frustratedblackwoman

By Lurie Daniel Favors of Afro State of Mind

Sometimes, despite our intentions, our hair plans simply…fail. We get a great idea and maybe we jump in head first without really thinking about how to make that idea actually work.

That can happen when you make the initial decision to go natural too. A lot of women think that they can just grow their hair out and voila—a beautiful head of natural hair, twist outs and fierce Afros will follow. Little do these unsuspecting sisters know that transitioning from chemically straightened hair to natural hair is indeed a process.

This seems to be the road that one woman went down when she tried to go natural—and simply couldn’t make the transition. As reported over at Clutch Magazine, this sister wanted to go natural and began growing out her roots, but due to a variety of missteps, she was ultimately unsuccessful. She confessed:

I got the bright idea to go natural so I could run, practice yoga and take swimming lessons without scrambling to restyle my hair afterward. I grew obsessed with the wild, coiled, spiky look. Never mind I hadn’t shampooed, rolled or flat ironed my own hair in over 12 years or I only had a mere two inches of new growth attached to inches of bone straightness. I could still achieve a full ‘fro with the right product, Nikki Walton’s “Better Than Good Hair” and step-by-step instructions on a few YouTube videos, right? Wrong.

I was naïve about transitioning. Having been dependent on relaxers for nearly 25 years, I knew nothing about my natural hair other than it was coarse, itchy and lacked body when it was time for a touch-up. And despite the line of demarcation warnings, I still thought all that grease and water would prevent my thick strands from snapping.

Now when the article first posted the author took a lot of heat and some folks were super critical of her inability to transition. But I for one really appreciated her honesty.  Especially since as I describe here, after I Big Chopped, I too gave into my own insecurities and slapped a texturizer on my head. Le sigh…

Listen, for those of us who started combing our hair after our mothers let us get perms, there is simply no reason to think we will know what the heck we are doing without some serious help.

Don’t Fail to Plan

If you’re thinking about going natural I strongly encourage you to do your homework first. Don’t just get addicted to hair porn and watch youtube videos of women who have a certain “type” of natural. When you’re just starting out you may have no idea what kind of texture you have so you need to be open to a variety of possibilities.

You have to be willing to get to know your hair. Are your coils kinky? Are they a loose curl? What is your curl pattern? What are the uniquely awesome things that your hair can do? For women who have a history of completely turning their hair care over to someone else, this can be a scary process. But getting familiar with your own head of hair really is part of the “going natural” process.

That said, you should also locate a professional natural hair stylist—someone who is familiar with helping women transition from one type of hair to another. This is especially true if you are someone, like the woman in that article, who typically outsources your hair care.

If managing your chemically straightened hair was not something you took care of on your own, it can be a major shift to jump in and care for your hair through the transition process. There are a number of styles that are useful when you have two different types of hair on your head (i.e. natural roots and straight ends) and you need to know how to achieve looks that will let you be comfortable with your process. A professional can help you navigate this transition.

What is Your Natural Hair Motivation?

Finally, try to figure out why it is you want to go natural in the first place. Everyone doesn’t have a “going back to the Motherland” experience when they cut out their perm. But by choosing to embrace the hair that grows out of your head in this society you may find that you need to unlearn some of the values that you had while wearing straight hair.

For example—finding the beauty in natural hair can be a challenge when you’ve spent two or three decades lusting after long, flowing, straight hair. Learning how to appreciate the unique awesomeness of kinky hair can be a bit difficult when you were raised to avoid nappiness like the plague. Unless you challenge those beliefs, chances are you may find transitioning to be a much harder process to get through.

The good news is that if you prepare properly, tap into a support group (whether online or in real life), and most importantly, educateyourself, you greatly increase your chances of a successful transition.

Either way—it is important to remember that loving yourself is one of the first keys to success. How about you? What was your transitioning process like? Were there tips that worked for you or advice that was a waste of time? Sound off in the comments.

For more of Lurie’s writing, check out her book “Afro State of Mind: Memories of a Nappy Headed Black Girl. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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50 Comments on "When Going Natural Goes Wrong"

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Domonique Williams

Great article! Planning is key….

