I am ten (10) months post big chop today! I cut my hair on 5th January this year and I have really enjoyed getting to know and caring for my hair over this time. My first relaxer was at age 9 and before that, I did not care for my hair myself so I never really experienced it in its unaltered form. This is the first time in 18 years I am experiencing my hair’s real texture in all its glory and I am loving it. Having had relaxed hair for almost two decades I had some presumptions about the changes I would need to make once I transitioned. So here are five (5) things I thought would change when I stopped relaxing my hair:
1. I thought my hair care routine would change completely. It hasn’t.
When my hair was relaxed, I washed and treated it myself 90% of the time if not more. I had assumed that once I stopped using relaxers I would struggle with getting used to the new length and texture, and would need to go to a salon for help more often. But I did not. In fact, I am very surprised to see that my wash days now are not longer nor more hectic than they were when my hair was relaxed. Maybe with more length this will change, but for now I have no trouble washing and treating my hair myself.
2. I thought I would change all products I used while relaxed. I didn’t need to.
While my hair was relaxed I really had no limits for what products I used. I simply stuck with the ones I felt my hair loved; many of them were labelled “for textured hair” or some other nomenclature but that did not deter me from trying them. So in retrospect, I don’t even know why I thought I would need to change all my products. Most of what I use now are products I used while my hair was relaxed and they work just fine. I have always used whatever my hair loves regardless of labels, I still do.
3. I thought I would wear my hair out less. I don’t.
While my hair was relaxed, I could style and wear it out easily. I loved a sleek bun; high, low, middle part, side part – it was just a clean and simple to achieve look. So using extensions for protective and other hairstyles were really a matter of choice. Knowing my hair was going to be shorter left me thinking I would not know how to style it therefore I’d hide it in wigs and other styles more. I was wrong. Of 303 days since I did the big chop I’ve worn my hair out on a total of 183 days. That’s over 60% of the time (yes, I did the math).
4. I thought I would spend more money. I haven’t
There is an ongoing economic crisis in Sierra Leone which means everyone is spending more money on goods and commodities but that’s not what I mean. My preconception of caring for afro hair got me thinking I would visit the salon more, invest in a new set of products and tools and do more hairstyles with extensions. Social media made it worse; a special hair dryer, a unique “detangler” brush, a bonnet to protect edges. I really thought I would need to sell a toe or two to keep a full head of hair. But it turns out I didn’t need to. I have not used a hairdryer in months, my old brushes and tools work just fine and so does my old raggedy ɛnkincha (head scarf).
5. I thought my feelings towards my hair would change. I thought wrong.
The main reason I cut my hair and stopped relaxing was simply to know my actual hair texture. In a moment of self reflection some time back, I realised my relaxed hair was all I knew, so transitioning became part of my self-awareness journey.
I really loved my relaxed hair and spent a lot of time caring for and nurturing it. At some point, I thought I would never even dream of finding out what my afro hair looks like. I was used to a certain look that I knew would be challenging to achieve with an afro, especially in the beginning stages. So once I decided to stop using relaxers, I was not sure I would love my hair the same way.
Fast forward to today, I can’t achieve the looks I loved while my hair was relaxed and I am learning new ways to style and nurture my afro hair but the love remains unchanged.