I love being natural. Nearly three years strong in the game and I wouldn’t change a thing — well sort of. While I’ve mastered the art of taming my mane, I must admit the road to achieving a bouncy, moisturized, curly coif was no crystal stair. Although the blogs, stylist heart-to-hearts and words of wisdom from friends helped a bit, there were a decent amount of tress tidbits I had to learn hard-knock style.
So, in the hopes of making your natural journey a little less tangled, here are a few tips and tricks I wish someone had told me:
1. You’ll Become a YouTube Troller
From twist-outs and flexi-rod sets, to wash and go’s and, if you’re ever in need of a hair step-by-step or a little styling inspiration, YouTube will quickly become your go to. During my transition I somehow became inducted into the virtual world of bloggers, self-proclaimed experts, and hair celebrities with cult-like, online followings. More than just 2-minute how-tos, this virtual, natural community will keep you inspired, up-to-date on the latest trends and occupied for at least an hour.
2. Common Food Ingredients Will Become Hair Products
Who knew condiments had such potent healing powers? From olive oil and mayonnaise, to avocado and egg whites, you’d be surprised just how many hair nutrients and moisturizers can be found right in your kitchen cabinet.
3. Wash and Go’s Aren’t Really Wash and Go’s
When I made the decision to go natural I had this vision I would wake up, hop in the shower, scrub down my hair and be on my merry way. Once my natural hair grew out, man did it get real. Very real. Here’s what a wash and go consists of for me: Wash, condition, detangle, moisturize, twist, wait a few hours, untwist, diffuse, moisturize and go. All in all it’s about a four to five hour process if you factor in air-drying time. Now depending on your hair type, a legit wash and go may be a feasible option for you. But if you’re anything like me, your hair needs a few hours post-wash before making its debut to the world so make sure to plan accordingly.
4. You’ll Approach Strangers for Hair Tips
It’s like a radar; an S-curled sixth sense of sorts. Anytime I get a whiff of another curly coif, I immediately give it the 5-second once-over, examining everything from the style and texture to the color and curl pattern. And like a reflex, I must approach the stranger and strike-up a conversation, inquiring on her products of choice and hair care routine. Now there’s nothing wrong with asking another natural about mane maintenance but be careful to never open the convo with the always brazen, “Can I touch your hair?”
5. The Finished Product Will NEVER Look Like the Online Tutorial
So you’ve bookmarked the video, bought the recommended products and dedicated the latter part of your evening to an intimate one-on-one with your hair. Two hours and a bottle of product later, you realize the end result is nothing close to the girl in the video. Natural lesson No. 1 — no two naturals are the same. What works for one lady’s coif will nine times out of ten have a different endgame for you. But instead of becoming intimated, frustrated or throwing your hair in the go-to bun, chalk it up as an experiment gone wrong and embrace the chance to better learn your hair type and figure out what works for you.
6. Shrinkage and Frizz are a Mutha…
When going natural be prepared for major shrinkage and frizz at any given moment, particularly the day of or after a wash. Depending on the day, product or weather, my hair has been known to shrink up to three or four inches. Also beware of humid environments and over fluffing the hair, as these are surefire ways to retract a curl and bring on the fuzz. Some good solutions to combating frizz and shrinkage; find a good moisturizer and keep it close, try a blow-out/twist-out, and only undo your twists when your hair is completely dry. You can also stretch the hair by wearing a bun or any other updo post-wash.
7. Product Junkies are Real
You’ve probably seen the term “product junkie” hashtagged on social media sites, or mentioned in magazines or blog posts. No, this isn’t a fun exaggeration of us natural gals’ obsession with products; it’s the real deal, common in nearly every natural I know. Whether it’s moisturizer, shampoo, a good leave-in or curl definer, in your quest to find the perfect product, you’ll unsuspectingly begin to acquire a hefty amount of hair products, most of which you’ll find you’ve only used maybe ¼ of the bottle before realizing it just wasn’t for you. If you feel yourself in need of product rehab, try swapping products with a friend or ordering product samples online before committing to the full sha-bang.
8. #TeamNatural Rocks
No matter the hair type, length or definition of curl, there’s something about wearing your locks wild, natural and free, and having unlimited hair options that is totally awesome. So despite the kinks, literal and figurative, embrace your mane and do what works for you.