I'm sure many of my naturalista's cringed seeing this title, and trust I understand. With studies showing the negative affects of relaxers, why would anyone decided to relax their hair.
I wanted to share my journey not to justify my reasons, but to explain my decision as I know there are others who may be struggling with it. So grab your favorite drink, snack and get comfy and enjoy the blog.
In 2004, I decided that I wanted to grow my hair out. I loved and I mean LOVE long hair. So I searched out a beautician that could help me on my journey. My hair was damaged because I kept overlapping the relaxer on my hair for years. I had split ends all over the place. My beautician relaxed and cut my hair into a cute bob, I loved it! I decided to purchase Kera Care products from the salon to ensue I was giving my hair the best products for my hair to become healthy and grow.
Two weeks later, I decided to bump my ends with my ceramic flat iron but something didn't look right. My hair looked as if it were going in different directions and didn't look smooth as it did prior. I began combing and brushing my hair to get it lay right but nothing worked. I looked at my comb and saw that the hair in it was split. I was shocked, upset and wanted to cry. I mean, I was just in the salon two weeks ago. I thought I was on my way to healthy hair. I called my beautician and she squeezed me in the next day. I explained to her the situation. She examined my hair and said "you're right. This was due to the years of over processing my hair. She had to cut my hair again. My now shoulder length bob was now right under my ears. I was devastated (it was cute though) but not the length I was ready to accept or deal with. But, here I was and now my journey began......again.
I was really into my hair after the split end fiasco. I started journey hair forums to learn how to keep my hair healthy, trim my ends and what products were working for others. Big mistake on the products, I became what is know today as a product junkie. I mean I spent thousands over the next 10 years on all types of products (sidebar, don't ever do this). I mean if other forum members were having success with a product, I wanted to try it too. I had so many products, I could have opened up my own beauty supply store. (sidebar, only 10% of the products I purchased during this time period actually worked, so again don't become a product junkie).
In 2005, after a year of learning and growing my hair (and a month after getting laid off from my job), I decided that I wanted to become a licensed cosmetologist. So I began classes in the evening because I was actively looking for full time employment. I'll admit, I loved growing my hair and buying all of these hair products (sidebar, the product junkie syndrome got worse while I was in cosmetology school🤦🏾♀️), but the real drive to go was because I wanted to have access to all of the professional hair products (I'm still recovering but I'm better. I gave two garbage bags full of products to my sister for her and her family😉). Although it was hard work, I loved cosmetology school, going to the Bronner Brothers hair show in Atlanta, etc. When it came to my hair and cosmetology, everything was going great. I received my cosmetology license in December 2006.
February 2014 - After a couples night out
Nine years later (2014), my hair was beautiful, long and just thriving. Everyone thought my hair grew fast, but it didn't, I just learned low manipulation by keeping my hair in protective style when my new growth became untamable. My hair was just past my bra strap. It even got to a point that it was getting in my way (blowing in my face, getting stuck under straps, etc.) Unfortunately, this streak of healthy hair came to a halt in June of the same year.
June 2014 - 10 days before he ran off
My hair issues began when my then husband of 14 years decided he didn't want to be married anymore (due to his infidelity, yup I said it). Without getting into much detail here (we can discuss this in another blog), I was blind-sided. When you're blind-sided with something so traumatic, you don't know how it will affect your body, let alone your hair. I was devastated, didn't know which end was up or which way I was going. My life was literally turned upside down. I stopped eating, drinking, and thinking. I had to figure out life real quick but he was gone the same day he told me.
Fast forward to November 2014. I decided that my youngest daughter and I needed to be around family. So we traveled to NY for Thanksgiving. I remember relaxing my hair and coloring it but something was different. I didn't realize it then but knew I needed to get out of NC. While in NY, I went to fix my hair and felt that it was really thin, but figured it was due to being freshly relaxed. I ignored it and continued to enjoy my family.
