I was born with natural hair. That ought to be my response when someone asks me “how long have you been natural for?” Perhaps “going natural” isn’t the right phraseology when it comes to describing the move of ever increasing numbers of black women leaving their hair the same texture that it grows out of their scalp. But I do understand what is meant by the question.
It’s really asking, “when did you stop using a Relaxer?”, that creamy, combination of chemicals that destroy many a fine head of hair. I have had worn my hair natural for the past 10 years, after about 10 years of relaxed hair that left my hair broken and thirsty. The problem is, 10 years ago there wasn’t nearly as much information available about how to take care of natural hair as there is now, and thus I made many mistakes with my hair. For anyone thinking about going natural, I hope that by reading this, you won’t make the same mistakes I did. I will share, within the following 10 tips, some of the things I’ve learnt, and what most natural haired women won’t tell you.
1. Educate yourself about black hair. Natural hair is like a new born baby. It has to be handled gently and with great care, and cannot be neglected. It must be fed, and it must be attended to regularly. Already sound like too much work? Then don’t throw out your Relaxer just yet, going natural may not be for you! A quick browse on Youtube and Google, can provide you with a mass of information. Here are three quick tips to start you off: a) Your hair needs moisture (water) b) the moisture needs to be “sealed in” with natural oils after applying water to the hair (usually with a spray bottle), c) Natural products are better for your hair ( I will talk more about this below).
2. Identify what your texture is. Ever heard someone refer to “4a”? No, they were not trying to describe the thickness of a pencil, they were referring to a classification table that groups hair based on curl pattern. I think you can make it easier for yourself. Are your hair strands thick or fine? Are your hair follicles close together (dense) or far apart (thin)? That’s a good place to start in knowing what may or may not work for your hair. My hair is fine and thin, so I have to be extra careful with it. On the other hand if your hair is so thick that the spikes of a comb often snap off when you try to comb it, then maybe there’ll be more that you can get away with doing or not doing to your hair.
3. Be realistic. Now that being natural is “cool”, I’m seeing pictures on Instagram, Pinterest, and everywhere, of women with massive afros, and big, bouncy, bountiful curls. I could just be saying this because of my own limp hair, but not everybody can achieve the same amount of volume as some of the blessed women I see in the pictures, because not everyone’s hair is that thick. So if like me, your hair is a little on the thin side, it wouldn’t be sensible to look at such pictures and think “my hair is going to look like that once I’m natural”, and then proceed to “big chop” (explained below) because you could end up feeling disappointed if your natural afro is not that bulky. Just make sure you’re going natural for the right reasons.
4. Get advice from the right people. This is closely linked to point 3 above. If you’ve identified that you have comb-breaking tightly coiled thick hair, then don’t spend hours watching the Youtube videos of a natural hair vlogger with thin wavy hair, as what works for them may not work for you. Try and find a Youtuber/vlogger/blogger that has a similar hair texture to you and see what they have to say.
5. Stock up on products. I would like to add, stock up on natural products if possible. In my opinion, there are a few basics that almost every natural haired black woman I know has in their cupboard; olive oil, coconut oil, and shea butter. You will also probably need a spray bottle to evenly distribute a mist of water on your hair as often as you need. You’ll also need a good shampoo and conditioner (I’ll talk more about that later). But…
6….Do not become a product junkie. I cannot tell you how much money I’ve wasted buying product after product, as I tried to work out what was best for my hair. To an extent there will be an element of trial an error when trying to find products that work for you, but I think I could have saved a lot of money if I had gotten advice from people with similar hair texture to me, and done as much research as possible BEFORE buying products. Also be careful about buying products based on the reviews of certain natural hair bloggers. Remember, most of the time these bloggers are being sent products for free. They may have something different to say if they were spending their hard earned cash on some of the products they promote.
7. The Curly Girl Method. I add this in, just because I only heard about it very recently, but there seems to be wisdom in it. There is much to the Curly Girl (CG) method of looking after curly hair, for example, a strict follower of the method would only finger detangle their hair, and not ever use a comb. However I was only interested in what I thought was the most useful aspect of the CG method: not using shampoos with sulphate (because they strip the hair of moisture), and not using conditioners, or any other product for that matter, with silicone (because they provide a coating over the hair strand that prevents moisture being absorbed, and the coating can only be removed by using…sulphates!). Following my discovery, I went and checked the labels of all my hair products, and sure enough most of them contained silicones (disguised in the word dimethicone). For my fine hair, avoiding silicones makes a big difference.
8. Learn the Lingo. To my horror I’ve started doing it. I’ve started adopting terms that are commonly banded about in the natural hair sphere. If you’re unfamiliar with some of the terms and abbreviations it can be very confusing. I had to Google “CG method” to learn what the CG stood for. So to give you a head start, here is a list of all the terms I can think of:
BC = Big Chop. When you chop off all your relaxed hair so all that is left is natural hair
TWA = Teeny Weeny Afro. Thankfully by the time I learned of this expression, my hair was too long to be classed a such
Twist Out = the style of your hair after you’ve twisted it, and taken the twists out
Wash and Go = the style of your hair after you’ve washed it, but presumably not twisted it
SSK = Single Strand Knot. The things that I hate. The bane of my life
Heat Damage = when parts of your hair lose the natural curl pattern because of excessive heat. I could take pictures of my own hair to show you
CoWash = washing your hair with a conditioner instead of a shampoo… (yes here is where it starts to get ridiculous)
PrePoo = preparing your hair to be shampooed (I think?)
Low Poo = washing your with a mild shampoo, (perhaps with less sulphate?)
No Poo = washing your hair with a shampoo that has no sulphate
Poo Poo = I’m kidding, this one I made up!
UPDATE: LOC method = Liquid, Oil, Conditioner method. In other words the process of sealing in moisture but applying first liquid (water), then oil, then a conditioner to the hair
9. Do not use any of the above terms in normal conversation. Unless you’re talking to other women with natural hair, as only they will understand.
10. Remember it’s just hair. Now this is just on a personal note, but I am yet to attend any so called natural hair events. I don’t even know what they do at such events, other than perhaps all turn up with their best natural hairstyle and fawn over how beautiful each other’s hair is. Hair can be beautiful, and should be looked after, but try not to fall into the trap of becoming completely obsessed. When you first go natural it’s easy to find yourself greedily consuming hair video after hair video on Youtube. But that can be time consuming. And once you’ve gone natural, your time will be time better spent finger detangling, twisting, and twisting out, and worrying about how you’re going to wear your natural hair to work in the morning.
For regular updates, follow me on twitter @adressrehearsal
- Troubles with Natural 4C Hair at the Salon (blackgirlnerdy.blogspot.com)
- Natural Hair: [Good Hair/Bad Hair] The Downside of Having Natural Hair (naturallyradianthousewife.com)
- The Curly Girl Method: The Good, The Bad, The Confusing (2kinkyladies.com)