You've thought about it, talked to your girlfriends about it, and you are ready to change your life and make the jump to natural hair. Now that you have cleared the psychological hurdle, there are the practical things you need to know and consider when making your transition from relaxed to natural hair. We're here to guide you through the process, providing honest answers to your questions, filling in the blanks, and giving you the knowledge you need to make the process go smoothly.
Going natural doesn't just entail a cease-and-desist order for all relaxers and chemicals. You now need to know how to embark on that transition, the ins and outs of natural hair, what products and regimen are best for your natural hair type, and how to maintain and style your new natural hair. While you might be overwhelmed, we've broken down the information you will need, along with a depth of knowledge in articles and videos from top bloggers and vloggers. You'll get the professional advice you need to change your life and go natural.
While going natural does take a bit of effort, it is nothing compared to the frequent salon visits, harsh chemicals, and weakened strands that you have been dealing with all these years. You can look forward to healthier hair, typically longer hair (due to the lack of chemical breakage), and living life as you were meant to. with the natural hair you were born with.
Going natural means acceptance, leading the way for others, and setting an example that you are good enough. While there is nothing wrong with relaxed hair, it is often done for the wrong reasons: because our mothers did it, peer pressure, the need to conform to a standard of beauty set by someone other than ourselves. Going natural means taking a stand, which many women find very liberating. There is beauty in being natural, and no one should tell you any different.
Author and blogger GG Renee Hill experienced an epiphany while going natural, saying that "transitioning was truly a journey that occurred from the inside out and it taught me how to love my whole self and not just the parts that people praised me for."
Leading the way for ladies to transition to natural hair are many a celebrity. Remember the conversation that ensued with Viola Davis removed her wig on How to Get Away with Murder? Today Marianne Jean-Baptiste on Blindspot, CCH Pounder on NCIS New Orleans, and much of the cast of Orange is the New Black, are sporting natural 'dos and looking fabulous while doing it.
Even the fashion game is getting in on the natural hair revolution, as one recent headline announced: "Natural Hair is Officially Taking Over the Runway at New York Fashion Week."
For different perspectives on going natural, as well as a glossary of natural hair terms, check out the following:
Now it's time for you to embrace your natural locks. Let's find out how in Chapter 2.
Once you've made the decision to trade in your relaxed locks for natural hair, you have two basic choices: cutting off all the processed hair and rocking a short fro or going through the transition process.
Taking the scissors to your hair can be traumatic, but it can also be liberating. There will be no more hiding behind your hair or cute hairstyles to try out. What there will be is a lot of freedom and extra time on your hands. While this is the simplest option, requiring one trip to the salon, it's just not for everyone. Let's face it, transitioning from processed, relaxed straight hair of any length to a one-inch fro is pretty darn dramatic. It can be a shock to your system. On the other hand, you are starting fresh with healthy natural hair and there is nowhere to go but longer!
The second option, transitioning, entails growing out your processed hair while your natural hair grows in. Transitioning is typically an exercise in patience and brings with it a variety of concerns and special needs, since you will be dealing with two types of hair that feel and look very different and have different needs.
Breakage during your transition time is of paramount concern. You'll find that moisturizing on a regular basis (as well as periodic deep conditioning), being diligent about detangling, and minimizing heat damage (try to nix that hair dryer) will make the process go smoother. You'll also want to periodically trim off the processed ends to eliminate breakage and help the hair look healthier.
You'll also want to experiment with new (protective) hairstyles – that keep your new growth stretched a bit so it blends with your relaxed hair – and/or ways to disguise your demarcation line. Cute headbands and scarves are always an option (not to mention great fashion accessories), and then there are braid-outs, twist-outs, and the good old roller sets.
Check out the helpful tips at the links below from pro-bloggers, industry leaders, and women who have been down the transitioning road before.
If you were brave and cut off all of your chemically processed hair, you've got an easier road ahead of you than those who opted out of the big chop. Cutting off your hair means you only have to deal with healthy virgin hair. You can skip this chapter entirely (and refer to Chapter 5 for your regular hair care regimen).
Now, those of you who want to do things a bit less drastically, you'll want to follow a few steps to help achieve natural hair growth, and to keep that new growth from breaking off.
First off is a shampoo regimen that can help promote natural hair growth and keep it healthy. There are three trains of thought here: minimal shampooing, no shampooing (no-poo), condition-only shampooing (co-poo). Which you choose depends on how much and the type of products you use in your hair, how much natural oil you have, and what is easiest or most convenient. We recommend that you test out the various methods and products. (Ask your friends for samples of what they are using, rather than buying full-size bottles that may get tossed, or try out a high-quality transitioning kit, which contains smaller versions of shampoo, detangler and conditioner.)
