I didn’t really plan on big chopping my hair or going natural, it was an ‘accidental’ BC. In between my (dangerously tight) weaves, I noticed that my previously thinning edges had now balded severely and I didn’t have enough to start my weave at the front of my hairline. It looked really terrible. I have pics on my blog, NapturalNicole.com as a cautionary tale! Knowing the damage I’d done, I still convinced myself that all I needed to do was get my ‘ends clipped’ and take a short break between weaves. CRAZY TALK! I explained to the stylist that I just wanted ‘my damage cut off’ and I walked out with a short, fluffy TWA. I guess she listened Ha ha! It wasn’t long enough for a weave, and it was too short for me to braid. I didn’t have a choice but to figure out what to do. That’s when I Googled styles and stumbled upon CurlyNikki and the amazing online natural hair community. It’s one of the best mistakes I’ve ever made! My official ‘unofficial’ Big Chop day is November 9, 2011.
Big Chopping wasn’t my choice. TWA’s exude confidence, make you stand out from the ‘weavey masses,’ and scream “I like me!” but if you’re not ready for that THEN DON’T BIG CHOP!!! So many ladies think you have to shave your head to go natural. Some ladies ‘Big Chop’ when they’ve been natural for years, just the last bit of relaxed ends! I highly recommend transitioning (even though I BCed) to allow you to prepare and take time to learn your hair without the shock and demands of a whole new look.
Had you always embraced your texture?
I’m 18 months into my natural hair journey, and I’m still working on getting used to the new me. Natural girls are usually the perfectionists of curly world; we will spend HOURS just trying to mix the best Deep Conditioner, right?! And like a true natural girl, I am never satisfied with my ‘not thick enough, not long enough, not shiny enough’ curls.
Don’t get me wrong, though! I LOVE being natural. My hair is healthy, strong, beautiful, and I feel liberated from the world of perms and ‘mandatory’ weaves. I’m empowered by the ability to make myself look fabulous without any add-ons or alterations. I have confidence now! But after wearing weaves for 12+ years non stop (yikes!), I am still adjusting to seeing the new me and getting used to being just as glam in my fro as I was in my long Kim Kardashian weaves.
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?
Starting your natural hair journey is tough enough when you aren’t faced with external criticism. It’s terrible when newbie naturals have to deal with the negative perspective of those closest to them. Most of the reactions are due to unfamiliarity with natural hair, confusion, jealously, or downright ignorance. No matter what the reaction you receive, it’s important to remember that it’s your journey and no one should deter you from it.
That said, I have been very fortunate to have a supportive husband, fellow natural sister, AND a best friend who is a hardcore curly. And most importantly, I have the support of a great career, because my initial product junkism nearly bankrupted me! Hahaha!
Describe your hair (fine or coarse, thin or thick, highly porous, low, etc.)
I know some curlies don’t ascribe to the whole hair typing biz, but for those that do my hair type is uniformly Type 4A, if you follow Andre Walker’s hair-typing system (Oprah Winfrey’s long-time hairstylist). For additional clarity, it’s a spiral-shaped fine-textured, low-density and low-porosity curl pattern. Phew! That’s a mouthful!
What’s your current hair routine? How often do you wash, condition, and style? favorite products! Deets!
Do you have two weeks for me to go into all of it? Zola the Fro’la (The birth name of my Hair) has very demanding needs! Ha Ha! Here we go:
Hair Cleansing Schedule
Co Wash: Every 3 days (if hair isn’t in protective style)
‘Shampoo’: Every two weeks
Step One: Dry (with Olive Oil) Finger Detangling
To begin my wash process, I carefully divide my hair into four sections, and use butterfly clips to hold each section back. Next, I apply Extra Virgin Olive Oil to each section and use my fingers (NO COMBS) to gently remove sure hairs using a clap and drag method. I am sure not to over-detangle. I don’t separate any curl or clump that would be big enough to slip through a wide-tooth comb. This keeps my hair from being frizzy, or suffering excess manual breakage. The remaining detangling can be done in the shower, under running water with conditioner. I spend as long as necessary to detangle my hair but never longer than 1 hour. This may change as my hair grows longer. Using Olive Oil provides the added advantage of ‘pre-pooing’ my hair, adding extra moisture to my strands prior to washing. (30 mins)
Step Two: Washing
Co Wash Method: I use my cheapie conditioner (Aussie Moist as of 05/13) to wash each section of my hair twice. I make a point to use the pads of my fingers to scrub my scalp to remove buildup and loosen shed hairs. When finished washing the section but before rinsing, I use the ‘Clap’ method. I close my hands at root of the section, and drag them down slowly. This carefully removes shed hairs, and helps direct my cuticles downwards to smooth the hair. (20 mins)
