by Lisa Michelle via NaturallyCurly.com
Beginning your natural hair journey can be overwhelming. It can be hard to process all the information that is available today. I’ve been on this road now for more than seven years and I’m still learning new tips, tricks and techniques everyday. Sometimes I wish I could share some of the knowledge I’ve gained with my younger natural self. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had one of those, “If I only knew then what I know now” natural hair moments.
For all of your newly naturals, here’s a few things I wish I had known way back then.
It’s a Big Decision
I wish I really grasped the magnitude of going natural at the onset. In 2004, I simply cut my hair off and resumed my normal daily activities. It wasn’t a big deal for me. I cut my hair because I was in the mood for a change. There wasn’t a big “movement” back then, or at least not one I was aware of. I didn’t “transition” in the way we think about it today, nor was I member of a natural hair forum. There wasn’t a whole lot of information readily available like there is today.
I kept my routine extra simple, wearing wash-and-go styles and using minimal products. I was NOT a product junkie then! When my hair started growing and I entered that awkward stage, I had no idea how to manage it. Instead of embracing my curls, I flat ironed them the first chance I got and subjected by hair to heat damage. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how fragile my hair really was.
Myth: Natural Hair is Stronger Than Straight Hair
That brings me to the first myth I wish I had not believed. Natural hair is not stronger than relaxed hair. In fact, it has many more points at which to break. Every bend, every curl, every ringlet is an opportunity for breakage if you don’t properly care for your hair.
Natural Hair is NOT Relaxed Hair
After my second big chop in 2006, I pretty much wore braids to get me through my awkward phase the second time around. This was good in the sense that it was a protective style, but I didn’t know anything about deep conditioning or taking care of my hair outside of the braids. I bought a bunch of “good” products for my hair, and although they would’ve worked great on my relaxed hair, they were no benefit to my new natural hair.
Even after my heat damage experience, I continued to go through the process of washing, blow drying then flat ironing. I was fighting a losing battle trying to keep my sleek style in the Houston heat and humidity. Had I known how truly versatile my hair was, I would’ve embraced my natural curls instead of trying to force my hair into styles that weren’t complimentary to my wild and gorgeous mane.
I wish I had realized early on in my journey that natural hair is different from relaxed hair. You may need to use different products to attain the best results with your natural hair. Many naturalistas find that using more natural products yields the best styles. These products usually are designed with your natural hair in mind.
Myth: Water is Your Enemy
Your natural hair needs water! Your relaxed hair may despise water (mine did), but your natural hair absolutely needs it. Most of the people I’ve talked to or met who describe their hair as being dry are not giving their hair enough moisture. Water is the only true and consistent moisturizer, and if your hair doesn’t have it, then it’s not getting enough moisture! As naturals, we have to separate our thinking from relaxed to natural. Water is your best friend!
Not All Natural Hair is The Same
This may seem obvious, but all natural hair is not the same! You have to take the time to learn about the unique needs of YOUR hair. I can tell you all day what works for my hair, but what works for me may not work for you.
What I can say with a high degree of certainty is that there are particular styles that work well across the board. Twist outs, braid outs, bantu knots and mini twists are universal styles whether you have 2A or 4C hair. Have fun with your hair, experiment, try new things and enjoy the freedom that being natural brings.
Myth: Natural Hair Isn’t Worth It
I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t go through all that I have been through. Sometimes I wish I had been able to take a class on being natural. It’s hard learning on your own, but if you don’t go through certain experiences, how will you appreciate how good you actually have it?
It is okay not to know everything when you begin your natural hair journey. Part of the fun is learning. I don’t have all the answers, but I think if there were more places spreading reputable information about natural hair care, then more people would be encouraged to make the change.
my tip would be to leave it be. I overdid it at the beginning with wanting to try every style technique and product I saw and my hair suffered for it.
Thank you @WingsMassageBdw!! I know about the classes…are there any natural hair groups in your area? I'm not sure if there are any natural hair events or shows coming to your area but that would be the best opportunity to share and learn.
@Chicfashionmix I continued flat ironing my hair even AFTER I suffered heat damage…I didn't think it was bad because I was using a Chi flat iron, but it has a cumulative effect on your hair. I haven't put heat on my hair since Aug 2009 🙂
@surVIVEr28 detangling for me now is STILL a beast, but patience is key…and moisture! That's important too that you found what you needed to improve and not try to change everything just because someone else does it, people need to know that!
