If we had hashtags when I was in college, #GoingNatural would’ve been one of the highest trending ones. India Arie had just reminded us that we were not our hair, so plenty of my Spelman sisters were breaking up with the creamy crack to prove it. But then there were a handful of us that weren’t quite ready to meet our texture from the Motherland. I was the president of that last club.
A little “hair-story” – I knew what a touch-up was well before I could touch the top of the beauty shop chair. Yep, I was 4 years old and had the hairstyle of a grown woman – silky straight hair that I was allowed to wear down more often than most brown girls my age (more on this another day).
Age 6. School picture day (and my hair most days growing up).
“I can’t comb her hair,” my mom would tell people when they questioned my straight strands. Which was the truth. But it’s important to add the fact that she couldn’t comb anyone’s hair. Including her own. Therefore, we lived at the salon. People thought I was spoiled, but it was mere convenience for my single mom. And since I barely knew how to read, I also didn’t know the difference between natural and relaxed hair.
But still, years passed, and I was curious what a life without a relaxer would be like. So 20 years later, I went natural right after grad school. It wasn’t a big deal since I’ve always been an “it’s just hair” kind of person.” “If I hate it, I’ll get a relaxer again,” I told myself before my last appointment with the creamy crack.
My new “natural hair” headshots after I did the big chop.
That was 10 years ago.
Well, in full transparency – I had one baby relaxer after a melt down a few years ago. But that’s it. So no judgement if your transition hasn’t been easy, you didn’t do a big chop or being natural is naturally not your thing. I’ve personally learned a lot about myself while on this hair journey, so I hope these 5 tips (because 10 would’ve been a novel) from the last 10 years inspire you to be a “it’s just hair” kind of person too.
1- Whoever Told You Natural Hair Was Easier Was Lying
I fell for this lie at first, too. I’ve always been down to sweat my hair out, so the fact that I could “wash and go” without worrying about styling my hair was the main reason I went natural. So when I found out it took sometimes days to dry, a good twist out required a serious YouTube commitment and that there were a gazillion products organized as “curl types,” I was too threw. The result – me hating my hair, always wearing ponytails after using way too much product and a newfound hat addiction to prove it. I’ve gotten better – check out my current routine here.
Moral of This Moment in Hair-story: Do your own research.
See, hat obsession.
2- We’ve Come A Long Way, But You Still Gonna Be A Type
Then there was the societal impact of going natural. Straight silky hair gives off a very different vibe than a teeny weeny afro. And a TWA is exactly what I had when I did the big chop 10 years ago. I’m the extreme type so a big chop made sense to me. That, and I couldn’t stand how my hair looked all natural at the root and relaxed at the end. So thanks to curiosity and my extreme nature, I went in for a scheduled trim and walked out a different person.
Well I wasn’t different, people just assumed I was. Myth #2 – people won’t look at you differently. Sorry boo, they will. The second I cut my hair my family couldn’t stop talking about (and sometimes still do) how “wild” I looked and “how sad it was that I ruined my pretty hair.” Some men started to refer to me as “Queen” or “Sistah” (which I didn’t mind), and then automatically assume that I was vegan and wore hemp clothing. Other men, that would typically holla, found the curls to be too eccentric. And then women, oh my, they would say all kind of things. Ranging from “you’re so brave” or “well, you have good hair, so being natural is probably easy for you.”
This is just the short list. But know this – no one said jack to me about my hair when it was relaxed. Doesn’t make one better than the other. I’m just saying. Either way, good thing I knew then and still know now that I am more than my hair. I hope you do too.
Moral of This Moment in Hair-story: What people think of you is none of your business.
Me after being natural for one year. My hair changed a lot that year. My attitude did too. 😉
3- You Can Skip The Salon. But, Why?
