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So today is a double celebration!

Good Enough Mother cannot believe it but it’s true, today is another hair anniversary for me! Now I know anniversaries come once a year but since I fought so hard for this hair I’m going to celebrate at the 1½-year mark. Any excuse to eat cake!

So the back-story goes like this. My entire professional life I have used chemicals to straighten my naturally curly hair. I did it because that was more acceptable in the career field I was in (TV News) but I had actually been doing it since I was 16. Back then it’s just what so many black women did; the chemicals made it easier to manage the hair in certain styles and I was woefully under-informed about how to care for my natural hair.

So from the time I was 16 until I was 45, I went about every 6 weeks to have the curl chemically beaten out of my hair. Then I would use curling irons to flatten it more. Later I started adding color to the mix.  Needless to say, my hair was in pretty bad shape.

In November 2008, I was hospitalized with asthmatic bronchitis. They pumped me full of medication and when I got out, I headed right for the hairdresser to get, yet another relaxer. My hair had had enough. It started breaking and falling out in my hands. The hair at the crown of my head was about ½ an inch long, not a good look for anyone, much less someone who made their living on TV.

It was then and there I decided no more. No more heat, no more chemicals; I decided to go with what God gave me naturally. That was December 2008. In March 2009, I cut the remaining dead ends off and was, for the first time in almost 30 years, 100 percent natural.

It’s been a year and a half since I “big chopped” (the term used for cutting off the rest of one’s relaxer) and I have learned a lot in the process.

*PICK NON-SULFATE SHAMPOOS! Sulfate is the second ingredient listed in dishwashing soap. It is designed to remove oil. African American hair needs natural oils so stripping it only made the curls frizzy and dry. I use a shampoo from the health food store but there are many shampoos available at your local drug store. Read the labels. If it says sodium laurel sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, stay away.

*NO DIRECT HEAT: This is incredibly drying and bad for the hair. That means directional blow drying, hot irons, hot rollers, flat irons, etc. When I want to straighten my hair I used the old-fashioned roller set and a hair dryer.

* NO SILICONE PRODUCTS: These are found in conditioners and they provide the “slip” that you feel. They also can build up on the hair, requiring a clarifying shampoo, which has you guessed it, sulfates in it. So I just avoid them altogether.

* LOTS OF WATER, HAIR VITAMIN AND EXERCISE: You have to help yourself!

* PATIENCE! It will grow. Give it time.

I can’t single out any of these tips as the key factor in my new hair care regime – but it’s been a combination of all five that have really made the difference.

So good luck on your own hair journey – I urge you all to make the choices that are right for you and not to feel ‘pressured’ into looking a certain way. Bottom line – if it’s not good for your hair – it’s not good for you…

Anyway as a bit of fun, here’s a little slide show of my last 18 months of hairstyles…enjoy!



  1. Danielle

    September 2, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Loving the hair. And that song! Who is it?

  2. Wendy

    September 2, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Ah Rene…… I remember every one of those photos as though it was just yesterday! Thanks for sharing your journey! I’m going to follow your routine to the letter!

  3. naturaldancer

    September 2, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Beauti-mous!!!!!!! Love your hair & what a great journey to share! 🙂

  4. Rene Syler

    September 2, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    The music was one of the choices on where I put the slideshow together. Here’s the info from iTunes and thanks!

    Are You Lovin It?
    3:14 DJ Morphiziz, Exilian, Malachi Perez & Sean Slaughter Beatmart Recordings

    Best of the Submissions, Vol. 3

  5. Cathleen Whitelow

    September 2, 2010 at 4:41 pm


    I love, love, LOVE the hair! I’ve been relaxing my hair since I was a teenager. I will be 49 years YOUNG this Christmas Day and I still use relaxer. If my hair had a “voice,” I wonder what it would say to me. I go back and forth about going natural. Whenever I view your “hair journey,” I wonder if I have the courage to do it! Thanks for sharing your journey with us.


  6. Angela

    September 2, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Love, love, love it. I want to do the natural thing so bad… just not quite ready for the Big Chop. How do you take care of it at night, do your braid it, or just– nothing.

  7. Rene Syler

    September 2, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    To be honest, the work load has gotten much easier now that my hair is longer. Every night I pull it up into a loose pony tail and sleep with a satin scarf. I take it down in the morning, moisturize and shake it loose! VIOLA, that is it!