Amber Simpson-Lizarraga
Amber Simpson-Lizarraga
Growing up, worrying about my hair was not important. Ever since I was 4 years old my Mom used perms on my head and I was used to easily pulling my hair back in a neat ponytail or a bun or if I felt like it, wearing it down with a little curl. I am at an age now that I want my hair to look nice but now that I have my son and my husband, I don’t have time to do a lot to it & it is still not a huge priority. I have been perm-free for… Read more »
NHCN

Indeed, one’s natural hair journey can be a bumpy road. There are a lot of challenges but like we always say, weather the storm and the payoff will be huge. We’ve seen, heard, and read a lot of of feel-good stories about journeying naturalistas (http://www.naturalhaircarenews.com/category/readers-spotlight/) and most of them shared that the toughest of challenges are mostly met at the start. So for those who are about to embark on the journey, be patient for we are sure the payoff will be amazing.

lightskinblackgirl
For me what worked was I never did the big chop. I know, I know how can I be a natural if I never did it? To be honest, one day I think maybe my senior year in high school I said, “I don’t need another perm” my mom and sister have been saying for years that I did need one, but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, or so I thought. My mom put one in her hair, my sister’s hair and I didn’t want to be left out. But I’m neglecting the fact that… Read more »
jovie nian
Honestly I think the best thing (for me and maybe others who are transitioning) is to do a slow transition with out a such BIG chop. Two reasons, one is because if you are used to long hair that you can do all the bun styles you are used to… And two, you literally start to HATE your permed ends. When you start to feel your thick, healthy, softer, natural hair (and this may take like a year or so in transitioning) you start to curse your permed ends and get to the point where the thought of you going… Read more »
Simone

Nerver grows,natural yes stays,same lenght i hate it

Simone

My hair been short for years pretty but nerver grows therefore its ugly 3inch in lenght no matter what i do

Enez Laurendine
This is my 3rd time attempting to transition and I can admit it’s a hell of a process! The first 2 times I gave in because I’ve never came in contact with the “real me” and honestly it just made me so uncomfortable I went and bought a relaxer. And that was the issue the reason I decided that my last perm was my last perm. I lossed so much hair due to relaxers I could cry. My hair was thin and lifeless & made me feel so ugly! But I noticed that once the relaxer began to fade I… Read more »
Ashy
Okay so your saying they dont know their natural hair but at the beginning they had it for years or did they perm it when they were 1? And i straightened my hair only i know my hair and yeah its not easy 2 handle but you can do it and my hair was 2 my hips before i cut it (because of the annoying brushing trough story) now its shoulder length in curly and i like it and yeah you shouldnt shampoo it that much and you cant brush it you should comb it blabla but why why should… Read more »
Lizzy

Trying to be white by relaxing their hair may have been true in the past. Now, it’s about style and lifestyle. Many don’t have the physical ability to work with hair of a certain texture. You can’t compare the work required with 4a hair to 4c hair.

As far as white and straight hair–many whites have curly hair, some similar to ours. Why not say trying to be Asian. They have straight hair too.

Mykel
I could not agree with this article more. I decided to go natural after getting a relaxer on a short cut and it fell out! The only hair I had left was new growth, so the transition was easy for me. However, learning about my own hair vs. trying to make mine look like everyone’s on youtube took about 2 years. Once I learned what my hair could do and embracing the beauty of kinky hair, it’s been smooth sailing after that. I think one huge part of having natural hair is that you can’t be lazy. Laziness has tripped… Read more »
Myisha

hello I’m really thinking about going natural but Im scared I have shoulder length thick hair even with a perm I actually dont perm my hair too often because I burn (I have really itchy scalp) but I dont want to do the big chop I love my long hair I hate to even get my ends trimmed only because the Dominicans cut more then they should..I just really would like to know the best way I can try and transition without doing a BC also I like having straight hair what about flat irons?

Chel

Rollersets? No heat but time consuming

lizzy

Lots of people doing the slow transition without a Bc. Go to curlynikki.com for tips. Check out the forum.

