When natural hair isn’t working

Are you tempted by the thought of trading in your natural kinks for chemically straight hair? Carly Lewis gets the scoop from women who’ve bid farewell to the natural hair movement and welcomed relaxers back into their lives

Not everyone is destined for the coily life, and whilst some naturalistas would never dream of caving in to the ‘creamy crack’, others are more open-minded about the benefits of chemically straightened tresses. We spoke to four women who told us their hair stories and opened up about their reasons for going back to relaxers.

Post pregnancy
After six years of living the natural life, Eboni Stewart, 28, went back to relaxers after her hair became unruly and unmanageable during her first pregnancy

‘I was 15 when I took my hair into my own hands. Everyone was doing the slick look and I wanted to get involved so I got a relaxer. But I had no idea how to care for my hair and it was never done at the salon, it was always my mum that did it so eventually it broke off. ‘I used to wear a full-head weave and then eventually my hair grew out underneath so I cut off an inch and I was fully natural. I loved it and I was able to maintain my hair until I got pregnant. I already had really thick 4c hair, and after my pregnancy it got so much thicker that I couldn’t manage it with a newborn.’
It was then that she decided to relax. ‘For me it was laziness, I just couldn’t be bothered to maintain the hair anymore. What I’ve found now that I’m relaxed is that I actually feel more confident. Not to say that I feel prettier, but I love the versatility. Most people say natural hair is versatile but that is very much dependent on your hair type.’

Style medley
Hair chameleon, Florence Olajide, 53, loves switching up her look and has experimented with both natural and relaxed hair intermittently over the years.

‘My hair texture has always been quite coarse and thick so from childhood I’d associated pain with hair. I remember being a teenager and thinking: “The first opportunity I get, I’m going to perm my hair”, and that opportunity came when I finished my GCSEs. I was fifteen, I finished my last exam paper and went straight to the hairdressers.
‘For years I wore a straight perm and then, because I’ve got a low boredom threshold and I like to try new things, I cut it off and went to a curly perm.’ After growing out her chemically treated hair and then relaxing again, Florence now wears her hair in it’s natural state.
‘The reason I went natural again is because I’ve got quite a lot of grey hair, so before I was putting colour on the straight perm and that just doesn’t work. That’s when I made the decision to go back natural so that I could use as much colour as I like. For me, natural short hair is easier than permed hair. Maintenance-wise what I’m currently doing is the easiest. It’s not long enough for me to spend hours detangling and every month I go up to my hairdresser to change my colour.’

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Outside influence
After being convinced by her mum that straight hair was easier to manage, Victoria Bamidele, 26, relaxed her hair again.

‘Through college and uni I was relaxing and my hair slowly started breaking. Once I left uni I wasn’t bothered anymore as most of the time I had a weave so I wasn’t really thinking about it. Then I started seeing the whole natural movement and I wanted to try it again so I just chopped it off. I noticed that my hair wasn’t growing as quickly as before and when it did start growing the texture wasn’t the same. It felt thin which I wasn’t expecting. Still I decided to stick with it and I stayed natural for a year and eight months.’
‘After travelling to Nigeria in December 2015, she decided it was time to relax again. ‘Everybody’s hair was relaxed there and nobody was having the kind of struggles I was having. Now I’m just like, ‘What have I done?’. If I thought it was thin before it’s much thinner now. But now I’ve done it I might just see how it is for a little while. The thought of having to grow my hair out for another two years just seems so long.’

Wedding day ‘do
After wearing her hair in its natural state for almost three years, Demeika Simms, 25, turned to a relaxer in preparation for her wedding day.

‘I was in secondary school when I first got my relaxer and I stayed relaxed until I was 19 before going back natural. I’d just gotten fed up with the maintenance of relaxing so I grew my hair out for about nine months and then cut it all off. It was OK but I ended up damaging my hair because I would still be straightening and blowdrying it. Half of it looked straighter and slightly curly and then the back was obviously thicker.’
After dealing with the two textures Demica relaxed her hair just in time for her wedding. ‘I just thought that it wouldn’t blend in properly with the weave I’d be wearing and I didn’t want to have to worry about it puffing up on the day, but I wish I hadn’t done it. I regretted it afterwards.’
Why is she upset about her decision? ‘It’s not as strong now as it was when it was natural. I’m going to be cutting it in June and going back natural. I’m expecting a baby and won’t be at work so it will make it a lot easier.’

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