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How My Hair Recovered From Years of Chemical Straightening

BY Nathalie Meertens

I used to go and sit in a chair for at least 6 hours to get my hair straightened. The treatment was Japanese, a bit mysterious, very expensive, but it worked like magic.  I would get a pounding headache an hour into the process because of the nauseating chemical smell, and somehow, thank God the treatment didn’t damage my hair. Probably because unlike most widely used chemical relaxing treatments, it’s ‘predominantly natural’, as I’m reading on the website right now (where did that smell come from?!). To be honest, I don’t even think my 14, 15 year old self researched the treatment very thoroughly. She just wanted easy, straight, ‘normal’ hair. 

Anyway, after a few treatments I kind of woke up. What am I doing? This is not my hair.

Anyway, after a few treatments I kind of woke up. What am I doing? This is not my hair. The treatment grows out like hair dye, and so after a few weeks my curls would pop up at my roots and I’d have to redo the  straightening treatment to not look like a poodle with an identity crisis. After a while it was like my curls were just begging to be set free. I had to wait 2+ years until my curls were grown out properly and I guessed – I turned out to be right – that the whole journey would only really start after cutting off my straight ends. So sometimes it was tempting to just give up. But my curls are a part of me, and I was determined to make peace with them.

Image courtesy of Nathalie Meertens

I was a bit sad after that trip to the hairdresser. My curls didn’t look at all like what I remembered, and in the months after I sometimes really didn’t like the way I looked. My curls needed that time to breathe, to come into themselves again. And I definitely needed that time to learn about them. Patience is key: my hair has changed so much since then! I experimented with different products, with the application order, protein treatments (work like magic for me!), pillow cases, towels and T-shirts. And I learned that a hair routine doesn’t end there: it’s the way you apply anything, it’s your health, your unique hair structure, your hormones, the weather… and sometimes the curls just to what they want to do.

My curls needed that time to breathe, to come into themselves again.

And I’ll always keep learning. Hair evolves with you, and the way its needs change will always remain slightly mysterious; that’s the beauty of it. But one thing I know for sure: I won’t get my hair (permanently) straightened ever again even if you pay me for it. Though my hair doesn’t define me, it’s a part of me that I cherish deeply.

Photo courtesy of Nathalie Meertens

Trying the new Function of Beauty Silicone Free Shampoo & Conditioner

I think experimenting (in a safe way) should be a part of everyone’s hair routine. That’s why I immediately said ‘yes!’ when Function of Beauty asked me to try out their new products and write up a blog post. I was extra excited when they told me about the launch of their new silicone-free shampoo and conditioner, because one thing all curly people know is you usually can’t repair a shitty shower routine with whatever goodness you apply to your curls afterwards.

And fine-tuning that washing routine can be pretty tricky. Ideally, on a washing day I step out of the shower with my hair feeling light + moisturized + clean. In reality, it often either feels light + dry + clean, or heavy + moisturized + not clean. I usually manage to make up for these imbalances with the products I apply after showering, but of course I’m always looking for that perfect washing routine that will make the whole process go extra smoothly. 

Photo courtesy of Nathalie Meertens

Nathalie Meertens is a writer based in The Netherlands. Follow her hair journey in real time on Instagram