What I Wish I Knew (Before I Went Natural)

I saw this brilliant feature over at YMIB, and LOVED it. YMIB Circle Sister NaturalReign’s, list of the 20 things she wished she knew before going natural made me think of a few things of my own.

– I wish I’d known that the mysterious hairstyle I’d been looking for all my chemically-relaxed life, the style that effortlessly captured the essence of “me” that I tried to express with a rainbow of semi-permanent hair dye was right there, just waiting to reveal itself if only I’d be patient and let it.

– that I could learn to love the process of taking care of my hair. I always hated the burn and stink of relaxer, the excruciating boredom of having rollers put in, and of having to sit under a dryer to give my hair the perfect acceptable curl. Now I can go swimming, get rained on, or exercise without fear of ruining my hair. I can even air dry it in the car on the way to work, and still look and feel beautiful and get tons of compliments on my style.

– that I would want to play with my hair all day. Seriously, I never was a hair twirler until I went natural. Now my fingers never stop reaching for these spirals. They’re just so fun to play with!

What about you, bellas? What did you wish you knew before you went natural?

And one more shout out to YMIB. Do you read You Make It Beautiful? You should! Ericka Taylor’s site is always such an inspiring online experience. And now she’s started new blogs, Inspiring Mama, Jubella, and Style Gypsy! Go, Ericka!

I found the illustration above by doing a Google image search for Afro woman. But I’ve misplaced the link! So if you recognize this piece of art and know who the artist is, or are the artist – please contact me so I can give you credit!

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Comments

  1. Loved your article :)

  2. I wish I had known that the hair that naturally grew out of my head is more healthy, strong, and lovely than all of the chemicals and weaves in the world. It never “needed” to be changed or altered the way I’d been taught my entire life.

  3. I left relaxers alone in 07, at my stylist advice, citing that I didn’t need them. She’s an advocate for natural hair. However, I still get it ironed straight, so you would be none the wiser.

  4. Oh my, THANK YOU so very much for the loving shout out. It really does mean a lot. As i have said before, you are a wonderful inspiration to me and I can’t wait to see all the growth that you will encounter as you move forward into your dreams & your new world in Chicago. Thanks again, and to all the Afrobella readers: Have a dreamy day and remember: “You Make It Beautiful”!

  5. I wish I’d known how much I would love my hair in its natural state so I could’ve made the move MUCH sooner!

  6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer says:

    My mother started perming our hair when my sister and I were about 11 and 12 years old. But what I wish I had known before I continued the madness was how pretty our natural hair really is.

    I look forward to co-washing and air drying my hair! I love the way coconut oil makes it shine and smell so good! I love my CURLS!!! I love the fact that I don’t have to be afraid of the rain anymore. And I look forward to growing my curly hair down my back!

  7. Spirals!

    Curls!

    Long curly tendrils down my back!

    Funny how a lot of women who “discover” themselves and their naps still obsess about the length and texture of their hair. Kinda like how women who relax are accused of obsessing about the length and texture of their hair.

    One obsession is replaced with another.

    Now get someone on here praising their 4C hair and the fact that it doesn’t blow with the wind and has no definable curl pattern and I’ll be a changed woman.

    So much of this “natural” movement seems to be about black women still searching for long hair – just trying to find a different route to it. If I have to hear “my hair grows SO LONG NOW! WOW” from one more black woman I am going to scream. Or “I never knew my hair was so naturally CURLY! Wow!

    *blank stare*

    Sorry but everything old is new again. Black women will always be obsessed with their hair the same way women of other races obsess over their hair. Being natural does not take you out of that arena. It just makes you part of a different group.

  8. I wish I knew>>>

    that in a few years my natural state would not be a shock or oddity. I went natural in 96 and people acted as if I became angry and militant. I wish I knew in 3 years ( by 1999) finding hair care products would be easier and the naysayers would bother me a lot less.
    @hollywood black out…..
    I love my kinky coils with no real curl pattern, because its how it grows. I don’t really get wind blown, the puff doesn’t move that much. And I got it cut so its shorter!
    But my hair could grow long relaxed I just didn’t want it that long- I think people are telling you about the hair growth because its new and exciting to them. Smile its making them happy and that doesn’t hurt you.

