How to Go Natural By Aisha O’Reilly

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Thinking about rocking your natural hair, but not too sure how? Here’s how to jump.

1.     Decide

Do you want to stop relaxing or texturising your hair? If so, why? Keep a note of your reasons so you can refer back to them. There will be some bad hair days when you’d question your decision so having something you wrote before will help you stay sane.

For more than 5 years, I’d relax my hair every 6-8 weeks. Then I made a big mistake. I was about to move country and I didn’t want the hassle of dealing with my hair for a bit. So I broke a promise to myself, and got small single braids installed which wreaked havoc on my hairline.

When it came time to take them out, my plan was the same: go to the salon, undo my braids, then retouch my hair. I knew I shouldn’t have undone my braids and retouched on the same day but I’d done it so many times before and was fine.

Looking at the results in the mirror almost made me cry. Where did all of my hair go? It dawned on me, is it really worth going through all of this just to get straight hair? I left feeling naked, and weird. I could see that my hair was telling me to STOP!

The next day, I decided to stop relaxing my hair. I thought to myself, if I could spend all that time, money and effort five years ago researching how to care for my relaxed hair, why couldn’t I do that with natural hair?

For years, the reason I had to not ever having my natural hair out was that “I can’t take care of it”. That day I realised, I didn’t know how to care for it because I never even really tried.

2.     Big Chop or transition?

Many women ask me if they can go natural by just leaving their hair alone, or even more extreme; if there’s a product or treatment they can use to revert their hair to being their natural texture. Simple answer to both: no. Natural hair is just that; the hair as it comes out of your scalp. No treatments, no products to magically get you there. There are two ways to go natural and both of them have their merits. There are many terms in the natural hair community that you’ll soon become more familiar with. These two are the first ones you’ll need to consider: big chop or transition.

Big Chop

When you cut all of your relaxed hair off, leaving you with a short natural afro. This is what I did because I was too impatient to let my hair grow out. By month three, I was too curious how my hair would look like so I got all my relaxed hair (about neck length by then) chopped off. This is the method I usually advise my readers to do because it did wonders for my confidence. It really tested me, because if I could walk around and interact with people with hair one inch short, I knew I could walk out of my house rocking anything.


This is when you let your hair grow and maintain both relaxed and natural hair textures. I suggest taking care of your transitioning hair the same as you would your soon to be fully natural. Use this time to research products and techniques and get used to seeing natural hair in a way that inspires you. Don’t try to blend your new growth with the straight hair, rather the other way around and try curl friendly styles and techniques. This will help avoid breakage as the point where the two textures meet is extremely fragile and breaks easily. Many women prefer doing this so it’s not too much of a shock to the system and they gradually cut the relaxed ends off. This works nicely if you’re not yet ready to rock your natural hair or particularly short hair.

3.     Preparation

Going natural isn’t a walk in the park for everyone so if you’re on the fence about it, prepare yourself, your significant other, your family and friends. For some women it exposes a lot of insecurities that we didn’t even know we had. So it helps to have a support system around you. Even if they don’t agree with your decision, explaining it to them may help them respect it.

You’re probably an expert in maintaining your relaxed hair or weave or whatever your pre-natural chosen style is. This means you’re going to have to re-learn how to care for your hair. Don’t treat natural like relaxed. Start researching and preparing going natural as soon as you can. As big as the natural hair ‘movement’ is getting, straight and relaxed hair is still the norm for women (Black or other) in the media.So we’re used to seeing that as a beauty reference but our minds are malleable. Find inspiration in another natural haired woman in real life or online to help you and your mind get accustomed to seeing natural hair in a good light. Have a look at natural hair blogs, Google natural hair images or try my favourite space for natural hair inspiration: Pinterest. Once you begin seeing beautiful, sexy, confident women rocking their natural, you’ll feel excited to join them!

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