A great question came in from a reader in the Ohio area.
“What made you decide to go natural?”
I realized I never shared the story. Also, there will be more than one author on this blog so there should be a few answers to this question in the near future.
Phase 1: Relaxers stopped working
I’d moved from Ohio to Georgia and noticed that it took a much stronger relaxer (brand and strength), to achieve the same looks that I’d become accustomed to. I was a teenager so the stylists in the salons attributed the change to my hormones, similar to how some pregnant women are not able to color their hair to the desired result using the same methods. Everyone was telling me that my chemical make up and I didn’t understand, but about six months after I made changes in brands and strength, the problem showed up again. There were many braid breaks taken in this phase. I actually learned how to cornrow (braid to the scalp) as a result of the struggle.
Phase 2: Relaxers started to burn like never before.
Having spent the majority of my childhood with a regular relaxer, I was no stranger to the rules; “Don’t scratch before you relax!”. However I’d taken a job out of high school in Chicago (that’s a sophisticated way to say I joined the Navy), and we were not in a position to do much outside of shampoo for a period of ten weeks. Equipped with all my years of experience, I purchased a Regular relaxer from the Navy Exchange and applied it per the directions. I’d never felt a burn quite like that. I felt like the scene in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X where the water was turned off in mid-process. I walked away with a decent amount of hair but I had scabs on my scalp, evidence of chemical burns, and I couldn’t touch up my new growth until I was sure that everything healed. This is when I fell back on my quick-weave talent and kept my hair involved in some type of total coverage weave. The benefits were gaining a couple of clients in the barracks, but I joined with a full head of hair and I was headed to my next duty station in shambles.
Phase 3: Dead scraggly ends.
I was stationed in New Orleans at Naval Support Activity, (which is now Federal City), and the Exchange salon was very reasonably priced. I could easily maintain a weekly appointment for less than $35-$40. My cosmetologist, who quickly became my very good friend Merle, made it all make sense. The relaxers stopped working partly because of my hormones, but also because I’d built a resistance to the chemicals over time and excessive exposure. The same way that medicines start to lose their effectiveness, it rings true regarding chemical processes. The lightbulb went off and I thought about how many times (between salon visits) I decided to touch up my own relaxer and I’d read a box label that stated “New Formula”, which means that the companies are aware that the formulas need to change to maintain our brand loyalty, however in doing so we are being exposed to stronger chemicals. Merle is also who inspired me to consider cosmetology because of how much I would pick her brain in the chair and come back with information I’d researched on my own.
Phase 4: I got over myself.
There was a certain level of vanity attached to me even having to think twice about going natural. I had never seen my natural curl pattern and my only memory of it was associated with hot comb burns, breaking teeth on the blow dry attachment and strife in general. I was honestly not invested in maintaining my own curls until about four years into the process. It was in that time that I was away from my stylist as a result of Hurricane Katrina and I’d learned through trial and error that I actually had more freedom and flexibility without a relaxer. I found ways to achieve every look I desired without the aid of straightening chemicals.
I ended up on this path because it was the one that benefited me th most. It had absolutely nothing to do with any spiritual path, mother nature, “overstanding” the significance of the power in the spiral or any other cliché label that people try to attach to this choice. There are many people who will say silly things like “She went natural for the wrong reason”. Honestly, there’s no such thing. If being vain and jumping on a fad leads you to making a healthy decision, we (The OohMyHair.com crew) extend you the same welcome as the sister that wants to get in touch with her heritage. We promote self-love and good information. There can be many triggers that lead you here. We hope to have the content and answers to help you stay. As always ask questions when it stops making sense. Enjoy!