The Truth About Transitioning From Relaxed To Natural

Not Everyone is a YouTube Model

Hair

My story is not sponsored by any natural hair companies, I am not a brand ambassador with thousands of social media followers, and quite frankly, I had ZERO interest in transitioning from relaxer… Until, my hair broke off.


There is no greater irony than me promoting the natural journey because I never "chose" the natural hair life. To this day, I still reconnect with friends who can't believe I transitioned my hair. I used to be that friend who would troll die-hard naturalistas, comparing them to those vegan activists on Twitter. I was like, "Girl, keep your pamphlets and leave me aloneeeee." My hair was long and healthy with a relaxer. You couldn't tell me anything, and life was great, until it wasn't.

In January 2015, after coming back from college, my hairstylist – who I love to death – told me that over ¾ of my length had to go. Dazed, I agreed. But after the cut, I stared in the mirror in horror. I looked like Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory met a 40-year-old politician. There was no salvaging it. No bun, no ponytail, nada. Just me and this Johnny Depp haircut.

For the next 18 months, I lived my life in protective styles, wigs, weave, braids, etc. Nobody saw my hair. I didn't even see my hair. It was a figment of my imagination, tucked away in cornrows, somewhere off in Transition-Land. I kept telling myself that the wait would be worth it. I just needed to be patient and grow my hair out as quickly as possible so I could relax it again.

But, everything changed when I saw my hair.

For what felt like my whole life, I was so against the idea of embracing my natural hair but I had never actually seen it. My hair had been relaxed since elementary school, so I didn't know what my texture was, or that it could grow so quickly. When I took my weave out and finally had a chance to see my new growth, I was surprisingly emotional. Claiming love at first sight would be a bit dramatic, but I felt this indescribable sense of wholeness and self-acceptance.

I had curls. They were beautiful. They were mine.

Summer 2016

But, this natural hair nirvana didn't last long.

During the winter of 2016, I cut off my remaining relaxed ends and began attempting, yes, attempting to wear my hair naturally. I quickly learned that not all products *cough cough Cantu* will provide you with the luscious, perfectly defined curls the YouTube influencers are promoting. After spending $70+ on natural hair products, spending an hour on what like felt like an extreme powerlifting arm workout, breaking several combs, and draining my wifi to stream instructional videos, (there is no greater hurt than when your twist out comes out trash), it's a knife to your heart and self-confidence. For a split second, a relaxer seems like a better option. The real ones know.

I think social media glorifies the natural hair transition process, when in reality, it often requires a lot of patience, persistence, and experimentation.

Some people just have it easy from Day 1, but many people don't. My hair texture isn't even that difficult to work with, but the natural hair journeys I was observing on social media weren't the ones that came with heat damage, 3-4 different curl patterns in different parts of your scalp, or accurately showcased the frustration when a desired end product wasn't achieved. There were days where I was so frustrated with my hair that I would cry – and I never cry so that says a lot.

Related: One But Not Equal: Natural Hair Is Not The Same

Every failed twist out or unsuccessful hair product was a tough pill to swallow, but my growing appreciation and fascination with my hair kept me going. The promise of YouTube-worthy hair wouldn't have been enough. I had to truly embrace what was growing out of MY scalp in order to justify looking crazy every once in a while.

Winter 2017

Fast-forward three years and 20 inches later, I am proud of how far my hair has come. There are still surprises, but for the most part, transitioning definitely got easier with time. Your hair begins to train itself to be receptive to certain products, and in my case, the weight of my longer hair has made my curls fall more evenly. Now that the original struggles of transitioning my hair are mostly behind me, I can't imagine going back to the r-word: Relaxer.

I probably straighten my hair more than some natural ladies I know and tend to wear my hair in a messy bun most of the time, but I am free. I've become one of the people I used to make fun of: #naturalgang #curlspoppin #relaxerwhere #naturalista.

My original resentment towards my natural hair was keeping me captive. Curls, braids, weaves, wigs, ponytails, straight – we can change styles every day if we want to.

Black hair lets us do it all and I have embraced my natural hair as a part of this versatility.

The question isn't whether or not to transition your hair, but what is keeping you from or motivating you to transition. If your refusal is rooted in societal beauty standards or pure ignorance (as in my case), dive deeper. If you are solely motivated by the glossy pictures of Instagram influencers, dive deeper. And if relaxers are truly what make you happy and beautiful, don't let anyone stand in your way. There is no "u" in hair – just "I". This is YOUR journey.

For my transitioning ladies, I see you. Keep those arms up. Brush that failed twist out up into a puff. Take a selfie when the curls are poppin. Stay strong.

*Featured Image Photographed by Angelica Van

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