  9. I wish I would have known that I was beautiful with my hair in it’s natural state.

    Prior to making the decision to go natural, I thought I would look weird, ugly…just ignorant thoughts about myself with my natural hair. I’m glad I proved my biggest enemy (myself) wrong.

  10. I wished everday that I would have went natural years ago because my hair grows thicker and longer every month and when I’m in public and I see another girl who’s hair is bigger than mine i think” DARN!, if only I went natural a few years earlier I could be that girl”!! , also when I blow my hair out (like once a year) it looks like its permed and ppl are amazed that I am natural but can transition between the two without chemical they say I make it look “easy” (lol!) I also wish I would have stumbled upon wonderful blogs like these that touch on natural hair issues because when I open most black hair magazines its mostly ads for relaxers , weaves , etc , and it was hard for me to relate. Now they have sections dedicated to naturals so I am happy !!!!!

  11. “What did you wish you knew before you went natural?”

    I wish I had known how versatile it would be. Short and natural did not equate to short, natural and one-dimensional. I had butt-length, permed hair for most of teen years into my late twenties that I could only push into various but boring ponytails…it was so thick and was just easier to manage that way.

    I wish I had known that going natural was so freeing.

    I wish I had known that I would be the source of encouragement to others-that my natural is an inspiration to other women-in my personal circle and outside of it.

    I wish I had known that it would help cultivate a very keen sense of style of myself.

  12. Things I wish I knew before I went natural:

    1. Sulfates are evil. Stay as far away from them as humanly possible.

    2. There is nothing wrong with the word Nappy.

    3. There is no ONE kind of nappy or African hair. There always has been variety in hair type among African peoples. Black people can have hair that is perceived as curly or wavy without being “mixed” with something.

    4. Nappy Hair is Curly hair. Curly hair is Nappy Hair. Napps are tight curls and Curls are loose napps. The only difference is in the SIZE of the curls.

    4. Texture of the hair: coarse, fine, medium, dense, thick, wooly, wiry is more important curl or napp size. When looking at product reviews, pay attention to folks with the same texture as you not necessary the same curl/napp size as you.

    5. Shampoo the scalp, don’t worry about the hair.

    6. Carol’s daughter and Qhemet Biologics products are the TRUTH! They are well worth the money.

    7. You will have different textures or curl/napp sizes on your head.

    8. You will learn to love yourself more deeply than you possibly imagined.

    9. There is nothing wrong with shrinkage. If it didn’t shrink, it wouldn’t be nappy.

    10. Beware of perm pushers as well as nappy nazis. They are not good for your emotional and spiritual health.

    Peace and Blessings Nappies!

  13. Buffy the Vampire Slayer says:

    @ Hollywood Blackout,

    hairlista.ning.com will answer all of your questions about your hair.

    My hair is 4c, and it used to be dry, nappy and brittle. Over the past year, I have been using only natural and organic products, Ayurvedic oils and herbs, and I mix my own moiturizing/protein treatments at home. If you look into the archives on Afrobella….this site, you will see hair recipes.

    I pamper and baby my hair EVERY DAY to get it into this kind of shape. There are NO shortcuts.

  14. Yeah, what Elise said. I proved ME wrong too…and I’m so glad I did! Going natural was just part of that process.

    I wish I knew that hair is just that…hair. Now that’s not to belittle the many meanings behind our hair, b/c I know it’s a loaded issue. But to know that my hair is no better or worse than any other group of ppl’s hair is so freeing.

    I also wished I knew that people with different hair from mine see my wonderful coily naps (and I mean they are tight! :D ) as no big deal. People love my naps.

  15. I started my transition from relaxed to natural in August ’08. I must say that it was driving me crazy for the first couple of months. I started to feel that it would not look good on me and was terrified of making the change. But I decided it was time to take control of making healthy changes in my life and my hair was the first thing. After doing research and listening to different people talk about how damaging relaxers are, especially the ingredients, I decided I would go through with the change no matter how frustrated I got. Now 6 months into it, I have cut of most of the relaxed hair and my new growth is about 3 inches. I feel more positive about the change and look forward to continue with it.
    Reading comments from others who have done the change is also very motivating and keeps my will power up. :-)

  16. Bella, here: http://sisterspeakbeautysuite.wordpress.com/2008/05/31/lets-set-the-mood-with-something-pretty/

    The picture is by Endia Summer, but her personal website seems to not be up at the moment.

