Why one woman chose to switch it up after 5 years with her natural hair
I first met my friend Ryen in 2009 when I lived in Chicago. I was one year into my natural hair transition and she was just starting. 5 years later, to my surprise just a few months ago she revealed via Instagram that her natural hair journey had ended and she had gotten a relaxer. My first reaction: NOOOOO!!! How could she betray her natural tresses? Who does that anymore? All these thoughts ran through my mind. I also revealed what I thought of this ultimate betrayal to a close friend who shared my same sentiments. Once I calmed down, I realized I was causing a scene for no reason. Who was I to judge her? However, as I talked to more and more naturals about relaxers the reaction was the same.
Complete side-eyeing to the creamy-crack as if it were a pair of long time out-of style kitten heels. Were relaxers becoming a new shade among black women? Ironic how what used to be the standard among most, not all black women, is now looked upon with disgrace. I was guilty of that as well for a split second until I came to grips with reality. Everything isn’t for everyone and at the end of the day, healthy hair is the ultimate goal. Relaxed, natural, curly, locked, pressed it’s all just a small point of every woman’s beauty, which I’ve always known but sometimes you have to give yourself a personal reality check. I talked to Ryen about her decision to switch back to a relaxer and the responses she received from her family and friends. See below and enjoy!
1. How long did you wear your hair in its natural state before your relaxer and what inspired you to “go natural” initially?
Well I had a relaxer first, then I went natural and now I’m back to being relaxed. I got my first relaxer when I was 5 or 6. I was relaxed for the majority of my life and actually kind of went natural on accident. During grad school I got a curly sew-in for spring break. I got so many compliments on it that I continued to get it during the remainder of the spring and summer semesters. Before I knew it, I hadn’t gotten a touch up in over 6 months. So I decided that I would just try the natural thing. After wearing a weave for a full year, I big chopped in March-ish of 2010.
2. Why a relaxer now? What inspired you to switch it up?
The first year of being natural was amazing. I got many compliments on my curl pattern and texture but once my hair got some length I began to notice all of the cons. When I would get my hair straightened (once every two months for a trim) my hair would not hold curls or stay straight for more than 20 minutes after I left the salon. About two years into being natural I started dabbling with natural styles: individual twist outs, flat twist outs, braid outs and most recently bantu knot outs. They NEVER turned out well. My hair is very fine and not thick at all. So my natural styles would have no volume and again my strands would not hold the desired style very well. Into year three of being natural, I just got very frustrated with my hair and it started to become damaged. Since my hair is so fine, it can’t take much manipulation without breaking. Everything I’d been trying to do with it was too much for my sensitive strands. Furthermore, I don’t enjoy doing my hair…it was a task and natural hair takes a lot of attention and time that, quite frankly, I just don’t have.
One night I was reading an Essence magazine article that surveyed a group of women on why their hair worked well for them. There was a corporate executive who wore a relaxer. She said it worked best for her because she leads a hectic work life and doesn’t have time to spend hours wrestling with her hair. She was echoing my exact sentiments and made my feelings valid. I decided right then that I was moving forward with the relaxer and I got it that weekend. It’s an adjustment just like going natural was, but I’m SO happy I did it!
3. What were your family & friend’s reaction after you relaxed your hair?
Most were surprised. I didn’t really tell anyone I was thinking about relaxing my hair again. I just went into the salon and told my stylist it was the day. My mom and aunts I’m sure were happy. They all have relaxers and are not into this natural hair movement. My mom reacted with one word: “WOW.” My grandmother has since passed away but I know she was in heaven “turning up.” She LOVED when I got my natural hair straightened and I always made sure when I wanted to make her happy (or proud to introduce me to people lol) I got my hair straightened. Mostly everyone else was happy because I was happy and agreed that my hair looked great!
4. What is your relaxed hair regime?
The one thing I kept in mind when switching back to a relaxer, is that my relaxed hair journey doesn’t HAVE to be the same as it was the first time around. It’s still possible to have healthy relaxed hair. I got a mild relaxer (so I actually do still have a curl pattern when my hair is wet, it’s just much looser) and I’ve allowed my stylist to watch my hair very closely during these first few months. I don’t put heat on my hair in between salon visits and now I deep condition EVERY time I go to the salon. I wash my hair (at least) once every 10 days and I still do protective styles. I love my relaxed bantu knot out. My hair has so much more volume and the curls last for 4-5 days!
Note: It was later revealed that Ryen’s stylist had actually given her a texturizer and not a relaxer, which is why she still was able to get a curl pattern when wetting her hair.
5. What advice or tips would you give to women who are transitioning to natural or thinking about getting a relaxer or texturizer?
I think you have to do whatever is best for you and your lifestyle. Definitely do your research and find out what challenges your hair type will encounter as a natural or relaxed woman. Think about how committed you are to the attention that your natural or relaxed hair needs. Do what makes you feel beautiful because people can nod their head and applaud your being natural (or relaxed) all day, but if you don’t look in the mirror and feel like Beyonce then it all means nothing. And the number one piece of advice I would give women is to remember that if it doesn’t work out, you can always go back! Nothing with hair is permanent, maybe time-consuming, but not permanent. So don’t be afraid to leap; it’s not a life and death decision.
What are your thoughts on relaxed hair?