I adore being natural.
Last month, I straightened (flat ironed) my hair for the first time in over 2 years. Comments ranged from “Oh! I’m so glad you did something and got rid of that natural mess!” to “Ohhhhhh noooooooo – please don’t tell me you went back to the creamy crack!” In response, sometimes I did a bit of educating, other times, out of respect to elders, I bit my tongue and prayed. The statements on the natural hair pro/con extremes were surprising and not so surprising. Black women and our hair… help us! It takes more than a blog post to go there so I won’t (I’ll try not to.)
Instead, this post addresses some questions received about my natural hair experience.
Disclaimer: I am not a hair person. I don’t devote much time, energy, money, attention to it, so just simple easy stuff here – but I hope it is helpful for other naturals or ladies considering natural.
Question: How long have you been natural.
Question: Why did you make the change?
Straightened hair doesn’t do well for me. My hair texture is fine, and when straightened, it doesn’t hold a style/curl. Consequently, with a relaxer, I was constantly retouching it with a curling iron or some kind of a spray which affected the health. I felt like I had about 14 hairs on my head and they were scrapply. That said, I didn’t make the switch for style or hair health – it was for physical health. We were trying to get pregnant and at a visit my ob/gyn, (a brilliant African-American female physician), talked about creating a healthy environment for the baby. She informed that there is no conclusive proof that the toxic chemicals in relaxers/dye etc do not enter the blood stream thru the scalp. That known, I cancelled the appointment for my next touch-up with a plan to hold off until our child was born and I was done nursing. I never went back to relaxing.
Question: Did you do a big chop?
No. Again my intent was not to go natural – just to hold off relaxers for a while. So I got the natural roots pressed and the relaxed ends trimmed each time I went to the hair salon. I began to notice the tremendous difference between the thickness and health of my natural hair and the scraggly relaxed ends. I think my hair was at a half and half stage when I chopped off the last of the relaxed ends. It was like the natural hair sprung into life – coiling up without the weight of dead relaxed ends on it. Once I learned to respect the coil, I was a convert.
August 2005 – My 1st day natural. I did not like it at all!
The stylist put a heavy gel on it while wet so it would not frizz and be more controlled in the twist out.
I was not a fan of the straight but crinkly look and texture. Think I washed it out the next day.
September 2005 – After about 4 weeks doing my own hair, I found that I preferred using products that kept it moisturized – not tamed. I let my hair poof, swell, do what it wanted to do – and loved it!
Question: What is your hair regimen.
I’m still trying to figure that out! Honestly, that may be the most interesting and challenging part of being natural. Without chemicals destroying the natural makeup of the hair and forcing it to behave in a certain way – the hair is left to it’s own temperament. My hair does what it wants to do and changes what it likes depending on the season, weather, my nutrition, activity etc. Plus, my hair has about 3 different textures (most people’s head is a mixture of types).
About 8 months into fully natural. Wearing another twist out (one of my two go-to hair styles).
A fail. Oh how I wanted a big ErykahBaduesque afro. Just could not get it to work.
The different textures clashed, some parts stood up, others parts collapsed.
My fro was wopsided and needed constant picking and fluffing. I had to let that style go.
When I first went natural, it was not very popular. There were very few products and very little information about how to do our hair. Even the African American hair stylists I went to when asked had little knowledge on how to care for our natural hair beyond pressing or flat ironing it straight. YouTube has been my teacher and I do a bunch of different concoctions and treatments.
2013 Simple twist out concoction/process – Morning and night just a good spritz of plain water followed by some Giovanni’s Leave In Conditioner with a bit of sweet almond or coconut oil.
No measuring just rub it together in my hands and scrunch it into the hair.
Another fail – Here I tried a mayo and egg deep conditioner mixture.
I smelled like a baloney sandwich and it left my hair kinda hard.
You have to try new things and find what works for you. Two musts in my regime:
- Add moisture, (spray with water), every morning and evening and lock it in with a leave in conditioner or some kind of a homemade oil or shea butter based mixture.
- Wearing a protective style (usually twists) about 50% of the time.