  17. i wish i had known how much fun hair could be! – i feel you on hating the relaxer/dryer. i hate having my hair handled by other people, so now that i pretty much exclusively take care of my hair myself (except for getting braids every now and again), it’s amazing how much i love twisting and fluffing and pampering my hair.

    i also wish i’d known to be patient with my hair, and how much it would change the more it grew out. now that it’s down to my collar bones the texture is a little different (perhaps more defined) and it’s much softer (probably cos i’m using better hair products). i had a relaxer from the age of 4 until i was 17, so i had no idea what my real hair looked like until i chopped off all the straightened bits and had one inch of kinks all over, so it’s been an incredible learning experience and a decision that i’m so happy i chose to make :)

  18. I wish I knew how much easier it would be to sleep at night…no rollers or scarves or wrapping.

    I also wish I knew how great it was not to have curling iron burns.

    Going natural was one of the best things I did. Don’t get me wrong, the transition wasn’t easy. Even after it took a while to learn what I needed to do, you see, my mother was the last person to comb my natural hair and that required a brush, “grease” and rubber bands.

    The greatest thing is I didn’t have to change. I’m still a hair care product junkie natural just like I was with relaxed. Probably more so.

  19. Oh yeah I wish I’d known from jump that what works for one will not work for me. Case in point: a family friend encouraged me to use tex gel to help make my hair “look a little better”. Now, she’s part white or Native American, so um…yeah…it didn’t work too well. My sprigs are the size of pen springs, so no gel definition for me.

    But oh the places it will go! I love my hair :D

  20. I wish I had known that my hair is as wacky, zany, and rebellious as I am, and just like ME, it’s best left to find it to its own path as opposed to trying to make it do something it has no interest in doing.

  21. I’ve been natural for ten years now. I’m surprised all the time when people come up to me time. How they like my hair. How do I do it? What products do I use. I’m sometimes get a bit tongue tied and shy. I always manage to recover and give them some tip they can use.

  22. I didn’t realize the many styling options available to me with a natural. What is even more interesting, is that even after I press my hair, within a week I can’t wait to revert to my natural state.

  23. I wish I had never stopped wearing a natural once I began. I realized that wearing a natural is an end and not a trend. I also realize that it changes the way you look at yourself and others. You come to appreciate many of the natural things in life. It helps to attract what is needed in your life and to repel what is not. It is a lifestyle full of surprises, ups and downs and explorations in creativity. Natural is life and living as a natural is life enhancing.

  24. I agree with puff. I also wish I had known that letting my hair grow natural would convince me to be more careful about what I put in and on my hair and body. Finally, I wish I had known that my hair could be worn in a corporate environment and not be looked upon as unkempt or political. My hair means a lot to me, but I don’t look at it as a spiritual or political extension of my beliefs. I just wanted some relief for my scalp.

  25. thesouthernlady says:

    My hair is a strong 4c and for years I’ve damaged it. Even as a cosmetologist and an instructor of cosmetology I’ve spent too much time and money trying to get “that” look. I kept going back and forth with relaxers and natural until summer of last year. Thanks to the internet, blogs, and even youtube, I’ve learned HOW to love my hair. 2-strand twists are my best friend and so are shea butter based products. There is too much info out there for any woman not to like their hair natural. I know what relaxers can do to you years down the line. They have some of the highest pH levels out there. Just be positive and learn about your choices. Respect your crown no matter the texture. Much love and blessings.

  26. Bella, I have not looked back since my last perm NYE 2007. I would say both the simplest and most rewarding perk about wearing my hair natural (which I really didn’t know would mean so much to me) is being one with water.

    I mean honestly, it sounds like the simplest thing. But to be able to jump in the ocean worry-free on my honeymoon in Jamaica or hop in the shower with my husband without worrying about wrapping and capping my hair or even busting a sweat without worrying about my edges is SUCH a liberating thing. Water is a core essence of life and Earth and for us as Black women to be petrified to immerse ourselves in it is actually quite unnerving when you think about it.

