Deciding to change your hair is a big step. You’re nervous. You’re confused. Your head is being pulled in so many directions that you’re overwhelmed. No wonder. Going natural means cutting or trimming hair off. Relaxers and texturisers are PERMANENT changes. Whichever way you go, your hair won’t be the same. To ease the thought process, consider the following questions.
1. Prefer visibly long or short hair?
Don’t believe the lies. Natural hair (afro, curly, etc) can ALL grow long. With TLC from you, it’s possible. However, curly and coily hair types always look shorter than straight hair. When air dried, non-straight hair may shrink even shorter. It can be a bit frustrating to see my stretched hair reach bra strap, but unstretched hair touch my shoulders. I can accept it because I know how long my hair really is…Could you accept it? Could you handle your hair looking short for years to come? Twists, plaits, and other hairstyles stretch the hair out, but it doesn’t last long. And why should you stretch the hair out? Isn’t it just a part of having non-straight hair?
2. Will you accept your texture?
Some people go natural because they want curly hair. By “curly” I mean big curls that are visible from a distance. When their turns out to be afro, they’re disappointed and resentful. How would you react? If you’ve decided on one texture and aren’t willing to accept another, being natural might not be for you. Wait. Stretch the time between relaxer sessions so you get used to your true hair type. See the products it needs. See how it reacts in different environments. Start researching different styles that suit it. Basically, just give it a proper chance.
3. Want to straighten? Very often?
Heat damage is like unprotected sex; it only takes one time. Yes, some people straighten for years and their natural hair bounces right back. For others, one session and their natural hair is toast. Protein treatments, washes, etc may bring back the curls/coils. Don’t count on it. If you’ll be straightening a lot, you might as well have relaxed hair.
4. Want best of all worlds?
A quick youtube search shows there are so many styles out there to learn about. Honestly, natural hair seems to be the most versatile, particularly afro hair. It can be coily/curly, wavy when stretched, form curls, and, with precautions, be straightened. You really can have it all.
5. Want “big” or “small” hair?
Curls are “big” and afro hair is bigger. Straight hair falls straight down, so it doesn’t “expand” sideways like other hair types. If you want Diana Ross or Traci Ellis Ross big hair, relaxed isn’t the best option. You could puff it up, curl it, and try to make it “come alive”, but it won’t be the same. Besides, all that manipulation will cause damage in time.
6. Willing to learn and patient?
Trick question. ALL three options need patience and understanding. Personally, my natural regime is just as low maintenance as it was when I was relaxed. Yes, detangling takes more time, but so did relaxing. They all need TLC to reach their potential.
7. Sensitive skin?
If you’re sensitive, natural would be best. No matter how hard you try, washing out chemically treated hair lets the chemicals touch your scalp. If the chemicals cause burns–a sign they’ve been left on for far too long–then you might have a VERY bad reaction. Texturisers aren’t left on as long as relaxers, so they could be the second best option. If you insist on going ahead with chemicals, make sure you read the ingredients, just in case…
8. Pampered or lone ranger?
Some people find it hard to relax/texturise their own hair hence why they rely on salons. Natural hair gives you the freedom to do your own hair. No more touch-ups. You can easily style your natural hair without worrying about your next salon session. Even non-naturals can break free, or at least check over their stylists.
9. What have you been before?
I have been natural, then relaxed, and now natural (going on 6 yrs). Looking back, I know what pushed me to go back to natural. I can’t see myself relaxing again. I also remember why I relaxed in the first place. Turns out I was wrong about my afro hair. The problem, difficulty, was me. Reading around showed me the mistakes I was making. When you think back, challenge your memories. Could you have done things differently? Now’s the time to find out…
10. What are you now?
Which type are you right now? What do you dislike about it? What do you like? Is it your decision to change? It’s your head, so no one else matters. No, not your partner, kids, boss, parents, friends, neighbours, the media, etc. Just you. If you’re happy as you are, stay as you are.
Take your time thinking this over. Also remember that you can always start again. If your hair is too damaged, a cut is great way to start afresh. Transitioning slowly with trims is another option. You can always change your mind, so don’t overthink this. It’s not the end of the world if you change your mind.