Adriana André decided to free herself of hair straightening all at once, shaving her head.
Women are choosing to leave the chemicals aside and accepting the natural texture of their hair; the trend known as “transitioning” is strong in the U.S. and winning converts in Brazil
“Seeing my natural hair for the first time was a revelation. Far from being dry and brittle, as I had believed, it was curly and lovely to touch.” The testimony of Nigerian-British woman Zina Saro-Wiwa was recorded in Transition, a mini-documentary of her own, recently published in the online version of The New York Times. This film is about women who are letting their chemically straightened hair go to return to the natural look. According to Zina, this transition is a phenomenon that has been happening amongst the African-American women for the past three years and the number of devotees hasn’t stopped growing.
Still from Nigerian-Brit Zina Saro-Wiwa’s documentary on transitioning to natural hair
The same phenomenon is happening in Brazil. With a population formed by a mixture of ethnicities and mostly with curly, kinky or frizzy hair, the phenomenon of the transition from hair with chemicals to a natural texture came to Brazil and is widely discussed in social networks and video sharing sites.
The process can be attained in two ways: cutting all of the hair at once or only the areas of hair that have been straightened. Cutting everything was 27-year old São Paulo native Adriana André’s choice. Two months ago the hairstylist traded her straightened hair for a shaved head with “máquina um” (the closest hair shaving setting on hair clippers): “I’ll leave the natural hair, without the chemical. At the end of the year I’m thinking of putting in some highlights. And if I were to change it again, I want to leave it curly”, she said.
Acquaintances were surprised the new look, but Adriana didn’t care: “They asked me if I’d become a lesbian, or if I shaved it because if I joined the Umbanda (1), but I don’t care,” she says, adding that she loves her new “very short” phase.
Amanda Gil, 29, also opted for the cut, but she didn’t shave it all off. The autonomous professional went seven months with two textures of hair until she decided to do the so-called “big chop.” She cut out all of the straightened hair leaving and ending up with very short strands. “I had never worn my hair like this, but I had no choice! After cutting my hair the way I liked it, the short hair is more practical and versatile,” said the Rio native. She adds: “It does make you more feminine with short hair. Just the use and abuse of makeup and accessories makes all the difference!”
Amanda Gil waited seven months for her natural hair to grow before making the “big chop”.
The story of Amanda with straightening comes from her childhood, when she started relaxing her hair at home. After a disastrous experience, relaxing her hair and using the “escova progressiva” (Brazilian Keratine Hair Treatment) on the same day almost left her bald, she was strictly forbidden to use chemicals by a dermatologist. And today she proudly says that she’s gone a year and five months without using anything to change the shape of her curls.
Example of escova progressiva
“My life has completely changed. I feel really free. I can’t stand to see anymore pictures of my hair straightened. Today, yes, I feel beautiful. I love my hair and my self esteem is always high. I understood and accepted that my curls are my identity,” Amanda concluded.
Jacqueline Maciel, 28, is in the process of transition, with seven months of growing out her roots. The teacher from the southeastern state of Minas Gerais mining also began straightening her hair in childhood but realized that the chemicals had damaged her hair. Even having decided to return to her natural texture, Jacqueline admits that the process is not easy: “Often the desire to return to relaxing is immense. I chose not to cut my hair, then the two textures in the same strands would give me an sloppy appearance. Besides this, the processed hairs were weak and began to break. It’s hard to deal with (in terms of) self-esteem,” she says.
Jacqueline traded the chemicals, hair dryer and flat iron for a care routine that includes plenty of hydration, nutrition and reconstruction of her tresses. “The strands react much better to any treatment that I do,” she says.
Word of the experts
Experts confirm a throwback to natural hair. “Nine out of ten customers who send me an e-mail want to know how to get back their natural curls,” says Soraia Ferretti, owner of Lunablu, a hair salon in São Paulo that specializes in curly and kinky hair.
But there is no miracle. Depending on the process that the hair went through, sometimes only a cut is capable of recuperating the natural texture. Sueli Martins, of Studio Dom in São Paulo says that the transition takes about six months, depending on the length of the hair: “After that time the results are good when you cut it and let it stay all natural.”
“If the person had used a escova definitiva (Brazilian Blowout) she has to let it grow out and cut the straightened part. If she’s done a progressiva (Brazilian keratin hair treatment) a few times, it’s possible to only treat it and the curls will come back. If it’s only been straightened you can treat the curls back in time,” explains Robson Trindade, hairstylist and visagiste of the São Paulo salon Red Door. Trindade says that approximately 70% of his clientele wants to go back to their natural hair.
Escova Definitiva product by Wellastrate
For professionals, whoever has straightened hair and wants to return to their natural texture has to have patience. Cutting off everything is for the few courageous and most end up doing the same gradual transition. During this process, besides plenty of hydration for volume control, it’s necessary that the woman learns to deal with her new hair.
“Kinky/curly hair without the chemical process is not hard to take care of. There is an illusion that straight hair is easier, but it’s not that, it’s just knowing how to deal (with your hair)”, says Soraia. Robson agrees and says that for kinky/curly hair, less is more. He recommends washing with a shampoo that doesn’t make too much foam, use a conditioner and without rinsing, dry the hair with raw cotton or paper towel to control the volume. Another valuable tip: whoever wants to recover the curls should abandon the brush and fix the hair with your fingers.
1. Umbanda is a Brazilian religion blending African religions with Spiritism, Catholicism and indigenous beliefs. Learn more here.
Here at Black Women of Brazil, we’ve featured a number of articles about hair in regards to identity, self-acceptance, racism and the growing natural hair movement in Brazil. To see all of the articles click here. Below are a few select articles.
Creator of the Meninas Black Power (Afro Girls) project speaks about the growing natural black hair movement in Brazil, Project Pixaim questions standards of beauty and encourages the acceptance of “bad” hair, When black children learn the idea of “bad hair” in the least expected place: home, Good hair, bad hair? Black Brazilian women and girls also struggle with this hegemonic ideology
How I learned to accept my hair, Fernanda Alves*