One of the fabulous things about being Black women is that our hair provides us with endless styling options–relaxers, blowouts, natural looks, weaves, braids, etc. Lately, though, we’ve noticed that many formerly relaxed-and-proud girls are growing out their perms. And even though the end-result is glorious, the actual process can be complicated, frustrating, patience-testing and, well, just plain exhausting.
For the next month, we’ll post weekly installments breaking down “The Great Growout,” from styling multi-textured hair to figuring out when to chop your ends. Before making the leap, you have to know what you’re in for–so, this week, we chatted with celebrity stylist and SoftSheen-Carson Style Director Johnny Wright (Michelle Obama is a devotee!) about what to expect during the growing-out process.
ESSENCE.com: How do you know when you’re actually ready to grow out your perm?
JOHNNY WRIGHT: It’s really a time-consuming process, so you have to be committed. Women come to the decision for a variety reasons. Either they’re tired of the damage caused by the chemical process, or they don’t want to be a slave to getting the relaxer every six to eight weeks. The price can be draining, as well. And some women want to experiment with color, and they know that dying relaxed hair is incredibly damaging.
ESSENCE.com: How long does it take to fully grow out the chemically-treated hair?
WRIGHT: Hair grows a quarter of an inch a month. In a year, you could cut off the relaxed portion and wear a short natural style. If you want long hair, it’ll take another year.
ESSENCE.com: Hair breakage is common side effect of growing out your relaxer. Why does this happen, and how can you prevent it?
WRIGHT: When natural hair grows in, the texture can be so strong that it pushes the weaker, relaxed hair out. So, your hair starts breaking off at the line of demarcation. Also, you start using more heat to get the new, natural roots as straight as the relaxed portion, which causes breakage. Unfortunately, you can’t really prevent breakage, since it’s not about the actual condition of your hair.
ESSENCE.com: How long does it take until you can really see your natural hair texture?
WRIGHT: So many women grow their hair out an inch, decide they can’t deal with it, and give up. The thing is, you’re not seeing the full capacity of your texture until it gets to around five inches. You’ve got to utilize your patience! Most women don’t even realize how easy it is to go straight without chemicals. And the versatility is so exciting.
ESSENCE.com: And natural hair is just so much healthier than relaxed hair, isn’t it?
WRIGHT: It’s definitely stronger! But just because your hair’s natural doesn’t mean that you should stop using hot oil treatments, deep conditioners and moisturizing products. African American hair is naturally dry, so it’s important to take care of it, whether you’re relaxed or natural. Try Soft Sheen Carson Roots of Nature Remedies haircare products–they’re formulated with shea butter and green tea, and are fabulous for keeping natural hair gorgeous.