Lizzy
I’m one of the women who didn’t plan. And I ended up with a hot mess on my head. I had breakage at the line of demarcation. I had straight ends in some parts, and no ends in the other(new hair grew after I stopped relaxing). Turned out I had two different hair textures: 4a and 4c. Those two textures prevented me from getting a decent hairstyle. I like the kinky-coily look of 4c. I like the wavy, curly look of 4a. My hair needed to pick one of them and stick to it. But that’s impossible, isn’t it? So… Read more »
Billoc
We’re in a very different sseaon than most individuals our age (42 and soon to be 40). We joined our family of five with my parents due to my daddy’s health in 2005. In 06, his health declined so much that I stepped down from the staff position I had at another ministry in order to be his primary caregiver. Hubby was the night caregiver. He passed on in Nov 06 and in March of 07 – my mother decided to start dating. She’s 65. She has a steady boyfriend who is also a part of our church. I’m on… Read more »
CheriD
Thank you for this article. I started to transition from relaxed hair to natural hair and lasted about eight months. At that point I decided to texturize my hair. I made the decision because my hair was breaking off and the time that it took to take care of my hair was not working for me. Since I texturized, my hair is healthy, not breaking as before and I’m loving it. I did learn a lot about hair during my transition and I’m so happy I did it. I learned that moisturizing, conditioning, protein and protective styling is important and… Read more »
liza
Love this article! I did the big chop on mid July 2010. Everything was going swell until i’d became prego with my second daughter. I was almost 2 yrs in and being pregnant while taking care of my 2 1/2 yrs old was a challenge! Not to mention the crazy hormones lol. So…, I’ve went back hp the creamy crack, but this time, instead of perming bone straight, i ‘d texlaxed. It left me with lots of texture but chemical is still chemical! The damage was already done. Now I am transitioning and I am determined to see it thru.… Read more »
liza

Thanks for this article. M

Sonya
Great article! Patience, patience, patience. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself as I look at my natural coif each morning. I have been “natural” for almost two years. Natural parenthetically because I was a closet natural-hiding underneath weaves, braids, wigs. Last week, I finally took out my weave, youtubed videos on twist outs, pinged a few friends for tips. The finished product-awful! My hair was hard, tangled. It was quite frustrating. Needless to say, I made an appt with my stylist and am now rocking a blowout. This weekend, I will try the twist out again. Patience, patience,… Read more »
Miss Kaylah

I big chopped last Tuesday because my transition phase was a disaster after 7 months I couldn’t do it anymore! My hair started to tangle and I was just stressed… So now I’m sitting with this head of hair that idk what to do with… I have this coily hair that from looking and researching seems to be 4a hair but idk how to define my curls or retain moisture or anything it’s just sooo frustrating… Does anybody have any advice?!

kat

Get a nice spray bottle that mists your hair in a way youre comfortable with
Research çold water apple cider vineagar rinse (I add Lavender essential oil)
Add small amounts of glycerin to whatever you moisturize your hair with
Drink at least 1.5 liters of water over rhe course of a day
Leave your hair open whilst showering
Those were. Game changers for me

Miss Elisa K.
It took me three years of researching and tryig to go natural three times before I actually did it. I started doing my own relaxed hair in middle school so I was use to caring for my hair. But I didn’t know how to care for natural hair. Pony tails, roller sets, and doobie wraps just weren’t working and everything else considered natural or transisitioning styles were major fails lol. So I transitioned with pressed hair. My aunt could press some natural hair so straight, that I would rock it for two or three weeks, no heat in between. So… Read more »
The Mane Captain

I agree with everything you mentioned in your writing Lurie. Many people just jump on the bandwagon without doing their researh, others do it for the fad. it’s important to educate oneself about natural hair before making up your mind and jumping in.
This is why I advocate for women to be in contorl of their hair on my blog. only you can dedice the course your hair takes.
themanecaptain.blogspot.ca

Lurie

Thank you!

Ashley
I never really liked straight hair. Actually I got a relaxer by accident and just stuck with it (but that’s another story). I was always changing-and damaging-my hair to find something crazy and unique that matches my style and personality.Since I was always told that nappy hair was unacceptable going natural was always out of the question. After all the haircuts and hair dyes I got to keep my individuality (this was when everyone was getting the Rihanna cut…and for the record I GOT THAT HAIRCUT BEFORE SHE DID) I decided to shave it all off and get a texturizer..I… Read more »
D_Roc

Great article.
I first transition to natural from 2006-2007. But after a illness, not really knowing what I was doing (this was before the internet exploded with info) and having to go back to work. I did not have the patience. I hated that I did that but in fall 2009 I finally did my homework as much as possible before had and sucessfully transition by Big Chop in spring 2010 (8 months).
So I would advise to research a lot before you start the transition. Nowadays there is plenty of information to help you understand the process.

