From Relaxed to Natural

Before we get into this interesting topic, let me share a fun fact for Movember, in the hopes of raising awareness of men’s health this November:

Prostate Cancer risk factors:

-Diet high in animal fat
-Family history of prostate cancer
-Chronic stress
-High blood testosterone levels
-Exposure to radiation, food preservatives, tobacco and pesticides

Now, let’s talk about “turning” relaxed hair into natural hair. Many ladies who are going natural are starting from relaxed hair, and have to choose the process of either cutting their hair completely and starting over, or transitioning to natural. It is quite an arduous task, and some try to find that magic formula that will instantly turn their relaxed hair  natural. Here are a few that have been claimed to work:

  • Washing with Coca-cola
  • Washing with washing powder
  • Washing with the famed “green bar”
  • Washing with beer
  • Washing the relaxed hair everyday
  • Washing with lemon
  • Washing with eggs
  • Washing with dishwashing liquid

The list goes on and on.

Why it’s thought to work:
Natural hair in our community has been associated with dry, unmanageable, tangled hair. So what we have deemed “natural” is actually dry coarse hair. This is why the solutions are washing your relaxed hair with particularly drying products, because the prevailing thought was if your hair is dry, therefore it is natural again, isn’t it?

Why it does not work:
The hair is not back to natural, it is dry. The best way to look at it is using this example I use so many times! But I must give credit to where it came from! When you cook rice or grill chicken, have you successfully managed to uncook or ungrill it by washing it at all? No, right? You see, relaxing hair is more complex than just feeling a burning sensation after some time. A chemical reaction happens in the hair that changes hair bonds and alters them permanently. That’s why the other name is “perm”. It is permanent.

Let’s get Scientific

The Natural Haven, another blogger I follow, gave a great explanation of what happens when the hair is relaxed:

Hair cuticle

This is the structure of our hair, composed of the cuticle and the cortex. The cortex is divided into parts called fibrils. These fibrils are made up of proteins with bonds between them.

The two main factors that cause hair to be relaxed are:
1. Swelling of the cortex which happens when the relaxer separates the bonds within the proteins of the fibrils (see the diagram below).
2. A process known as supercontraction where the broken bonds essentially realign themselves into a configuration that allows the hair to be straight instead of curly.

Hair relaxed

So that reaction is the hair equivalent of cooking rice or grilling chicken (I love that analogy!). And no amount of washing will switch back that relaxed hair to natural hair.

So how does one who is relaxed become natural?

The Big Chop
The big chop is cutting off all the relaxed hair, without letting any growth come out. It is quite a drastic step especially if you want the comfort of length, but it has its advantages in that it allows you to go through all the phases and lengths, and it helps you learn your hair bit by bit.

Transition
This is when you stop relaxing your hair, let it grow out and you trim the relaxed ends bit by bit until you cut them all off and remain with natural hair. Transitioning gives you the advantage of length, so you can do more with your hair. Working with two textures is a bit of a pain though, and needs great patience.

I hope you’ve learnt a lot about relaxing, and how to go about being natural, coming from relaxed hair. It is not as easy as washing out the straight, it takes time and loads of patience, but it is worth it in the end. Here’s a little reminder, you can save it, keep it or send it to whomever needs the advice:

How to make Relaxed hair natural!
And let’s not forget it!! 🙂

So, those who have gone natural, did you big chop or transition? How was it for you? Has anyone tried the washing method and it worked? I’d love to know.

Until next time… your Quarter Wife.


5 thoughts on “From Relaxed to Natural

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