The 411 on Going Natural September 17 2014
So, you want to “go natural” – a term commonly used to describe the switch from relaxed/permed hair to natural hair. Also known as returning to natural, the process can be done in two different ways.
First, there’s the Big Chop (BC) where in one fantastical moment you decide to cut off all those relaxed tresses. Some opt to visit a salon and get this done by a professional while others attempt the feat on their own. Whatever the means the outcome is the same, a head full of fresh, new coils and curls. Thoughts on the BC run the gamut from nerve wracking to liberating, frightening to fulfilling. What anyone considering the BC needs to contemplate is whether they are ready for this drastic change. Because once it’s done, it’s done.
The second option is to transition or grow out the relaxer. Growing out your natural hair means learning to work with both textures of hair, relaxed and natural, treating them equally and trying to maintain a balance of moisture and optimal care. During this route, many women will trim their relaxed ends, as their natural hair grows. They may choose to wear their relaxed hair in braid or twist extensions, for a period of time. The braids and twists are redone on a regular basis until the natural hair has grown out to a comfortable length. Still others set their hair on rollers, straws or Curlformers to achieve a blended look between the two textures.
What comes next?
What you’re left with at the end of the BC, is the TWA, also known as the teeny, weeny afro. Alternatively at the end of your transition period you’ll be left with a fuller, longer mane.
Now that you’re natural hair is out and on display what are you going to do with it? This phase can be very fun and frustrating. Imagine, reacquainting yourself with someone you haven’t seen in years, perhaps decades. It’s awkward and interesting; they’ll be stumbling blocks and revelations. So too is the process of familiarizing yourself with the hair you may have not seen since elementary school. Getting to know what your hair likes and dislikes, what works for it and doesn’t is a trial and error process and can take anywhere from months to years.
Don’t be dismayed if you feel like giving up and heading straight for your nearest salon for a relaxer. This is fairly normal reaction when faced with the uncertainty of manipulating, styling or caring for your new hair.
Styles, styles, and more styles
But during this learning process, a lot of fun and experimentation can be had with your new found coils. There’s a variety of styles to try:
- wash and go’s
- twist outs
- braid outs
- protective styles.
What many have found is that becoming a naturalista also means a complete revamp of their hair products. Often, what worked on relaxed hair, may not work on natural hair. Many women choose to use brands that use natural products that are free of phthalates, parabens, silicones, and more. Going natural is often perceived as a lifestyle change and many women want to incorporate that natural essence in everything they do. So using natural products on natural hair makes sense.
Hair typing and porosity
Once you’ve completely transitioned you will discover the true texture(s) and curl pattern(s) of your hair.
There are two popular hair typing systems, Andre Walker’s and L.O.I.S (L = Bend, O = Curl, I = Straight and S = Wave). These hair typing systems don’t come without their share of controversy;
- how relevant are they?
- can they really describe the complex nature of natural hair?
- do they really help you care for your hair?
- which is better?
The natural hair community remains divided on the usefulness of these systems, but they are at the very least a good place to get a general understanding of natural hair types and textures.
A hair characteristic that may play an even greater role in haircare maintenance and understanding is porosity. In general, hair porosity is defined as the hair’s ability to absorb and hold moisture. Hair can be high, low, or normal porosity as defined below.
- High porosity hair easily absorbs moisture because the cuticle (outer layer of the hair shaft) is raised but subsequently loses moisture just as easily because the cuticle is difficult to seal.
- In low porosity hair, the cuticle is closed and therefore resistant to moisture absorption and may require manipulation (ie, heat) to open.
- Finally, in normal porosity hair the cuticles are slightly raised and therefore better able to receive and retain moisture.
Knowing your porosity will help you maintain a positive relationship with your hair. Porosity is probably the most beneficial piece of information that can help you understand why certain products work well with your hair while others do not
Going natural is an individual choice and experience. How you decide to transition or wear your hair is up to you. What you decide to put on it should be based on what works and what’s best for you. Some embrace their new kinks, coils, and curls immediately, while others may take a while to gain the confidence needed to sport those curls. Either way, it’s a journey that won’t be boring.
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