Saturday, September 6, 2008

Transitioning

I LOVE to hear women tell me they are going to stop relaxing their hair. Back when I went natural in 2002, I didn't know anyone who transitioned. It was such a foreign concept in my world. Now, only 6 years later, it seems like EVERYONE is transitioning. I know that's an exaggeration, but it really feels that way. At work, there are 3 women at different stages of transitioning that I've been helping from their decision to now. Whenever I meet people, I always get the "I really want to go natural, but I'm scared" responses, or I get "How did you go natural?" questions. I've seen some naturals get offended by it as if we're some science project, but it doesn't offend me at all. The more the merrier is my thought process, and even more I wish I had someone to help me when I made the same decision...

Transitioning takes a certain type of mindset. It takes courage, patience, and seriously thick skin. It takes a lot of humility as you literally have to throw away everything you think you know about hair and start anew. And finally, it takes acceptance. Accepting (finally...) what God has made and loving it. Transitioning involves not only ones hair, but ones mind as well...

Once you decide to transition, you'll need to decide HOW you want to do it. Many people choose to transition in different ways...Some choose to wear braids or weaves, some choose to straighten, while others (like me) choose to just let it grow out without the aforementioned...Each of these methods has pros and cons, and knowing what they are can help you decide HOW you want to go about the process...And truth be told, you can choose to do all three of them throughout your transition.

Braids and Weaves:

Wearing braids and weaves allows you to pretty much stay out of your hair. They give your hair the much needed rest from the abuse of combing and heat. They help you get used to the idea of not relaxing. They're like a security blanket. The down side of these is that you're not giving yourself a chance to learn about what's going on with your hair while it's growing out. You may find that when you FINALLY take the braids and weaves out you're overwhelmed by the texture, unsure of how to style it, unsure of what to use on it, and still very insecure about its length and texture. Also, braids and weaves can be quite damaging if worn too long and too often. Too tight braids pulling your hair out and just the sheer weight of the braids can weaken your already tramatized tresses...Give your hair long periods of rest between them, and get them done professionally, please. Let the folks who do these styles, professionally tell you how to maintain them...

Straightening the new growth and gradually chopping or trimming the relaxer out:

Surprisingly, this would seem like the easiest and most popular process, because it seems like it's more of the same, but of all of the women that I help with transitioning, this is done the least. I'm not sure why. I'm confident that it's just in my circle as there are so many websites that I've seen where women go natural this way. Straightening while transitioning allows you to keep doing what you've always done, you're only changing one major thing...Relaxing...You still get to wear your hair straight, and if this is most important to you, this seems the best choice. The flip side to this is that at the end of the day, you still may not be learning about YOUR hair. Heat styling WILL damage your natural texture over time (it can take heat ONE time to jack your texture), and keep it from thriving and being as healthy as it can be. This blog is about living without the LYE, so I totally understand women who choose to wear their hair in straight styles. If you choose to transition by getting it straightened, understand what that entails. Two of my really good friends are naturals with hair to the middle of their backs...They've NEVER had a relaxer, yet they've always wore their hair straightened. They've learned their hair...They practice good hair care...They both only use heat once every week or every two weeks when they get it washed and conditioned. They wear protective styles. They don't use harsh products like hairsprays and alcohol laden gels, they don't wear braids, weaves, or anything that may add additional stress to their tresses...

Just letting it "do what it do":

This is what I did. Folks that let it grow out and learn to work with the 2 textures are a very special bunch. This process requires the most patience, humility, and thickest of skin. Women transitioning this way are the ones who hear "Girl, whatchu doin' to your hair?" the most...We're the ones who go from looking a HAM one day to "Dannnnggg, your hair is HAWT", once we learn how to do a twist out or straw set with the two textures. We get to wake up in the morning, part our hair and giggle at alllllll the "new growth"...This transitioner is better eased into her naturalness (IMO). There is no security blanket of braids or weaves or the mask of straightening the new growth to keep us shielded from our God-given tresses...The downside to doing this is that it's frustrating dealing with the 2 textures consistently. You sometime experience breaking because of the fight with the 2 textures, and styling may be more of challenge.


Decide how long you're going to transition. Set a goal date for yourself. Some people transition for weeks and wear the shortest of short TWAs (Teeny Weeny Afro), while some transition for a year or more. Decide the length of the transition, but don't beat yourself up if you need to extend it, and go get yourself some chocolate if you decide to shorten the time...It's all up to you. Setting a goal for the ending of the transition helps with the process...