Because shampoo can strip out natural oils from your hair, if you opt to shampoo you should limit how often and only use a shampoo without sulfates, which can further strip out oils. Start with once per week, and adjust up if you find your hair too dry or tangled. If you choose to forego shampoo, you can opt for natural mud or clay cleansers (see link below for shampoo substitutes). And you can also condition shampoo – either in between regular shampooing or as an alternative. Conditioners contain small amounts of cationic surfactants (detergents), which can remove some dirt and product residue and leave hair feeling clean. Co-poo will also help your hair retain moisture and stimulates scalp and hair growth. (Note: You can also mix and match here: co-poo every two or three days to reset your style and provide moisture and perform a sudsy shampooing every two weeks or so to help remove product buildup.)
Conditioning properly is also conducive to promoting natural hair growth, not to mention that a healthy scalp and hair make you look and feel great. The tricky part here is finding a good balance so that both your natural hair and your relaxed hair are properly conditioned. Make sure that you follow-up your regular shampoo with a good conditioner each and every time.
Along with your shampoo/conditioner routine, you should also do deep conditioning regularly, which will help to keep your hair strong, manageable, and maintaining the moisture it needs to remain healthy and unbreakable. How often depends on the state of your hair, its porosity (see Chapter 4), and your time constraints.
To make informed decisions about frequency of shampooing and deep conditioning, as well as products to achieve natural hair growth, check out these expert articles:
Natural hair care has its own set of need-to-know items and issues that you may not have had with the relaxed hair you're used to. Determining your hair type and porosity are high on that list, as is dealing with the bane of shrinkage, which is a significant factor that comes along with the lifestyle of natural hair.
Let's look at each of these.
It's important to determine your hair type, which will in turn determine your actual hairstyle and the products you will use to keep your natural hair healthy and looking great. Hair typing ranges from 2 to 4, with natural hair falling into the 3 (curly, S-loop-strand pattern) and 4 (kinky, Z-strand pattern) range. To determine your hair type, check out this guide. (NOTE: It's a good bet that you actually have more than one type of hair on your head, so when choosing styles or products, base your selections on the predominant type or use products that crossover between types.)
It is also wise to assess the porosity of your hair in its natural state, as it will also dictate the type of products you will use. Porosity is broken into three types: low, normal, and high. With low porosity hair, you have difficulty absorbing moisture and your hair takes forever to dry. Low porosity requires light oils and humectants. On the other end of the spectrum, those with high-porosity locks can easily absorb moisture but also lose it quickly, leaving hair feeling dry. Using protein treatments and heavy oils/butters are the best course of action. Normal porosity, with no absorption or retention issues, requires very little additional treatment. To determine your hair's porosity, check out the link below that provides directions on both the float and slip'n'slide tests for natural hair porosity.
Finally, let's talk a bit about shrinkage.
Naturally curly hair will shrink as it dries, making hair appear shorter than it really is. It's best to embrace it rather than use techniques than can damage your hair, but should you want a change of pace, there are ways you can minimize shrinkage. The most obvious is a blow out, either at home or a salon. While heat can be damaging, used in moderation it can change up your hairstyle dramatically. You can also set your hair with rollers (see link below for instruction) or twist or braid the hair while wet. There is also the time-consuming African threading, banding, or Bantu knots.
A word the wise: Don't forsake your stylist! Just because you are going natural, doesn't mean that he/she can't be a great resource for you. Your stylist can provide a great cut that will grow out gracefully, tips on how to care for and style your hair during transition, and recommend the best products for your hair type and porosity.
To learn more about the ins and outs of natural hair, we've listed below some great articles that expound on hair type, porosity, and shrinkage.
The old mantra of "wash, rinse, repeat" does not pertain to those wishing to have healthy natural hair. As we outlined in Chapter 3, your natural hair care regimen requires trial and error as you transition your locks. Once your hair has grown out – or if you went with the big chop method of achieving natural hair – you may need to change your habits one more time. The steps detailed below may seem cumbersome, but you will only be doing it every two weeks or so. If you were to shampoo/condition daily or every other day, like many folks around the world, you would probably be spending a similar amount of time and energy but you are worth it, regardless of how long it takes!
Let's see what will be required once you've gone 100% natural.
Pre-Shampoo: Depending on your time constraints and hair needs, you may want to precede your shampoo with an oil treatment. You would typically divide your hair into 4-6 sections and apply a tablespoon of rich oil (coconut, olive, avocado, etc.) throughout. Cover with a cap and let the oil do its magic for an hour or so. You'll rinse this out prior to shampooing.
Shampoo: You'll be washing your hair every 10-14 days with a sulfate-free shampoo that produces minimal (or no) suds. (If you find that your style cannot last between shampoos, you can use a conditioner or conditioning cleanser every two to three days to help reset your style and keep your natural hair moisturized.) Massage the shampoo into your scalp and then work it down to the ends of your hair. Make sure you rinse well to remove all traces of the shampoo.
Conditioner: You will need to provide some sort of conditioning treatment on shampoo day. This brings back some moisture, helps to detangle your hair, and help keeps the bounce in those curls. Massage in a good conditioner and work it from scalp to the ends of your hair. Before rinsing this out, it is wise to run a wide-tooth comb through to work out any tangles or knots. Rinse thoroughly.
