When I decided to stop relaxing my hair and go back to my natural hair, I had no idea of what to expect or where to start. ‘Should I cut my hair right away or wait a little?’, I was wondering. ‘How would I style my hair while my natural hair grows?’ I was also a bit afraid of discovering my natural hair. ‘What if I can’t manage it?’, I was wondering. On top of that, my friends and family didn’t quite understand my decision… so it took some guts to go ahead with it! Three months after my last relaxer, I had my big chop. And slowly, I learnt to take care of my hair. Made lots of mistakes too…
This guide is the tool I would have loved to have during the process. Going back to one’s natural hair requires a lot of self work: you will (re)learn how to manage your natural hair, how to love it and find the right care products for you.
This guide is meant for women who are thinking of stopping relaxing their hair and going back to their natural afro hair.
Things to consider before you return to your natural hair
Whether you’re still hesitating or you have decided to stop relaxing your hair, here are a few points to consider before you do it:
Resistance and lack of understanding of your acquaintances
Your decision to return to your natural hair will bring about lots of debates. Weather it is your family, friends, colleagues, husband or even strangers, everyone will find it ok to give you their opinion on your choice, whether you want it or not.
Some of them will encourage you. Others will not understand your decision and will be blunt about it. Expect comments like:
- ‘You look like a Jackson 5 member!’
- ‘You were better looking with relaxed hair!’
- ‘Men don’t like women with natural hair. You’ll have a hard time finding a husband!’
- ‘It really doesn’t suit you!’
- ‘Don’t you have the money to relax your hair?’
- ‘The 70’s are over!’
- ‘How are you ever going to style your hair?’
Although mindsets do change, albeit slowly, do know that afro texturized hair in particular, do not yet quite fit in the Western beauty criteria.
As your hair grows, it will gain in volume and you will be getting more and more attention. Therefore, going back to your natural hair requires a tremendous amount of self-confidence.
Remember that, no matter what you do in life, whatever your clothes or hairstyles you wear, you will always be criticized. Weather you wear sexy or conservative clothes, weather your hair is afro, relaxed, braided, twisted or straightened, weather your hair care routine is made up of natural products or you love using Vaseline, you will be criticized!
Ignore others’ opinions and brace yourself with a good dose of self-confidence before you take the step towards natural hair.
Accepting your natural hair
Because you have been relaxing your hair for most of your adult life, and sometimes even since teenage years, you have no idea of what kind of hair you will be having, once it starts growing.
One tends to idealize one’s hair and hope to have well-defined curls. This kind of thinking may leave you disappointed, once you decide to take the big step and discover your true, natural hair.
Keep in mind that, regardless of what type of hair you have, ‘beautiful hair’ is healthy hair, no matter how kinky it is.
Taking care of natural afro hair is not hard, all you need is the right products and techniques.
And if you really want to know how curly your hair will be, your childhood photos should give you an idea.
Transition or ‘Big Chop’ ?
Once your hair has been relaxed, it will never go back to its natural form, no matter what products you use. So, in order to go back to your natural hair, you have two options:
- Cut your relaxed hair and have a short afro. This is commonly referred to as a ‘big chop’.
- Wait until you have enough roots, before cutting the relaxed hair. This is called a transition.
Whether you do a long transition or a quick ‘big chop’ is a matter of personal preference.
If you don’t want to have short hair or are still hesitating about going back to your natural hair, it is better to keep both textures until you are ready to get rid of the relaxed parts. However, it can be difficult to take care of two textures at the same time; furthermore, it does not really allow you to get used to your natural hair.
Starting your return to natural hair with a ‘big chop’ will help you get used very quickly to your new care techniques and hair products. And, because your hair is very short, it will be easier to test out different products, without having to go through the lengthy untangling process that long hair requires (and this, no matter how kinky your hair is). You will have short hair for several months, which is a great opportunity to try out different lengths.
Getting to know new techniques and products
Your natural hair will not have the same texture as your relaxed hair. This means that you will have to learn new care techniques and try new products, suitable for your natural hair.
You will quickly understand that it is not more difficult to take care of your natural hair than of your relaxed hair.
Use products that suit your hair
Stopping relaxing your hair doesn’t necessarily mean that you will stop using synthetic products and only use natural ones. Rather, you can choose products that fit your hair needs and your budget.
Whether you choose natural products or not is your decision. Are you curious about a certain product’s results on your hair? Give it a try and see the results.
Beware of info on blogs and YouTube
There is a lot of misinformation on the internet. Certain techniques found online can permanently damage your hair texture. Know your hair type and learn about hair product ingredients in order to build up a hair care routine that matches your hair needs.
What to do if your husband or partner is against you going back to natural hair?
Are you thinking of stopping relaxing your hair and you are in a serious relationship? Start by talking about it to your partner. Explain your reasons, in detail. If your hair is brittle or your scalp is damaged by relaxing treatments, show him the damage. Explain to him that a relaxing treatment is a very irritant chemical substance and it is best that you stop using it, for your hair health.
What if, although you thought your partner would be supportive, he is totally against it? You have two options:
- Find a compromise. Listen to your partner’s concerns. Very often, they will be attached to your hair length and prefer long hair. In that case, instead of cutting your hair and having a short afro, opt for a long transition period. This will allow your partner to get used to the idea. Use this time period to show him pictures of beautiful hair styles on different hair lengths and textures.
