My hair journey: From Relaxed to Natural

Three years ago, I had what Oprah refers to as a ‘light bulb moment’ about my hair. My journey from chemically processed (relaxed) hair to natural hair began the day I realized that my hair made me feel different. As a young child playing with Barbie, I came to understand that my hair was different from that of my Asian, White and Indian friends whose hair hung straight down their backs. Apart from being bombarded by images in toy stores and on television of silky straight hair, I began to internalize comment made by members of my family about my hair being big, thick and unmanageable. My staple hairstyle was two braided pigtails that hung just below my shoulders. Decisions to go swimming with friends had to be thought through carefully by my mom and I. Not for fear of my safety, but for fear of the two-hour session to comb through and grease my big bushy mass. Sleepovers were subjected to a deep analysis over whether that home was equipped to deal with my hair

As the years went by, feeling different evolved into feeling cursed. My hair became synonymous with something that needed to be tamed. Eventually, the verbal abuse that my crown and glory received started to take its toll. I started to believe that what I had growing out of my scalp just wasn’t as good as what the other girls had. So imagine my elation when on my eleventh birthday, my mother announced that I was old enough to relax my hair. It was like a coming of age thing!  Around this time, I became more aware of the way in which the Black community viewed my hair texture. To my Black friends, I had “good hair.” The kind of hair that could grow enviably long and thick. This category of “good hair” threw me for a loop. Unfortunately, at this stage I had absorbed so many negative things about Black hair that I couldn’t even appreciate this ‘compliment’. I  had always thought I was fighting the same battle as other Black girls who were trying to beat their kinks into submission. Apparently I was wrong. I was consistently reminded about how lucky I was to have the mixed race kind of hair. I became confused. On one hand, I couldn’t stand this newfound adulation of my hair. Yet on the other hand, I felt like maybe I was indeed lucky.

 It was not long before the perm became my friend! I loved the versatility of being able to wear my hair curly or wavy or sleek straight and flowing in the wind. Then one day in late 2004, something in me changed. I began to question a lot of things in my life and the way I wore my hair was one of them. I’ll admit that initially, my motivation to go natural wasn’t rooted in anything deep or philosophical. I simply felt the need for a drastic alteration and I wanted to explore wearing my hair in its natural texture. So in August 2004, I began the transition from relaxed to natural.  To appease my fear of looking like a ‘chia pet’, I decided to transition for a year so my hair would be long enough to pull back. However, after 8 months of living with two different textures, I couldn’t take it anymore - I boldly chopped off all my relaxed hair. As soon as the hair came off, I literally felt myself transform and a powerful mental transition immediately started taking place. I loved my hair in all its ‘chia pet’ glory. Or so I thought….

Months after the big chop, my mane insecurities re-surfaced. I went through waves of feeling proud and confident about my hair to moments of deep doubts. Enter, a website dedicated to embracing natural hair without the use of chemicals or heat. This site helped me embrace my natural tresses and provided me with invaluable information regarding hair care techniques and products. It provided a haven to meet other people who were learning to love their god given texture. Five years later, and I am still an active member on It is wonderful to see so many black women with various hair textures embracing themselves and inspiring and encouraging others to do the same.

 Learning the truth about the beauty of my natural hair texture and the texture of every black woman and man from the kinkiest to the loosest of curls was like being reunited with a piece of my history that was hidden away. That piece in all Black history that gets clouded by fear, hate, loathing and judgment of that which is unique and different but beautiful nonetheless. The best thing about being naturally fabulous is knowing that I am presenting my authentic self to the world. It takes a lot of mental de-programming to learn to see the beauty in what society deems as “The Before Picture” when it comes to our hair. I feel like a free-er woman knowing that I am no longer chained by Eurocentric standards of beauty as it relates to my hair. Some people call this militant. I call it liberated. 

My Favourite Natural Hair Online ,

 By: Nissa Francisco

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  1. YES. Beautiful testimony to the power of self-acceptance. And re: the 'before and after', you were gorgeous before, but now….*looks to the stars* .

  2. Love the article. Great job Nissa

  3. Hey Nissa. I love your hair in every texture. You are beautiful inside and out. Thank you for a great piece

  4. Difficult topic, but so, so true! we should all feel beautiful in our 'black hair' . Good piece

  5. We are always struggling with out hair but we should all remember that feeling good on the inside is what matters

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