Naturalista hair journey all things hair

ATH Opinion: After Years of Relaxing My Hair, Was My Natural Hair Journey Worth it?

I'm happier than ever now with my afro texture.

Growing up, natural hair often felt like a taboo subject for me. From a young age, most young black girls, including myself, would get their hair relaxed to make it more “manageable” to style for their parents or whoever had the responsibility of styling their hair. Going through elementary and middle school, every girl who looked like me had relaxed or straightened hair. It wasn’t until the tail end of middle school that I began to see more people embracing their natural hair and texture. That is truly when I began to understand natural hair and how caring for it works.

What Makes Me a Proud Naturalista Today: This is My Story

As many black girls, young or old, experience the same realization at some point in their lives, it’s very important for those who have gone through the process of learning to love, care, and embrace their hair to share their stories too. In doing this, we are to raise up future generations in doing so as well. The goal is to break the stigma of growing up with natural hair. It should be a norm for young women to go. We can accomplish this with other people like me sharing their transparent stories about their natural hair journey. That’s why I want to share my journey.

My Hair Before Going Natural

naturalista hair relaxer
My hair is in its relaxed state after a fresh relaxer touchup.

At a very young age, there was already a relaxer in my hair. For parents, like others, it made my hair easier to work with daily. In fact, growing up In elementary school, having straight hair as a black girl never felt unusual to me. All my friends’ hair was permed or straightened.

For as long as I can remember, once a month, I would have my roots touched up on my relaxer. I always thought of it as very normal and never questioned it until I got older. I thought it was the standard thing to do. However, I didn’t understand the magnitude of my textured hair at the time and its capabilities beyond the relaxer. My hair was healthy throughout my childhood despite the regular relaxer treatment. It wasn’t until later on in high school that I felt like it was growing weak. It was hard for me to get relaxers without cuts and scabs showing up on my scalp. I could also feel my hair getting my hair feeling stiffer after washes. That is when I raised an eyebrow at the future of relaxing my hair.

Why Natural Hair? My Decision to Make the Switch

braid on relaxed hair, natural hair journey
Once I decided to go natural, I started wearing my relaxed hair in braid outs to emulate the look of afro hair to give myself an idea of how it would look on me. This is a hairstyle I always loved growing up as well.

My love for natural hair all started through social media. Seeing how many unique styles and creations could be created through my coils is what led to the decision to go on a natural hair journey. Going natural to me was so much about having healthy hair and embracing the way my hair naturally grows from my head. Growing up as a Black girl or a young WOC, we’re often taught to do the opposite of this. Therefore, once I began transitioning from high school to my freshman year of college, I wanted my hair to reflect this key moment of growth in my life by doing something out of my comfort zone.

My Journey of Transitioning from Relaxed Hair to Natural Hair

natural hair journey
A mixture of afro and natural hair while starting my natural journey.

I can’t say my hair always looked the best during my natural hair transition. However, I learned to embrace every step. Upon high school graduation, I kept my hair in protective styles such as box braids, cornrows, and sew-ins for seven months. The method was to allow my roots to grow without interfering with my hair’s relaxed ends. Going natural often means implementing low-manipulation hairstyles like these and other protective styles to help with growth and time. There are many other ways that I could have transitioned into natural hair. However, this method felt the least daunting to me. At the end of the day, I was completely ready to lose all my relaxed hair length and start my hair growth afresh.

In January of my freshman year of college, I finally made the big chop, a big step in my natural hair journey. However, I did not cut off all the permed ends at once. I cut off most of the relaxer, then proceeded to cut off more each month until summer vacation, when I was fully natural. This method felt the least daunting to me as I could slowly let go of my length over time.  During this time, I concealed the relaxed hair with tons of braid outs from the natural hair.

This journey was not only super emotional for me but for my mom and other family members around me who were used to seeing me with my hair a certain way. They, too, had trouble accepting the change to my hair at first but grew to love it. Who knew hair could have such a significant impact on you? However, change, in general, can be hard. However, change, especially when it’s healthy, can become rewarding over time and can lead so much to personal growth.

After 4 Years of Natural Hair, Was It Worth It?

Natural hair journey
My 4c afro after fully transitioning to natural hair

Despite the struggles of transitioning my hair and learning to maintain my 4c hair, going natural was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. Before I made the decision to go natural, I kept questioning if I wanted to put myself through the trouble of a new routine and find what worked best for me. Especially when it came to going through the big change of having bone-straight hair to coarse, textured, and coily 4c hair. However, I learned that the biggest and hardest step was simply making a choice to start the journey itself. This is already a big step; going out of your comfort zone has to happen gradually.

Transitioning to natural hair was also extremely fun. It allowed me to explore various fun protective hairstyles and natural hair products. The protective hairstyling also lasts longer on natural hair, as tight curls and coils grip onto protective styles better. This is why protective styles are known to be designed specifically for natural hair. It’s a journey you can personalize in any way you want. It becomes more beautiful when one realizes that their route doesn’t have to look like the next person. If anything, the comparison holds us back when trying to achieve personal growth in this matter.

Although hair does not define beauty, how you style your hair is a form of self-expression that shapes your identity. Natural hair is beautiful, and having healthy hair with reduced chemicals is a plus at that!

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