Were you a slow transitioner or a Big Chopper & why?
I big chopped allllll the way. During high school, I went through a period of time when I would literally hate myself for consecutive days. I had also come to the realization that hair was the major source of my low self-esteem. I was heavily dependent on relaxers and weaves as confidence boosters, and even they began to feel like they weren’t doing me any real justice. Needless to say, I felt extremely uncomfortable. This became increasingly frustrating for me because I truly felt like I wasn’t able to really love or embrace the person I am. So the summer before my senior year, I decided to stop getting relaxers altogether, but still continued with getting braids or twists. I didn't transition per se, but my hair was already very thin and damaged and I needed a break. When I began my senior year, I told myself that I not only needed a change, but I had to change. I wanted to be liberated, and to learn how to love all of me, starting with my hair. So I began looking into the natural hair movement and was completely convinced that this was the route that I had to take. In December of 2010, I made "natural hair" one of my top New Year resolutions and on the 17th of that month and year, I completely big chopped.
Had you always embraced your texture?
Ha. Ha. I wish! Lol, no. I would have my "withdrawal" moments where I would actually considered getting a relaxer again many, many times during the 2-3 months following my big chop. I honestly thought my natural hair was not fitting on me. I was also a newly natural during the time of my prom so of course I started stressing as to how I was going to wear my hair to the big event. I wanted to get a really nice weave installed, but I didn't want to risk using heat or paying so much money to buy the hair. What ended up happening though is that I challenged myself into doing something I never considered: going natural to prom. So in April of 2011, I took my curls with me that night.
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 parents didn’t like the new look on me. But the funny thing is that they were the ones who helped buy my hair stuff when I first big chopped. Isn’t that ironic? So although they didn’t like it, they were still supportive of my decision if that makes sense. My friends were extremely helpful and encouraging all the way. I was very grateful for them and still am. They told me that my natural hair definitely fit me and my personality better.
Describe your hair.
Okay, I’m just going to admit that I’m not a big expert on porosity. That bit is probably over my head, so I had to do some research. From what I read, I have normal porosity. I have never straightened or color treated my hair since big chopping. My hair responds to moisture very well. I would say that I am a predominantly Type 4A with a 4B crown.The 4A pattern can be identified all over my hair with the looser, more defined curls, while 4B takes up the middle portion with tighter coils.
In terms of my hair being fine or coarse, it is a range of both and maybe somewhere in-between. The back sides of my hair are VERY coarse – I mean like extremely, but the rest of my head is finer. Oh, and popular to contrary belief, my hair is not as thick as it may look. It’s of medium density, with the top half having more density than the back of my head.
What's your current hair routine? How often do you wash, condition, and style? favorite products! Deets!
During the summer, I wash my hair once a week. But due to school, work and everything else, I now only wash every two weeks. I will usually detangle and then section in twists on Saturday night with a mixture of water and Tresemme Naturals Conditioners on dry hair. Even though water is listed as the first ingredient on the conditioner, I like to add more for slip when I detangle, it really helps! After detangling, I wear a plastic cap or bag (usually a bag—saves me money lol) overnight and then get ready for the real wash day. On Sunday morning, I will only shampoo my scalp with diluted Shea Moisture’s Moisture Retention Shampoo. Then I'll let the shampoo run down the rest of my hair strands by gently squeezing.
Then I’ll start the best part of the washing process: deep conditioning. I’m just going to say that I LOVE deep conditioning. I’m always like “yessssss lawwwwwd” when I’m washing it out! Since I rarely co-wash, DCs are my go-to thing and they are a heaven sent. My deep conditioner usually consists of Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner or Yes to Carrots (maybe both—I love them equally), raw organic honey, EVOO, expeller pressed castor oil and a few drops of rosemary oil. I rarely do protein treatments because they harden my hair, but if they are ever needed I add an egg or yogurt to the mix or replace the Honeysuckle Rose/Yes to Carrots conditioner with Aubrey Organics GPB conditioner instead. After I apply the DC, I leave it in for about 45 minutes. Then when I wash the conditioner out, I do an ACV rinse using the Bragg’s brand. (I usually just use ACV to get out any product buildup that may have been left on my scalp from the DC—I love my scalp clean). After that, I squeeze the excess water out of my hair with a cotton t-shirt, and begin the styling process. To style my hair I use a mixture of my leave in spray (Giovanni Direct, castor oil, and water) then apply my DIY Shea butter mix and braid or twist my hair.
How do you maintain your hair at night?
To maintain my hair at night, I wear a satin bonnet over the 9-12 twists or braids. I want to start using satin pillow or pillowcases, but the bonnet does a good job of protecting my hair. I also use good old plain water in a spray bottle to re-moisturize and also all over my scalp. I don’t oil my scalp or anything either. For me, that causes unnecessary itch, shedding, and buildup. I like my scalp clean and able to see, so I leave it alone--plus, I have sebum to count on :-)
How do you maintain healthy length?
I am a protective styling fiend!! My hair is hidden about 90% of the time. I don’t really have the time to style my hair when I would like to, and when I do others WILL know because I like taking photos on the rare days I wear my hair out. I have found that low manipulation has really helped in length retention, and using water as my number one moisturizer.
I have also found that minimizing the amount of products I use has realllly helped me grow my hair. I’m no guru, but I don’t believe that I need so many products to get my hair to thrive. Hair is always growing, for me it’s all about proper maintenance and how you handle your hair. A year ago, I experienced major hair breakage and extreme dryness from improper care, during which I had to cut about four inches of length off. I was SUPER upset, but I realized that it was beneficial, because now my hair is the healthiest that it has ever been. Patience is also a major factor in healthy hair length, because it took me a while to understand that “hair grows back,” after my big chop and especially after my haircut. Also, I realized the hard way that just because it’s growing, doesn’t make it healthy. Hair health is way more important than growth to me now.
What's the best thing about being curly?
The self-love. I always say that self-love is the best love, that’s my personal philosophy. You definitely acquire so much of that when you appreciate your curls, coils, or kinks. It’s truly as if you're really gaining a new and beautiful perspective about the person you are, and it’s both such a liberating and moving experience. I know that this journey has been like that for me. Also, being a college student and being exposed to all of the other curlies around me is great, too. It’s very inspiring and it motivates me to keep going.
Where can folks find you on the web?
You can find me on instagram! @taikafilat :-)