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New Hair Resolution: The Mental Challenge of Going Natural

Najah Aziz, Like The River The Salon, Atlanta

These days, many African-American women are choosing natural hairstyles and setting aside the “creamy crack” addiction to chemical relaxers, which is a good thing, especially at the start of the new year.

At the beginning of a new year,  women often seek a new look and I’m not so sure many even know why they chose relaxers in the first place. Or even understand their hair at all.

Almost daily, I hear questions from clients who tell me they are clueless about their hair, how it reacts to treatments and products, or the best way to take care of it.

The concern is how to move from relaxed hair to natural. And the problem is that many women do not realize that it is a process that requires patience and determination, because it is not easy.

So many clients are gung ho about making the transition, but give up on it after a few months. Why? Because there is an extended stage in the process when the hair is difficult to manage and style, and that period can be so frustrating that women just give in to what they see in the mirror at that moment.

The truth is that most of us do not realize what texture our hair is or even know how to begin embracing change. And that’s a problem.

Historically, our parents put relaxers in our hair when we were as young as 5. They did not want to or even know how to deal with it as it grew to be more and more coarse. So, getting a relaxer smoothed it out, made it slick and wavy and easier to manage, and people identified that as “beautiful.” That was the so-called easy way to deal with it.

Another truth is that some of us already have beautiful, manageable, soft hair texture that we were born with, but end up ruining it with chemicals. Being able to embrace our natural-born texture is hard to do, and that stems from how we were raised.

So much of it is psychological. Our parents didn’t want to hear us hollering, crying, kicking and screaming when it was time to comb our hair, leading us to not embrace our natural tresses when we became adults.

Now, many women claim they do not work out at the gym because the sweating would “mess up” their hair. That’s really an indictment on how they prioritize. To put the potential for “messing up my hair” over not managing our health is just not the best approach. Seems to me that our health should supersede having to work through hair issues. But that’s a side issue.

Thankfully, there are many other women who have given up the superficial position or fear of unmanageable hair and are making the transition from chemically altered hair to natural. Society has seemingly come around on women being natural in the workplace, so that is no longer an excuse.

But there two key questions to ask about going natural:

–       Am I patient enough to go through the trials of growing out my relaxer? Depending on the length of your hair, it could take six months to a year to be totally free of chemicals.

–       Am I self-assured enough to endure the long, in-between stretch where I will not be overly happy with my hair – its length, how it looks, how it feels?

If you can honestly answer “yes” to those questions, then you can be on your way. Those questions are important because it truly is as much a mental journey as it is a physical one. In a sense, it’s like introducing yourself to the real you, at least as far as your hair goes.

Once you’ve made up your mind and “crossed over” after, say, nine months without the relaxer, you will be able to determine the texture of your hair and how to proceed. This is a very meticulous process, determining the right style, the right products, the right stylist.

But the product aspect of it might be the most critical. It could end up being an experimental journey during which you try countless products until you identify the one(s) that work best for your hair. At my salon, Like The River in Atlanta, we usually recommend a few products to at least get the client started in that search.

Those include our exclusive product called “Madinah Oil,” which is a custom blend grapeseed oil and other natural oils with properties that promote growth and shine; various products on the Morrocanoil line; PhytoSpecific Moisture Styling Balm and many others in the Phyto and PhytoSpecific line.

Those are great starters. But it will not matter If you are not mentally prepared to embark on the journey. Only the courageous take on going natural because it is not an easy thing. But it can be very rewarding in a lot of ways – emotionally and in how you look – once you complete the journey.

Najah Aziz is the owner of Like The River The Salon in Atlanta, which has been ranked the No. 1 salon in Atlanta for two straight years—and one of the top 100 salons in America by

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