Taking care of a full head of natural hair was never an easy task for *Stacey Jordan.
She went natural in 2010, opting to grow her relaxer out after being inspired by her older sister’s transition to natural hair. Like many women, as the years passed and her hair grew out and not down, she tried a whole host of products in the hopes of finding something that would make her hair more manageable. She did the twist-outs, the messy buns, pressed her hair for hours ahead of special occasions, all while trying to focus on her doctoral studies. It was a lot of work then, but after finally earning her Ph.D., getting her first post-studies job and welcoming her first child with her husband all in the same year, she realized her hair was turning into a burden she could no longer keep up with.
So she put a relaxer in it.
“It was a combination of a lot of things,” the 30-year-old post-doctoral researcher said of her decision to go back to putting chemicals in her hair. “Being in a professional setting and going back to work after being a full-time student and now having a professional job, I realized that a messy bun is just not going to cut it [laughs]. Secondly, it was manageability and my time management. I’m a mom and I work full-time. I get up at 5:45 in the morning. I have to get myself ready, baby ready, and my commute is an hour in the morning. I have no time to sit there and spend an hour or even 30 minutes on my hair.”
“I just felt frustrated,” she added. “I just wanted something easier and that I could just get up, comb my hair and go.”
For the record, Jordan feels that curly hair is professional. However, she had a particular look she was aiming for now that she was finally working, and it wasn’t the curly styles she felt often made her look like she was 12 again.
“I like the way I look with straight hair,” she said. “I like it a lot [laughs].”
With that in mind, she spent most Sundays pressing her hair, which she said took over two hours to successfully accomplish. The occasional times that she didn’t, opting instead to wash and twist out her hair, her co-workers would make remarks about how different it looked. The ol’ “You changed your hair!” conversation. She made the decision that she was ready to do something different, or in reality, something familiar, by going back to a relaxer. The decision wasn’t an impulsive one, though.
“I thought about it for months. And then I finally found a beautician, made the appointment and that was that,” she said. “I’m usually an impulse person, but I didn’t know if I wanted to spend the money, I had to find a beautician, and this was my first time ever getting my hair done in the Bay area. I had to find the time. It was just a combination of all those things that made me wait.”
Money was certainly spent to go from her dark, curly strands to the brown, soft bob she has now. Jordan says it cost her $150 to get the professional, manageable, time-saving look she’d been imagining. She’s happy with it, and as of right now, doesn’t miss the curls she spent so many years maintaining. In her mind, she gave natural hair her best shot, she tried to find the right products and styles, but in the end, she couldn’t keep shrinkage, dryness and product buildup at bay (“You put gel in your hair and two days later, you try and move it and you have to wash it”). She was ready for something different and much easier.
“I spent nine years looking for the right products for my hair,” she said. “I haven’t found any magical solutions. It just never came to me. I spent years doing twist-outs, doing natural styles. It’s not that I didn’t like it, it just takes time or I didn’t want to look a certain way. Maybe I don’t want to wear a bun all the time, every day. I don’t want that look. I want a different look. So I changed my hair so I could look like that.”
However, any style, whether natural, relaxed, short or long, is anything but easy. The stylist Jordan found warned that keeping up a relaxer wouldn’t be much simpler. However, she is both realistic and confident about her look, and knows that while relaxers certainly require upkeep, they go a lot further than the silk presses and flat-iron jobs she used to do.
“I think as far as keeping my hair straight, obviously that’s going to be easier,” she said. “As far as moisture and maintenance, I still use coconut oil on my scalp, moisturizer on my ends, I wrap it and that’s it.”
“I’m not stressed about what I’m going to do with my hair,” she added. “I don’t really have that worry anymore.”
While we don’t necessarily see many naturalistas jumping ship back to boxed relaxers, Jordan isn’t alone in wanting the straight-haired look. Quite a few have full heads of curly hair, but prefer the look of wigs and weaves. And as we found a few years ago, there are some with natural hair who even put relaxer on their edges for a desired look while trying to maintain their curls.
So while some might shake their head at the idea that Jordan went back to a full-blown relaxer, she believes we should support whatever hair decisions Black women want to make with their own heads.
“At the end of the day, I have to do what makes me happy,” she said. “It’s my hair, it’s my body, and I’m going to do whatever I want. You do whatever you want. We’re supposed to support each other and uplift and each other. So if that works for you, I’m happy for you. This works for me, so be happy for me.”
*The subject’s name was changed to maintain her privacy.