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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
Eboné Denise

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
Eboné Denise

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


And the abundance of info online created the opportunity for many of us to try new styles, techniques, and products — and also has given us the support we need to make repairs when things go wrong. 

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.


Before jumping into a relaxer, I thought I could get a keratin treatment. In all my hours (and let's be honest, days and weeks) of googling, I could hardly find any reputable blog posts and videos on keratin treatments for Black hair. And a lot of the Black hair sites focused mostly on going natural from relaxed. 

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.

I knew I wanted the change, and a DIY relaxer didn't seem like the best way to go about it.

Instead, I found a stylist who had a lot of great reviews and pictures on StyleSeat, made my appointment — and went. I also got a cut while I was at it. My hair was blowing in the wind as I drove home, and I was loving it. My family was loving the new 'do, too!

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.


Now that my hair is chemically treated, I've had to work out a whole new routine. My hair was super dry before and became extra super dry after the treatment. I have to condition my hair a few days a week and keep it in styles that won't cause more breakage. 

While hair maintenance doesn't take me as long as it did before, my hair does still need a lot of TLC. 

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

Columbia Records

After a couple of post-relaxer months on my own, I was really struggling to maintain my hair myself. I didn't know how to deal with new growth, I wasn't sure if I was using the right kind of products, and I started to notice breakage. 

But I found a stylist I could go to regularly. She got me together and my hair back in a healthy place. 

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 / Via

It ain't cheap, but IMO, it's really worth it.

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
Eboné Denise

New hair, who dis?!

I was super nervous about this extra-long and wavy weave because it always seemed like *too much* for me. But here I am, loving it and learning it's OK to do different things with my hair. 

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!