@anonymous you've got a good point with concern for the location your in, it will definitely play a part in your accessibility to certain things. Sticking with what works isn't always the easiest thing when you hear what 'so and so' may have tried and loved…it's all about learning YOUR hair 🙂
Thank you for the comments ladies!
1. I would have learned the detangling process early. But it did lead me to the internet (Thanks KimmayTube)
2. I would have realized that while water is your friend, hard water is not. So,I had to learn and use different methods. What worked best FOR ME: Chelating and clarifying shampoos and conditioners
3. For MY hair, washing it every week was not good, BUT making sure it stays detangled often is good.
4. BAD: Trying everything because it sounds good. I nearly drove myself nuts before I realize, what I was doing was working for me, i just needed to improve on ONE step (retaining moisture), NOT EVERYTHING.
i thought that when i became natural that my hair would be stronger and that i could flat iron when ever i want wrong!!! my hair kept breaking off i could not figure out why my hair would retain length i have stopped applying heat to my hair for 3 months my hair is longer i plan on flat ironing when i reach my hair goal not touching the flat iron anytime soon
Lisa Price: Great article. As a newbie I am finding inspiration and education from blogs such as this one as well as YouTube and every other site dedicated to natural hair (there are a lot of them and yes I've been to most if not all at some point :-). Seriously though, you may have been joking when you said "I wish I could have taken a class on how to be natural", well…I wish you or some of the other natural ladies would think about offering a traveling workshop. I'm in the Boston area and we REALLY REALLY need it up here where there are virtually no natural hair salons! Believe me, if you held one here I know I'd come and at least ten of my friends LOL!!
Tonya Taylor aka NaturalLadyTee
I would agree with all you are saying and then:
Be aware that other things come into play, like locality.People from all over the world read these pages, so needs will be different, ie for somebody living in the UK, mainland Europe or the Carribean in terms of protective styling and care. That it maybe tough, people may feel threatened, envious or both and some people will have no hesitation in telling you so.
That its about trials and tribulations to work out what your hair likes best. It maybe something organic, but it may also be a cheap shop own brand. Don't feel guilty, its about your hair, not mine!
Be patient. Its not only you thats changing, its your hair as well.Your hair is also trying to work out what the hell is going on as well.
Be comfortable. Many people keep their hair relaxed because they say they work in corporate or in a very white environment.The more white people see our natural hair and the beauty of it, the more they will get used to it and the more they will get to love it just like us!
I'm the author (Lisa Michelle, not Lisa Price but it's all good lol!) I'm THRILLED to see MY article make it to CurlyNikki.com! I've been natural for 7 years and have been through a lot…this is just a snippet of some things that I've learned along my journey. I definitely agree Anonymous #1 that it's the bends in the hair that are the weak points, not necessarily implying that relaxed hair is stronger than natural hair (I got that question a lot when I first began my journey!) To me, natural hair is still "just hair" and sometimes people make too much of a big deal about it. I'm not sure how I turned into a product junkie, but I think now that there are more (natural) products on the market geared towards naturals it makes it hard NOT to want to try different things. I found CurlyNikki, NaturallyCurly, Nappturality, MotownGirl, and YouTube at the same time and that has really led me to want to take better care of my hair. I'm so appreciative of hearing what other people have to say about the topic 🙂 I was encouraged to start my own blog because of some of the aforemention people, check it out if you like! www.thishairofmine.com
I transitioned for 13 months (started June 2010). I cut the remaining perm out of my hair July of this year. Like most new curlies, I became a product junkie. I've learned that my hair truly enjoys simplicity and very, very, very little product (emphasised added). Water, coconut oil, and my homemade aloe vera oil spritz are my staple products. I now have all of these products stored in my bathroom cubbard wasting away. I'm probably going to have a kinky-curly hair care products yard sell. One other thing is that I had to understand that I have hair that is extremely porous. My hair always looks dry, even after doing my daily spritzing every morning and every night. I was over oling my hair thinking that my moisturizing technique was not working, but it was working because I have little or no breakage. My hair is very healthy, course, and very, very thick. So, you new curlies, watch spending on products, less maybe better for your hair, and just because your hair looks dry does not mean that it is not being properly moisturized. Take care all.
I've always been natural, but that does not mean I knew how to take care of my hair aside from pressing/flat ironing it. I wish I knew:
How to detangle properly
The importance of protective styles
The best/healthy products for MY hair
Patience – both in hair care and in length retention
I am so glad that sites like this are out because I doubt I would be going natural this early if they weren't.
I learned so much from Nappturality too!
