I received this question in my inbox yesterday, and I thought it was interesting so I wanted to share it with others who may have the same thoughts.
I have a question: Is there a way to go naturally “gracefully”? I am really considering going natural after 10+ of having relaxed hair. I am going natural for several reasons, but was wondering, what is the best approach to this? Should I grow out my perm? Should I just cut it all off? In the beginning stage is it okay to wear braids for a while so the hair can grow? I am terrified of this and guess I should really give it some serious thought. Another thing is I am a recent graduate and in the market for a job. Will having natural hair scare away potential employers? I guess if worn the right way it won’t. Sorry for all the questions but I am really curious as how to approach this and go through with going natural, especially in the beginning phase and getting used the change.
Yes! You can absolutely go natural gracefully.
Growing out your perm vs. cutting it all off
This is a very personal decision. For many, cutting it all off is the best approach.
The pros to this method include 1) having a neat 'do right off the bat, 2) no stress about working with different textures, 3) speed (this is the fastest road to 100% naturalness), 4) no transition period (aka you have to get used to it quick and there is no going back).
The cons to this method include 1) having short hair (this isn't a con for everyone, in fact many people discover beauty they didn't know they had), 2) shock for other people (if your hair is currently long, other people may react strongly to a sudden chop, which may or may not be an issue for you), 3) no transition period (aka you have to get used to it quick and there is no going back!).
Transitioning also has pros, including 1) you can take your time getting used to it, 2) you never have to have short hair if you don't want to, and cons, including 1) you may face breakage and difficulty styling due to the different textures 2) you may miss the "natural awakening" many women report as a result of the drastic effect of the big chop.
I chopped my hair off instead of transitioning, and it was the best thing for me. No fuss, no muss, and although it took some getting used to I didn't wish I'd done it another way.
Transitioning with braids
This works for many people. My sister grew a head of healthy natural hair using braids to transition. You will want to watch out for breakage and thinning, both of which can be caused by improper braiding techniques and/or leaving the braids in too long. I'd recommend learning to braid hair yourself (it's really not as hard as it may look, and there are plenty of videos on the market) or finding a reputable braider through a recommendation (from someone without thinning or breaking hair!).
Transitioning and natural hair during your job search
In the years that I've been natural, I have never had a hard time finding a job due to my hair. I'd like to think this is because I'm qualified for the positions I've applied for, and I've presented myself in a professional manner. I have worn conservative styles to interviews, such as a low puff or loc ponytail. Although I love my big fros and twist outs, I think it's a distraction to most people (regardless of race or ethnicity) when they need to be focusing on my qualifications for the job.
All that being said, I was very self conscious about my locs when I first started them, and wore a wig to my interviews (even I am shocked by that!). I took that wig off quick after I was hired, and no one batted an eye. I think the issue was more internal than external in my case.
I don't deny that there are some people who will take issue with your hair if it doesn't look right to them. Still, there is no way I am going to put a harsh chemical on my head for that reason. I think it's good to be flexible, but not to that extent. I think neatness and conservativeness are most important here.
Hope this is helpful!