As a student athlete, I remember my go-to style was the ponytail or bun. Well, in my case it was a struggle ponytail. I kept my hair tied because I had no time to create pretty hairstyles; besides, having hair or anything hitting your face and flying all over the place while playing tennis would have been more than an annoying disturbance. After my years were up, and it was time to be an assistant not a player, I had time to look at my appearance and actually care. On many occasions i would get frustrated at how plain my styles were. I was ashamed at how my hair lacked density. After years of self-relaxing my hair, coloring my hair in the dorm bathroom, I had to come to terms with the fact that my hair was damaged.
I’ve shared my story of the day I cut my hair off. If you’re not familiar it’s linked here. Today I’m not here to talk about how annoying it is when people have the nerve to tell you what to do with your hair. “It’s too damaged, just cut it off and start over.”, “Girl you need more than a trim.” The natural hair community is at times extremely judgmental and entitled. A little knowledge about oils and sulfates and one immediately walks as if a street was named after them in the community. They forget that at some point they too had to start somewhere. I’m happy to not be one of those naturalistas.
I want to share a few things one should take into consideration when deciding to either transition or go for the big chop. Often I get asked what the best thing to do is. And the answer is really simple. Before I do that, let me recap my experience with big chopping.
Though I big chopped and though i watched many videos on YouTube of ladies cutting of their hair and talking about all things hair, I had to still go through many of the steps that I was fore-warned about. I had to learn by practicing and experiencing. We spend a lot of time researching and preparing and yet we still get unexpected occurrences.
I must admit, it took some time to learn how to style my hair. Not because it was short but because I just had to get used to it. My new look that it. I no longer had the hair to mask my big forehead or the random pimple that flares up here and there. I was bare. Totally out there. As you will see in the slideshow I prepared for you below, I slowly figured it out. I got acquainted with my hair. Trial and error helped me realize what works and doesn’t. Initially I focused on the “cute coils and curls look’ and later grew to love the “free spirit look”. The big chop forces you to get your hands dirty; not look back and quickly adjust to the change.
BIG CHOP VS TRANSITIONING
- Length: Many people I have talked to, blogs I’ve read, videos and reviews I have watched focus on length when it comes to transitioning. In most cases, one might choose to transition because he/she is not ready for a shorter length. Hair is a sensitive topic especially with women of color and for many years we have been conditioned to believe the standard of beauty is long flowing hair. It’s a major transition so I get why people take their time in gaining a bit of length with their natural hair before cutting off the processed hair.
- Texture: When transitioning, you have to deal with two textures. Okay yes, even fully natural heads of hair have multiple curl patterns but we are talking about texture. Relaxed hair is stringy, porous and in many cases pretty much ready to break off. Natural hair tends to dry faster and needs more moisture and appropriate amount of sealants to trap that moisture. The creams we use on our natural hair are too heavy for processed hair. Many people who transition experience the hair breaking off at the point where the natural hair and processed hair meets.
- Time: Processes like detangling, and styling take longer because the hair, again, has two textures and tangles differently at each level. Treatment for this hair is important. Deep conditioners are a must and protein infusion a necessity to avoid hair breakage. The styles one can do are limited as most styles used are those that mask the difference in texture and curl patterns. In many cases people do twistouts, braidouts, bantu-knots and protective styles like braids, weaves and wigs; and let’s not forget the craze right now, crotchet!
- Confidence: The big chop sparks a confidence in you that is inexplicable. Having no shell to hide under forces you to expose all of you. Your imperfections and perfections are out for you and all to see. You fall in love with yourself daily as you notice more aspects of your own face and self as a whole that you never took the time to notice. When you cut all your hair off without transitioning, you force yourself to learn your hair immediately. The process of growing in-love, learning how to style and feeling comfortable with your hair is quicker. Transitioning slows down this process. In some cases it actually hinders the process.
- Public View: In many cases, you hear naturals complain about having to assimilate in the corporate world. We have to fake it till we make it. Must wear our hair straight if not then wig it up or sew it in. We must try our best to talk, look and maneuver as they do. I’m blessed to not have to deal with this problem even putting into consideration that I was at a predominantly white college. I cut my hair, everyone at work and most of my friends except for AMY loved and marveled at how my hair looked and felt different. Yes, they touched it. I didn’t and don’t mind. Just ask first. At work they loved how I changed it up when I braided, or gelled it down or coiled it. I remember my boss mentioning how gorgeous my collar bone was. Funny how she never noticed till all my hair was cut off. My hair wasn’t long enough to cover my chest but it took having to shave my head. A big chop pushes people to accept you the way you are. It forces your friends, family and colleagues to get used to the new, real you. Expect both positive and negative feedback. The great part is that it all comes at once and it’s over. Transitioning prolongs this process.
For me it took a hard look at myself in the mirror and decide that I wasn’t satisfied with the appearance and overall health of my hair. My strands were damaged and no amount of Olive Oil hair spray was reviving them. I was tired of the desperate tiny pony tail. I was tired of uneven and thin ends. I was ready.
Maybe my opinions are biased since I big chopped myself. But these are my facts. These are my findings. At the end of the day, only you know which is best for you. You know your strengths and weaknesses. You know your surroundings and you know what you are ready for. Either take the plunge or take your time to adjust to the change.