Happy New Year everybody! I meant to do this after Christmas but I’d like to share my natural hair journey over the past 12 months, and tell you about some of the things I’ve learned.
Firstly, I’m officially natural for three years now – hurrah! Let me tell you, 2012 was a big turning point for me. It’s the year when things really began to fall in to place. Before that, natural hair had been one big money pit as well as a source of frustration. I was throwing away money on products that made no difference, the ends were breaking and my head was a sight!
Finally last year I learned what my hair needs and doesn’t need; likes and doesn’t like…and so on.
Since your natural hair journey will probably be one of trial and error, I’ll tell you about some of the errors I’ve made and some of the things that have worked for me. I hope you find it helpful.
Firstly, the majority of my hair is type 4. I’m still not clear about the whole hair typing thing. In fact, I have about four different curl patterns on my head so I think it’s too simplistic to categorise your hair by curl type when there are so many other factors involved. For these purposes we’ll call it type 4. But I also have very fine, low porosity hair and this is what determines my products and hair regime.
Black Hair and Moisture
The biggest bane of my life was dry hair – and I mean parched! Afro hair is naturally dry but this just wasn’t right. The ends were brittle and snapping off, and my hair felt rough and unhealthy.
Then I realised something. To keep black hair moisturised…you have to keep it moist! Not rocket science, eh? If your hair’s feeling parched, give your poor strands a drink. Keep a bottle handy so that you can spritz your hair with good old water. Some naturals boost the moisture content by adding a dash of their favourite conditioner to the bottle.
If you have a little more money to spare, you can always treat yourself to a good moisturising product instead of using plain water. A good moisturising product will have water as the first ingredient. I haven’t really found a moisturising product that suits me yet and I’m reluctant to splash out at the moment…if you’ve found that holy grail of products; that is, a good moisturiser, please feel free to comment below and let me know what you use.
Retaining Moisture in Your Hair
So once you’ve got it in, how do you retain moisture in your hair? Answer: seal it in! Once you’ve moisturised your hair, get a good oil and apply it to your hair on top of the water or moisturising product. The oil will stop the moisture from escaping. This is a very important step. If you don’t seal in the moisture by layering the oil over your product then the moisture will just seep straight out again. I’ve written a series on natural oils for your hair, check my archives out!
Finding the Right Products
Finding the right product for your hair is a very individual thing, of course, but you really don’t need to blow lots of money on products. I’ve been on a very strict budget for the past year and I’ve hardly spent anything on products – not like the first few years when I dashed out to buy every bottle of moisturiser on the market.
Stick to the products that you know work for your hair. No matter what products people are peddling, your hair knows best. Sometimes it’s worth spending that little bit extra on a quality product that will last for longer. My favourite conditioner at the moment is Curl Harmony’s Intensive Repairs Deep Conditioner. This isn’t cheap but it’s done wonders to my hair and a small sample pot lasted for quite a while. I also use Shea Butter at the moment. I’m not sure whether I’ll use this so much in summer but while the weather’s cold, it’s a Godsend. I buy mine from Shea Butter Cottage, which is mixed with lavender so it smells heavenly too – and my hair’s never been so soft.
There are a few ingredients to be wary of or to avoid completely, if possible. I tend to steer clear of mineral oils as they just clog up the hair and don’t add anything beneficial. With very fine, low porosity hair like mine I’ve found that it’s essential to keep it free of product as much as possible especially heavy, non-natural products.
Get to know which ingredients work with your hair. I use products like glycerine or honey very sparingly to not at all. Glycerine and honey are humectants that are often used in hair moisturisers and conditioners. If I do use a product that contains humectants, I try to make sure that they’re way down on the list of ingredients because this means that there’s not too much of it in there.
Humectants make my hair frizzy and can be a bit hit-and-miss, depending on the environment. If the atmosphere’s very dry, using these products makes my hair feel extra dry too. This is because humectants draw moisture content from the air but the downside is that when the air’s very dry (like indoors with the heating turned up), it’ll suck moisture back out of your hair resulting in that dry, crunchy feeling.
For me, going natural means just that. As far as possible, I steer clear of things like parabens (a man-made ingredient that serves as a preservative). The jury’s still out on parabens but they have been found in cancerous breast tissue. Please don’t panic because nothing’s conclusive, but I do try to avoid them. It’s difficult to avoid parabens altogether because they aren’t just found in hair products. Check the ingredients list of your face products, creams, moisturisers, scrubs and handcreams…you’ll find them everywhere!
Detangling is an important part of caring for natural hair. The way you detangle and how thoroughly you do it will make a real difference to the health of your hair. If you do it right, you’ll retain length and you won’t end up having those frustrating battles with the knots in your hair.
The best way for me is finger detangling. I’ve heard lots of naturals saying that it doesn’t work but I’m a big believer in finger detangling your hair. For me, it’s the kindest way to detangle. Although it was a really lengthy process at first, if you persevere it becomes much easier. It used to take me about an hour but now it takes about 20 to 30 minutes. I don’t have as many tangles to contend with so it’s much easier.
This is one of my New Year resolutions! I’ve got to get to grips with styling my hair, especially now it’s a big longer. I’ve tried twists, flat-twists, banding and buns (yes, I can pull my hair back into a low bun now – yippee!). Like everybody else, I’m looking for something that’s quick ‘n’ easy, not to mention stylish.
I’ll readily admit that I’m not the best when it comes to styling my hair. The past year I’ve worn my hair in some OK styles and I’ve had some downright scary hair dos. So I’ll be spending some time learning more about styling this year. I think it’ll get easier as my hair grows because I’ll have more to work with – mid-length hair is a nightmare.
One thing I have learned is that twists are super-healthy for my hair. Although it didn’t look great with the twists in, my twist-out retained moisture for days afterwards. I went wrong because I didn’t realise that my hair would expand so much after I’d put the twists in. All the same, it felt soft, looked great and remained stretched for ages. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan and I’ll definitely be trying to perfect this technique.
So the most difficult lesson I’ve learned is to stick to my guns. I’ve probably mentioned before that my natural hair has been the subject of much controversy. As ridiculous as it sounds, my hair has caused arguments and friction. Actually my hair has done nothing of the sort. What has caused the arguments is other people’s attitudes towards my natural hair. I’ve had criticism and insults – and I’m not talking about just anybody, I’m talking about some of my family members and friends (and these people wonder why they don’t see me so much these days!).
What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter. At first it hurt but as I’ve grown, I’ve come to love my hair and I love its possibilities. I lost confidence during the first part of my transition but now I’m back in full flow.
I love myself naturally, I love my natural hair. I’m looking forward to fulfilling my hair goals and I’m right on course. I’ll be staying away from negativity in the future. If I do come up against any more negativity, I’ll simply meet it with true confidence in my own beauty. I’m BEAUTIFUL in my own eyes and in the eyes of my maker. I don’t need to worry about anybody else.
All I can say is that transitioning is one helluva journey. If you’re thinking about going natural, it’s probably one of the best things you’ll do. You’ll have a better appreciation of black hair and yourself; you’ll make friends, meet new people, and learn a great deal about yourself. If you’re already transitioning, or you simply want to chat to someone else about natural hair, please feel free to join the Natural Hair Forum UK.
I hope that 2013 is your best year yet!
Please feel free to comment on your natural hair journey below. What have been your highs and lows over the past year?