Growing up, my hair was always either pressed or permed, also known as a relaxer. I couldn't even tell you the last time I ever saw my natural hair. I got my first perm when I was in 7th grade, so I'd say in around 2010. I was so excited to have straight hair, and I loved how silky smooth it was.
However, there was a lot of maintenance and costs to it. Having straight hair isn't cheap, ladies. I mean, I was spending around $40 every 2 weeks and couldn't participate in many sports because of the fear of sweating out my freshly done perm. Also, if you waited long to get your perm redone, your hair would start breaking and shedding.
At 12 years old, I didn't mind it because I always assumed that beauty was pain. I never paid attention to all of the chemicals being put in my hair because I knew the outcome would be great in terms of looks. The only thing that was tedious was the amount of time I had to spend blow-drying my hair. Washing my hair was pretty easy, but blow-drying would be so time-consuming and rather annoying.
My hair after relaxer around 2015-2016.
High school came around the corner and my hair started to break even more. I would stroke my hair sometimes and feel burn spots from the relaxer. My hair was thin and my ends were always broken. The smell was also extremely strong and it would get worse every time I sweat. I would wear box braids from time-to-time, not only because it was considered as a "protective style," but because it was so much easier to manage. Not having to blow-dry my hair after every wash, not having to worry about combing, no bad hair days and how easy they were to style was the best part about braids. I would say that I have been wearing braids on-and-off for about 10 years now. After I would remove my braids, I would simply re-perm my hair.
My hair in a box-braid style back in May of this year.
Realizing I Needed A Change
My time during college was when I made the biggest decision of my life. For the first 2 years of undergrad, I wore nothing but braids and would take them out every time I would come home for a break. Like I said earlier, I always thought that braids were so much easier to manage. Plus, at the time, I didn't know any hairdressers in the Baltimore area nor wanted to pay an expensive price. I guess I would say that my hair was transitioning at this point, because I would take my braids out and either wear out my real hair or just put fresh braids in.
All of my friends around me had natural hair and encouraged me to try it. In fact, pretty much EVERYONE around me in college had natural hair and were really proud of it. I didn't see the point of having natural hair if I wore braids all the time. I had some friends that wore wigs and continued to wear perms, but at the time, I didn't get the hype. I loved having braids and I didn't expect to go natural anytime soon. Braids also allowed my real hair to grow over the course of the years. But after removing them, I started to really think about going natural.
Every time I would remove my braids and shower, my roots were curly and thick (or natural), while my ends were thin and straight. It looked like dead strings of hair which really bothered me. I could see my naturally curly hair showing and I loved the fact that this was my real hair. Combing the dead ends was a complete nightmare every time. My hair stayed this way for the next 9 months until I finally had enough. The only thing that was holding me back was the fear of losing my hair. My mom even gave me a natural hair shampoo because she knew that I wasn't getting perms anytime soon. I still had braids while I was using the natural hair shampoo. I pretty much treated it like regular shampoo.
Back in March 2018, I started asking for advice from family members and friends, and even stayed up all night watching natural hair tutorials and big chop videos on YouTube. I still wanted to go through with the idea because I wanted healthy hair and I was tired of always having to stress about my ends. I kept telling myself that I would big chop my hair in May, when I finished my sophomore year of college. I would read articles about the pros and cons of having natural hair, and I was still conflicted because I felt that I wouldn't like it. I never cut my hair before, so I didn't know what to expect. Pretty much everyone has doubts about cutting their hair. You ask yourself, "What am I going to look like?," or "Am I going to like this new look?" Sometimes you even wonder if what you did is worth it. One of my really good friends has been coaching me along the way for the past 9 months and as the days got closer, I started to become more nervous.
The Beginning: The Big Chop
The night before the big chop, I spent hours educating myself and making sure that I was still going through with this. At that point, I was ready to go forward and I kept trying to surround myself with positive thoughts about how it wouldn't be that bad. I am a huge fan of makeup, so I knew I wouldn't look like a boy. I knew I was going to get braids for the school year, so why not?
June 1, 2018 was the day I decided to go through with my new hair journey. My friend slowly cut off all of my dead ends and helped me wash my hair. As I watched my hair fall to the floor and on my shirt, I didn't feel any pain or regret at all. I looked at the number of straight ends on the ground and it looked pretty gross. I couldn't believe I kept those useless strands in my hair for so long. I was even amazed by my mini afro, and I instantly knew that I could make this look amazing. My friend also showed me some styles that I could do. (My personal favorite is the high bun.) I was overall shocked, and it took a while to process that this was my hair now. I wasn't upset at all as I thought I would be.
My hair post 3 weeks of doing the big chop.
My mom, however, wasn't a fan. My mother has long hair up to her back and it is permed. I mean, she's the reason I even got perms in the first place. But I didn't care about what she thought. My dad really liked my new hair, as well as my friends, my grandma, and even my coworkers.
One of my go-to styles when I am getting ready for work or just want to keep my hair out of the way. Like I mentioned earlier, this is called the high bun!
The Aftermath: Feeling Glad That I Did It
A lot of girls even told me about how there is an awkward stage where you don't know how to style your hair. I honestly didn't have an awkward stage because I would wear my hair in a bun every day. I would style my mini afro with big hoop earrings and a red lip, and I was flooded with compliments.
I'm honestly glad I did the big chop, simply because it didn't make a difference to how I looked. The only thing different was that I now had healthy hair and it makes life so much easier. Of course, there are still things that I can't do, like blow-dry my hair (as if that's a bad thing) or comb my hair out and flat iron it.
The best thing about going natural for me is that I was surrounded by people who could give me natural hair advice and helped me realize that all of us are in the same boat. The products that I would say really helped me were natural hair shampoos, coconut oil, shea butter, argon oil, Jamaican black castor oil, and even Eco style gel (or any gel for natural hair). And if you don't like your hair, you can always wear braids and wigs. The key to loving your natural hair is to always have an open mind and have positive thoughts. That sounds really corny, but what I meant is that I was always trying to think of pros of having natural hair and when I finally cut it, I was shocked that I instantly knew how to style and wear my hair.
Within one month (July 1), my hair grew. If my hair grew that much so fast, I'm excited for what's to come. If I ever decided to straighten or blow-dry my hair, it would be the same length as I had my perm (but that won't be any time soon since I want to make time for more hair growth.
Currently after cutting my hair off.Arielle Lewis
What also helps is that I put my hair in twists before going to bed in order to hold in the curls for the next day. It's actually really satisfying, unraveling the curls and seeing my hair look a lot fuller and curlier. It kind of looks weird in the photo below, but my curls are always bombed so it's worth it.
My hair in twists prior to when I go to bed. This was taken last week, so you can tell my hair grew a little bit after a few months.
Another sign of hair growth...This was taken back in August after 2 months. I will update my hair journey in a few months! Look out for my next natural hair article in 2019.
To all those still on the fence, I would say DO IT. You're going to stress yourself out thinking constantly about cutting it. Hair always grows back. Some faster than others but it will always grow back. Also, learn how to style your hair by watching videos or even learn from a friend. You can always use makeup to style your look, too! You will look back and realize, what were you worried about? It's always good to start over.