Speaking of what people were saying, the one thing I missed most about going natural was hair salon talk. I literally grew up in the hair salon and my hairstylist was like an Auntie. I had a crush on her son, so I would never cry when my scalp was on fire during touch-ups. She stood up for me when my mom grounded me after I lied and said I was allowed to color my hair for the first day of high school. I cried then. But the color was so fly it was worth both the tears and being grounded. She called me when my mom passed 5 years ago and still checks on me. I could cry now thinking of Josh. And then there was my favorite part – her always remindng me that having a unisex name was cool and that people would figure this out eventually. She was right.
Long story short, hair salon love is the best kind of love. So although I don’t go to the salon nearly as much, I’m a fan of getting a good cut and since loyalty is in our black girl hair salon DNA, I’ve also been going to the same stylists for majority of my natural hair journey. Hey Dailey at H2Salon!
Moral of This Moment in Hair-story: It’s always bigger than hair. Embrace the hair community.
Favorite haircut from H2Salon 4 years ago. This was before the baby relaxer meltdown.
4- Blow It Out. Blow People Off.
Now, necessary confession – while I wear my hair natural majority of the time, I love a good blowout – more here. Mostly because it’s easier (scroll back up to #1). So when I’m on a workout break or traveling and don’t feel like pouring my products into those stupid three ounce containers, I blow these locks out boo! And it never fails, people feel the need to cast their vote on what look they prefer. This used to upset me. Especially when men would say it. But after years of this, I am confident enough in my hair, straight or curly to not respond to their ignorance. Blow outs are for ease and cut days. Simple as that. So I have no problem blowing people off who are too shallow to understand this.
Oh while we are “blowing people off,” I am not an advocate for team “we should all be natural.” I am however an advocate for team “we should all wear our hair how we want.” So if rocking your natural texture is not for you, don’t feel bullied to join the #teamnatural tribe. I’m the first to say that it’s not for everyone.
Moral of This Moment in Hair-story: Do you. It’s your hair. It’s your life.
The cut above blown out. See, good cuts matter!
5- You Don’t Need “Natural” Hair Products. Because, Energy Is The Best Product BTW.
Final confession – I’m off the “natural hair” product trend. I went broke in the beginning, but learned very early on that for me, less is more. Keyword, for me. Yes, like most of us natural hair sisters, people constantly ask what products I use. And while I love the connection these conversations provide, I always preface my answer with, “this is what works for me.”
But don’t sleep, I’m down to test a product (wink wink). However here are my current old faithfuls.
Wash – DevaCurl No Poo Original ($22)
Because, ain’t nothing (without suds) that can do it like this baby can.
Conditioner – Keihls Hair Conditioner and Grooming Aid Formula 133 ($18)
Because, I work at Equinox. 😉
Leave-In – Giovanni Direct Leave In Treatment Conditioner ($10)
Because, it was my first natural hair product love and it hasn’t failed me yet.
Curl Definition – DevaCurl SuperCream ($28)
Because, the formula is the perfect fusion of hold and moisture.
Edges/Overall Favorite – Fantasia IC Olive Oil Style Gel ($10)
Because, it’s $10 but works like it’s $20.
Scalp Treatment – Olive Oil (whatever kind is in the kitchen) and Tea Tree Oil ($6.99)
Because, this is the only “DIY” product I have the patience to make. Plus Tea Tree oil works wonders for my psoriasis.
Curl Rejuvenation – DāO Naturel Daily Moisturizing Spray ($19.99)
Because, my NYC roommate and genius of a friend created this. But even if she hadn’t, I would still buy this. The hydration is deep, it’s perfect for my color-treated hair and leaves my strands frizz free.
But at the end of the day, one of the best products out there ya’ll is energy. Not to sound all woohoo voodoo, but real talk, the moment I stopped stressing over my hair my curls came alive. All those comments about looking wild were stamped with a freedom that can’t be faked. It’s an energy, or as the young kids say “issa vibe.” Some of my best hair days have honestly been when I’ve done the least, and like fashion, it’s not what you wear but how you wear it.
All energy, baby. And the choice on how you wear your hair, is always all yours!
Cheers to the next 10 years!
What has been the greatest challenge/lesson in your “hair journey?” Let me know below.