May 19, 2010

Transitioning from Scratch

I can’t fully recall all of the challenges faced while transitioning from relaxed to natural hair many years ago. Periods of frustration, annoyance & doubt are not as familiar as feelings of excitement & anticipation once were.

Thankfully, I do still feel as if I can emphasize with those just entering the first stages of transitioning. A friend who is in the beginning stages of her own transition is understandably unfamiliar with the two variably different textures staking claim on her head, and today I’m trying my best to offer up a few tips & reassurances.

Put down the Shampoo!

This first step was hard to come to grips with during the beginning stages of taking care of my natural hair. If not shampoo, what else could I effectively use to cleanse both my hair & scalp? Several years ago and after my second BC, I  gradually developed a few scalp irritations that warranted more special care & attentiveness, therefore nixing the shampoo from my routine seemed a far reach. Instead, I experimented and found better solutions in low-poos, no-poos or SLS free like formulas that were less harsh on my strands. The object after all is to cleanse your hair efficiently while not stripping the hair of the oils it inherently needs to remain moisturized.

You’re not alone in this journey – Be Savvy, Do Some Research!

Guilty. With practically zilch knowledge before deciding to abandon the confines of the salon experience a few years ago, I hunkered down in front of my decaying laptop and took to the web, not expecting to find much, yet unexpectedly found more information then I knew how to digest in one sitting. Knowledge is power – when used correctly, so I began to take notes, applied those notes to my weekly routines. Made adjustments as the weeks and months let on, and slowly began to understand why way leads onto way…and taking care of one’s hair doesn’t happen overnight.

Read Ingredient Lists!

Read up on what goes into the products you are using. Attentiveness is important, but certainly being over cautious can lead you to abandon a few past favorites. Do not fret! Ingredients are important as they pertain to the health of your hair, not simply based on the opinions of someone else, or even the past experience of another natural. Research for yourself to determine what effectiveness means for some products, this goes for shampoos, styling products, conditioners, oil blends, hair masks, etc. What I’ve chosen to abandon in terms of ingredients may differ for many heads of hair. Time & patience have taught me this, as well as research.

Moisturize! Moisturize! Moisturize!!

As a relaxed head years ago, I hardly ever took the time to do anything other than pony and go. Tie the backend of the hair with one quick swoop, apply a little magna shine grease pomade across the edges and head on out the door. Moisture was never an option, rather it was a deterrent for relaxed her, shortening it’s longevity. Convincing a newly natural to embrace this concept may take several tries, but the benefits always outweigh any previous doubts. Begin with water. Learn from how it can naturally moisturize and nurture your hair for the better, and believe in how your hair will thrive off of its continual use. Afro textured hair while more prone to dryness, readily thrives off of water based products to help keep it moisturized and less prone to breakage.

*A short list that with enough time & thought could stretch into page after page of do’s and don’ts.

But if I could talk to the old Chai of 1999-2000, a college youngling carrying around a frayed picture of a beautiful brown face with a turned out curly fro, I’d tell her not to feel stifled by the journey, but rather enjoy it. Learn from the frustrations & use a few-if not all- of them to carry you forward, not backwards into defeat.

Do not be afraid or become intimated by the insecurities of others around you who have trouble understanding your decision to transition.

It’s not about them. This is about You.

Find a friend, a supportive friend – a network of natural haired women, whether online or for brunch who are willing to offer advice & guidance. The Natural Hair Community is growing, never floundering, so make use of a movement that is  in the stages of getting its proper due. Sooner than later, a mirror will be your one and only inspiration to feel beautiful.

What have you learned during your natural hair transition?

*image via b.vikki vintage

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