if you walked into my job in the middle of the week, you would usually find my hair styled this way.
Because I exercise a lot, I like to wash my hair every 2 – 3 days. I do not shampoo my hair frequently, instead, I use the “As I am” conditioner to co-wash and lock moisture in my hair. “Co-washing” simply means washing the hair using only a conditioner.
Many shampoos contain sulfates- chemicals that strip the hair of moisture and natural oils, leaving the hair dry and prone to breakage. So I only shampoo once in 3 weeks or monthly.
To maintain my natural curls, I use a leave-in conditioner and curl defining spray, and seal that in with hair serum. See the links below to see my favorite curl defining hairsprays. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Biweekly, I deep condition, wash and retwist my hair myself. This is usually a whole day affair, So before I start this process I make sure I settle all other areas that need my attention (I am newlywed *wink*). I would typically do this on a Sunday.
I love the Etae line of hair products, so far, out of all the products I have used, this has worked wonders for me.
I also love Shea moisture products too. During my wash days, I deep condition using the Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate + Repair Protein-Strong Treatment and place a shower cap on it. If I do not have all day, I use the hair bonnet and hair dryer to apply heat to the hair.
Lessons from My Natural Hair
a) No Comparisons
I NEVER compare my hair journey with ANYONE else. I have thick and super curly hair. My hair is unique to me, and I love it.
It makes no sense to compare my hair length or growth rate with anyone else. We all have a different genetic makeup, and what is truly important is the health of one’s hair and not the length.
Just as I do not compare my hair with anyone else, I also do not judge people for their decisions. I know people who still use hair relaxers. It’s a choice, and we all have the freedom to make decisions.
b) Beauty Redefined
Most importantly I learned that my natural hair is Gorgeous! I do not have to put on a weave or hair extensions to feel or look beautiful. My mane has indeed become my crown like it was always made to be.
This was by far the most difficult lesson to learn because I love to change my hairstyle often. I really LOVE to. I had to learn different ways to style my natural hair.
I still have bad hair days, I mean just last Saturday I didn’t know how to style it, because the volume had gotten a little crazy, but all in all, it’s been a great journey.
You may sometimes see me wear a wig or weave in a photo shoot because I sometimes want to spot different looks without going through the hassle of dying my hair, but after the shoot, the wig comes off and I return to my signature look.
Click on the player below to listen to the podcast episode on my Natural hair.
Ladies, think about the times when you had to cut your hair, what was the motivating factor, was there a major life decision coming up? leave me a comment below, I’ll love to know
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