  8. Irene

    September 2, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Love the hair….just promise you’ll never crochet yarn in your head to get a tv job…or to live your life as a G.e.m. (winks!)

  9. Rene Syler

    September 2, 2010 at 8:03 pm


  10. Lena Cole Dennis

    September 2, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Loved the story, each hairstory is different and beautiful!

  11. Janell

    September 3, 2010 at 12:59 am

    Keep rocking the big hair. I heart it.


  13. Renee Jones-Lee

    September 24, 2010 at 12:30 am

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Hair. It fits my vision of you to a T….Sassy, Chic, Carefree & Easy Going. Thanks for sharing the journey.

    Hair Done, Nails Done….EVERYTHING DID. You Fancy, huh!
    (in my Drake voice)


  14. Stephanie

    September 24, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    My 61 yr old aunt was diagnosed today with breast cancer & I am still walking around in disbelief. I remembered seeing your inspirational & open journey with this disease. I just didn’t know what to do but I remembered your story. I started looking at you for inspiration & then discovered my own voice in the process. I absolutely love your hair and the energy that you exude. It just shows & you are so funky. I am tired of chemicals & breakage. After seeing this video, I’m inspired to see what my own natural hair looks like. I love your hair!!! Rock on Rene and thank you for the inspiration for my Aunt. Seeing you this renewed has reassured me that I can be there for her like she needs me to be. Be blessed!

  15. Rene Syler

    September 25, 2010 at 5:55 am

    Oh God bless your Aunt and you as the co-survivor. Learn as much as you can, take notes when meeting with the doctors and talk to as many people as you can. It will be a journey but hang in there. The hair is a journey as well. I can’t believe it took me this long to discover I had this head full of healthy hair! If you are tired of the chemicals and searching for freedom like I was, check out YouTube. Type in Big Chop or Natural hair Journey and be prepared to spend all day in front of your computer, laughing, crying and being inspired! Best to you and your beloved aunt!

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  17. Pam R

    November 6, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Hi Rene’ not sure if you answered this question or not but I wanted to ask if you could give some suggestions on the conditioners and moisterizers? I have a staple shampoo/conditioner bar that I use. I order it from Chagrin Valley, they make all natural things for the hair. But I have heard people say stay away from the silicones but I haven’t come across one that I like. So I am leaning on you! Give me some advice please, especially with the moisterizers!! LOL!

    Oh by the way I have spent days and nights soaking in all the information I can but WHEW~it’s a little overwhelming. I just want something simple! Thanks Rene’!!!

  18. Rene Syler

    November 7, 2010 at 6:00 am

    Believe it or not I have a very simple regimen. I do NOT use shampoo, EVER! Most shampoos have sulfates in them and they are very drying. Sulfate=curl killer. So I only co-wash (wash using conditioner only. Conditioner has enough cleansing properties in it to give hair a good cleaning and I use the cheap, VO5 conditioner, which is silicone-free. Luckily it’s cheap because it takes about half a big bottle to co-wash with.The reason silicones are not great (and this is anything that ends with -cone in the name) is that they create build-up on the hair, preventing the hair from being able to absorb oils and nutrients. They make the hair dry and dull looking and ultimately will require you to clarify, and those clarifying shampoos have sulfates in them. So I use VO5 CONDITIONER (not shampoo), clarify about twice a month using 2 TBSP of Apple Cider Vinegar and water and that’s about it.

  19. Pam R

    November 7, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Wow Renee’ that is simple. I actually use the V05 Conditioners! I think that they are great too. But what do you use to moisterize your hair? My hair can get so dry looking and hard to the touch. I just looked at the moisterizer for my daughter’s hair and it has -cone’s in it. Had no idea since this was one that was recommended and said to be ok for the hair. Maybe that explains why her hair looks dry after a day. I have to get my notes back out or something because I am on the edge of putting something I shouldn’t to make my hair more manageable. Thanks Renee’.

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  22. Allegra

    November 30, 2010 at 10:21 am

    You freed your hair and it became the perfect frame for a most gorgeous face. Congratulations! Love it.

  23. Lyntee

    December 3, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Love the hair………Go naturals !

  24. Saran

    December 3, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    I love your hair so much! What a beautiful slide show. I’ve been natural for 14 years now and I know I’m never going back to perms. Love the versality. Who knew I had such pretty curls. We all have beautiful hair! And I loved that song “Are You Lovin’ It?” Definitely putting that on my Ipod.

