So how exactly did I start? It's simple, I suppose. I stopped visiting my stylist until I knew I was ready to chop off the relaxed ends. I couldn't tempt myself by going to the salon. I asked one of my line sisters (the ultimate stylist for college students on a budget) to flat iron my hair. She introduced me to heat protectant (didn't use that before), taught me how to properly blow dry my hair since she wouldn't do it unless it was blown-out correctly, and preached to me to not over-do it with the heat on my hair! Following her lead, I tried not to flat iron my hair after that initial flat iron she gave me, but it was hard. My roots would become puffy (especially when it rained) and I was not used to all that volume.
This eventually led me to get a sew-in. I did those faithfully for 2-3 months, except I would allow for my hair to breathe a little in between. Eventually, I had to do something different as I was leaving the country and did not want to deal with my hair too much. In came in my other line sister who is the expert braider. I had her install Senegalese twists in my hair. Senegalese twists start as a braid, but continue down as a twist. The process was lengthy (no one believes me when I say I have a head full of hair!), but it was worth it. I rocked those for maybe 2.5 months and eventually removed them before they started locking.
I continued playing with styles that were good for transitioning - roller sets, bantu knots, twist outs, but I grew very tired of having two textures in my hair. I decided to go for it and once I make up my mind there isn't much that can stop me. So in August 2008, I chopped off all of my relaxed ends and was finally completely BACK to natural (no one came out the womb with relaxed hair, right?).
I haven't looked back and wouldn't have my hair in any other state! I love it!
CN: Had you always embraced your texture?
Yes, I have always embraced my texture. I didn't know how to not accept it because that was the only texture growing from my head. I learned early on that everyone has a different texture and that my hairstyles wouldn't look like the next person's. There would be times when I would attempt a style that I saw on someone else only to be reminded by the end results that my hair would not behave like theirs because of my texture. I didn't mind, though. It forced me to explore my hair more and create styles that are exclusively for my hair - I loved the discovery phase.
CN: How did family and friends react to your decision to go natural? How did they react to the new you? What was your response to them?
My friends and family were very supportive. I actually don't think my 'rents understood what I was doing and honestly didn't care. When I was relaxed, I went from long to short in the blink of an eye; jet black to red before you could say "fire!" So going natural came as no surprise, as a matter of fact it was largely embraced and the whole family (my friends are family) was very intrigued by the styles and versatility my hair displayed. When I would straighten it, they would be even more surprised at the length, but never discouraged me from wearing my hair in its natural state.
CN: Describe your hair. (fine or coarse, thin or thick, highly porous, low, etc.)
My hair is very fine, yet dense. I have medium porosity hair. I have small, defined curls and don't really like to use the hair typing system! If you're into that type of thing, I'll take a stab and say I'm a 4A/4B.
CN: What's your current hair routine? How often do you wash, condition, and style? favorite products! Deets!
I rinse with water first, making sure my hair is thoroughly saturated. Since I have color, moisture is extremely important to me. Right now, I wash and use Trader Joe's Nourishing Spa Shampoo and I condition with Dr. Miracle's Curl Care Conditioner (I love how it tingles on my scalp). I also use Shea Moisture Deep Conditioning Masque mixed with Trader Joe's Nourishing Spa Conditioner for a DEEP conditioner. I always deep condition unless I am just co-washing.
I divide my hair into four sections and detangle my hair with my Tangle Teezer or my fingers. After all the detangling is done, I wash out the conditioner, making sure to seal my curls with a warm or cool water rinse at the end of washing.
I dry my hair with an old t-shirt and use Giovanni Direct Leave-In for my leave in. I style primarily with Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie, Aloe Vera Gel, my Shea butter mixture, flaxseed gel, and/or any other oil I am feeling at the time.
My moisture routine is water first, then an oil, then a moisturizer prior to styling. This helps me retain the most moisture, especially in the winter!
My favorite products are Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie, Cantu Coconut Curling Cream, Shea butter, flaxseed gel, Aloe Vera Gel and whatever oil I reach for in the cabinet.
I went through a product junkie phase when I first went natural because I was still trying to figure out what I liked and what I didn't like in my hair. Now that I am a more "seasoned natural," I know what works for my hair and really try things now to see if I want to include them in my regimen. The PJ in me isn't as bad anymore - LOL!
CN: How do you maintain your hair at night?
The style I want to maintain will determine my maintenance. When I am wearing twists/braids or trying to set a style, I simply sleep on my Hair Bonnet Satin Pillow Case. It's by Hair-Routine and it's an actual pillowcase that looks EXACTLY like a hair bonnet. I also like to travel with it. If I am wearing my hair loose (in a twist-out, braid-out or curls) and don't mind it growing into a larger style over days, I will simply pineapple my hair or even sleep with nothing at all. If I am wearing my hair straight, I wrap it just like I did in my relaxed days and I use oil to keep it smooth. I also sleep with a hair wrap. It really all depends on how I am feeling and what style I am going for.
CN: How do you maintain healthy length?
I maintain length by keeping my hair moisturized and I drink A LOT of water. I believe that growth starts from the inside out. If you take care of your body from the inside by eating the right foods and drinking plenty of water, your hair will grow. Once it sprouts, you have to make sure you moisturize it, paying special attention to the ends as they are the oldest parts of your hair and need the most TLC. Protect those babies and your hair will reach lengths you never thought it could.
Right now, I am not really on a "length" journey but rather just "health." Like I said, healthy hair WILL grow, I just prefer to keep mine cut in a shape and right now, I love my sides being shaved!
CN: What's the best thing about being curly?
The best thing about being curly is my freedom to just "be." I love that sometimes my curls are very defined, other days they are big and fluffy, and sometimes they are indistinguishable. It makes everything interesting and fits my personality. It's definitely not boring! If I choose to alter my hair in any way style-wise, I know that when all is said and done, I can return to who I am - the curly girl with the free spirit.
CN: Where can folks find you on the web?
My blog: steelfeatherlaceelephant.com