10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Quitting Relaxer
Read this before starting your natural hair journey
A little over eight years ago, I decided to go natural and stopped chemically straightening my hair. But even after watching countless videos on how to maintain healthy coils, I struggled. I tried out the products and DIYs my favorite YouTubers recommended but my hair still didn’t look like theirs. It took years to learn what works best for my mane and accept the texture I was born with. If you’re thinking about going natural or want to take your curls, kinks, or coils to the next level, this story is for you.
Have realistic expectations.
Be aware of the fact that your hair will probably differ from your favorite natural hair influencers. Even if your curls look exactly like someone else’s — chances are, they’re not. There are many factors like genetics, styling, and upkeep that contribute to how curls look and behave.
Initially, you may not have much of a pattern at all. Hair remembers the shape you manipulate it into most. If you have been keeping your hair straight for years, it will take time to train it to be curly and defined. Be mindful that you may struggle in the beginning as with any new endeavor and give yourself time to adjust.
Going natural is a commitment and should be taken seriously. It’s more than an aesthetic choice, so make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
Learn your hair type.
Knowing where your curls fit on the hair chart is a small part of knowing how to maintain healthy curls. Especially since many people have more than one hair type on their head.
What is your porosity? What is your density? Is your hair fine or coarse? If you’re unsure of the answers to these questions, do some research. Make sure to gather information from multiple, reputable sources because there is tons of misinformation on the internet. Without the proper knowledge, you will end up doing things that don’t work effectively for your hair.
“Do your research first.”— Jessica H.
Decide if you will transition.
When giving up chemical relaxers, your hair will have two different patterns. Each one has its own needs for staying healthy. I chose not to transition for long because I found the two textures too difficult to maintain. However, you may not be comfortable sporting a TWA (teeny-weeny afro), so transitioning for longer could be your best option. Good styles for blending the two hair types are rod/roller sets, Bantu knots, and twist/braid and curls.
Find products that work for your specific curl needs.
After learning more about your curl traits (texture, porosity, density, etc), you can better understand which products will work best for you. All hair types need hydration and moisturization.
Hydration is the level of water inside your hair strands and moisturizers or conditioners are used to seal in that hydration. Your scalp secretes a natural moisturizer called sebum, but the tighter your curls the harder it is for it to reach your ends.
Many naturals use the LOC (liquid, oil, cream) or LCO (liquid, cream, oil) method to hydrate and moisturize their hair, but another method may work better for you. Start slow and buy products targeted for your curl traits. You do not need to purchase expensive products to grow long, healthy hair.
Whenever trying a new concoction, give your curls time to adjust and only try out one new product or line at a time. You can overload your hair by using too many different products at once. Then it will be impossible to know which ones actually worked.
“Take your time to know your hair and what works best for you.”— Lissy M.
Learn how to finger detangle.
Finger detangling is a staple of being natural, even if you prefer using combs and brushes. When I can’t get a comb or brush through my hair, I finger detangle first. This took a while for me to learn and caused some breakage at the beginning of my journey.
Invest in some new hair tools.
The tools you should buy will depend on your preferences and hair needs. Here are some basic tools to start with:
- spray bottle
- wide-tooth comb
- detangling brush
- hair clips and pins
- hair scissors
- seamless hair ties
- satin scarf or bonnet
If you don’t like air-drying your hair, you will also need a hood or blow dryer.
Trim your ends as needed.
To keep your hair healthy, trim off any one-strand knots or split ends regularly. If you’re uncomfortable doing it yourself, go to a salon at least once or twice a year. I know I need a trim when my curls become difficult to detangle and my ends look sparse.
Develop your hair care regimen.
Consistency is the key to maintaining healthy hair. If you frequently neglect your hair, it will lead to breakage and split ends. Then you will have to cut off the damage and improve your upkeep.
Decide how often you will wash, condition, and style your curls. Sometimes it may be necessary to adjust your regimen to address any issues that arise. Keep a record of what works and doesn’t work for future reference. Make sure to put your hair care regimen on your calendar as a reminder, so you don't end up neglecting your mane.
Start washday in the morning.
If you start washday later in the day, you are more likely to get tired in the middle and not feel like finishing. When you’re tired and frustrated, you tend to be rough with your hair.
Washday can also be split into two days. This is the method I typically use: on the first day, I pre-poo and detangle. On the second day, I wash, deep condition, and quickly style my curls. My go-to style on day one is chunky two-strand twists.
Discover your go-to style.
There will be days when you don’t feel like thinking about what to do with your hair. Establishing a go-to style will help you get through those times. The easiest style for me is two-strand twists/twist-outs. I don’t have to think about what I’m doing, so I can zone out and let my hands do their thing. Twists are a great starting point because they're easy to do and can help keep your curls from tangling.
Save yourself some stress and avoid attempting new hairstyles the day before a big event — another lesson I learned the hard way.
Going natural is a commitment and should be taken seriously. It’s more than an aesthetic choice, so make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Once you decide to stop using a relaxer, do some research. Decide how long you will transition. Then figure out which products will work best for your specific curl needs. Develop a hair care regimen and make sure to get trims as needed.
Everyone’s natural hair journey is different. It will take time to get to know your hair and what it needs. But if you’re patient and build good habits at the beginning of your journey, your curls will thrive for years to come.
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about natural hair care in the comments.