I have been natural since I was a child. So that’s about 20 years.
Did you transition or big chop?
I transitioned. When I was younger, my mother had my hair relaxed. But she found that when she did, my hair responded terribly. Broken ends, massive shedding; it was completely different from the head of hair she knew, pre-chemicals. So, thankfully, she stopped. I wore box braids and presses to transition and have been natural ever since.
Did you always appreciate your hair texture?
I did not. I was natural as a teenager. It was a moment in my life where, like many teenagers, I didn’t want to be different from my peers. It was also at a moment in culture when being natural was not, well…natural. For a very long time, I wore box braids in perpetuity because I thought my natural hair was not lovely/long/acceptable enough to wear as it grew from my scalp. For years, I would literally unbraid my hair and get it braided back up the same day. I was well into my twenties before I began to get curious about what was really going on under those box braids. What I found there was awesome. Tricky, but awesome, nevertheless.
How did family and friends react to your decision to go natural?
Generally, my family and friends have been very supportive. Frankly, because I spent so many years with my hair covered by braids, my friends and family are always excited to see my hair when it’s out. Interestingly, when I think about the few naysayers and side-eyers that I’ve had throughout the years, it occurs to me that ALL of them have since chosen to go natural themselves and some even count me as an advisor. As they say, better late than never.
What’s your current routine?
I have found that what works for me is a fairly simple routine using simple ingredients. My hair is quite fine and does not take kindly to being jostled and handled too often. So, I wash my hair weekly. Before I wash, I’ve begun to pre-poo with coconut oil and I’m finding that it works well. I wash with a mixture of two cups of water and two teaspoons of baking soda. I’ve tried so many products and hands down, nothing gets my hair and scalp cleaner (without feeling stripped). I dry with a cotton t-shirt (thanks for the tip, CurlyNikki!) and liberally apply Karen’s Body Beautiful Luscious Locks Mask, which I leaave in overnight and then wash out. As much as I love my natural curls, I’ve found that left unstretched, my strands wage a kind of civil war up there—tangles, dry ends and SSKs, ad nauseum. So, in the warmer months, I stretch my hair using bantu knots or perm rods, which I set with a bit of Jane Carter’s Wrap and Roll. When the weather is cooler, I blow my hair out using a pic attachment and Carol’s Daughter Heat Protection Serum. I regularly wear my hair in protective styles and use Aveda Control Paste to smooth and manage my edges. Plus, I use the opportunity to use a bit of coconut oil on ends, since they will be tucked in anyway.
I’ve also begun to incorporate an internal routine. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a donut here and there, but I also make sure to get my dark leafy greens in at least 3-4 times a week and I have my fill of sushi and other good proteins. I’ve also recently discovered that I’m a little anemic, so I made sure to include iron-rich foods on my plate.
Finally, I try to have foresight; If I know that I’m going to be crazy busy and by extension, neglectful of my hair, I will proactively put my hair in a long-term protective style, like braids. I know myself; it’s not always going to be coconut oil and satin pillows. Long workdays mean that I’m going use my free time to rest and not wax poetic about the virtues of hair sealants. Early mornings mean hair scraped back, with a brush (Go’head and clutch those pearls now, lol) and not much caution. So, rather than subject my hair to my madness, I’ll put it in braids, spend an extra 15 minutes per morning in bed or preparing for the day ahead and end up with an inch or so of new growth. Seems like a win-win, if you ask me.
Night time routine?
I try not to sleep in my protective styles if I’ve used a rubber band or clip or some sort. Instead, I take the style out, use coconut oil on my ends and braid my hair in four sections. No matter what, I always try to wear a silk scarf to bed.
What’s your favorite thing about being natural?
Without a doubt, my favorite thing about being natural is the versatility. In one month, my hair has the potential to be short, long, cropped, wavy, kinky or super straight. It can change with my mood, my style or my task and I enjoy it thoroughly. And even though you only asked for one thing, I have a subset ‘favorite thing:’ Confidence. Although I’m excited to see that being natural is on-trend, it was not always the case and despite current popularity, it’s not always admired. With that in mind, choosing to wear my hair naturally is a kind of act of resistance; a brazen act of confidence that implicitly makes people recognize that I am (or on a journey to get) comfortable in my own skin.
Got anything else?
I would just add that I’m still learning about my hair, but I’ve already picked up two important lessons along the way:
1. What you do with your hair is personal. Please don’t let other people (natural or otherwise) shame, judge or ostracize you for the choices you make with your own head.
2. Most times, the simplest answer really, really is the right one. The natural community is amazing and the enthusiasm and DIY spirit is literally contagious. But I had to learn that sometimes, the remedy for ‘dry hair without split ends’ isn’t ‘eye of newt!’ or ‘unicorn tears!’ It’s pretty much just…’wet, seal, tuck, repeat’.