Doz
I liked this article. Tried to go natural in 2010 that lasted for 9 months and I got a relaxer in 2011 and regretted it before I even left the salon. Then I tried transitioning again and got talked into textlaxing last year again regretted. My problem is finding a “natural” stylist. Most beauticians where I live just don’t want to do natural hair and will talk u out of it. And I have gone african American Caribbean and Dominican all are the same. They don’t seem to understand so I alternate between braids, wigs and half-wigs. If anyone knows… Read more »
Lurie
I’m not sure about Nassau county but I swear by my stylist in Brooklyn. One thing to remember is that many stylists who are of African descent are still trained to achieve a straight hair look. And one of the things I discuss in my book is my experiences w/ natural hair while living in the Dominican Republic. Generally speaking, a Dominican stylist (unless she/he is breaking from the mold) is not going to be able to help you go natural. Culturally speaking the training they receive is much like the training many traditional Black American stylists receive, i.e. “STRAIGHT… Read more »
Doz

Hmmm the “Natural Hair Whisperer” sounds intriguing. LOL Thank you for sharing. Most women don’t like to share ;-). Yeeesssss I guess Im gonna have to go to BKLYN

Doz

OMG!!! Miss Lurie !!! I don’t know why I didn’t click on your links at the bottom of the article. I’ve seen your videos on youtube before. You were one of the few women that I followed in the beginning…..DUH!!! I guess Ima goin to Brooklyn!!!!! LOL!!!!

Lurie

Ha! Glad to make the connection Doz!

Essence

You may have to try to go the city to find a stylist. There are tons of natural salons in BK. I usually trek there from the BX when I want to get my hair professionally styled.

Doz

Yes I know some of the best natural stylist are in brooklyn. I was hoping that there would be some in my area or at least in Queens which is still close to me, but if I have to go to BK then I might just do that. I would never go to a stylist in Manhattan because Im not going to give one of my kidneys just to get my hair done. Its sad that one has to go to such great lengths.

Liz
I love this article. The story quoted inside this article sounds just like me. I “outsourced” my hair care (hot comb by my mom flat ironed regularly at the salon) for 23 years. Recently though I HAD to go natural and unfortunately I had a lot of breakage where the new growth and flat ironed ends met – that made me cry more than you know. Finally, after cutting my hair twice (the straight ends) and after eight months or so I love my natural hair because I just recently learned how to keep it moisturized and also learned what… Read more »
Lurie

Liz,
I’m so glad you liked this piece! It makes my little blogger heart feel good, LOL.

JENNID
Tori, Ill gladly discuss as transitioned from pressed hair. Um I think the biggest issue here is that your hair maybe heat damaged. Just because your hair reverts back after washing doesn’t mean that its all good. My hair always reverted with no problems. No straight pieces or anything BUT it was damaged none the less. For example if I tried to press my hair n roll it, it wouldn’t hold a curl. If I combed my hair I would get massive shedding and breakage. Also it was chronically dry. Nothing worked. Like you I tried to in the beginning… Read more »
Tori
I appreciate this piece quite a lot. But, I notice when there’s discussion of going natural, it always begins with hair that is relaxed chemically. I wear my hair straight, but I press. Despite the fact I stopped perming four years ago, I am still not capable of just washing my hair, letting it air dry or applying products for curly hair to get the desired results. It seems like nobody really discusses what to do with hair that is accustomed to thermal styling. It would be really nice to have a piece similar to this one from someone who’s… Read more »
Christina Patrice

Hi Tori!

