Ah going natural. It’s an exciting time. So much optimism, so much promise. And then reality sets in. Now we all know that natural hair is amazingly beautiful and, with the right care, it will thrive and grow. But that doesn’t mean the experience is always magical. Here are 7 things many women assumed would happen as soon as they went natural, that didn’t always pan out.
1. Your hair would *finally* be long
Many women tell terrifying tales of relaxed hair that was perpetually breaking off, as much as an inch a year over the course of several years. Naturally, some believed that as soon as they took the chemicals out, all that lost hair would come growing back. But that isn’t guaranteed. Black hair — whether relaxed or natural — is extremely fragile and if you want length, you’ll have to learn how to handle it with the proper care, and develop a regimen that works for you. Of course, going natural is an important first step to regaining length — but it’s the first step of many.
2. You wouldn’t be afraid of the rain
It’s easy to crack jokes about relaxed women who run from rain, but have you ever been caught in a rainstorm with a freshly done braid out? Exactly. Just as rain can ruin relaxed styles, it can ruin some natural styles. If the base of your style is stretched hair (which, for some textures, can take hours of braiding or banding to accomplish) rain can be your worst nightmare, shrinking your hair back into a kinky, coily or curly poof.
3. You would burst with self confidence
Yes, there are the stories of women who chop it all off and emerge from the salon chair with a sparkly aura of serenity and happiness. But then there are the stories of women whose big chops inspire feelings of fear and terror. And understandably — for many women chopping off all their hair will be the biggest beauty move they make in their entire lives. Of course, natural hair has a habit of growing on the most fearful of big choppers, eventually inspiring feelings of love and pride.
4. You could just ‘shake your hair and go’
There are debates about whether relaxed or natural hair is easier to maintain. Whichever it is, the fact remains that both require constant maintenance. Unless you’re rocking a protective style that only needs a light spritz in the morning or evening, you’re going to be actively managing your hair every day. Whether it’s re-twisting or re-braiding, re-sealing, or using dozens of bobby pins to work your poof into an updo, you will have to do something to your hair to make it cute. A couple notes; this does depend on length. The shorter your hair is the less you’ll have to do with it, styling wise. Also, there are some naturals whose texture allows them to sleep on their hair at night, shake it out in the morning and walk out the door… but it should be noted that those are a small minority.
5. Finding products would be a breeze
All you need is shea butter, right? Wrong! There are endless options for deep conditioners, leave-ins, sealants, spritzes, styling serums, and the list goes on. Some products might work perfectly, but cause your skin to break out or be too expensive or require you to order from a small company that takes weeks to ship. Or you might keep striking out on products that seem to be the holy grail for everyone else. On top of all this is the reality that, despite Target and Whole Foods’ amazing success in putting natural hair products in hundreds of their stores — there are countless other great natural hair brands that still don’t have wide distribution (Oyin, anyone??) This issue becomes even tougher for naturals overseas who live in countries where their texture isn’t widely catered too.
6. You could style your hair all by yourself
The do-it-yourself nature of the natural hair community is surely inspiring. You look around and there seem to be hundreds of natural rocking gorgeous styles, seemingly with little effort. So, with a false sense of confidence you walk into your bathroom on a Friday night with nothing but a wide tooth comb, a spray bottle and some bobby pins, and a tape of Erykah Badu’s greatest hits. A few hours later you emerge deflated, with a lopsided updo or a crunchy twist out.
Realistically, if all you knew before going natural was how to wrap relaxed hair at night, you can’t expect to become a master at styling overnight. It will take time to learn some basic techniques and, hey, there’s no shame in getting your hair done by a professional natural hair stylist while you work on your skills.
7. That more people would care
You might have expected droves of people to stop you in the streets, remarking at your glorious mane. Or for your family and friends to stage an intervention after your big chop. But you might find that, well, nobody really cares what you do with your hair. Now, this is not to make light of naturals who still deal with hostile responses from family and friends (yes, that still happens), but many women will transition or big chop without anyone so much as batting an eye. It’s never a good idea to go natural for someone else’s praise, or to prove a point to somebody. It’s your hair and it’s your body. So do it for you!
Ladies, what other things did you think would happen when you went natural, that didn’t?