  25. Rene Syler

    December 4, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    thanks and yes, LET’S GO TELL THE WORLD!

  26. Rene Syler

    December 4, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Thank you. I know the feeling.. I will NEVER go back and fall in love a little more with my hair everyday!

  27. Enyasi

    December 5, 2010 at 1:38 am

    I am so happy for you!!!! I did the same thing about 8 years ago and have never been happier! So many of us have no idea of the beauty and flexibility of our natural hair textures. Since going natural I have not had one moment of hair drama. Thanks for posting this wonderful video and your story! Hope it goes viral, the word needs to be spread. 🙂


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  30. Shonta

    December 23, 2010 at 7:39 am

    I actually had tears in my eyes as I watched your video. Simply Amazing!!!!!!!!! You are such a beautiful person on the inside, therefore whatever you do on the outside will shine. Your hair is a testimony of Gods grace. I have punished my hair for every transition I have encountered in life. I got a divorced, i cut my hair, i turned 30, i bleached my hair blonde. I am just so tired of putting my hair through such harsh treatment.
    I decided to color my hair back black, and thats it! NO MORE PERMS, NO MORE DYES!!! My hair is suffering so much, it’s crazy because as a younger girl my hair was crazy thick, and extremely long!!! Unfortuntely, mom gave me a perm at age 10 and its been that way every since. I have been doing research and watching videos on natural hair care, and the BC is becoming more and more appealing.
    I have shoulder length hair now, and i’ve kind of had that my whole life, or longer. I just want to be me again, i’m tired of trying to fit in. I am a single mom raising 2 young daughters and I want to be a example to them. I want them to know that you can only be you, because everyone else is taken. Its okay to be YOU!!!!!! i guess i want to know, if i keep my hair, and go natural slowly, how do I even begin to take care of, new growth, colored, and perm hair all in once until the new growth is long enough to cut my hair? Or do you just say what the heck…….. CUT IT OFF!!! Freedom, thats what I want. Please, keep doing what you are doing, you are such an inspiration, not only to black women, but WOMEN ALL OVER THIS WORLD!!!!!!!!!

  31. Rene Syler

    December 23, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Hi Shonta.. what a nice note; you made my day! In my case, i did the BC after just a few months because my hair was so unhealthy and breaking. If I had it to do again, I may have transitioned longer, maybe not. But I do remember the overwhelming feeling was that I was free! In the beginning I didn’t know how to care for my own hair so I spent countless hours on YouTube until I figured it out.The one thing that will be critical for you now is properly moisturizing your hair. Dry hair is hair that breaks so you want to guard against that. Check out the baggying technique. Also, I got rid of all sulfate shampoos. Sulfate is the number two ingredient in dish soap (!) and is extremely drying. In fact, I gave up shampoo all together and now only wash with conditioner (called co-washing). Conditioner has enough cleansing properties in it to get the hair clean. Check out a couple of books.. Thanks God I’m Natural and Curly Girl for some information on transition and caring for curly hair.

    Best to you and thanks again!

  32. DKJA

    December 28, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    I saw you on Weekly with Ed Gordon on Sunday and loved your hair. i wanted your hair. Then I just saw the video and was inspired. I have been wearing my hair natural for about as long as you have, but I have been using blow drying and flat-ironing and want a break from that. I will check out the website you mentioned above. Thanks!

  33. Rene Syler

    December 28, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    Oh thanks!! Good idea to try to wean yourself off the heat as that can be a killer. Good luck!!

  34. Naomi

    January 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Your hair is looks awesome! I’ve been trying the natural look for a little over a year. Quite challenging. I haven’t tried the co-wash tip yet but plan to see if it works to add moisture to my hair. I need any tips possible on adding shine to my hair while dry. I’m wearing a curly fro with headband to tame the edges. As my hair grows it gets more manageable but I haven’t been successful in finding a product that’s not greasy but adds shine Please share any hints….THX

  35. Rene Syler

    January 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    I think the co-washing might help as it will help you to retain your natural moisture. CHeck out Shea butter as well. It’s not a moisturizer per se but I use it on my wet hair right out of the shower and it helps trap the moisture in the hair. I also like Jane Carter solution for moisturizer as well as Olive Oil ORS. Quick note here, your hair when it’s curly may LOOK dry but not actually BE dry. Because curly hair doesn’t reflect the light as much as straight hair, it can look dull. You might consider adding color to it. Also make sure you don’t have product build up on the hair; that can cause dryness. About every two weeks I give myself an apple cider vinegar rinse to strip the product without taking the oil out of my hair. I use 2 TBSP ACV to 8 ounces of warm water. I don’r rinse it out after that and your hair will smell like ACV for a minute but it goes away. Good luck!

