Were you a long term or short term transitioner, and why?
I transitioned for 10 months, my last perm was in August 2009. Originally, I thought I would never BC (I just wanted to keep trimming off the perm until it was all gone), but as my natural grew in more and more and I began to see and feel the texture, I got more excited to be completely natural. I made it to ten months because I would not be comfortable with a TWA, but I couldn’t wait any longer.
When did you BC? What was your initial reaction to your natural hair?
I BC’d on June 18, 2010. I went to Miss Jessie’s salon in Brooklyn because my husband wanted me to get a professional cut. Initially, I was very calm. I was glad to see the nasty permed ends on the floor, but I was also thinking ‘what have I just done?!’ There was no going back. After my hair was washed, I was super excited to see my entire head in it’s God-given state.
How did family and friends react to the new you? What was your response to them?
I was most concerned about my husband’s reaction. I would have BC’d sooner if I knew he would love a TWA. He was supportive when I told him I had decided to cut it, and he told me it was my decision to make and to not ask his opinion. He was most concerned with the health of my hair, so now that I am natural, I hope to receive compliments from him. It’s important to me that he still finds my hair attractive. Most of my friends were supportive. I think it helped the most that my mother recently cut her hair very short, so I was very motivated when she cut hers.
What was your transition routine (products included)?
At first when I started this journey, I knew nothing about my hair… about its porosity, its type, cones, sulfates, etc. But now, I am so much more informed. I have learned that I do not need extra protein, because my hair is very thick and protein just makes it straw-like. Sometimes, before I shampoo I use Burt’s Bee’s Pre-Poo Avocado Butter. My current product line-up includes DevaCurl No Poo or Oscar Blandi’s sulfate-free shampoo if I want lather. For Conditioner I’ve used ApHogee, Mixed Chicks, Jane Carter, Trader Joe’s Tea Tree and Herbal Essences Hello Hydration for a cheap fix that I can use a lot of. To style I’ve used EcoStyle Olive Oil and Carol’s Daughter Mimosa Hair Honey, Tui Hair Oil and Miss Jessie’s Baby Buttercreme. I’ve also used Argan oil on my roots before blow drying. It’s funny, since I’ve started buying these products, my husband and sons have started using the sulfate free products as well.
What was your staple hair style during the transition?
Unfortunately, every two weeks I went to my Dominican salon and got a roller set and blow out. Every few months I would get a roller set and not blow it out as to leave it curly. I started bringing my products, so I could at least control one aspect, and I went to the same woman every time and she understood that I no longer wanted to perm my hair. She was very gentle, but she also knew how to get my roots very straight. I started answering this question by saying ‘unfortunately’ because this method of styling permanently straightened some patches in my hair. At the ten month mark, it became increasingly harder to keep my roots from poofing, and now that summer is approaching, I believe it would be very challenging and time consuming to maintain a straight, sleek look with hair that is naturally curly. I tried my first bantu knots, which looked okay for the first two days, but after that they looked crazy with my permed ends.
How did you moisturize your hair to prevent breakage at the new growth line?
I didn’t treat the new growth line any different from my entire head. If my hair needed some moisture in the middle of the week, I would distribute a dime size amount of Proclaim Natural 7 Olive Oil throughout. I would wrap my hair at night and wear it straight for two weeks. I also make sure to deep condition after every shampoo, and either sit under the dryer or steamer for at least 20-30 minutes.
Why did you choose to go natural?
Oh my! For so many reasons! My entire life I knew that one day I would eventually go natural. I love the idea of one day, wearing a wash n go. Can you imagine? I look forward to swimming and working out and being confident in my natural hair texture. I look forward to twist outs, and curly fros and twist n curls and whatever else I find that looks cute. Although, there are two real motivating factors explaining why I recently BC’d.
After the Lion was born, I quickly stopped exclusively breastfeeding. He was born in June, and after labor day I returned to my second and final year as a fulltime business school student. I was recruiting for a fulltime job as well, so I found myself carrying a pump to school everyday. As my milk production decreased, and I leaned more heavily on formula, I noticed the shedding begin. This did not occur with Gadget, I think because I breastfeed him for much longer. Well, the second time around, I was completely done breastfeeding at the seven month mark because we took a three week course in Australia, and I refused to pump during “my time” (I won’t make this mistake again, but today I can’t fully say that I regret that decision.) Well, the shedding accelerated. Soon, my long thick mane was sparse. There was nothing I could do to slow it down.
In May of 2009 I got a perm for graduation and then went the entire summer without a perm. When August approached and my work start date neared, I got anxious and permed the fourteen weeks of new growth I had nourished. I immediately regretted that decision. I was afraid of the tension between the two textures, and I hadn’t yet found my gentle stylist. After two or so months perm free the shedding finally slowed. I am not sure if my body took an extra long time to flush out the pregnancy hormones, or if it was an internal issue, but not getting any more perms has helped to completely stop the shedding.
The second major motivating factor is that I want our children to be proud of and confident in their natural hair. I hope to one day have a daughter, and would hate to have her one day ask me why I perm my hair and not hers. I would be sending this huge message that you only look presentable with chemical alterations, and I do not want to communicate that through my behavior. So far, the transition has not been that difficult physically, although it is an emotional journey. I think that women who BC sooner have matured emotionally and mentally and are more prepared to live a life with a different look – more prepared than I am. If you think about it, it’s drastically changing your appearance, like an amputation. Clearly, my view on it is still with apprehension since I just compared going natural to losing a limb, but I think the mental consequences are just as significant. I have lived all of my adult life with a perm, and to abandon what has become a social norm, especially with my 4Cish texture, has taken a huge leap.
When I walk by a mirror, I still say ‘what I have done?!’, but that answer is that I have grown a head full of healthy, unadulterated, beautiful hair.
Before and After