I got my first relaxer when I was six years old. I remember the experience like it was yesterday. My mother pulled out a chair, sat me down in the middle of the kitchen floor and applied an at-home relaxer called Just For Me to my hair. The relaxer had an odor that I never smelled before—it smelled like ammonia. And it later on started to feel like ammonia was on my hair. My scalp started to burn and I started to cry. My mom said, “Sit still! We’re not done yet!”
For those that don’t know, relaxers have to be on the hair for a certain amount of time before it fully relaxes (or straightens) your hair. After the relaxer was ready to be washed out, I remember how relieved I felt for my scalp. It finally wasn’t burning. The scent of chemicals filled the air as the relaxer was being rinsed out. After my hair was shampooed a few times and towel dried, I reached my hand up and touched my hair. It felt like silk. It was straight and limp. It was movable and light. I liked it.
I started weening myself off relaxers at 16. I told myself to only get one every 6 months as opposed to once every 3 months. It worked out fine for a few years, then I decided to just go full-on chemical free. I decided to go natural. Because my mother put a relaxer in my hair at such a young age, I never had a choice in whether I wanted my hair to be straight in the first place. I probably would have never chosen to have relaxed hair had she let me make that decision for myself. When I was 6, I didn’t think anything was wrong with my hair, but obviously my mom did.
That first year of being natural was rough. I didn’t know anything about my real hair texture, so I had a hard time taking care of it. My hair was really dry and easy to tangle. I didn’t understand why it was so horrible, but it was because my hair was used to being chemically treated, so the chemicals had my hair literally fried. It was coarse, brittle, and wiry. Now don’t get me wrong, I am in my 4th year of being natural and my hair is still kind of coarse. That is just my natural texture. But it is 80% softer, curlier and more manageable than it was in my first year. Each year my hair got softer and softer. It now looks a lot like what we call “baby hair”.
I believe every woman should look the way she wants to look, but I do want black women to know that their natural hair isn’t ugly. I heard some black women say, “Natural hair doesn’t fit everyone”. But it does fit every black woman because that is our natural hair! How can your natural hair not fit you? I recently complimented a girl that was in her early stages of going natural. I told her it was already looking cute. She said, “Oh girl, don’t tell me that lie!” But if she was wearing a long blond wig, and I told her that was cute, would she respond that way? I don’t think so.
I just want black women to know that natural hair is lovely! And the cool thing about going natural is that you can always go back to relaxed if you don’t like it. I won’t lie to you, it’s rough that first year but it’s worth it. I will never relax my hair again. Natural hair rocks!