I've been doing hair for over 30 years. I've always been really good at doing hair but when it came to getting your hair to grow longer and stronger I found myself lacking in that area as a stylist. Wanting to change that, I began teaching women how to do their hair at home in between salon appointments. It seemed to me like the more women did their own hair at home in between salon appointments, the happier they seemed to be about having natural hair. This encouraged me to develop a plan to teach women (who do not frequent my salon) how to grow their hair healthier and stronger. You don't always have to go natural to obtain healthy tresses. If this is your choice then there are several ways to get there without going cold turkey. I've been growing women's hair out of relaxers for the last six years and our salon only services natural hair and we service over 1300 women monthly. I see it and work with it all...short hair, long hair, different textures, cowashing, big chops, braids, weaves and wigs. You name it I've seen it. I also trained several stylists on how to transition women out of chemical relaxers to set them free from chemical dependence.
Now I can help you come up with a plan for yourself
The big chop
The Big Chop is a very popular way to transition out of relaxed hair into natural hair. Although quite popular, it is not the only way to grow out a chemical relaxer. If you don't mind cutting all your relaxed hair off and wearing your hair very short for a year this may be a great option for you. I recommend this option for people who are adventurous and enjoy rocking short styles. This is a good time to shampoo your hair as often as you can. Daily is great but at least four times weekly. Black women have been told that shampooing their hair is bad for them I don't believe that. A mild shampoo or cowash may be a good idea for cleansing this often (Sabrina)
There is nothing on this earth that doesn't do better when its clean!!!!! Shampooing and cleansing your hair as often as your lifestyle permits is the best act of love you can do for you hair. Follow up with a great moisturizing conditioner.
Stretch out your relaxers
Everybody has been so used to getting their relaxed every 6 to 8 weeks, but I challenge you to stretch out that time. Try to go anywhere from 10 to 14 weeks. One of the biggest reason many women suffer breakage from relaxers is when you or your stylist applies the chemical relaxer to your new-growth and already relaxed strands. This is just overlapping and over processing.
You should not apply relaxer to hair if it has already been relaxed previously. You want to apply the relaxer to new growth only. Most women don't have enough new-growth to apply the relaxer to every 6 to 8 weeks.
Shampoo your hair in between salon appointment
If you visit the salon biweekly shampoo your hair in between. The problem is most women only go to the salon to cleanse their tresses. Some women who are afraid to let go of the chemical relaxer have never even seen or felt their own natural hair. So if your shampoo your hair in between you get a chance to not be afraid of the new growth.
Pull out your baby pictures
A lot of women don't even remember what their hair was like before they started getting relaxers. I challenge you to go back and see how your hair was as a child. If you don't know what your texture was, your mom probably relaxed your hair at a very young age. You probably had so much hair that she couldn't handle it. There were several circumstances.
20 years ago we didn't have central air, so doing hair every 2 weeks was literally a chore. You could have been a serious tender headed person, or if you had sisters, you probably even remember how stressful hair day was. Phewwwwww!
Do research online
The internet has a plethora of resources when it comes to natural hair, but I feel that the more informed people are the better the process can be. Many images online can be quite inspiring but do not fall into a hair envy trap. Nurture your own tresses and never wish for someone else's hair length, texture or shape.
The buddy system
I firmly feel that women should go natural in groups of sister-friends. Sisters, cousins, friends...when they do it together they find the process easier. Ask and challenging someone to do it with you. The buddy system is a great support group. You can motivate and inspire each other.
Weave, Wigs or Braids
Weave is a great way to grow out your chemical relaxers. If you decide to go the weave route, remove your weed every 4 to 6 weeks. Get a trim before you put the weave back in. The plan for the weave is that you are slowly trimming off the relaxed hair while allowing the natural hair to replace. You can't do that without trimming off the ends slowly.
Be careful when it comes to protective styling while you're in the first phase of the transition. Relaxed hair can become extremely fragile and you may find difficulty merging those two textures. I find that people experience a lot of breakage in the beginning, but I challenge you to look at it as your hair is growing back not necessarily falling out!
Everybody wants their hair to be long and thick when going natural, but concentrate on healthy hair and you will be in much better shape. You didn't master relaxed hair overnight so give yourself some slack on going natural. Karen