Monday, May 25, 2015

Growing Pains - Advice on How to Make a Transition From Relaxed to Natural Hair

Can you remember the thick, beautiful texture of your naturally curly hair? Think back to your childhood weekends when you'd get your hair unbraided, shampooed, greased up and rebraided for school the next week. If you were like me, you will remember being SO envious of your girlfriends' straightened hair. Even on the days when they came to school with the dreaded hot comb burn on their forehead, cheek or ear, you wanted your own hair to look just like theirs.
An Unlucky Number

I was 13 years old when I got my first relaxer and I continued to relax my hair for another 13 years. I didn't really decide to "grow my hair out", it just sort of happened. One day, unable to get an appointment at my favorite braiding salon, I decided to wear it natural. My husband loved it and to be honest, I was pretty pleased with it, too. Luckily, I used to take very good care of my hair while I had extensions: I would carefully apply shampoo to my scalp and then work the suds through the length of the synthetic hair. I deep conditioned it every two weeks and applied natural oils to my scalp.
This Is What I've Learned
If you decide that you don't want to relax your hair anymore, there are several options available to you. The first is the most drastic: cut it off. I have only worn my hair short once in my life and I didn't like it at all. I think I have a lumpy head, although this very well could be a figment of my imagination. If a short hair cut appeals to you, by all means, go for it.
The next choice is to let it grow out. The trickiest part about growing out a relaxer is the fragile state you will find your hair. The point where your natural hair ends and the relaxed hair begins is the place where it is most likely to break. This means you must treat your hair VERY delicately. Take your time to untangle it with your fingers, as opposed to yanking a comb through hair that has tangled upon itself. This is easily done by thoroughly wetting your hair BEFORE you apply your shampoo.
I really recommend shampooing your hair in the shower and not at the sink. Look for a low pH shampoo that is free of harsh chemicals such as Sodium Laurel Sulfides (SLS). Sulfides and other harsh chemicals will further weaken hair that is already damaged from the relaxing process. Shampoos that use castile soap should be avoided, as they have a very high pH value, which can cause excessive dryness.
Once your hair is completely saturated, squeeze a small amount of shampoo into your palm and then using the tips of the fingers on the other hand, apply shampoo to your scalp, throughout your hair. Lightly and gently massage your scalp without bunching up your hair. Once you have worked up a good lather, massage the foam down the length of your hair. With your back to the shower head, look up and let the water rinse the shampoo out completely.
An instant or daily conditioner must always follow shampooing, in order to replace nutrients lost through the cleansing process, seal the cuticles and restore the hairs proper pH balance. A good conditioner should have plant based, moisturizing ingredients nourishing vitamins. Conditioner should be applied in the reverse order that you applied your shampoo: Begin at the ends, where the hair is oldest and therefore in the most need of nourishing conditioning. Massage the conditioner through your hair in a gentle manner, stopping just short of actually touching your scalp. Beginning at the ends of your hair, use a wide tooth comb to coat each strand of hair. If you come across a tangle, use your fingers to detangle it: DON'T yank the comb through, loosen the tangled hair with your fingertips. Be sure that you untangle the hair all the way to the root. Clip your hair up with a butterfly clip and finish showering. At the end, rinse out the conditioner.
In the growing out process, you should deep condition your hair every week. Use a high quality, nutrient rich deep conditioner, with a controlled heat source to ensure deep penetration. When styling your hair, try to avoid heat. You should also avoid styling products that contain ANY form of petroleum, including mineral oil. Petroleums do not allow the hair to breathe. Opt for plant based oils and butters instead and apply these styling aides to your hair, not your scalp. Do not believe the myth that you should only use "ethnic" products. ALL hair benefits from healthful nourishing ingredients. Look for products that are chemical free and moisture rich. Research any ingredients that you are unfamiliar with.
Adapt hair styles that will protect your hair during this growing out phase. Two stranded twists are a GREAT and versatile option. You can also wear your hair parted down the center with 2 corn rows, slicked back and gathered into an elegant French braid or with multiple cornrows or loose braids. To encourage growth and avoid frizzy looking ends, trim about one quarter of an inch off the ends of your hair every 8 weeks. You could do this yourself or enlist the help of a friend.
In general, EVERYONE'S hair grows about ½ an inch a month. If you treat your hair delicately, keep it nourished and protected, you will have a full head of chemical free, nourished, healthy, beautiful curls in no time at all.
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