Before my last relaxer in February 2009, I had the mentality that only straight hair was beautiful hair.
As a young girl, I suffered both physical pain from my mom and aunts raking combs through my dense, tight curls and kinks, and emotional pain, from having my hair called all sorts of names, like "nappy", "puffy", "hard." My hair was the source and cause of pain, agony, and many tears. I saw the straight, silky hair, and wanted it. And I got it - at the age of 12. My first relaxer. The relaxer seemed like a miracle to me. It didn't hurt to comb anymore. My hair was straight and beautiful like the girls I saw on TV. But what was this agony that I had to suffer in the salon? Scalp burns? Heat burns? Now I had to be careful not to scratch my scalp before I had the relaxer done, or else I would get a terrible burn. And I had to stay away from water, or else my relaxer would semi-revert into a stringy, coarse mess. All the precautions, all the pain, all the time, and why did I go through it all? Because I believed that the natural texture of my hair was both aesthetically unattractive and astonishingly unmanageable.
As I forced my hair to be more and more straight, it became coarse-looking, and the ends were jagged and split. My "miracle" was now turning into a nightmare. I began to have uncontrollable breakage. I saw pieces of my hair everywhere - on my pillow, on my clothes, on my shoulders. I wondered, why?
The breakage continued, and my length never got much past my neck. I tried to accept that my hair just didn't grow long like straighter hair types, but I didn't want to believe it. Why did those with straight, wavy, and loose curls and only a very small percentage of Black people seem to have long hair? Why couldn't I be one of them? What did I have to do to be one of them? I longed for hair that extended past my neck and shoulders, and I had yet to find out that it was my treatment of my hair that was preventing me from getting long healthy hair.
Shortly after the February of my last relaxer, I saw Teri Laflesh on TightlyCurly.com and how she transformed damaged, brittle, relaxed hair into lovely, healthy, natural curls. I began to research and learn about the kinds of damage that relaxers do to your hair. I also learned why the natural hair that I had before my first relaxer at age 12 was so unmanageable; it was not being managed correctly. Once I decided that I was going to stop chemically altering my hair and care for my hair in its natural state, my natural hair journey began. Learning what products to use and what hairstyles to use for my natural hair as it began to sprout under my relaxer was one of the most exciting times of my life. All of the stereotypes about Black hair - It can't grow long, it's unmanageable, it's ugly - those hurtful and meaningless stereotypes began to disappear from my mind. As my curls grew and grew, it filled me with joy to see their true beauty show.
I never got a big chop. I let my relaxed hair break off and declared myself fully natural. I no longer believed that relaxing or straightening the hair thermally was the solution to managing naturally kinky-curly hair like mine. The real solution was to become knowledgeable about it - its tendencies, its needs, and how to care for it IN ITS STATE. I now know that combing my hair dry was what caused pain and breakage. I now know that I needed to wet my hair and to comb with a wide-tooth comb, starting from the ends, and working my way up. I now know that I needed to wash weekly in order to have a clean, healthy scalp. I now know the importance of moisturizing the hair. I now know the importance of avoiding products with mineral oil, petroleum, and other heavy oils that coat my hair and prevent it from absorbing moisture, leaving it hard and dry. I now know that shampoos with sodium laurel or laureth sulfate stripped my hair of moisture and caused it to feel dry and brittle. I now know that it is easier to live with, learn from, and love natural hair than to fight against it. Fighting against my hair was what caused me physical pain from the harsh combing and burns, and emotional pain from watching my hair fall out and seeing others with beautiful hair. Being on my hair's side is enjoyable, relaxing, and so much of a pleasure. I do not care that my hair doesn't fit the "straight" standard of beauty. God made my hair, and that's what give it its natural, unalienable beauty. I have become proud of my precious curls and their tendencies. They kink, they afro, they poof, they frizz, they fluff, they curl, they spring, they're natural, they're beautiful and they're mine!
Remove the kinks from your mind, NOT your hair :)