Get a group of women in the room for any length of time and one thing is certain - at some point hair will be a topic of conversation. Hair style, hair color, hair processing, hair weaves; straight hair, nappy hair, long hair, short hair, braids twists or locks. Although this is certainly true of all women, it is especially true of black women. Why? Because many women of African ancestry have tightly curled or kinky hair and, sadly, from the time we are school-aged girls we are taught - both at home and by society - that our hair is something that needs to be changed, tamed or conformed to a more desirable (i.e. straighter) texture. Black society has (both men and women) bought into this "lock stock and barrel," and per capita black women spend more money on products to alter the texture of their hair - relaxers, texturizers, permanent waves (i.e. jheri curls) - and store bought hair (real and synthetic) than any other race. With so much societal pressure to look a certain way and so many options available to achieve that look, it's understandable that so many black women choose to change the natural texture of their hair to something that conforms more to social norms. Still, most of us know that the constant frying, dying and weaving comes at a cost. Over the years we see our hair becoming more and more thin, dry, broken and damaged and eventually it looks so bad that many of give up on it totally and resort to wearing wigs.
On a positive note, more black women are choosing to embrace their natural hair proudly and society is taking notice. Fashion magazines, celebrities and professional women are rocking 'fros, twists, twist-outs, locks and TWAs more than ever and beautiful natural hair is once again becoming a standard of beauty versus something that has to be covered up to be acceptable. So, how does one move from years or decades of relaxing and weaving to au natural? As a black woman who has made the transition twice, and 8 years ago for the last time, I offer this advice: give your hair a chance. I know this may sound like an oversimplification, but it is the absolute best advice. Believe me I know it is not easy to allow your shoulder length relaxed hair to slowly grow out nappy from the roots. I know it's not easy to cut off 8 inches or more of hair to a nappy or curly TWA. But you simple cannot base your decision whether or not to wear your hair natural on a half inch of new growth. I can't tell you how many sisters I've spoken with who say "I want to try to go natural;" then two months without a relaxer and a half-inch of natural hair they say: "it's too nappy; I can't deal with it." Ladies, your natural hair is nothing to be ashamed of and it is not bad and it is not a mistake, but if you have never styled or cared for your hair in its natural state, it will be an adjustment.
Just give it a chance. Wear braids or twist extensions for a year to allow it to grow out and then get a professional to cut off the relaxer, get a good shampoo and conditioner, try out different products for your hair type, and give it a chance. Forget the naysayers and haters who will try to convince you to go back to ruining your natural hair for the sake of conformance. There are many styles you can wear, including a TWA or twists, a twist out or an afro puff. You can rod or straw set it or even press, curl or flat iron it. Manicured dreadlocks are stunning on many women and a beautiful head of Sisterlocks always turns heads. If your heart and mind tells you to wear your hair natural; if you have been contemplating it over and over; don't be afraid. Remember, it's only natural. You will love the freedom and the beauty once you get the hang of it. Wear it proudly and remember to just give it chance.