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I Relaxed My Natural Hair After 20 Years And It Actually Taught Me More About My Hair (And Myself) Than I Expected

Honestly, it's been a journey.

Hey there! I'm Eboné, and I have had natural hair for about 20 years. Natural, for me, means no relaxer. (I've still had times where I've colored my hair and times when I've straightened it with heat.)

The author smiling at the camera

I haven't had a relaxer since sometime in middle school. Over the years, I've worn braids, twist-outs, buns, crochet, pretty much all of it.

The author taking a selfie in the mirror

The number of Black people embracing their natural curls, kinks, and coils over the last several years has been such a beautiful thing.

Over the last few years, I grew increasingly curious about permanently straightening my strands.

I will honestly say I just got tired of the time and energy it took to maintain happy, healthy, natural hair. Especially as it grew beyond a TWA. 

The decision-making process to get a relaxer was SUPER emotional.

I went back and forth on the decision for quite a while. After so many years of wearing my natural hair, I felt like I was betraying myself and everyone else. Did it mean that I hated my kinks? Would my pro-natural hair friends give me a hard time? Would I miss my natural hair?!

At first, I thought I'd prefer keratin treatments but couldn't find enough info online about keratin on Black hair.

There were plenty of YouTube trolls in the comments of relaxed hair videos — and formally natural influencers are speaking up about it.

View this video on YouTube

And honestly? My GOODNESS! Why would anyone be so concerned about what someone else is doing to their hair?! It turns out, many naturals have departed and faced quite a bit of backlash from the natural hair community. 

Eventually, though, I made the decision to switch it up.

It turns out other people in my life also wanted to do it but had the same fears as I had.

I was surprised to find I was not alone in deciding to relax, and I'm glad others felt more comfortable talking about how they were feeling stressed and tired with their natural hair. 

I was in shock during my first post-relaxer wash day.

SHOOK, y'all! The first time I washed my hair, I couldn't believe how easy it was. Easy to wash, condition, detangle, and dry. Wash Day just became wash hour. 

A few months into it now, my relaxed hair still requires work.

To help with that, I became a regular with a stylist who is comfortable with chemically treated hair.

When I'm not going to the salon, I do my own hair — and it's taken me a bit of trial and error to land on products and a routine that work for me. Routine-wise, I wash, deep condition, and air dry, or dry on a cool setting.

And product-wise, my current shampoo is the As I Am Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo. A lot of shampoos claim to be hydrating but usually leave my hair feeling dry. This one is great because it cleans well without stripping my hair.

As I Am Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo

And my favorite conditioner is the Moroccanoil Restorative Hair Mask. I use it instead of a normal conditioner. It leaves my hair feeling soft and hydrated, and it smells amazing.

Moroccanoil Restorative Hair Mask

I'm happy with my hair right now — but who knows what the future holds?

I appreciate the ease of day-to-day styling, and I've even enjoyed being back in a salon on a Saturday morning every few weeks. Now that I've committed the ultimate natural hair sin, I realize it's OK over here! 

I feel good about the fact that I switched it up, and I enjoy it. And I will probably change my hair many more times over the years, and it's going to be OK!

I even took it a step further and decided to get a weave!

The author smiling with her new weave

Overall, the biggest lesson I've learned through all of this is not to feel trapped by my hair.

Black women have had far too much policing when it comes to their hair. We've had to navigate the nonsense of "good" and "bad" hair; we've had to make changes based on what corporate America says is acceptable. We've even come across challenges within our own natural hair community. 

This new hair experiment taught me that I'm the only one who needs to be happy with my hair — and there's not a right or wrong way to wear it. 

Have you gone from natural to relaxed? I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments!