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Curly Nikki

On The Couch with Ernessa T. Carter

By January 27th, 202116 Comments
Ernessa, author of 32 CANDLES, editor of, and self proclaimed nerd, shares a few pearls of wisdom.

On The Couch with Ernessa T. Carter

If you’re single, don’t spend more time on your hair than you do on dating. That advice pops up in my next novel, and I think it extends to all relationships. If I spent three hours on my hair last night but haven’t talked with any friends or family all week, then I consider that a fail, and I rescale my routine accordingly.

When I’m frustrated with my natural, then I change my hairstyle. I don’t want to say that Curly Nikki is magical or anything, but whenever I’m sick of my current hairstyle, it seems like this website comes through with one I haven’t tried before.

Being a true nerd, I have problems with severe dry scalp (dermatitis seborrheic). So I had to cobble together my own special hair care routine. Every Friday night, I deep condition with this all-natural Hair Garden recipe, and leave it on all night under a plastic cap. Then every Saturday morning, I shampoo my hair with Giovanni’s Tea Tree Oil Shampoo. And detangle in the shower with Herbal Essence’s Hello Hydration. On Wednesday mornings, I co-wash with Giovanni TeaTree Conditioner. I’m a busy mother, so I’m in love with wash and gos. I usually put in Giovanni’s Direct Leave-in, work Oyin Handmade Whipped Pudding through my hair, top it off with some Ecostyler and go’on about my business.

I have a bad etsy addiction, and wear a lot of hairbands that I find on there. If you have the right accessories, a wash n’ go is great for every day of the week.

Once a month, I do a big Neurtogena T-gel Wash, lathering twice before letting it sit on my scalp for 10 minutes. I turn off the shower and dance while I do this. Good for the environment and a bit o’ exercise.

If I know I won’t have time or access for a mid-week co-wash b/c of travel or what-not, then after my Saturday wash, I apply the Giovanni Direct-Leave-In, put my hair into two french braids all day, and do this braided twist-out that night. At the end of the week, I have to do the big Neutrogena T-gel Wash to control the dry scalp.

On The Couch with Ernessa T. CarterWhen I really want my hair to pop, I wear a blowout afro. I split my hair into six sections. Apply both glycerin and almond oil, do most of the comb-out work on the cool setting, then only use heat for about 30 seconds toward the end. But I only do this for special-special occasions. The last time I did it was at Easter. And I won’t do it again until my first book signing this Monday in LA.

If you like me, are always finding yourself having to go to events with no time to even do a wash and go, this super-easy updo will save your life and earn you tons of compliments. I also love frohawks, which are a great last-minute style.

Go see a dermatologist, if you have or think you might have dry scalp issues like I do. I suffered through it for years, until I went to see a doctor about it. She gave me a gel that cleared it up in like two weeks. I felt real silly for not going earlier.

On The Couch with Ernessa T. CarterI’ve undergone two big chops. When I was 17, I transitioned for a year, then went to a male barber for the big chop. There were no natural hair salons that I knew of in St. Louis back then, and this was also before the internet, so my TWA was not fashionable — like at all. About a year later I had it cut again, and this time kept it very short, and just wore big earrings. After my mother died unexpectedly when I was in college, I grew out my hair for about a year and got dreadlocks, which I kept for 12 years. Two years ago, I big chopped those, and less than a year later, I had quit my job, gotten pregnant, scored an agent and a book deal. I think I’ll cut my hair again the next time I feel like I need a luck infusion.

Some people say that having a natural style keeps you from getting guys. I would argue that it thins out the herd and ups the number of authentic men who approach you. In general you don’t want any man that is only attracted to black women with relaxed hair. If you’re blaming your hair for being single, you’re probably transferring. The simple truth is that there are tons of single sisters with perms. The hard truth is that it’s never your hair keeping you single. I loved dating as a natural woman.

There’s this myth that goes around unchecked. Black people say that you won’t be able to get a job if you have natural hair. Most of my successful friends are naturals. The CEO of Xerox is natural. Point me to any professional career field and I can find you a successful natural sister within it. I don’t care if a woman prefers a relaxer, but I hate when she lies about her motivations for having one and makes it seem like she’s somehow more successful than a woman with natural hair, when that’s simply not true.

I think being natural automatically gives you more confidence and a stronger personality.

I made the main character of my novel natural for emotional — rather than political reasons. Also, I loved the thought of giving someone a complete makeover with natural hair as her crowning glory.

I don’t proselytize to people with perms anymore. It occurred to me that if I want people to accept me I have to accept them. Plus I think telling other women to go natural can easily cross the line into patronization. We’re all grown, and we all know our options. I think we should try to respect each other’s hair decisions.

Still, I’m surprised that more people don’t discuss how much time and money is saved by going natural. That’s the number one reason to have natural hair, in my opinion. I never would have survived my starving artist years with a perm.

Also, I would never loan money to someone with a weave. If a friend with a maintained weave claims to be broke, I’m like “No, you’re not.”

Ernessa T. Carter is the author of 32 CANDLES and the editor of 32 CANDLES is the Essence Book Club Recommended Read for July 2010 and can be purchased here.


  • modest-goddess says:

    this was a great interview

  • Unknown says:

    You're beautiful, Ernessa, in all your manifestations. If I were a black woman, I would take all your hair advice. As a white man, I can still take some of it, and I can absorb the whole attitude of embracing the natural to be stronger. I believe it.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have saved TONS of money since not only ceasing to relax my hair and go to the salon as well. I would spend money on wash and sets, blowouts, relaxers, dyeing etc. I never used to do my own hair because it never came out as good. I would go every 2-3 wks. Also since transitioning and going natural my hair is healthier from doing it myself because a lot of salons don't want to take the time to properly and carefully detangle and be gentle with my hair and all they want to do is blowdry or straighten it.
    EVerything Ernessa said was so powerful and TRUE!

  • JazBNatural says:

    I loved this! Its very helpful information. And lol @ "I would never loan money to someone with a weave." hahaha
    This is the best guest post I have read in a while, I'm gonna have to visit that site now.

  • TMS says:

    Thanks to this wonderful "On The Couch" interview, I just purchased Ernessa's book. I love a good read and I'm sure I won't be disappointed because this interview was a joy to read.

  • Anonymous says:

    Loved her! And she is right, we don't discuss how much natural hair saves you. My number one reason for going natural was for financial reasons. I would spend $60 every two weeks. Granted I got braids and weave and that would also cost much, but as my hair grows I won't even think twice at getting them. Therefore, in the long run, it really saves me money. Great post!

  • Anonymous says:

    Love this..I must adopt the weave policy

  • Anonymous says:

    Very good "On The Couch" interview. Wonderful words of wisdom as well as a great sense of humor. Loved it! I will most certainly be finding out more about her book.


  • Unknown says:

    Amazing article. I loved the depth. I totally agree with all of her points.

  • Unknown says:

    This is one of the best "On the Couch" interviews I've seen. ITA with the comment she made re: the myth about naturals in the workplace, and a lot of her other comments as well.

  • ToyaToy says:

    I love the statement about natural hair and how it thins out the herd so the real guys step up.. loved the way she put that!

  • Unknown says:

    Loved this post! Great tidbits of advice and wisdom to definitely keep in mind =)

  • Matice says:

    I had seborrheic dermatitis also for years. I went to the dermatologist in 07 and he told me to wash with Neutrogena T-gel everyday for a month. He also prescribed me the liquid clobetasol propionate to apply to my scalp everyday after washing. By 3 weeks, it was all cleared up. It returned about a year later (because seborrheic dermatitis is not curable) and I did this regimen again and havn't had it since. Clobetasol is only $5 depending on what type of insurance you have and Neutrogena T-Gel is at any Walgreens.

  • Anonymous says:

    What a wonderful post! Full of wonderful pearls of wisdom and humor. Now I'm sure I want to check out your book! :-)

  • Anonymous says:

    That never loan money to someone with a weave comment was priceless and HILARIOUS! Thanks for the morning laugh!

  • always4evamoi says:

    oh wow i love this…this was a great list to read…must definitely keep this in mind and read it again every other day lol..that last statement was priceless lolol…love it…thank you :)

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