November 2014 - Flight to New York City
At the beginning of March 2015, something was off about my hair. You may be thinking "Lisa, you didn't figure it out yet" and the answer is no. There was a lot of things going on between me and the run away husband that your girl wasn't thinking straight. I was really just surviving up until this point. But I did finally realize what happened. Not only did my hair thin out, it broke off badly. After I washed and deep conditioned my hair, I looked at the back of my hair and this is when I realized that I was a mess. My hair had broken off. I was so hurt and devastated. But knew I had to make some changes. This was a turning point for me because once I realized how his departure affected my health, is when I began working on me.
I went in into the bathroom and proceeded to cut about 6 inches of my hair off. I couldn't save it, it was gone, damaged, raggedy and all. My now bra strap length hair was just past my shoulders. You may think that's not bad, but think about it, it was just past my bra and in a matter of 9 months, it was damaged. Up until his departure, I never had a run in with stress. I've dealt with stuff but never stressed. It was at this point I realized I was stressed, although in survival mode, working, cooking, taking care of my daughter, etc. inside my body was stressed the heck out.
March 8, 2015 - After I cut my hair (I know I look sad. I was hurting badly)
After I cut my hair, I decided to wear protective styles and wigs. I was never a wig wearer until 2015 but I'm thankful for them. As I began to pick my life back up and learn to who I was, life slowly was getting better. I grew my relationship with God, my daughter began thriving in school and life was progressing along until November 2015. The run away husband was open to talking and wanting his family back. Now ya'll leave me alone, I gave him a second chance. Why because we were still married and he "appeared" to be on the up and up. All was going well for a while. We were working on us, our family and our relationship with God. Well that lasted about 8 months. ODB (ya'll know what that means) started changing. I became very skeptical and began watching him. Not too close because I felt that I shouldn't let his past affect how I looked at his behavior (dang it, the gut don't lie). Two months later, the run back home husband became the run away husband again (yup you guessed it, infidelity again. A new one at that).
Soooooooooooooo......In my mind, I was determined not allow ODB to affect my life the way he did previously. If you have been following me since my Periscope days, you would have noticed that I started getting my hair crotched in September 2016. It was the perfect protective style to ensure my hair stayed healthy, and didn't break off. I stayed to myself for two whole weeks. I only went to work and talked with my daughters. Thankfully it worked. Then four months later I made the decision to go natural, why? Because one thing I knew was that my hair had never been the same since stressed entered my life in 2014. I decided to give it a break but the one thing I was sure about and had informed my viewers was that this wasn't a natural hair journey. I knew I would eventually go back to relaxers but the question was when. Although January 2017 was my last relaxer, I didn't do the big chop until November 12, 2017. My natural hair was about 4-5 inches as this point which was a great starting point.
Eventually all I did for the next 5 years was protective styles . I wore my hair crotchet for a few years then moved on to wigs (my gray hair was not cute with crotchet hair). I never straightened my hair in 5 years but I always blow-dried it. I trimmed my hair once or twice a year and that was it. It was about year three when I began wanting to relax my hair but every time I thought I would, I'd changed my mind. I kept having feelings that I would regret it. I loved my natural hair as in the way it was growing, how stronger it was, etc. But I could never get it to work for me.
I despised wash days. The shrinkage was unbearable. I mean sometimes I would go 3-4 months before I would shampoo again. One time I went 6 months (I'm being honest here) because I hated it with a passion. I tried as many products as I could but nothing worked fully through the wash day process. I would have a product that made my hair detangle, but the next product would make it tangle again. I even had friends tell me to make my own products. That was not in the cards then or now. Combing my hair left my scalp tender. Shampoos would either not cleanse well or dry/shrink my hair. I was just tired. Many would say, it just takes time and I get that. But I'm a low maintenance person. I don't have hours to put into my hair and that is a choice.