If you decide to straighten, plllllleeeeeaaaaasssseeee don't let it just break off. Please do deep trims and "mini chops" to get the relaxer out. At the end of the day, it's about learning about better hair care, in my opinion, and just letting it break off is NOT a good start to that....

Find a hair buddy or mentor to help you with your transition. Hopefully this person has similar hair goals as you. For example, if you're dead set against straighening, your mentor shouldn't be someone who's ALWAYS straightend their hair...

Be realistic in your expectations...Better yet, don't have any. Don't have expectations of what your want your hair to look like. When I first started transitioning, I was WISHING for really, really thick hair. I thought that the relaxer kept my hair really fine...Guess what? I just have fine hair...I was majorly disappointed when I couldn't get a for real, for real big afro...I could get one, but it soon started flopping over...I never have been able to wear really cute twists...My hair is just too fine. I've learned to accept that, and as a result, I've learned to just let my hair "do what it does", and that's when I feel it's most fabulous.

Understand that going natural is not going to benefit your wallet necessarily...Sure you're not going to have to spend the next million years in the salon, shelling out a millions to get your hair "did", but you WILL be spending money on the next "it" cream you heard about...It's inevitable. We all do it...I've spend a small fortune on hair products over the years learning what I did and didn't like on my hair. And if you're getting braids and weaves, you know how much that can cost to get them done. Understand it...accept it...

Start playing with your hair. As the new growth comes in, don't turn your nose up at the "puffiness", rather begin to see that it's getting you closer to your goal. Stand in the mirror and look at the "new growth" and cheer those napps on...Seriously...Repeat after me, "MORE NAPPS, MORE NAPPS, MORE NAPPS!!!" LOL...The more new growth I got the more I got the "itch" to chop. I started trying to style only the natural part of my hair to see what it was going to do, lol...

Commit to using better products. Better products are going to cost more than the crap we've been using over the years...I have a girl friend who is transitioning and I sent her to a couple of sites for products and you would have thought I asked her to rob a bank. She said, "Girl, those products are too expensive!!!" I was like, "Dude, you JUST stopped shelling out $45 to $65 every two weeks at the salon for a wash, blow dry and flat iron...Those products may cost about the same, but they'll last you like....4 to 6 months???" She quickly did the math in her head and said, "OOps...My bad..." Yeah...We've GOT to do better in this department. We've gone from shelling out major dollars for our hair in its relaxed state to scared to peel off a dollar for products that will actually help our situation out. Better products include using sulfate free shampoos, conditioners and hair moisturizers that contain TONS of natural oils and butters...Companies like: Carol's Daughter, Curls, Oyin, Quemet Biologics, Long Lovely Locks, ABBA, Eucelene, My HoneyChild, Anita Grant, Treasured Locks, Aubrey's Organics, Nadia, J/A/S/O/N, Burts Bee's and sooo many others, make very good products for our hair without the harsh, crappy ingredients.

Start documenting your progress. This was MOST helpful for me. I didn't learn about hair sites and hair albums until 2 years after I chopped all my relaxer off, but I would have LOVED to document what was going on. Once I started documenting the size of my afros, I became soooo excited about my decision. Documenting the progress wil help to keep the spark alive...ESPECIALLY on those days when you feel like saying "THE HECK WITH THIS"...You can pull up pictures of yourself at different stages and see how far you've come...You can look at pictures when you were REALLY, REALLY struggling and say, "Oh, okay...TODAY isn't THAT bad ..." It gives you a great point of reference...

And finally, relax! It's all going to work out in the end...

5 comments:

Mario and Ronnise said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!

Giavana said...

Thanks for this Ree...I have the "squealing moments" already and my last relaxer was just in june. It is quite exciting to see the 'puff'!!!

Anonymous said...

You Should Take A Look at Rare-Elements Hair Collection ITs A Natural line with lots of butters and oils

Kendra said...

Great advice Ree!

Just ME said...

Thanks for sharing. I really want to do a big chop and start with at TWA, but since I am married I am trying to honor hubby. He is not a fan of short hair whatsoever, but loves natural. I really need to figure out how to do this because I really do think that the time has come.