I was reminded earlier this week of my initial steps to wearing my hair naturally when an Instagram follower asked for my help regarding transitioning hairstyles.
Transitioning: The stage when you are in the process of going natural but are yet to cut off your damaged or straightened ends.
I realised that I was never good at transitioning (because I wanted curly hair immediately!) but I also realised that many of my followers were not around when I’d made the life-changing decision to chop my hair.
The Big Chop: The act of cutting of all processed hair, officially going 100% natural. In light of this realisation I have decided to go back to some of the basics through a series of posts, sharing past hair experiences and what I have learnt along the way.
I chopped my hair on 31 May 2016 and have never looked back. I would like to convince you that it was an entirely liberating journey (and it really was) but I also want to highlight some of the challenges I faced before and after cutting my hair.
I used the Flexi-rod method during my transitioning phase and it was then that I learnt to play around with plaiting and styling my hair. I found this stage incredibly frustrating as setting Flexi-rods was time-consuming and, if they did not amount to a total disaster, the slightest bit of wind or humidity would make the mass close to my scalp ‘puff’ while the rest of my hair fell limp and straight, as the Brazilian Keratin treatment had promised!
I believe I toyed with the idea of chopping my hair for around 2-3 months before committing to the cut. A friend of mine had, bravely, chopped her hair about a month prior. As I reflect on it all, it seems so silly that my anxiety stemmed from people’s responses to my decision because I knew that it was the right decision for me. I could not see myself sitting through hours of blow-drying and flat-ironing just to have my hair frizz at any sign of moisture. I had had enough of the idea that ‘good hair’ was straight hair and I wanted to restore my hair to its natural state so that it could actually be good again.
Many people responded to the chop but not in the way that you might expect. I remember being called inappropriate names and was asked on countless occasions why I had not bothered to ‘do’ my hair when attending a function. I wondered what I was meant to do to a short crop of curls on top of my head. The responses were not all-negative, though. I recall Wesley being relieved that I no longer fought with and complained about my hair; we still laugh hysterically about the time I had stood pulling at the roots of my straightened, broken hair and yelling: “What am I supposed to do with this!”.
But I remember being told that I was really pretty and that it showed even more minus the flat-ironed hair; pretty is a word that I seldom used to describe myself when I was growing up. People whispered and stared less over time and they began to ask better questions about my curls. What has stuck with me throughout this journey, though, is the fact that I began to stand out in the crowd. People became fascinated with my hair and it began to feel good that I was being noticed for something that was, naturally, me. How liberating it is when you no longer want to fit in but rather be recognised for being either yourself or for being different.
On the practical side, I found my natural hair to be fairly easy to style and have adapted my hair routines along the way. At the beginning I would finger-coil my hair to make sure that all the curls were evenly defined and I would use a diffuser to dry those coils. I spent a lot of time watching videos on Youtube and admired frogirlginny (now niathelight) – she inspired me to love my natural hair.
The biggest lesson I had to learn was that of patience; my hair would not grow into an afro over night. In fact, it has taken nearly three years for my curled hair to touch my shoulders. The best advice I could give to someone wanting to chop their hair is that you have to be willing to love your hair through every phase, the awkward ones included.
I knew all along that I wanted my hair to grow out, so I have always chosen health over fashion. I am yet to colour my hair and I am cautious when trying new hair products. Heat is the enemy and I have had to learn how to limit its use and how to protect against the damage it causes. I enjoy braiding my hair now but will not do so if it amounts to breakage. I would not recommend heavy braids on short hair as the weight can be really damaging and may result in balding.
What I have gained most from this journey is intangible: self-awareness, self-love and confidence are precious gifts that no one can give to you – it has to come from within. It feels amazing to go through life being sure of who you are. Time has taught me to worry less about appearances, ironic as hair is exactly that.
To end this rather long post, I would say that the big chop is a big decision, one you have to me ready to make because, as Coco Chanel famously said, “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”