This is in response to a query from Cynthia about transitioning to natural hair for her and her daughter. I will do another article specifically on children’s hair later. My first contribution to Zed Hair is based on seven years of being natural – a thrilling, fascinating and sometimes frustrating journey and this is what I have learned.
Relaxed hair in not easier – we’re just accustomed to it. Take a good look at what relaxing entails – oils, creams, burns, the expense and especially the long term effects to our hair and scalp such as thinning and breaking and I’m sure you’re agree it’s more complex than we believe.
Natural hair will grow without any help – avoid the temptation to complicate it. Many of the websites offer complex hair care methods that question the term “natural.” If you want to know about natural – ask a Rastafarians!
When I chose stop relaxing my hair it was because I needed to break out of the trap that my hair had become. Relaxed hair, unlike natural hair, will fall out if not cared for properly. Kinky hair requires only four basics, everything else is optional
i. Wash your hair at least once every ten days. You can do it more often especially if you sweat a lot, but take care not to overdo it as it can dry out your hair.
ii. Conditioning helps minimise breakage by detangling and by adding moisture. Contrary to popular belief you don’t need specialised overpriced shampoos and conditioners that are made specifically for afro hair – that’s all advertising spin. All you need is a good quality mild shampoo preferably with anti-dandruff properties such as Head and Shoulders. You can purchase good quality conditioners from any good supermarket or chemist. Go for those that are formulated for dry hair.
iii. Your hair needs oil and moisture. Here I have to reiterate, do not complicate your hair. Avoid the pursuit of specialist (expensive) products that promise to “make your hair more manageable” etc. Just because something is expensive it does not make it ideal. Experiment until you find the right product, kinky hair is strong enough to experiment on.
Here I will debunk another myth – there is nothing wrong with petroleum based products. Just don’t over-apply it. I’m sure everyone knows what I mean, the traditional hair salon method of plastering half a tub of Blue Magic on your head until it glistens in the sun. I have been mixing products to meet my oil and moisture needs. Right now I use a light application of Sunsilk anti-dandruff hair food twice a week and Suphur 8 braid spray every other day. However, I suggest moving past some of our traditional products such as Pink Oil, Blue Magic and Dax.
iv. Don’t rely on hair extensions and braids. Weaves and braids dry and break your hair. Additionally you will learn nothing about your own hair.
Those were my practical tips on transitioning, but I have kept the most important advice until the end.
Accept your hair! Re-evaluate your expectations about what your hair is and can be. We are seeing a resurgence in natural hair styles and it is becoming “acceptable” so make the most of it. If you want straight hair – relax it, quite simply. If you want natural hair accept it with its kinks, waves and length. Relying on weaves and flat irons means you have not accepted the spirit of natural.
Accept that your hair may not become shoulder length, jet black, thick and luscious and that some styles may not work on your hair. When I went natural I thought my hair would grow to Lauryn Hill proportions. I found that my hair is thin, very soft and prone to breakage and I had to look at other options. I now have thin soft dreadlocks which do everything I want them to.
Unlearn what we have been taught about our hair and teach it to other people especially your daughter. We have learned that straight hair is beautiful and easy and that we are supposed to spend hours every Saturday in hot and smelly hair salons having our hair ripped off our heads in pursuit of an ever elusive goal that is perpetually being moved.
Finally, though it is difficult at first, natural hair is easy and beautiful. The rare times I’ve considered straightening my hair again, I recall that burning sensation and clumps of hair washing down the plug, then I shake my dreadlocks and laugh.