I’m what you’d call a “reluctant natural.” After years of relaxers, something just changed and my hair started to behave differently. It was dry, breaking off, and it just wasn’t the hair I was used to. In honor of my 1 year Natural-iversary, here’s a timeline of my journey and a Big Chop video. If you’re just starting out, here are the great and not so great moments you can look forward to. (A lot of these pics aren’t so great, sorry they’re old and some of them were never meant to leave the sanctity of my Camera Roll. Oh well. We’re all friends here.)
Phase One: “A full on Monet” Around this time my hair still looked aiight. From far away it was fine but up close it was a big ol’ mess. It was breaking off and over time started to look thin. (Check out that sheer situation at Disneyland. Not cool.) I tried to save it by getting regular trims, using heat protectors, wrapping it, babying it, but I knew it needed to be cut at some point.
Phase 2: Bantu knots In an effort to give my hair a heat break, I started doing about four or five Bantu knots on semi dry hair. I was already getting very gentle relaxers (basically a texlax) but decided to chill on that, too. I was technically transitioning albeit unofficially. In my mind I was just taking a “break.”
Phase 3: Oh hell no. On this particular night I had just washed my hair and was taking pics to track my acne scars. I caught a glimpse of my wet hair and freaked OUT. I had no idea the breakage was this severe and decided to cut off my damaged ends. I mean, it had to be done!
Phase 4: THE (sorta) BIG CHOP
After Angelica cut off the damaged ends the rest of my hair was in okay shape. Even though it was presentable, I had this fear that it would grow out and break all over again. I couldn’t take that risk. “Maybe relaxers aren’t for me anymore,” I thought. I did a lot of research and decided to go natural. My last relaxer was around November and we did the first chop in January. The end result was pretty hilarious, I looked like I had gotten electrocuted! No big deal, I made an appointment to get my hair braided in advance so I was covered.
Phase 5: Roller Sets I had no curl pattern going on at this time and really didn’t know what to do with my hair. This was the shortest it had ever been and without a go-to ponytail I was lost. During this phase I experimented with every kind of roller and every kind of styling foam. It was a struggle. I just couldn’t get a full week out of rod sets, blending the two textures was problematic, and the foams were really drying. I hadn’t learned the importance of pairing a foam with a deep conditioner so yeah, I was messing up big time.
Phase 6: BIG CHOP #2 So let’s review: my last relaxer was somewhere around November 2014, I did the first chop in January 2015, and cut the rest off in September 2015. It’s November so that makes a full year of this entire process! The second big chop was really hard, to be honest. I had finally got my hair to a good place and I really didn’t want to lose it. On the flip side, I was limited when it came to styling. I pretty much had to do roller set after roller set and curl-enhancing products only worked on my new growth. It was a nightmare. After Big Chop #2 my hair was happy, healthy, and growing a lot faster. It’s been hard learning how to deal with my texture but I’m getting the hang of it. It turns out my hair is super thick and doesn’t like to be told what to do. (Much like me!)
It took a LOT of trial and error, YouTube fails, and epic bouts of frustration, but I’ve finally found products and techniques that work for me. If you want some laughs, here’s my Snapchat story from my second chop. I’ve listed all my regimens beneath the video. If anything is unclear, leave a comment or shoot me an email. I warn you, my regimens sound super OCD, but trust me they’re not.
Regular wash and go: Pre-poo with coconut oil, shampoo with Cantu Moisturizing Cream Shampoo, then Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Moisturizing Conditioner, rinse, any of these deep conditioner packets, rinse, more coconut oil, more Hello Hydration as a leave-in
Details: Herbal Essences Hello Hydration works really well as a
leave-in but I don’t really feel comfortable using products in a way
that they weren’t intended to be used. I’m concerned about long term use
of this as a leave-in and am scared to have it sitting on my hair for
too long. My wash and go’s usually don’t last very long so I can use it
for this situation because I know I’ll probably be washing it out of my
hair very soon.
Co-wash with the intent to wash and go: Pre-poo with coconut oil, co-wash with Herbal Essences Hello Hydration, rinse, more coconut oil, more Hello Hydration or Cantu Coconut Curling Cream as a leave-in
Details: Any kind of wash and go for me usually revolves around
Hello Hydration. If I know I’ll have time for a full wash day soon, I
can use the Hello Hydration as a leave-in. If not then I’ll go for the
Cantu. It’s great for activating curls and doesn’t freak me out like the Hello Hydration. (See the description above for deets on the “freak out” factor.)
Wash with the intent to protective style: Pre-poo with coconut oil, clarify with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Pure Castile Liquid Soap, Cantu Sulfate-Free Hydrating Cream Conditioner, rinse, deep condition with any of these packets, rinse, more coconut oil, Cantu Leave-in Conditioning Repair Cream
Details: Protective styling for me means I have to start with a
super duper clean scalp. I like to oil my scalp throughout the week so
it’s crucial that I start with a clean slate. Dr. Bronner’s gets hair
SQUEAKY clean, so you absolutely have to pair it with a heavy
conditioner like Cantu. I don’t like to use Hello Hydration with the Dr.
Bronner’s because although HH it great for bringing out your curl
pattern, I’m on the fence about how moisturizing it really is.
Protective styling regimen: Make about 10-13 “Bye
Felicia” braids, oil scalp with Jamaican Black Castor Oil every other
day or so, apply Cantu Leave-In Cream to ends, sleep in satin bonnet
Details: My go-to’s are wigs and have been wearing the hell out of the Freetress Creta Girl. (I’m wearing it in this
style post.) It’s synthetic but don’t be scared, it ages very well and
it’s not too shiny. I finger comb it until its super frothy and push it
to one side. If I know I’m wearing my wig for the week I leave out the
perimeter of my hair from my Bye Felicia braids. At night I flat twist
the perimeter with a bit of Cantu to protect my edges. In the morning
they have just enough curl to blend with the wig.