  27. @ Robin: AGREED

    My favorite part is the fact that I don’t have to stress about rain ruining the $40 and 3 hrs I spent on my hair. . . the bedroom doesn’t need a scarf or a slew of hairpins and showers can me quick and spontaneous . . . . plus nothing beats the cool water on your scalp in the summer as often as you want without having to designate 3 hrs to styling! I’m short and small so I love being the little woman with big hair! :) no chemicals since July 06!

  28. Wow. I wish I known how pretty I would feel when I stopped trying to acheive the look God didn’t necessarily intend for me to have. I wish I known what a positive influence I’d have on my daughter and her little friend with my big ol’ afro puff.

  29. What I Wish I had knew before I went natural….

    That the barber shops only charges $12 to shape up my afro. Compared to $50-$120 at the beauty shop.

    That people would assume since I don’t have relaxed hair I must be some sort of tree hugger who doesn’t shower or shave and eats tofu.

    How hair care products that are suppose to soften your hair actually contain products that will dry African hair out…SLS, mineral oil and anything ending with Cone are the devil.

    That a lot of Black folks have no clue how to care for their real hair. I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me how I get my hair like that.

    That I would save a ton of money buy making my own hair/body butters. It’s amazing what you can do with a few pounds of shea butter.

    That I would no longer have to worry about split end or having my hair break off.

  30. I had relaxers from the age of 8 to the age of 26. I stopped relaxing in October of 07, and did the big chop in June 08. It took me a long time to get used to short hair, as mine had always been long and layered. Now I have a big, coily, kinky fro that I love.
    I wish I had known that I would never have dandruff again, that the style I had been trying to find for years was the style that grew out of my head naturally.
    I can do a million things with it, and I love it.

  31. I wish I had known that the most beautiful and sexy and confident I would ever feel was when I was doing me; i.e., going natural. I think it is because of the inner determination it took to go ahead and do something everybody wasn’t down with. It made me realize that when YOU like what you see and feel good about it, you project that and people start to see more than your hair, they see your confidence and comfort with yourself, and that makes you beautiful in a way that goes beyond the surface.

    I’m still not a wash-and-go girl, my hair is like a 26z and there are no spirals here, but I take better care now of my hair than I ever have in my life. I night need a wee bit more than an air dry and fluff with the fingers, but it is still very freeing to not worry about water and exercise!! And the only reason it’s not wash-n-go is because I choose to wear it longer than a TWA, and with my hair type, that means more maintenance. But even straight hair, the longer it gets, means more maintenance! Most days (not all, but everybody has THOSE days) I can appreciate my hair for what it is and enjoy it.

  32. You have no idea how happy this post (and the YMIB article) makes me.

    Back in 1999 when I and others were first having these hardcore online discussions about black women and their hair and their self-image, there were people who thought we were nuts for spending so many words and energy on it. They simply couldn’t understand how those of us who had been taught (directly and indirectly) for years that our hair was something to be AFRAID OF were tripping so heavily over just how much of a LIE that was. They also couldn’t understand our fervent desire to change others’ minds or at least to get them to see that there might be another way that just MIGHT be a better way.

    I am so happy that sisters all over the world are finally starting to understand that they need not fear or be ashamed of their natural hair texture. We still have a LONG way to go — for example, this inability to let go of the notion that one’s texture is the worst of the worst (as far as I’m concerned, Andre’s system ends at 4b) — but we’ve come a long way still. :)

    Two big things I wish I’d known before I went natural:

    1) It’s so much easier to create curls from natural hair than it is from straightened hair. I love the twistouts I can make from my little-to-no-curl-pattern-having, mostly 4b hair.

    2) I have thick hair! Because my strands are fine, and relaxers only made them finer and weaker, I always thought I had thin hair. Add to that the fact that although I never got past shoulder-length with a relaxer, I always had “hair that moved”…because it was OVERPROCESSED and never held a curl. As far as I’m concerned, movable hair is OVERRATED.

  33. I think the most important think I wish I knew before I went natural, is having natural hair is just me!! I am going on my 6th year of being natural and at a young 21 I feel like I would not know who I am with relaxed hair. . .I cannot fathom, having straight hair, not being able to not care about any form of water or not having the right do’. As I talk to my friends about natural hair and try to explain all the problems they are having are inherent to adding chemicals to their hair!