‘Shampoo’ Method: I mix a traditional batch of bentonite clay and apply to my sectioned damp hair. I cover with a shower cap. I allow the product to sit for 30 minutes, then rinse using the ‘Clap’ method described above. If I’m feeling lazy, and want to use a bottle shampoo, I use Jessicurl Cleansing Cream. It’s got so much slip, I can detangle while I shampoo. (20 mins)
Step Three: Deep Conditioning
Using Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Deep Conditioner (as of 05/13), I apply to each section of my hair from roots to tip. Then I apply Giovanni Smooth as Silk Conditioner to just the ends of my hair. Occasionally, I’ll add Olive Oil to my hair as well. I sit under a heat cap for 45 mins-1 hour, then rinse with lukewarm water. (1 hour)
Step Four: Moisturizing, Sealing and Style- L.O.C. Method- Liquid, Oil, Cream
To my freshly rinsed, still damp, sectioned hair, I then I apply a quarter-sized amount of Kinky Curly Knot Today Leave-In Conditioner to each section. Next, I apply a dime-sized amount of Giovanni Direct Leave In Conditioner to the ends of my hair in each section. Once the moisturization portion is complete, I seal in the moisture a with a quarter-sized dollop of my Homemade Crisco Creme applied to the full length of each section. Once my hair is properly sealed and dry, I am ready to style! (20 mins)
Here’s a list of my current MUST have products:
(I am in no way affiliated with any of these companies)
• Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner
• Crisco Creme (Yes Ma’am- old school solidified soybean/palm oil shortening- I whip and mix this with a few ingredients to create the world’s best moisture locking sealant!- it’s the truth!)
• Trader Joe’s Extra Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil
• Kinky Curly Knot Today Leave-In Conditioner
• Giovanni Direct Leave In Conditioner
• Giovanni Smooth as Silk Conditioner
• Aztec Secret Bentonite Clay Powder
• Extra Virgin Olive Oil
How do you maintain your hair at night?
Would you believe that I use the same satin sleep scarf I have had since the 8th grade?! That’s TWELVE years ago people! It’s that serious.
Satin scarves are used in the natural hair community for a variety of purposes:
-To preserve a hairstyle from becoming frizzy while you toss and turn on your pilllow.
-To keep your hair off your face and neck while you cook and garden
-To encourage curly, short, frizzy edges to smooth out and flatten
and most importantly:
-To retain moisture and prevent breakage from friction and moisture absorption of the cotton pillowcases that many of us sleep on.
While I have used my scarf and sleep bonnet for all of the reasons above, the last one is the biggest motivation for me. Honestly, it feels WEIRD to sleep with my hair exposed now – I have a hard time doing it – and my hair looks fabulous because of my commitment. What’s the point of having a regimen, and moisturizing those locks, only to wake up the next morning with dry, frizzy, damaged hair? Everyone in my house knows it’s a five alarm fire drill when I can’t find my scarf before bedtime! It’s THAT serious! Haha.
How do you maintain healthy length?
Healthy length is about the entire regimen, not just a specific ‘trick/tip/step.’ However, there is one element that holds true as the overall biggest factor in my length retention: maintaining an effective protein vs. moisture balance in my hair. Early in my journey, I read somewhere that protein causes breakage, so I avoided it like the plague. And it’s only partially true! After ANY protein treatment you have to deep condition your hair because you’ve strengthened it, and you don’t want it to be hard, and snap off. After those three months of no protein, I ran out and bought a hardcore treatment, made by Aphogee, and that stopped my breakage immediately. I swore by Aphogee until February 2013. I read an article by the awesome Shelli Gillis of Hairscapades. In it, she details her wash regimen, and explains how she uses Aubrey Organics Glycogen Protein Balance before her wash process as a pre-poo! GENIUS! I have always used olive oil to finger detangle and pre-poo on wash days, but with longer hair (woot!) it’s less effective and I need a product with more ‘slip.’ This is the answer.
What’s the best thing about being curly?
I absolutely love the versatility. I can look like a naturally straight haired girl on Tuesday, and a chic Fro’ed out girl on Thursday. Braids, buns, weaves, and wigs, we can do it all. And with all of that, ultimately, it’s about being able to say three little words: “it’s all mine!”
Where can folks find you on the web?
You can follow my journey, laugh/learn from my mistakes, and check out DIY recipes at my natural hair blog: www.NapturalNicole.com. I’m also trying to stay ‘hip’ and ‘cool’ so you can also find me here: NapturalNicole on Instagram, @NapturalNicole onTwitter, my YouTube tutorial channel- http://www.youtube.com/user/NapturalNicole, and of course, curlistas can always e-mail me directly (I respond to EVERY email/instagram/tweet/youtube comment) at firstname.lastname@example.org.