How to Transition From Relaxed to Natural Hair
What's a Relaxer?
Relaxers contain carcinogenic (toxic) chemicals that penetrate your hair shaft during perm application. Imagine taking a beaker full of hazardous waste and pouring it onto your scalp. Relaxers are like hazardous waste, but not to the extreme.
They break the hair bonds that curl your hair, leaving a straight and smooth finish. All relaxers contained lye at one point. What is lye? Lye is an alkaline solution used in cleaning products. It’s corrosive and poisonous. Lye relaxers contain sodium hydroxide and high pH levels between 12 and 14.
Our hair’s normal pH level is between 4 and 5, so you do the math. Lye quickly breaks down your hair bonds and cause scalp irritation. A neutralizing shampoo is used to balance the pH levels after perm application.
No-Lye relaxers contain calcium or guanidine hydroxide. Its pH levels are between 9 and 11. These relaxers dry hair due to calcium buildup. Clarifying shampoos removes this. Deep conditioning treatments are needed to restore moisture since clarifying dries your hair.
There are milder chemicals in no-lye relaxers, so those with sensitive skin would prefer to use this one. Either way, both kinds of relaxers have harsh chemicals.The chemicals burn your scalp if the relaxer is left in for too long.
To leave relaxers on your hair beyond what’s recommended will lead to over-processed and dull hair. It can cause breakage and fall-out. African-American hair texture is already weak because of its natural curliness. Relaxers only weaken your hair even more and gradually damages it.
Relaxers Damage Your Hair
With relaxers comes great responsibility. It’s because the hair is chemically processed that it needs special post-treatment.
The hair needs to stay well oiled and moisturized to prevent breakage. Curls, flat ironed styles, weaves, waves, etc should be worn with relaxers.
Braiding relaxed hair will only cause excessive breakage because the hair is already fragile. Once the relaxer wears off, normally after six weeks, a “touch-up” is needed.
A touch-up is when a relaxer is applied to the roots of the hair because the natural curl pattern starts to grow in. Relaxers are a temporary fix.
Reapplying relaxers regularly is what causes damage overtime. Your hair thins out and can eventually break off.
Some relaxer applications can permanently burn your hair follicles to where your hair won't ever grow again.
I've read articles and have seen videos of relaxers gone wrong. Relaxers weaken your hair over time. They can cause split ends and hair fall-out.
Ways to Transition
The first step to transitioning from relaxed to natural hair is to prepare yourself to accept your hair in its natural state.
It may be your first time as it was mine, and so you have to be ready to love your hair for what it'll be natural. The transition from relaxed to natural is more than a hair thing: You have to change your mindset.
Before we go on, let's quickly throw away the term "good hair." Soft and curly hair does not constitute good hair. This is a ridiculous hair adjective that African-Americans need to do away with.
We only segregate and discriminate against ourselves when we do this.All hair is good hair as long as you take good care of it. This will be your first time seeing your natural hair grade without chemicals, so you have to prepare yourself for this drastic change.
There are two ways you can transition from relaxed to natural: 1) Big Chop or 2) Wear transition styles. The Big Chop (also known as BC) is when you cut off all of your hair at once. You start with a low hair cut and let your hair grow out.
The second way to transition is by wearing transition styles. This is where you wear braids, plaits, weaves, flexi-curls, or any style that conceals both hair textures as your hair grow out. Instead of jumping in all at once, you take baby steps with the transitioning method.
When I transitioned from relaxed to natural, I wore plaits and braids for one year. The picture to the picture above is a style I wore during my transitioning phase.
Once you feel your natural hair has grown out enough, then you can cut off the permed ends. This way allows you to have some hair to work with as you allow your natural hair to grow out completely.
The Growth Is Endless
Since being natural, my hair has become stronger, fuller, and longer. Relaxer damage influenced me to transition to natural. My hair was thin and never grew to touch my shoulders.
Next month (January 28) will make two years I've been natural and my hair touches my shoulders. For my entire year as a new natural, I haven't used heat. I've only used natural curling methods (plaits, twists, braids) and let my hair air dry whenever I wash it.
I condition my hair more than I shampoo. Keeping my hands out of my hair has helped me retain hair length also. What I mean by this is I've worn protective styles 99% of the time I've been natural.
My hair's mini-twisted even as I write this. I mostly focus on keeping my hair conditioned and moisturized. Also, I'm very particular about the products and ingredients I use.
- Relaxers contain carcinogenic (toxic) chemicals that penetrate your hair shaft during perm application.
- African-American hair texture is naturally weak because of it's tightly coiled structure.
- Relaxers weaken your hair by using strong, harsh chemicals.
- You can still achieve straightened hair with natural hair.
- Educate yourself on healthy hair practices.
- Treat your hair as you would the health of your overall body.
- Consider the damaging effects relaxers have on your hair overtime.
- Read and research relaxers so you can get a better understanding of what's in them and what they actually do.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.