This is not a piece where I get all preachy in order to persuade black women everywhere to start whipping their natural curls back and forth on their head. Not at all. I’m only interested in making you understand why I have chosen to wear my hair naturally, and why I take care of it in the way that I do. See this, and other hair posts that follow, as an expression of love that I have for my kinky curls, and as a show of support to other black women out there who might be interested (but perhaps too afraid to go natural). I want black women to see that it can be done, and that our hair, exactly as it is naturally, is beautiful too. Finally, the most important point that I’ll ever make on all this natural hair business is this: any great head of hair – regardless of the ethnicity it comes from – is always at its best when it’s lovingly cared for.
On hair history and styling:
I didn’t stop perming my hair (meaning permanently relaxing my hair) because I thought it would be cheaper or easier. It really isn’t. I had more important reasons:
There was a time when I thought having dry-ish hair was normal. I seriously believed that black hair wasn’t meant to be soft, hydrated, bouncy, or healthy (unless there was a weave, tracks, wigs, or a relaxer at play). I grew up not seeing any of the black women in my life wearing their hair naturally. It really would have been nice to see any of the black women around me wearing their hair the way mine was (and now is). When you’re the only black girl in your class, and one of three or four in your entire year, it’s no fun going to school with a classic four part style and being told that your hair looks like “shit locks,” nor is it any fun hearing your mom tell you to “ignore it” while her hair doesn’t look anything like yours. Or, perhaps the worst thing, being told by your teacher to “try harder to make friends” with the persons telling you that your natural hair looks like shit locks. That’s ugly. I was too young to understand it and my mother was probably trying to figure out how the hell to explain that kind of insipid racism to a kid. We live in a society where our differences are mocked, attacked, and made a joke of. Black people are in a very unique position for two reasons: not only are we persons of colour, and consequently other-ed by larger society, our ethnicity is the only ethnicity that has the type of kinky curls that we have. And when it comes time to take care of our unique hair, nobody around us knows. Can any other ethnicity say that no one knows how to take care of their hair as it is naturally? Take a look at your local drugstore: there is hardly anything that actively accommodates natural Afro hair. And there are next to no salons out there that have ever dealt with natural curls either. Basically, by and large, if you want go natural you’re pretty much on your own. You have to have a lot of faith, do a lot of research, be ready to receive a lot of judgement from your immediate family, and be ready to fly by the seat of your pants. On the upside, thanks to the insurgence of women deciding to wear their hair naturally, there is a great selection of natural hair care products out there for us. But the real good ones – and no, I’m not talking about the half ass ones by large corporations that think they can slap “for black hair” and get my business with a flop product – are not sold in regular stores. You hear about them through word of mouth, on blogs, and on YouTube – from other natural hair sisters, and you try, succeed, fail miserably, and do alright through the grapevine. Online. In that tiny shop over there. And some stuff you mix on your own.
A young precious black girl trying to navigate her way through childhood, universal learning curves, and growing up – while at an age where your hair is not quite ripe enough for that first chemical relaxer – will more than likely have a thing or two on their mind.
I grew up waiting for the day when I would get to straighten my hair: I wasn’t consciously trying to look like everyone else, but it kind of was that. Straightening your hair temporarily is only a few days without commitment. But when you permanently alter your hair texture to be one way it’s something else. And it didn’t sit right with me anymore.
In September I celebrated my 3 year nappyversary (that is, how many years I’ve gone without a relaxer). It felt good and right. Going natural wasn’t easy for me at all: there were a lot of tears of frustration, and, as I said, a lot of judgment (from relatives who thought my hair “looked messy” or “needed to be done.” For ladies out there interested in discovering your curls, no matter what age you are, I have compiled do’s and don’ts for when transitioning to natural hair. See them below:
Do’s and Don’ts of Going Natural:
Do stop putting a relaxer/permanent straightener in your hair: I know it’s hard, but if you want to go natural you have to go cold curly. No more relaxer.
Do avoid chemicals named Sulfate, Paraben, and Silicone as much as you can; Sulfate, the stuff that makes shampoo lather, is deadly to curly hair – especially black hair. Parabens, Dyes, and Silicons are also hair uglies you don’t need.
Do reach for the following: Pure Argan Oil, Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, Monoi Oil, Almond Oil, Bananas, Honey, and other similar oil, nut, and fruit bases products (and indeed the real thing); your natural hair loves it, and you will be amazed at what it can do for your curls.
Do take the time to access your curl pattern and it’s needs: As you can probably imagine, due to my description of my air and it’s needs. I’m a 3C- Curly Kinky Hair:
Sub-type 3c is really more than a sub-type It’s a type NaturallyCurly members developed because the original system left out this hair type, which falls between 3b and 4a, having its own special characteristics.
• Type 3c hair has tight curls in corkscrews
• Circumference: Pencil or straw
• The curls can be either kinky, or very tightly curled, with lots and lots of strands densely packed together
• Getting this type of hair to blow dry straight is more challenging than for 3a or 3b, but it usually can be done
• The very tight curls are usually fine in texture
• 3c celebrities: Alicia Keyes, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Tracee Ellis Ross
• Use styling creams, butters and oils for type 3c hair
• This hair type needs extra moisture and tender-loving care because it can be fragile
• Detangle hair with a lot of conditioner in your hair and use a comb or detangling brush
• Do not use a brush or comb on your dry curls
• Reduce tangles by sleeping on a satin pillowcase or wrap hair in a satin cap
HAIR TYPE GUIDE:
Note: You may have one, two, or three curl patterns on one head so be sure to look carefully and give your hair what it needs!
Don’t think you have to do the big chop to go natural (I didn’t): What worked for me was doing braid-outs, twists, and bantu knots so the new growth was in line with the relaxed hair. I kept trimming off the ends until all my hair was natural.
Do invest in a kick-starter going natural package: Carol’s Daughter – a line you may have heard of as Brad Pitt’s daughter Zahara uses it – broke the mold with their Transitioning and Olive Oil Infusion systems. If you want to spend a bit less, Live Clean’s Argan Oil line, my initial kick-starter, works amazingly well too. You can also buy some pure shea butter, macadamia nut oil, and any oil you like online too these days too.
Last tip (and it’s an important one)…
Don’t get frustrated if you’re having a hard time: It’s only natural (no pun initially intended) to get angry when you have a bad day, especially when it’s your natural hair and you’re just learning about how to maintain it, but don’t be discouraged: You just have to keep going, stay strong, and trust the natural hair learning curve system. It’s best to not beat yourself up too much about those tears
when if they come. Just know that, eventually, you will get to a point where your natural bad hair day becomes something you naturally handle with ease.