For anyone who doesn't know me, I am Elle. AKA, the girl who relaxed (straightened) her hair for around 20 years and has been 'natural' for the past 3.5 years.
Some years ago, a friend & colleague told me that "going natural" was like becoming a mother. And she was right. I regularly get all the same questions like - how long (have you been transitioning)? or when (did you have the big chop)? - it's kinda like a club it seems, with appreciative nods, and an opening for conversations started by strangers on the tube who are also natural. I kinda like it though, it's another chance to learn.
There have been countless articles recently where black women have been deemed as unprofessional if they have their hair natural. Then comes the rebukes; stories of women embracing their natural hair, like this one posted by ASOS. But when I actually read it, it wasn't what I was expecting. It left me a little angry / upset to be honest so I decided to finally write about a topic that's been on my list for years now. My hair. And I'm using the ASOS post as a template.
1. It Takes A While For Other People To Talk You Into It
Another friend and colleague used to literally bug me all the time saying "you should go natural", "you'd look awesome with natural hair", "why don't you go natural?". Said friend was not black. After her relentlessness, and me being fed up of the process of relaxing my hair I decided to give it a go. I decided I would stop relaxing my hair to allow the straight bits to grow out. I even donned extensions for the first time in my life while I transitioned. When I did indeed chop the majority of my hair off, it was was so short. The shortest it had ever been in my life. And not for one moment did I consider not leaving the house.
2. The Wash & Go Is Real
Weekends were for wash day when my hair was relaxed. Now, 99% of the time is a wash and go for me. After the gym. After swimming. When I want to change up my style. It's an extra ten minutes in the shower. I still detangle (mostly with my fingers), I only use conditioner, and I don't own a hair dryer or any other heated appliance so it's air drying through and through.
3. It's True, What Works For Someone Else Doesn't Necessarily Work For You, But, I Mean, How Else Will You Find Out What Works For You
This one, I'll give her. Except for the fact that how else do we find out what works for us?! I used youtube and blogs so much to find information and learn about products that I could potentially try. Now I focus on using products which are as natural as possible which will moisturise my hair (as afro hair is typically very very dry). The product I use the most is Coconut Oil so it either comes out of my food shopping (thanks VitaCoco) or I buy a cheaper version from Superdrug to carry with me to the gym / pool / holiday.
4. Edges, Really?!
The last time I "tamed my edges" I was 15. And we don't need to go an dig out those photos! I'm also yet to visit Paks in Dalston. I don't think I've ever been to Dalston. Exhausting is not a word I need to use to describe any task related to my hair. What's exhausting is reading negativity about afro hair, from black women.
4. (Apparently There Are 2 Fours?!) Getting Rained On Doesn't Phase Me
Don't we all carry an umbrella anyway?! If getting rained on was an issue then swimming would be a no go. My hair has swam through the River Thames. Yes. If you look after your hair it can handle it. Imagine that I only learnt to swim properly at aged 30 because in the 20 years previous my hair was too much of a headache to get wet.
Google 'black hair' and 'shrinkage'. And you'll see that black hair likes moisture. The moisture gets all up in it, and the kinks and curls come alive. And yes, your hair gets shorter. But do we need to prove to anyone how long our hair is when it's straight?!
5. I Don't Own A Headscarf
Hmmmm. I think I own a headscarf. I even had two, but my mum commandeered one. I own silk pillowcases too. Cos I read I should. The flattened afro is sometimes my thing but I just use a dash and a splash of my friend water to bring it alive again!
So in the words of our friend Debbie; All in all, I'm nuff glad I stepped out of the comfort of my relaxer - this natural hair life isn't bad after all. And that's 3.5 years in.
You can ask me anything.