May marks one year since I did the “Big Chop.” If you haven’t heard the phrase before, it refers to chopping off your relaxed (chemically straightened) hair and starting over with your natural curly hair, starting the beginning of the natural hair journey.
The “Big Chop” isn’t anything new. I am rather late to the natural/curly hair movement. Natural hair has had its phases and has been in and out ever since the first relaxer was invented in the early 1900s, but for a period of time, natural hair started to become a symbol of “otherness” and viewed as “unprofessional” in the workforce. So, to blend into the professional world, it was relaxed to make it smooth, straight, and flat. But not just in the professional world; for a long time, straight hair was the mainstream standard of “beauty” and known as “good hair” and that’s what I believed growing up.
I had been getting my hair relaxed for as long as I can remember. In fact, I had never seen my natural hair or curl pattern — maybe just once or twice in a picture. I had seen tons of people going natural, but I had always been nervous to make the huge leap for two reasons:
- The big chop meant short hair. I never thought I had the right face and head shape to pull off short hair. I thought I wouldn’t be as pretty without my length and straight hair. In reality, my hair wasn’t even that long. Starting in high school, I was always wearing hair pieces. Then I transitioned to extensions and eventually grew into wearing wigs. The constant wearing of those things — plus the constant flat ironing, relaxers and not caring for my hair properly — caused a lot of a lot of breakage and damage to my hair. It was all different lengths and it wasn’t healthy.
- Lengthy maintenance care. I had heard how time-consuming natural hair maintenance could be. Spending hours for “wash day” and putting it in braided protective styles. I was very intimidated because I didn’t know how to braid and I didn’t think I had the time to invest or know how to manage the care of my natural hair on my own. Oh and the products! There are so many that do different things and they all work differently on different hair types; it was all just overwhelming.
We were all stuck at home for long periods of time and something in me changed. I had come to the realization that I could go through with the “Big Chop.” It was the perfect time because I was older and more mature and didn’t care what people thought anymore; no one was going anywhere, so I had the time to work on my hair, practice and learn (thank goodness for social media and YouTube videos); and I knew that if I wasn’t successful at taking care of it and decided that it wasn’t for me, I could easily go back to what I was already doing. But relaxers damage the hair follicles; they are made with a chemical called Sodium Hydroxide which burns your scalp and can burn through your skin if left on your head for too long. So, after 20 plus long years of getting my hair relaxed, I decided to give my hair a break and just start over.
And guess what?
My husband still loved me and thought I was beautiful, my kids still loved me, and my friends still wanted to be my friend even after my hair was gone. So why was I so afraid I was going to lose those things if I did? The process of self-love doesn’t happen overnight. I am almost in my mid-30s and I am just now starting to embrace my natural curly hair. As I learn to master a few different natural hairstyles, I feel more and more confident in wearing my natural hair. My goal is to go at least a few years without putting any heat on my hair and continuing my natural curly hair care regimen so I can help it grow longer and healthier. Thanks to all of the countless video tutorials and social media natural hair influencers, I think I’m at a good starting point.
I still like to wear wigs and hair pieces and I still enjoy having straight hair. Wigs are quick and easy, and you can change your look without permanently changing your look. I love the different ways you can express yourself with different hairstyles. There is absolutely nothing wrong if you choose to relax your hair; it was a personal choice for me to ditch the “creamy crack” and start fresh with my hair so it can grow back healthy by taking a non-chemical approach to straightening it.
I have two daughters with curly biracial hair and I want them to love and embrace their curly hair in its natural form starting at a young age. It’s ok to change up your hair and wear it differently as a form of self-expression. They see that my hair is in different styles and textures all the time. It changes with my mood. I hope my daughters can see me go through my natural hair journey and that it shows them to love their own natural curly hair before they start changing it for fun or for self-expression.