I totally understand where you are coming from, and it is the driving force behind my blog The Mane Objective. I hadn’t had a perm since I was about 6 years old, but I did substantial damage to my hair via flat irons. Check out my blog, http://www.maneobjective.com and Instagram @maneobjective. I post tips and information regularly for those transitioning specifically from heat damaged hair.Hope you find some info that helps:)

Regina
I haven’t had a relaxer in over a year. I have only been fully natural since December of last year. After about five months of transitioning I had had enough. I had watched a ton of YouTube videos so I just knew I could do my own big chop. I was wrong. When I was done my hair was so uneven. I had to go to a barber the next day to get my twa shaped. I also did not know for sure what my hair type was until after my big chop. I have type 4 hair…a,b, and c.… Read more »
Candice
I think the biggest problem that women can have in going natural is wanting someone else’s hair. If you are overbuying hair products, overmanipulating, and trying everything to make your curls look different than they are, you will be frustrated and probably damaging your hair. Natural is about acceptance of yourself as you are. What comes out of your head, as it comes out of your head, is what you should be learning to take care of. I think too many naturals fell in love with the idea of 3C curls and ended up being 4B when they big chopped… Read more »
Lurie

Candice, this comment right here nails it for me: “Natural is about acceptance of yourself as you are. What comes out of your head, as it comes out of your head, is what you should be learning to take care of. I think too many naturals fell in love with the idea of 3C curls and ended up being 4B when they big chopped and are still chasing that look they fell in love with.”

Nuff said!

Erin
I love this article! I wish that all women had a chance to read this before making the decision to rock their natural locks! My 15 yr old is transitioning now and at first all she did was whine and give excuse after excuse. I told her that once she got a job and could afford her own hair regime ( sew ins and perms) then she could do what she wanted but until then, and as long as my dimes are spent, she was going to learn to appreciate and maintain what grew out of her scalp. Ultimately it… Read more »
Lurie

Erin, So glad you liked my article! Now that I am expecting a little girl I will be sure to remember your comment. I’m hoping my daughter will be able to by-pass some of the hair issues so many of us have – but if not then I’ll do my best to follow in your footsteps and help her see the beauty in what God gave her.

Mudd
If I was straightened and read this article I would be so intimidated. haha I transitioned with braids. Grow and snip straight ends as you go. Might take a 6 months to year. Simple. Or just BC and rock a short haircut for a while. Pretty much everything I know about my hair I learned on Youtube and Blogs. My #1 advice is don’t expect your hair to look like a natural hair guru’s! They make amazing styles look effortless and easy but it might not turn out that way for you. When this happens you will be tempted to… Read more »
Shi
When I decided to go natural, I went straight to braids (extensions). I did my own extensions for almost 2 years. After the first year, I did an assessment of my hair and I cut of all the straightened hair, but I wasn’t comfortable with my hair then so I put it back in braids. I did this for the next year or so until I couldn’t stand wearing extensions anymore. I started doing alot of research on products and would test some of them on a small patch of hair to the back of my head by the nape.… Read more »
annnsow

Great article and great point :
“For example—finding the beauty in natural hair can be a challenge when you’ve spent two or three decades lusting after long, flowing, straight hair. Learning how to appreciate the unique awesomeness of kinky hair can be a bit difficult when you were raised to avoid nappiness like the plague. ”

To me that’s the most difficult.

But really, once you followed all of those advices… I think you can finally have a great journey. Not a flawless one but a good one without any doubt.

Lurie
Annnsow – glad you liked the article! Truly I agree that this is one of the most difficult parts: learning to replace the values we had when we had straight hair and replacing them w/ a new value system that can appreciate kinky/coily/nappy hair. Especially when the world we live in makes loving natural hair an oddity instead of the norm. But I believe that as more of us who go down this road we are changing that standard and making it easier for those who come after us. Think of us as part of the pioneers who create a… Read more »
Dabney

This is an excellent Caveat! Read, Research, and Ask question!!! Fortunately, we have soooo much more information on transitioning , and living the natural hair lifestyle. I wish I had know about the L.O.C. Method when I first started my journey! The frustration I endured from countless big chop resets. I had no idea about PH balance, moisture protein balance and the dangers of HEAT and Dyes! So Everyone who is about to take this journey, Read , research and learn about how to do your hair.

Lurie

Thank you Dabney! I couldn’t agree more – there’s a reason why they say “Knowledge is power” after all! Glad you liked the article. 🙂

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