Meet Sarah… she’s in it for the long haul, providing inspiration for transitioners everywhere!

CN:Are you a long term or short term transitioner, and why?

S: I’m a long term transitioner. I’ve been transitioning for 13 months so far. I had originally planned on going a year but I made a year of transitioning in November and didn’t really see myself cutting off most of my hair in the winter. I’ve set a tentative BC date of late March but we’ll see if I decide to hold off a little longer. It seems like every time I hit a wall where I think I can’t take it anymore, I find something new to do with my hair.

When did you start transitioning? What was your initial reaction to your natural hair?

I got my last relaxer on November 13, 2009. When I finally started seeing some new growth, I was sooooooo excited. After about 3 months, I wondered what all the fuss was about when it came to transitioning… then I began doing some fussing of my own when I hit about 6 months in my process. I love what my natural hair is beginning to look like. It’s extra thick and so soft. It feels like a cotton ball when I first get done washing it. As much as I love it, I do get frustrated dealing with the two different textures every once in a while.

How have family and friends reacted to your decision?

A number of my cousins and aunts have already transitioned to natural hair over the past few years so my family was really cool with it. One of cousins even gave me a bottle of glycerin to get me started, Lol. Only one of them has done a long transition and when she did, she flat ironed her hair for the greater part of a year. I am transitioning with as little heat as possible so I tend to do more natural transitioning styles. This makes my hair the topic of discussion at every family function since I’ve been trying a lot of different styles.

When I asked my boyfriend how he felt about me transitioning, he got excited. He asked me if we would be rocking the same hairstyle for a while. Lol He’s more supportive than anybody else for me. He even oils and massages my scalp when I ask him to and now that I have some substantial growth, he loves just having his fingers in my hair when we’re in bed watching TV.

What is your transition routine?

I honestly wouldn’t say I have a routine. When I first started, I quickly became a product junkie and so right now I’m in what I’m calling “Operation: Use all the hair products.” I’m not letting myself buy or try any new products until I use everything that lying around my house. I usually co-wash once a week with either Cantu, Bioinfusion olive oil deep treatment (my hair loves it), or suave Humectant conditioner. When I do shampoo it’s usually because I’m about to do a henna treatment. I use Aveda sun care shampoo.

For wet styling, I use Cantu Shea butter leave-in conditioner and Eco-styler olive oil get. I seal my wet ends with Elasta QP mango butter. For daily spritzing, I use a mixture of water, Infusium leave-in, vegetable glycerin, and jojoba oil and orange oil (for scent). When I want to slick my edges back for a ponytail, I use pure aloe vera gel and just tie a scarf on it for a while. When I want some shine to my hair once it’s dry, I rub some almond oil through it. It smells great!

I’ve given myself two hair cuts since I started transitioning. My once 15 inches of permed hair is now down to about 4 or 5 inches. I have about the same amount of natural hair. I’m honestly starting to get impatient.

What is your staple hair style during the transition?

My staple style changes with the growth of my hair. It also tends to depend on how much time or energy I have when I’m washing my hair. I started out wearing braid-n-curls and then around the 3 month mark, I started wearing rod sets. I’ve only had my hair flat ironed twice in the 13 months that I’ve been transitioning. When I hit the 5 month mark, I wore kinky twists for a while. This summer, I didn’t have anything to do (I’m a teacher), so I just let my hair do whatever it felt like. Now that I’m back at work, I’ve been wearing flat twists in the front a braid-n-curls in the back. When I feel like being fancy, I wear a rod set.

How do you moisturize your hair to prevent breakage at the new growth line?

I find that my hair doesn’t tend to break because of lack of moisture. I use my spritz, Cantu Shea butter leave-in, or Hawaiian 14-1 spray every day. I did have a long period of major breakage because I was being too rough while detangling. I tried detangling a million different ways and I would still run into these terrible tangles that would frustrate me to no end. I would reach the end of my rope and then just rip the comb through. I know that was a horrible thing for me to do.

Anyway, when I thought about going more than a year, I realized that I just might need to figure something out so that I could actually save my relaxed hair for another 8 months. The way I was going, It wasn’t going to last. Now, I part my hair into 6 sections while it’s dry. I spray the first section lightly with water and then gently brush it out from tip to root with an Aveda paddle brush. Once the section is detangled, I twist it and pin it up. I repeat this for each other section. Then I wash or condition each section separately in the shower and then twist it and pin it up. Keeping my hair in sections has caused me to lose about 1/8 of the hair I used to pull out. It also makes the process painless and takes less time.

Why did you choose to go natural?

I had been thinking about going natural back and forth for a while. After my last relaxer, I was sitting under the dryer and I just kept thinking “I didn’t need to do this. Why did I even bother?” That night, I told my boyfriend that I wouldn’t be getting any more relaxers. His response was “I never asked you to get one in the first place.”

If you want specific reasons for my decision take your pick… I’ve lived in New Orleans all my life. I’ve been doing African dance since I was about 6 or 7 and I’m a teacher. New Orleans is extra hot and extra humid just about all year long. We wore shorts and t-shirts two Christmases ago. Keeping long straight hair in this weather is a chore. I gladly did this chore for years and have had long thick relaxed hair since I was about 8.

Doing African dance usually has me in the company of many naturals. I remember going to a conference last year and realizing that I was the only person there with relaxed hair. Talk about standing out!!!! Seriously though, I hated worrying about “sweating out my perm” at rehearsal all the time. Dancing three or four days a week calls for a different hair care regimen than most people with relaxed hair care for.

As an educator, I notice a lot about my students and they notice a lot about me. My relaxed hair was long and thick and usually done in big loose curls. My kids who didn’t understand hair care would try to imitate the style with their weaves. I realized in October that there were girls who NEVER wore their real hair out. I teach middle school. I thought that was extreme and realized that many of them don’t have much hair at all. They have been left to care for their own hair at such a young age that their hair is broken off all over, or really thin. They don’t believe that it’s alright to have any new growth. The only solution I saw for most of them was to let their relaxed hair grow out without any more relaxers. Who better to model nice natural hair for my girls than me? This summer, one of my eighth graders called my cell phone and asked if I could tell her what to do to make her hair like mine. That felt amazing!!!!!!