Were you a slow transitioner or a Big Chopper & why?
It took about three failed attempts to go natural before I finally took the "plunge" and committed for good in 2006, a few months after moving to the DC metro area for work. During my last successful attempt I tried to grow out my relaxed hair, and since I didn't have a clue what to do with transitioning hair, I would just give up and head over to the salon for my dose of creamy crack aka relaxer. Then, while on a walk around Old Town, Alexandria one Saturday afternoon, I discovered a small sign in the window of a salon named Studio 116 that read "we specialize in natural hair." I immediately went in and met Ann Surat, natural hair goddess and curl savior. After making an appointment with her for a consultation, I began my transition with her help. Instead of doing the Big Chop, I chose to transition slowly, cutting off the relaxer gradually as the new growth came in. In the meantime, Ann would twist my hair and provide me with valuable advice about my hair's texture, styling techniques, products, and proper care and maintenance. What I love about her is that she didn't try to pressure me into doing anything and worked with me. Although I'm a lot more confident with styling my hair now, I still go to her for color and cuts. Over the years she has since moved to different locations but she's a member of my family now so seeing her is not just about my hair, which incidentally, is the name of her salon business, Not Just Hair. :)
The entire growing out process took about six months, and within a year I went from thin, brittle, relaxed hair that refused to grow past my chin to ridiculously big, beautiful, and most importantly healthy, natural curls. I didn't know what to expect as far as texture but after my second year of being natural, I had more hair than I knew what to do with!
Had you always embraced your texture?
Yes! I didn't know what to expect texture-wise when I transitioned but I didn't care. I just wanted healthy hair because to be honest, my hair was so damaged and thin from chemical relaxers, I thought I was going bald. So when I saw what my real hair texture was, I couldn't have been happier.
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?
When I made the decision I honestly didn't tell anyone. I knew I was making the right decision, I just needed to make that first step! I'm Dominican, and I come from a hair culture that has perfected the art of straightening even the coarsest of hair textures. Going natural was concept I couldn't even conceive of as a child or even a young adult for that matter because I was trained to think that my hair was really, really coarse and difficult to manage without a chemical relaxer, roller set, and a blow out. I didn't know how to go natural so when I made the attempt, I had no clue what I was doing.
After I went natural, I received nothing but positive feedback from friends and family. They were happy for me and also proud of me for making such a big step. Now people tell me that my curls suit me the best and it’s become part of my identity. The funniest reaction did come from my Mom. A year after my transition, she asked me what I was doing to get my hair so curly. She honestly didn't realize that my curls were natural, bless her heart! After I told her, she suspiciously decided to stop relaxing her hair as well. I like to think I was a good influence on my Mom. :)
Describe your hair (fine or coarse, thin or thick, highly porous, low, etc.)
Although I have a fine texture, it’s very thick but not porous so it needs moisture, moisture, moisture!
What's your current hair routine? How often do you wash, condition, and style? favorite products! Deets!
I wash my hair about twice a week in the winter and up to 3 times a week in the summer because I work out and sweat a ton! I'm a product whore so if I see a new natural hair product or receive a good recommendation from a fellow curly girl I like to give it a go. I've also started sampling products from Natural Hair Box. It's a service where you get product samples specifically for curly hair every month. What I like about this particular service is that you are encouraged to leave feedback about the products you receive so it's very much a community. When I started transitioning there were very few all natural products products on the market for natural textures that didn't contain sulfates or chemicals, which only serve to strip hair of its natural oils. It's nice to see more and more products that not only cater to natural textures, but are also all natural as well.
Lately, I've been using Shea Moisture shampoo and conditioners. They have all natural ingredients and are available at Target! I wash and condition with Shea Moisture's restorative shampoo and conditioner, and normally use Mixed Chicks leave-in conditioner. I also deep condition my hair at least once to every 2 weeks with either Shea Moisture or Moroccan oil. For styling I swear by Curly Magic Hair Stimulator by Uncle Funky's Daughter. It's all natural and defines my curls without making them crunchy like a normal gel would. I normally wear my curls out but since it can get very humid in the DC area during the summer months, I tend to wear it up in a bushy ponytail or have Ann twist in 2 strand or flat twists. I have also been experimenting with different styles like rolls, faux-hawks, and pompadours. Curly textures are so versatile, more so than even curly girls think, and I want to be able to wear it in many different styles. I very rarely wear it straight but when I do, I just have Ann press it out because it's just too much work for me!
How do you maintain your hair at night?
I don't apply any product and don't use any oils because it will weigh it down unless I'm trying to "refresh" my curls for the day. I do wear a satin cap or bandana to bed, not only to elongate the life of my curls but also to keep my hair out my face when I'm sleeping.
How do you maintain healthy length?
My hair grows pretty quickly and I attribute that to proper maintenance. I keep my hair as moisturized as possible and I also get my ends trimmed regularly. I think the key to gaining and maintaining length with curly hair is ensuring that your hair is as healthy as possible. Our hair is a lot more fragile than people think so health and maintenance is key.
What's the best thing about being curly?
The best thing about being curly is not making decisions about whether or not to do certain activities based on my hair. I can walk out in the rain without an umbrella, swim in a pool or the ocean, and work out until I'm a hot sweaty mess without worry. It's beyond liberating!
Where can folks find you on the web?
I'm on Twitter @BoHanchock
Pinterest at Boneza Hanchock
Instagram at @BonnieH79