The hair tips, advice and recommendations given on this blog are given based on the experiences of the authors. These tips may not work for everyone and every hair type and it is important to acknowledge this since we are neither hair specialists nor trichologists.

Also many pictures on this blog belong to the authors but there are others that we do not have ownership for and thus we do not claim ownership of the ones that do not belong to us.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"With relaxers my hairshafts became thin with no elasticity" - Interview with Valerie

Valerie is a lady who loves to learn; always asking questions and testing ideas and theories. Small wonder her hair journey has been one of learning about herslf and her hair. For the ladies who are wondering "To relax my hair or not to relax my hair", here is hoping this interview gives you some encouragement and comfort. To those ladies I say: don't be too hard on yourselves.

Going Natural with kinky twists before taking my hair out

Name? My name is Valerie Phillips.

Where are you from and where do you live? I'm from Toronto, Canada. And I live there too.

What do you do? I'm a Production Supervisor at a distribution company.

When did you FIRST go natural and why? I first decided to go natural about 5 years ago. My hair was badly damaged from years of relaxing it and I had a large patch of short hair that I had to cover up somehow. I knew that braiding it for several months would give my hair a break from the chemicals and allow the hair to grow back healthier.

Natural twist out - after learning how to twist

How did you go natural? Did you transition or did you do the big chop? Did anyone help you or encourage you? I transitioned by braiding my hair into kinky twists and cutting off a bit more of the permed hair every time I rebraided until there was none left. I like kinky twists for several reasons: 1) the kinky afro bulk extensions are affordable 2) they are easy to put in and remove 3) the extensions blend with my own kinky hair perfectly and when I wash my hair, it does not look messy as it would if I used straight, silky extensions. 4) The extensions allow me to have some length.

I became very comfortable with braids but didn't feel comfortable wearing my own hair natural. Two sisters that I knew were wearing their natural hair with confidence at the time and their hair always looked good. I started asking them many questions about their hair routine (i.e., how they take care of their hair, what products they use, etc.). I remember that they said that 'everyone's hair is different and may react differently to the same product so it is up to me to learn what works and does not work for my hair and that it takes time.' After many discussions, I built up the confidence to wear my hair natural without the braids. One of the sisters helped me style my hair on my first day out in the world.

Natural: the first time. Just learning how to handle my hair

So after you went natural, for sometime, you went back to using relaxers. What happened that made you decide to use relaxers again? I went back to relaxing my hair after about 1.5 years of having my hair natural because I wanted a change. Since my natural hair is very tightly coiled, I found that it was taking a lot of time and planning to maintain my hair so that it looked neat and professional for work.

What was it like to relax your hair again? E.g. health of your hair, how did you feel about your decision? How did people respond: negative or positive? I felt good about my decision because the new feel of my hair, the new styles, and my new appearance were the 'change' that I was looking for. Unfortunately, I have found that there is a significant difference in the way people treat me when my hair is relaxed versus when my hair is natural or in the kinky twists. I have a more positive response when my hair is relaxed.

How long did you use relaxers again before going natural the second time? I relaxed my hair for about a 1.5 years before deciding to go natural again.

What made you decide to go natural for the second time? How did you transition this time? I decided to go natural the second time because my relaxed hair eventually became thin and brittle and I missed the strength, thickness and elasticity of my own natural hair. I am transitioning with kinky twists like I did the first time.

Going natural the second time

What are your conclusions about relaxers and being natural? Based on my experiences, my conclusion is that relaxers look great on healthy hair but cause the condition of your hair shaft, scalp and follicles to deteriorate with prolonged use. With relaxers my hairshafts became thin with no elasticity.

What’s your daily hair regimen? I currently have my hair in kinky twists as I've been growing my natural hair for approximately 1 year now. I alternate between kinky twists and wigs. I wet it a bit in the shower and  alternate spraying it with different hair oils made from natural ingredients (i.e., almond oil, tea trea oils, soya oil, peppermint, sage, castor oil, coconut oil, shea butter, etc.)

What do you like best about your natural hair? The thickness, strength, elasticity and shine.


What would you say to someone with natural hair who is struggling with whether to relax her hair or not? I would ask her what is most important to her about her hair and health and that she should make her decision based on the answer to those questions. I would ask her to remember that relaxing can be done within an hour but it takes several months to regrow natural hair. I'd also inform her that there is a potential that relaxer can cause irreversable damage to your scalp and potentially your health.

Lastly, since it takes so long to start from scratch with natural hair again, I'd ask her to explore as many options with her natural hair as possible through investigation, natural hairstylists, other natural women, try different products and thoroughly think it over for several months before deciding to relax.

What's next on your hair journey? Any goals? Well, it's funny that you would ask because I'm actually looking for 'a change' again. I don't think I will relax my hair this This time I think I will follow some of my own advice and investigate and speak with natural hairstylists to see how I can wear my natural hair so that I can maintain the thickness, strength, elasticity and shine of my natural hair in a way that is stylish and appropriate for work.

Taken right after removing the kinky twists before washing and redoing the twists: all of the perm has been cut off.

Keep it natural!


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