The Reverse Transitioner: Natural Back to Relaxed

Woman with curly hair under moody lighting

Dom Aguiar / Unsplash

With all the attention that natural hair gets, you might be surprised to learn that some Black women still relax their tresses. Despite the growing awareness and acceptance of natural locks, some ladies still prefer chemically straightened manes, whether it's for manageability or because they like the look of straight hair better.

Some women happily return to their natural roots but then struggle. They might have a hard time achieving the length or look they want. They may find natural hair way more time-consuming than they imagined. Still, others miss their straight hair, and pressing isn't an option due to the ease with which natural manes can revert. Here's everything you need to know about transitioning from natural hair back to relaxed strands. We even have two haircare gurus to be our guides.

Meet the Expert

  • Kim Kimble is a celebrity hairstylist and owner of the Kimble Hair Studio in West Hollywood, California. 
  • Jawara Wauchope is a celebrity hairstylist and Dyson Global Styling Ambassador.

The Reverse Transitioner: From Natural Back to Relaxed

If you're struggling with your decision to return to a relaxer, due to pressure from natural peers, friends, family, or even strangers, you should pat yourself on the back for giving it a try. You shouldn't feel like a failure if you find your tresses too hard to manage, time-consuming, expensive, or for not being able to find hairstyles you can easily create. For a lot of Black women, having relaxed hair is what they're used to; many had straightened hair longer than they had natural hair. Some simply prefer the manageability they associate with relaxed hair, while others like the way straight hair looks.

Just as there are women who stop relaxing and become natural, there are women who tried the natural hair life and returned to relaxing. It's your hair, not your friends'—remember that if someone gives you grief because they're disappointed in your decision to relax again. You have to style it, manage it, care for it, and love it on a daily basis.

Whether you've been natural just a few months or you tried it for several years, you tried. You can continue to stick it out, in hopes that you'll finally find something that works for you. If you don't find a style and regimen you're happy with, you'll always have the option to give natural hair another try.

Why Transition From Natural Back to Relaxed

On the other hand, you can return to the familiar with relaxing. Just because some people call it a "perm" doesn't mean it has to be permanent. In the heat of the moment, some ladies decide to relax their hair and instantly regret it, while others embrace their straight locks again. If you fall in the camp of instant regretters, you'll have to either transition or face a big chop, so be prepared for a possible long road.

The Benefits of Relaxed Hair

"When someone relaxes their hair, it's often easier to maintain short haircuts like a bob or pixie cut," says international hairstylist Jawara Wauchope. Relaxed hair is also less prone to knotting, requires less styling time, and is very versatile.

In order to be happy with being natural, you need to find hairstyles that you like and that you can style yourself. Not everyone needs to be a master at twisting or cornrowing. Maybe a flexi-rod set is more your speed. A big, fluffy Afro also never goes out of style. You can also wear wash and go's, puffs, plaits or switch it up now and then with a wig or weave. Some ladies easily master complicated hairstyles while others don't—and there's nothing wrong with that. Chances are, unless you're a total style chameleon, you'll fall into a pattern of hairdos that flatter you, you love, you can easily create and make the most of your unique texture. Even if you only wear two different styles, there's no rule that says you have to design dozens of looks just because you're natural.

However, if after much thought and consideration, you decide to relax your hair again, be comfortable and secure with your choice. You should wear the hair that makes you happy, whether it's straight, curly, coily, kinky, or a combo of various textures.

How to Prep Hair For a Relaxer

First things first, don't wash your hair before your appointment. This mistake can lead to a burning scalp. Celebrity hairstylist Kim Kimble also says, "Don't scratch or irritate it to avoid burning." This tip might seem like a no-brainer. However, many of us have scratched our scalps too close to an appointment and paid the price. If you're heading to the salon, your stylist will know to base your scalp before putting any chemicals on your head. However, if you're DIYing your relaxer, you may think you can skip this crucial step, but don't. Protecting your hairline, scalp, and ears from discomfort and chemical burns is a must.

How to Maintain Healthy Relaxed Hair

"Be sure to keep the hair conditioned and incorporate protein treatments," advises Kimble. Find the right conditioning treatments for your hair can take a little trial and error. Just remember taking the time for a weekly deep condition can have a big impact on your hair health. Protein treatments alone can sometimes make the hair feel dry. However, adding a nourishing, protein-packed conditioner can give you the moisture and strengthening effects you're looking for with one product.

Mielle Organics Babassu & Mint Deep Conditioner
Mielle Organics Babassu & Mint Deep Conditioner $14.00


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