- Stand your ground. You’ve tried convincing your partner but he won’t budge? I encourage you to go ahead with your decision, no matter what his opinion is. This is your decision, and it is all about your hair health.
‘Transitioning’ means growing your hair and keeping the ends relaxed, for as long as you wish.
How to care for transitioning hair?
Transitioning hair has two different textures: natural roots and relaxed lengths and ends.
Because your relaxed hair has been chemically treated, it is generally more porous. It locks in less moisture than your roots do. It will therefore need more proteins.
On the other hand, since your natural hair has not been manipulated much, it has a lesser porosity than your relaxed hair. Having two different textures will require a very specific hair care routine, during the transition period.
Here is a hair routine example that you can adapt to your needs:
Hot oil treatment
Because your relaxed hair has high porosity, I encourage you to always do a hot oil treatment before your shampoo, ideally with coconut oil (to evaluate your hair sensitivity to coconut oil, click here). Focus on your lengths and ends. Leave the treatment on overnight. Do not apply it on your scalp.
Should you apply your hot oil treatment on dry or wet hair? Click here to find out!
Here is my hot oil treatment video:
2) Wash your hair with a gentle, ideally protein-free, shampoo
- Finger detangle your hair or using a big comb, and divide it into 2 or 4 sections.
- Wash your hair, one section at a time, in order to make the detangling process easier.
- After rinsing, apply a protein treatment on your relaxed hair sections only. Why? Because your natural hair does not need as much proteins as your relaxed hair does. Too much proteins will dry your hair and make it brittle. On the other hand, your relaxed length needs proteins in order to strengthen it. Without proteins, it will become very elastic and prone to breakage. Wear your shower cap and leave the treatment on according to the instructions. Never leave it on overnight. ORS protein mask is a good treatment.
- Rinse thoroughly.
You can alternate between a moisturising treatment (without proteins), applied to the entire hair, and a protein treatment applied on the relaxed parts only.
Use a clarifying shampoo once a month.
3) Moisturizing your hair
Apply a protein rich moisturizing product on your relaxed hair. You can use the ApHogee – ProVitamin Leave-In Conditioner spray. In between washes, alternate between a moisturizing cream with proteins and one without; do this according to your hair needs. Follow with an oil, serum or butter, in order to lock in moisture.
Styling can be a real challenge during transitioning. It is often complicated to combine two different textures in a nice style or a professional do. The following hairstyles will even out the two textures and make hair styling easier.
Braids or twists with extensions will limit hair handling, and therefore prevent breakage. Continue your shampoo routine once a week or every 15 days. Keep your extensions a maximum of 6 weeks and do a hair treatment after taking them off.
When you are wearing a wig, your hair is tightly braided underneath. Wigs that are easily removed will allow you to continue moisturizing your hair regularly. You can choose a wig with the same texture as your natural hair.
- Twists and curls
Do 2 strand twists on wet or damp hair and curl the relaxed hair with perm or flexible rods, in order to even out the textures. This is what the result could look like:
You can also undo the 2 strand twists and wear your hair in a twist-out.
Another way to even out your transition hair is to braid your damp hair and add perm rods at the ends.
Start by applying a moisturizing product, followed by a heat protector. Straighten your hair with a hair dryer, by using the tension method, a flat brush or an afro nozzle. You can finish it off with a straightening iron.
Here is a video from ‘Journey To Waist Length’ where she is drying her hair with the tension method. She is working on damp hair, after having applied a moisturizing milk and heat protector. After straightening her hair, she is applying grape seed oil and braiding her hair:
You can also add perm rods at the ends of your braids. When her hair is dry, she applies a little serum, then slowly unties the braids. Here is the final result (Starting at minute 1):
Use medium or large size perm rods, according to your hair length. For best results, it is better to ask a friend, your mother for help or to go to the hairdresser.
Setting uses less heat than blow-drying does and it is more gentle on the hair. The result is more natural, and your hair has more movement.
5) Trim the ends every 6 weeks.
The Big Chop
The ‘big chop’ means cutting the relaxed hair and leaving only the natural roots. If you want to avoid having a shaved head, wait one to four months before you cut your hair.
Now that you have taken the decision to cut your relaxed hair, what is the next step?
You can choose to go see a professional, cut your own hair or ask a friend for help.
Even if you are ready for this new adventure, you may still be shocked by your short hair, and that is completely normal!
Cut your own hair or ask a friend for help:
- Wash your hair and apply some conditioner,
- Detangle your hair and split it into sections,
- Split each section into smaller sections and cut at the edge between the relaxed hair and your natural hair,
- When you have finished cutting the entire hair, finish it off by cutting the remaining relaxed ends you may have missed,
- Smile: congratulations for your ‘big chop’!
Here is a video of a big chop from ‘Journey To Waist Length’. She is spraying her hair with water, applying a conditioner and cutting the relaxed parts:
After the ‘big chop’
Wear beautiful earrings or necklaces (or not) and, if you want, a light makeup that will highlight your new haircut! And do you!
I hope that this guide will help you go back to your natural hair. And remember:
- Ignore criticisms and brace yourself with a good amount of self-confidence, before taking this step.
- No matter what type of hair you have, kinky or curly hair, beautiful hair is healthy hair.
- Take your time, if you are not completely sure of your decision. A big chop is not a must. You can also transition until you no longer have relaxed hair.
- You will find lots of advice on how to care for your hair on my blog and my YouTube channel. Check it out!