There is a common misconception around women of color relaxing or texturizing their hair. It is seen as a symbol of self-hate to their natural hair and blackness, an identity crisis which in a way restricts women of color from wearing their hair in a way they feel most comfortable. Several comments left on social media calling us slaves to European beauty standards when we dare go near the “creamy crack.” To be fair, the origins of relaxers and texturizers came from natural hair being called untidy and unprofessional. Women were willing to do just about anything to have straight hair even if it meant their hair suffered long term damage. It was not until recently the CROWN act was passed in the United States which is a law passed to prohibit race-based hair discrimination. However, while acknowledging the history encapsulated in every kink and curl of our natural hair, isn’t part of changing the narrative around black hair embracing freedom to be able to do whatever we want with our hair and however we desire as a means of self-expression?
I relaxed my type 4c natural hair after seven years of being a Naturalista. And before you say it, no I did not relax my hair because I hated my natural hair or because it was “too hard to manage.” I have been handling wash days myself for the past seven years and still do, so I certainly had a bigger reason for taking the plunge. While it would be cool to say I made the choice to relax it on a whim, I had been thinking about it, nearly meditating on this decision for months before mustering up the courage to book a hair appointment. Walking into the salon was nothing short of terrifying. I had spent the last seven years getting to know my natural hair, loving and tending to her and really getting accustomed to it as part of my beauty identity. Also for the sake of transparency, I previously had a horrible relaxer experience prior to going natural so I was hesitant and honestly, a little traumatized.
Initially, relaxing my hair again was only an idea I was too afraid to act upon, but I found myself going down the YouTube rabbit hole of relaxed hair care routines and I was hooked. I gave myself a few months to think about it and decide on whether it was something I really wanted to go through with, and as you now know, I took the leap and relaxed my natural hair for the first time in early February and I have zero regrets!
I don’t know what I love more, my new hairdo or the fact that I finally did something for myself because I wanted to, and not because it was popular or trendy. In all honesty, I have never felt more confident in my physical appearance as I do now. And really, It’s not about having straight hair because despite getting my hair relaxed in February, people are still surprised when I share this information because my hair still looks natural. I was very wary of how long the relaxer was left in my hair due to PTSD from the last time and so, I have been blessed with very dense hair.
There has been a lot of it’s just hair conversations and movements on social media and while I agree that we should be able to experiment with our hair without the fear of being dragged or canceled, I also believe hair is important but should not be made the entirety of who we are and our existence. We should be allowed fluidity in how we choose to wear our hair free from any stigma or negative opinions because it my hair. So it’s my choice to decide how I want to wear it.
My Top 3 Tips For Transitioning From Natural to Relaxed Hair
1. Don’t Have Any Expectations On The Length Of Your Hair Post-Relaxer
This might sound counter-intuitive but the process of relaxing your natural hair is one we tend to overthink and over-analyze. I will simply advise not to have any expectations on the length of your hair post-relaxer. Our natural hair due to its tight curl pattern shrinks, which makes it hard to determine the actual length unless its straightened. The assumption is that we would have longer hair after relaxing and this is usually the case.
However, the problem lies where we place unrealistic expectations on the length of our hair simply because we relaxed it. We let disappointment and resentment for our hair set in because it is yet to reach our desired length. If you are thinking of relaxing your hair, remember that the length of your hair does not define its beauty and thankfully with proper care and handling your hair can thrive and grow at its own pace until it reaches your desired length.
2. Know The Difference Between A Normal Strength And Extra-Strength Relaxer
I can’t emphasise this enough but, please pick the right relaxer. When clients wish to go from natural to relaxed hair, many hairstylists recommend using an extra-strength relaxer since it results in a pin-straight finish. I took my own relaxer kit to the salon and bought a normal/medium strength relaxer since I wanted some texture in my hair rather than the conventional straight flat look that a relaxer treatment provides. This is entirely up to you and your personal preference but depending on the appearance you’re going for and whether you’re buying your relaxer kit yourself or not, make sure you understand the differences and are very precise about what you want.
3. Go To A Salon You Trust
This is self-explanatory, but whether you are taking the plunge and relaxing your natural hair or getting a touch up, be sure to go to an experienced salon and hairstylist you know and trust. As a result of the chemicals in it, relaxing your natural hair is a time-consuming process, and the hands you commit your hair to throughout this process can make or break your hair.