Post-Conditioner: Some natural hair needs a bit more love in the form of a leave-in conditioner. You can massage a small amount through your hair and use the wide-tooth comb to evenly distribute as you finish detangling. Now you are ready to style your hair...
Hair and Scalp Treatments/Deep Conditioning: In order to restore hydration, pH balance, and elasticity, it is recommended that you treat your natural hair to deep conditioning every two weeks (possibly more, depending on your hair type and porosity). This process takes about 20-30 minutes and can be done with a simple shower cap over your locks or with heat. Heat can help lift the hair cuticle, increase absorption of ingredients and allow for deeper overall penetration of hair and scalp. You can preheat your conditioner before putting it on, wrap a warm towel around your hair, or sit under a hooded dryer. In addition to the large variety of products available for sale, you can mix up your own deep conditioning treatment. We've added several links below to help you do just that.
Haircuts/Trims: Typically you'll opt for a trim every 3-4 months (think: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter), as this is right around the time that your hair will be showing split ends. Good to nip those in the bud, help your curl keep definition, and prevent/help any other problems (frizz, knots, tangles). Make sure you use a stylist that is familiar with natural hair, as it reacts differently than chemically processed hair.
The market abounds with products for natural hair, but it's important to choose the ones that are right for your particular hair, be it long or short, fine or heavy, type 3a or 4c. Not all hair is alike, and the same goes for the products you use on your natural hair. Choosing wisely is half the battle. The right product will produce great-looking results, like using a serum instead of grease on fine hair or a frizz-fighting product during humid months of the year.
We've collected recommendations from leading bloggers on the best types of products, as well as actual brand names, for maintaining your natural hair. Check out the links below for each category.
Sources for Great Products
Styling your natural hair can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. You can literally wash and go, do a variation on a braid or braids, get creative with twists, put it up in a bun or updo, do finger coils, or even Bantu knots. Should you want straight hair, there are blowouts (with or without heat), and there are a variety of rollers to provide heatless waves and looser curls.
Your hairstyle will depend on the time you want to spend, the length of your hair, the shape of your face, and even where you might be going (work, nightclub, charity event). While the options are endless, there are some styles that are easier to manage when your hair is short or in transition.
Let's take a look at some of the easier styles for those of you that are newly natural, each of which has tutorials to guide you through the process and make it easier to rock the look.
Wash 'n' Go: Probably the simplest of all, this style needs little explanation. You wash and condition your hair, detangle, and allow your natural hair to dry on its own. Video Tutorial: Wash and Go Routine
Twists: There are myriad variations on the twist: flat twist, two-strand twist, French twists, all of which can be put into ponytails, buns and updos. Twists can be done on wet, partially dry, or dry hair, all for different effects. This style involves twisting strands of hair with your fingers to get the desired effect.
Finger Coils: This style produces ringlets and works well on short or tapered hair, as well as longer hair. This method takes 30-60 minutes, depending on the length of your hair and how small you want the ringlets to be.
Braids: French, Dutch, cornrows, the list is endless. Similar to twists, braids involve more hair in each section and are often combined with updos and buns to increase the drama factor.
Bantu Knots: This style has been coming into its own, no longer relegated to a sleep time. It's easy to do and can last for days without additional fuss. The knots can be as large or as small as you want. You section your hair, putting each section into a hair tie, twisting two strands and then winding into a knot.
To get ideas on different styles that might work for you, check out these sites:
Going natural means that you have some things to learn, and you'll want to get information from the best. We've assembled a short list of bloggers and vloggers with tutorials that will take your tresses from forlorn to fantastic. Whether you have type 2 or type 4 curls, want to test out wigs or weaves for protective styling, learn how to set your hair like a pro, or produce perfect Bantu knots, these are the gals that will give you the 4-1-1, along with some laughs, life lessons, and ladies advice along the way.
Changing hairstyles generally doesn't warrant a full-scale guide. But transitioning from relaxed hair to natural hair is not just a change in hairstyle. As the title implies, Going Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Changing Your Life, you will be changing more than just your hair. You will be stepping out of your comfort zone, heading into uncharted waters, and having to learn a whole new natural hair care regimen. You'll be embracing the assets you were born with, saying good-bye to harsh and damaging chemicals, and beginning a more natural lifestyle (well, at least for your hair).
At first glance the change can be daunting, but we hope we have provided you with enough guidance, words of wisdom, and links to expert advice and videos that you feel confident to explore the option. By now, you should understand how to transition, the new products you will need, and how to use those products on both transitioning and newly natural hair. We've provided you with some easy hairstyles to create, along with instructions and video tutorials, and finally, we have highlighted some of the best bloggers and vloggers that will, undoubtedly, have all the answers to your questions as you progress along your natural hair journey.
We wish you well on this new chapter in your life..