  36. dianthe

    January 4, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    you already know i’ve been stalking, er, following you since your WFAA days and you’re right – you rock those curls WAY harder than the straight hair – i LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!!! it’s totally you!

  37. Rene Syler

    January 4, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    xxoo thanks honey!

  38. Frankie Jackson

    January 5, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Hello Ms. Rene, I love your hair! I went Natural on March 17, 2010 and I will never go back to perming my Hair. I feel that my hair grows faster without a perm and although it takes alot of work to get the look that I want it is well worth it, my arms have shaped up as well (smile). I’m glad that you have posted this web-site. Take Care and may the you have a wonderful and blessed 2011!

  39. Charlene Goudeau

    January 12, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Rene’ you are absolutely beautiful. I have followed you since your departure from CBS News. Love your hair!!! Go Girl. Praise you
    for going natural. Inspiration to African American women. You seem to be doing wonderful. I am so happy for you. I am a 60 year old that lost my hair do to medication.
    When I get it back, I am going to try the Natural. I am going to forward this you tube
    to my daughter.

  40. Rene Syler

    January 12, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Oh thank you Charlene. You know the hair journey has been so transformational for me and not just physically. It’s about accepting who I am and was meant to be. I think I look 1000 percent better because I am fearless! The hair, coupled with all the other stuff over the years, has turned me into a very strong woman; I thought I was already. Good luck to you as you recover from the illness/medication, I know how that can be. As soon as you can, start taking a hair vitamin. Also no direct heat and use essential oils (olive, Meadowfoam seed oil, Shea butter); I think those helped tremendously. Good luck and thank you for your support!

  41. Ahmad Prestley

    January 25, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I think your blog is fantastic I found it on Google. Definetely will return tomorrow! Best Regards, Glen

  42. Metra Turner

    February 3, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Love the hair video. I just BC in Dec. 2010. How often do you co-wash? What products do you use the baggy method with and how often?

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  44. Kay

    March 4, 2011 at 1:53 am

    Hi Renee,

    I happened to find your blog via a link on another one ans when I saw your photo, I said “She looks so familiar” I was pleasantly surprised to see that you are the woman I’ve seen so many times on TV. I congratulate you for navigating that arena on your own terms and I’m loving the pics of your natural hair journey. So many women are afraid of the prospect of revealing their true selves to the world, but it is so freeing and empowering!

    When I hear people (especially young girls) lament the fact that black hair doesn’t hang or is hard to manage and unruly, I tell them this: My hair is my mane and my crown. It is so glorious that it stretches upwards towards the sun! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Peace and love,

  45. Talier

    March 23, 2011 at 8:05 am

    I am also natural and it has been my pleasure to recapture my natural beauty – My regiment is simly and non-expensive – shampoo/conditioner, shea butter and olive oil. twist in and twist out and I love the bantu knot outs- my favorite – enjoy the journey

  46. Rene Syler

    March 23, 2011 at 8:19 am

    @Talier: how is it that for so long, we made things so hard and in the process, missed out on our natural beauty? I cannot tell you how much money I have saved since going natural. Clearly I need to buy myself a nice piece of jewelry to make up for it 🙂 Thank you and best to you!

  47. Jeanna Smith

    April 1, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    I’m in my 5th week of going natural. I am 54 and after years of perming, my hair began to shed and break off. When I went for another perm, right then and there I told my beautician to cut it off. (THE BIG CHOP) I feel so free and alive. I love, love, love, my natural hair. This journey is GREAT. Love the video and the song.

  48. Valarie

    April 5, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Just as everyone one else is saying, I love your hair. It’s been a year now since I began transitioning and I took the chichen way out by using braids to transition instead of the “Big Chop” But, it has worked for me. I am about to take the braids out and, I understand the sulfate and how it is so drying. I will definetly not use products with sulfate. My question is how do you keep the curls? Is there a specific product you use for that? And, do you have your hair cut in a style? Once I take the braids out and get it trimmed I want to make sure that it looks nice, since I work in corporate america. As we know, as with media they want us to conform and all look alike.

  49. Name (required)

    April 30, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    thank you for sharing your experience

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More in Style

Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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