    Thats why I love this blog!

  34. I wish I had known…

    - My natural hair color is totally different than I ever would have imagined- RED!

    - That I would get WAAYY more compliments with big ole’ fro!

    - That my hair would be a conversation starter.

    - That my cirlce of beautiful friends would expand, because so many other natural sisters come up and introduce themselves.

    - That I would stand out in my corporate field as ‘the beauty with the fro’, thus not needing to try to hard to stand out.

  35. Hollywood Blackout ain’t NEVER LIED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Natural hair women DO obsess over length – but that doesn’t bother me much. I think everyone, black, white or other, obsesses over things not easily obtained. And mega long hair is one of them.

    What bothers me more – and lawd jesus fanning myself did you HIT it – is the obsession with texture. Sweetie, I wore my hair in a low cease for a decade starting in 1997 (I was a high school junior). In April 2007 I decided to grow it out because I wanted a big ass afro. I went to Nappturality.com – and PROMPTLY learned that the only “natural” hair that is inclined toward being portrayed in pictures is curly, springly, spiraly etc etc etc. I went through an entire phase of rejection when I realized I had what you call C-napp hair — cottony, no curl definition. Plain. Ole. Naps.

    I honestly felt relieved that I now knew why Paul Mitchells never did anything for me. But I also felt terrible, and like the ONLY black person on earth with no ringlets.

    I’ve moved past that. If I want definition, I do a twist out. If I want “curls” shockingly, that Miss Jessie’s stuff actually does curl my hair — but I really don’t desire to use it often. I have come to enjoy how big my hair can get, and quickly saw how played out those curls get any damned way : )

  36. I wish I had known how absolutely frickin’ FREEING it was/is. How I don’t run like a fool every time a drop of humidity or dampness is in the air. That I can go swimming,work out, break my man off (LOL), shower, whatever, without having to worry about it puffing up.

    Actually, now, the more it puffs out, the better it looks.

    No more sitting for hours in the damn beauty salon waiting for my turn. Spending all my money in the latest “it” salon…

    And lastly, I wish I would’ve known how beautiful I’d feel once I crossed over. I mean, I feel that before I went natural, I never really had seen my true self, how I actually am supposed to look. My natural is freestyle, I let it do what it wants, & that suits me, since I’m a bit of an unruly character myself…

    I’ll never go back to that straight mess, never…it was just a facade I hid behind, wanting the wrong kinds of approval…

    This journey, for 7 yrs now, & counting, has been wonderful….

  37. I wish I had known I’d become a product junkie. I still would’ve made the same decision, but at least I would’ve rented an apt with a larger bathroom, haha!

    I wish I’d known how much more comfortable in my own skin I would be. I relaxed my hair when I was in junior high school because I thought it would be easier, and all the other black girls had relaxers. I didn’t know who I was back then and throughout high school, so I went with the flow and did what my friends did. I BC’d when I was in college. I transitioned for about a year and a half before cutting off the remaining straight ends. It was such a cathartic experience, for reasons more profound than just hair. I let go of so much emotional, mental and spiritual baggage that day. I was me, finally!

    I wish I’d known that even after 6 years and counting, I’m still enjoying my hair and learning new ways to style and care for it.

  38. Patience, I’m just curious…do you mean NO definition or the coils are so small they fit on a pen insert? Cause I would call my hair “plain naps” (though I love ‘em to death) but the coil (curl) is just itsy-teensy.

    But no…you ain’t lyin’!!!

  39. Who is the beautiful painting by in this posting?

  40. Thanks for this post. It has been 13 weeks since last relaxer touchup. The post and comments have helped me with many concerns I’ve had. I am still trying to find out what is my real hair type.

  41. I am so glad that otheres appreciate the natural styles. It realize it is who i am. being natural is my heitage., I will be who God says i am , an Africian American woman. naps and all . love you all , keep it real

  42. I’ve been natural for most of the last 40 years, and I’m surprised that sisters are still discovering how liberating it is to go with the flow of their natural hair and their natural beauty. I love my hair and proudly wear locs.

  43. I wish I knew it would actually help me be more confident. I wish I knew there are lots of people who admire afro hair. And admire you by extension that bit more, for wearing it.

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