I am a 50-year-old African American woman and I have had quite a journey with my hair. I grew up in a family of women who manipulated their hair to make it straight. It is what was expected of them in the '40s, '50s and '60s. The women on my mom's side of the family used relaxers and the women on my dad's side used a pressing comb. In the '70s, I remember my mom and my Aunt Norma had Afros. For my mom I suppose it was part of her liberation. She had separated from my dad and was discovering who she was and enjoyed her hair and started to wear things, like halter dresses and hot pants, as was the style then. I remember thinking she looked pretty, but also thinking she did not look like a mom. Back then (I was 11 in 1973), I did not know what it meant to "transition" your life. We did not talk about "natural" hair, but the lesson was taught to me all the same. We make big changes in our lives, we change our hair.
My mother did end up relaxing her hair again years later and then she stopped, keeping her hair short and simple for ease the last 15 years of her life. One thing that was always constant with me in observing the women in my family is that whatever they did to their hair, it was all about convenience as well as the health of their hair. Keeping it clean, moisturized, properly combed, not overusing heat on their hair. I learned at a very young age how to sleep in rollers, allowing my hair to air dry versus subjecting it to the heat of a blow dryer.
Growing up when I did, caring for textured hair was so much harder than it is now. Shampoos were so drying back then and had no slip at all. I can remember using nearly a full bottle of Wella Balsam conditioner on my wet hair just to detangles it. So, when a relaxer came along with the promise of making that shampoo process easier it appealed to me and to my mother. I was about 12 or 13, my mom was single now and raising my brother and I and working full time. My dad was very much in our lives, but we lived with Mommy so she had all of the day-to-day responsibilities and spending three hours on a Sunday to wash and set my hair was no longer doable. Mommy needed for me to learn how to do it myself. So, I had my first relaxer.
It was like a miracle to me. I could put a comb through it, even when it was wet and I learned how to set it in rollers with end papers and Dippity-Do (hair gel back then) -- you had to use that combination in order to have smooth frizz-free ends. My, how things have changed -- for the better! A relaxer represented independence to me and enabled me to do for myself what my aunts and my mother formerly had to do. It was fun to do my own hair and experiment with it. Mommy never let me do it too often, pretty much twice a year. She always said that I had to be careful so as not to dry it out or damage it. She would always use the ultimate threat that worked every time -- "You don't want to be bald" -- and with that I was silent.
At age the age of 17 I began to take an African dance class and met a whole new set of women. Women who wore braids and beads in their hair and women who had big, cool Afros, kind of like the one my mom had. They wore perfume body oils and donned clothing made of different tie-dye, batik and African prints and I embraced it all the way. This was a transition I went through with my body and my spirit. Dance taught me that my body was strong and graceful, even though it was a full-size body. And, I loved styling my hair in different braid styles and I loved the beads. It was like walking with my own music.
Throughout my hair journey, I wore braids, twists, locs, weaves, relaxed agin, cut it off and relaxed and cut it off again -- all the while loving the freedom of expressing who I was at that point in time in my life. And, because I have done it all, it makes it easy for me to know right now who I am, what I love and what works for me. The one constant through it all was always doing those things with the health of my hair being my No. 1 concern. Starting Carol's Daughter 19 years ago and being able to create products to take that "health" to the next level was so empowering.
Now, we have a movement of women giving up their relaxers and embracing their natural hair. I remember when that was such a rare thing and you were looked at funny and labeled radical or weird and I am happy that that is no longer the case. The importance of not doing something because you don't have to do it anymore is profound. Even if you go back to relaxing one day, because it suits your lifestyle, the point is that you stopped doing what someone or some industry told you you had to do because... And you can fill in the blank.
Carol's Daughter created Transitioning 1-2-3 to address the specific needs of the woman who has decided to transition because I have always created the products that others haven't thought about yet, but that women need. Long before we had lines and brands of product focused on curls, Carol's Daughter had Hair Milk, 18 years ago. Long before we even knew what sulfate-free meant, all of our cleansers and shampoos were sulfate-free. It was natural for us to let this woman know that we know what she is going through and that we are there for her.
Step One of Transitioning 1-2-3 is a low-suds shampoo that will gently clarify product build-up in your hair because we know that she is trying so many different products and styles as she is embracing this new hair texture. Step Two is a scalp treatment. Think of it as a toner for your scalp. It gently exfoliates that scalp and helps to heal it and to ensure optimal hair growth as your new hair grows in. Step Three is a conditioning treatment that addresses the line of demarcation where the new hair meets the relaxed hair. This point takes a lot of stress, especially for those who are transitioning by growing their hair out and cutting it off a bit at a time. We also created a website called TransitioningMovement.com, a place where women can come to get support and talk with other women about their hair journeys.
I have found in traveling the country and speaking to women about their hair that this is a topic that is so much deeper than hair. It is tied to self-esteem and self-image. Women feel liberated by going natural and then there are women who feel guilty that they are still relaxing and some who are angry that the dialog has even started. I want everyone to take a deep breath and do what works for them and if the only thing stopping you is fear, know that you can move past that.
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more