Years ago I was committed to being natural in every aspect of my life and it worked until I saw a new stylist to save money. So I would tell my past self to continue seeing the expensive natural stylist who for years took great care of my mid-back growth back in the day. I would've avoided a bunch of know-nothing scrubs who I let blow out, flat iron, color and texturize me into uneven cuts, protein damage, fried ends and massive hair loss.
Also, I would've stayed tried and true to shampoo, detangling conditioner and water and oil only. Everything else has been a waste.
Interesting article. But with all due respect to CN, prior to CN there was Nappturality. I learned so much there. And then I learned a lot on Motown Girl and Lonnice Bonner's book Good Hair. Of course each one of these people had their strengths and weaknesses. But let's not forget the people who paved the way for boards such as these and for us earlier naturals. And also there are a list of YTers who were leading the way before the blogs became popular.
It's really not that serious…when I went natural I just cut off my perm and kept it moving…a lot of people try to make it seem like it's this huge momentous situation when it really shouldn't be…but I digress…articles like these confirm that the "it's just hair possee" can really be a farce…but I digress again
I'm transitioning now. I wish I could have told myself to do this years ago. I've had the benefit of having sites like this one and You Tube from day 1 of my transition, so I feel lucky. It still takes lots of patience. Oh, and I would have told myself about Henna too!
Re: all natural hair is not the same, I would add:
1. Everyone's hair will not grow at the same rate. When it comes to hair growth, a healthy hair care regimen, reasonable goal setting, and patience are essential.
2. Don't get too wrapped up in hair typing since many naturals have more than one texture. The 1-4 hair typing system doesn't account for thickness, density, and porosity which are also important in learning what will/won't work for your own hair. For example, I would be considered mostly 3c but my strands are thick and dense, so I tend to look to 4a/b types for style inspiration and healthy hair tips.
I would tell my natural self to be careful when taking supplements. Some vitamins can reek havoc on sensitive skin!! I made the mistake of taking biotin without reading some other naturals stories about it. I have very sensitive skin and a lot things will break it out. Well, biotin did. I went crazy tryin to figure out why and stumbled across a forum where other curlies had similar reactions to the vitamin. I realized the my skin issues started when I started the supplement, stopped and noticed better skin within a week!! Of course, this is NOT everyone's experience with it, but had I known the side effects, I wouldn't have even tried! Now I just try to eat healthier.
I would tell my newly natural self to moisturize like crazy.
There was a point in time that I didn't moisturize as my hair needed, especially during the winter months.
I'm from Barbados, and there's no winter there. Didn't know just how drying and damaging to my hair winter could be.
As a person that is still in the middle of transitioning, I wish I had learned about de-tangling methods early. The first three months of transition was easy. I used to get my hair relaxed every 2-3 months anyway. I washed, deep conditioned and flat ironed my hair once a week. But the fourth month came along, and my hair was a tangled mess after washing. Looking for help on my tangling problem led me to the natural world on the internet, including this site. I managed to save most of my hair, but I really wished I knew those techniques from month one! Newbies who are doing long term transitioning, get your de-tangling info early, don't wait for month 4-5.
Second advice, I would have given myself, use sulfate free shampoo or co-wash right away.
I would tell my newly natural self that (Creamy) "Crack is one helluva drug".
I had a texturizer applied to my 8 month new growth thinking it would make my 4c curls turn to 4a looser coils. EPIC FAIL!
I was so hurt and saddened by my limp frizzy mullet, I told the stylist to cut it off.
The relaxer monkey was on my back for a looong time, but after 3 years natural, I don't feel the urge anymore.
I call it "relaxer recidivism", and it was rough on me because I hadn't learned yet that my hair was "fine", "thin" and "porous", and would never look like the YouTube girls with thick, dense, 4a curls.
I wish I had found CurlyNikki.com earlier
**sobs and wipes away a solitary tear**
I wasted so much growth, money, and time by runnning from product to product, jumping on and falling off the latest bandwagons. *sigh*
No. I have to make a quick correction.
natural hair is stronger than relaxed hair.
in relaxed hair the bonds that make the hair curly are brooken in order to make it straight. thats why a hair dresser will always tell u that the perm weakens the hair n that u have to care for it this way or that way. (Thank Jesus i stopped doing that to myself). The bends in our hair are a weakeness. But not as big a deal as hair thats been chemically changed.
but it is weaker than straight hair. naturally straight hair.
sorry to rant. didnt like that part of the article. Im just looking out for newbies 🙂
Henna and Deep condition. These two things completely changed my hair for the better.