I have to get much better about trimming. I used to clip the ends of my hair when it was in twists but found it hard for me to see where the cut needs to happen that way. It works better for me to get a trim when it is straightened.
I’m also on the hunt for the right oil or product to help shine. My natural hair color and the ever increasing gray sometimes needs a bit of help.
Question: You mentioned YouTube – who are some of your favorite natural hair YouTubers?
Naptural 85. Her hair is beyond and she has an abundance of simple methods/concoctions.
LuvNatural I started my natural hair transition with her tips.
She’s very strong on education about the structure and needs of African American hair.
Question: When you straightened your hair, I had no idea it was that length. How did you grow your hair?
Me either. It had been 2 years since heat touched my hair so I was surprised when I saw it straightened as well. Re growing hair – I don’t know how to grow hair. (health is my focus) and my experience/belief is – the less you mess with it, the healthier it will be. For 2 decades, I tried relaxing – my hair looked thin, scrapply and struggled to grow. About 5 years ago, for 5 days, (that’s all I could hang), I tried a full weave – felt like I was wearing a tight helmet and I had headaches (hair should not hurt). I’ve also tried individual braids with extensions – it tore up my edges (and again hair should not hurt). I just stopped all the extra when it comes to my hair and kinda let it be. My hair is much healthier for it.
Consider African American models or celebrities, who have highly trained professionals in their hair daily using the best products available. They often say they wear weaves to protect their hair because the work done to keep it looking ‘right’ damages it. Or think of how often have you have seen little girls – where their mom just washes their hair, oils the scalp and braids it. (Sulfur 8, beads, ball barrettes – the whole nine with the adornments… ). No hash products, consistent blow drying or flat ironing. No relaxer. Usually their hair is full, shiny, healthy looking and at the length it is intended to be. Or consider men with dreds. They almost always are full and gorgeous – I think it is because they aren’t constantly messing with it. This isn’t the case for everyone, many women have gorgeously healthy constantly ‘did’ hair. Others, are damaging their hair with all the treatments and products, so they add other treatments and products…and hair to make up for the damage. It’s a time consuming and expensive continuous cycle. That second scenario was my experience and it was too much.
The less I mess with my hair (manipulations, structure altering products/treatments etc), the healthier it is. Again, this is just my unprofessional opinion. Find what works/fits for you.
Question. Who straightened your hair? Will you keep it that way?
I went to Happy Hair in Baton Rouge. They almost exclusively work with natural hair. Jonica hooked me up. She’s great. I appreciate their natural hair knowledge, expertise, professionalism and pricing.
BTW – Shrinkage is an amazing thing.
Natural hair is so versatile, it’s cool to do a major change up by straightening it periodically. Re keeping it that way. No I will not. Right now, I work out everyday – minimally, I hit it 4 days per week and sweat happens. To keep my hair straight, I’d have to exercise less or apply heat to the reversion everyday. (One is not beneficial for my body, the other is not beneficial for my hair.) Some women choose a hair style over health – that is not my choice. Plus my husband and I much prefer my hair in its natural texture.
Question: Any advice to new to naturals?
What God made is good.
Black women have been told for hundreds of years that our hair, the way God made it to grow from our heads is not attractive, presentable, manageable etc. That’s a lie and sometimes when we say we don’t believe or receive that – we do. Statements that come out of our mouths that talk about ‘good hair’ or negative words I won’t type here used to describe our naps, kinks and coils indicate how deep rooted this degraded self view is. (Chris Rock did an excellent job exploring this with his movie Good Hair.) This line of thinking is ill intended and it’s way beyond time that this is turned around.
That said, my advice is to new naturals is to relax and start with the fact that what God made is good. God and your parents gave your hair that texture, density, length, behavior etc. Know that it is good. Internalize and celebrate that. When frustrations arise about your natural hair, take a moment to determine if your frustration comes from trying to make it do something it was not structured to do. Then relax, let it go or get to figuring out if or how that look/behavior is possible your hair. If you want to change something about it – that’s fine, just don’t feel that you have to change it.
It’s just hair – and – it’s so much more than just hair.