Even with the above, this was not the deciding factor for me. When I thought about relaxing my hair again last month, I really had to lay out why relaxing was best for me so if I was to make this decision I wouldn't have any regrets when it was time to do it. One thing about me is that I sweat a lot. When I sweat, my scalp sweats as well. No matter if its due to cleaning my house, taking a shower or working out, I never could really have a hair style.
One time, I went out to a company function with my ex. I went to the salon and got a silk blow out. It was absolutely gorgeous you hear me. When I got to the event and start dancing, you wouldn't believe that I looked like a poodle after 5 minutes. Three hours, three hours I was in that salon and my hair was ruined. I even thought it would be better to be natural because of this but it isn't. Even when I wore a natural style, once I sweated the style would be ruined. Hours upon hours can go into a style and within 5 minutes the style is gone.
So why would relaxed hair be better? Because wash day is a breeze. When a style is ruined, it can be cleansed, redone so I can move on. I don't needs hours upon hours trying to make it look right again. But what about the effects relaxers have on us. Good question. Upon my research, the issues relaxers can cause are true, BUT the issues associated with relaxers were mostly found in individuals who used relaxers often.
Since 2006, I only use relaxers 2 maybe 3 times a year. I did this to prevent overlapping/over processing my hair. My typical usage is every 4-6 months. I usually wear my hair out for 3-3 1/2 months, then wear protective styles until I'm ready to relax again. Therefore there's a low chance of adverse effects occurring. Also, its best to have a licensed professional apply your relaxer because they can move much quicker than you and ensure you don't get burned. Relaxers have been found to disrupt the chemical balance in our of bodies by entering our system via cuts or burns therefore a licensed professional is best if you get a relaxer. There are more studies out there. Please do your homework to ensure if this is the best option for you (sidebar, issues with products affecting people is not related to relaxers only. DO YOUR RESEARCH).
So it's the next day and you may be wondering if I have any regrets. not one bit. I did what was best for me. I know black women have embraced their natural hair for our culture as well as our health. It's a beautiful thing when you're informed. The same things goes for relaxers. When you're informed you can ensure application is done correctly to ensure no adverse effects can occur.
I hope you enjoyed the blog. Leave me a comment below on how your natural hair journey is going, if you've never went natural, do you want to go natural or are like me, went from natural to relaxers. All helpful and encouraging comments are welcomed all other comments will be deleted.
Until next time,
I completely understand about what you were going through! I’ve been natural since I had breast cancer and my Oncologist asked that I do not use perms in my hair and that was decades ago. I haven’t used perms anymore. I had blow-outs from a Dominican Shop in MD. I was happy at first but one other lady wanted to do my hair the next time and I allowed her to blow out my hair. That was a disaster, and my hair really thinned a lot. I started wearing wigs as well. I believe by going through chemo and radiation I will have bald spots in the top and center of my crown. Now, with the proper shampoo massaging the very thin spots, it’s growing, and the length has always been long in the back. I’m not bold enough to put pics out for the world to see. Thank you for sharing and being transparent. Brenda
Your journey and testimony are amazing! Thank you for sharing. The effects of stress is real. Going through hair challenges right now and I know that it is due to stress. I have not been natural since my teen years and after that first relaxer I never thought of going natural. Too much work. Lol Your testimony is encouraging. Thank you!!
@Shirley – Thank you and I’m glad you like the new name😉. You know, not doing what’s best for you is what’s making a lot people miserable today. It’s like if you don’t follow suit, you’re a trader, sell out, etc. Dee is right, doing what’s best for you is such a freeing experience whether anyone likes it or not.
Ms Elisa, I enjoyed reading this blog..I’m so glad that you did not let anything stop you from doing what is best for you…as Diane would say you do you. Your hair looks great 👍👍..love the new name of your blog 🙂
@Jill – Awww….thank you so much for the kind words Jill. I’m glad you like the blog and it spoke to you. I’m finding more and more that this has been on mind of many women. If you can, join me tonight at 7pm Eastern. I’ll be discussing this topic as well as answering any questions you may have.