I have a confession.
I don’t know my true Natural-versary.
I’m probably the only person to “go” natural recently that can’t tell you when she last had a relaxer or got rid of her straight ends. One day in the not too distant past, I got my last relaxer and that was all she wrote. But, at the time I didn’t know that it would be my last relaxer. It just so happened that when it was time for the next one, I decided I wasn’t going to do it. I didn’t mark the day because I wasn’t about “going natural” then. I just had been wearing my hair in weaves, and planned to continue to do so into the foreseeable future, so I didn’t see a point in getting another relaxer right then. I’d take my hair down on a Friday or Saturday, wash and deep condition, and go get it sewed back up on Sunday. There were some instances where I would flat iron it and wear it out for a week.
I knew that my straight ends were breaking off, so little by little as my new growth came in I cut off the relaxed ends until there was no more relaxer to cut. I believe my last snip was sometime in the last half of 2012. All of that time I had been transitioning… unbeknownst to me. I eventually started to want to take better care of my hair, because even though I no longer had a relaxer in my hair it was still breaking. That’s when I learned about heat damage. When I was wearing sew-ins (so, like, all the time) I had been running a flat iron over my leave out every day to keep it straight, so that was the part with the most damage. However, there were some other parts that were damaged because of the times I would wear it out and straighten it… again every day.
Because of all of that, now when someone asks me how long I’ve been natural, I say since April 2013, because that was when I stopped wearing weaves and embraced my natural hair in it’s natural state. That’s not a diss to any Naturalista out there that rocks weaves or lives by the flat iron, if that’s your thing then go for what you know. I just choose that date because that’s when I truly and fully embraced being natural and made a concerted effort to learn how to care for and manage my hair in it’s natural state. It’s also the date that I know.
So with that said, I’m just over 2 years in and I’ve learned so much about my hair. Much more than I learned the entire time I was relaxed… mainly because I had someone doing my hair for me when I was relaxed and it was when I wasn’t making those religious treks to the beauty salon every week that my hair started freaking out.
So here are a few of the main things that I’ve learned about my hair.
*NOTE: It’s so important when you are on your own natural hair journey to find out what works for your hair. Yeah, it’s great to watch the videos on YouTube and read the blogs, but at the end of the day everybody’s hair is different and you should only be using the blogs and the videos as guides. Don’t get caught up in these crazy rules that somebody made up (who these folk, anyway??) and feel like you HAVE to live by them. A lot of naturals swear by coconut oil (myself included) or sulfate free shampoo, but if it doesn’t work for your hair then it just doesn’t work. Find something else!*
1 – My hair will never look like Tracee Ellis Ross’s hair. And I’m okay with that… now. I think a lot of people go natural hoping they have the Tracee Ellis Ross curls, or they won’t go natural because they know their hair is more kinky than curly. Or people get so frustrated when they try a style from a YouTube video and the style doesn’t come out just the same. I already knew that my hair didn’t curl like Tracee’s, but way back in the back of my head I held out hope that if I used a certain product or followed a certain routine my hair would curl more than it kinked. I was wrong. And that’s absolutely okay. Just like everything else in life, we can’t get caught up in what somebody else has. We can just make the best of what we have.
2 – My hair does not like to be put into a box. Look, I guess I can maybe understand why people feel the need to type their hair but… it’s not for me. If somebody really wanted to know about my hair type, I’d say 4c mostly I guess but I don’t get caught up in the whole typing system. My hair is coarse (strands), thick (density), and kinky. Knowing anything other than that is problematic for a host of reasons that I won’t list here. Okay, maybe I’ll list one: Two people can have the same “type” of hair but their hair can look completely different from each other. That can cause people to become frustrated because their 3c hair doesn’t look like their favorite 3c YouTuber’s hair. Or their 4b hair doesn’t respond the same way to the products that their favorite 4b YouTuber’s hair does. I say just find out what works best for the hair on your head and leave it at that.
3 – My hair doesn’t like long term protective styles. I’ve had dry skin all my life. Especially during the wintertime, keeping my skin moisturized is a struggle. My hair and my scalp are no exception. I have to wash my hair often because my scalp flakes like crazy (disgusting, I know. And probably TMI, but we’re girls right?). For this reason, I decided that I had to stop wearing protective styles that did not allow me to clean my scalp regularly. As much as I loved my 22 inches, I had to give them up. Don’t get me wrong, I washed my hair religiously when I had my weaves in but I couldn’t get to my scalp like I wanted. As a result my scalp would be dry and itchy and driving me crazy. I’m planning on experimenting more with wigs since I can take them off, wash my hair, and put it back on.
4 – My hair is not about that colored life. A few months after deciding to embrace my natural hair, I colored it with the Shea Moisture hair color and my hair was not happy. It broke off something fierce. If I hadn’t done that I’m sure my hair would be twice as long as it is now. Right now, there is a little bit of color left on the ends. Now, this could very well be a combination of learning how to care for my natural hair, and learning how to care for colored hair, but my hair was not really fond of color even when I was relaxed, so I will probably only be experimenting with hair chalk in the future if I want to change up the color.
5 – My hair does not like to be straightened. This is something I’ve actually known all along but it’s one of those random facts you tuck away in the back of your brain until you need it again. Before I got relaxers my mom would press my hair and it never stayed straight. When I wore my hair in weaves my leave out would never stay straight, which is why I had to straighten it every day. I’ve watched countless YouTube videos and tried so many products and techniques but my hair will not stay straight for anything in this world. I don’t understand the women that can straighten their hair and wear it straight until they wash it. My hair is not about that life. So when I decided to embrace my hair, I decided I’d do it without heat because I didn’t want to keep experimenting and end up with heat damage again.
BONUS: My hair is BEAUTIFUL! ‘Nuff said.
Are you rocking your natural hair? Transitioning? Let me know in the comments what you’ve learned about your hair since you’ve started on your journey!
“I don’t want you to want my hair. The reason I don’t want you to want my hair is I’m of the school of love what you got. For me, the reason my hair was such a battle was because I was trying to make it something it wasn’t. I wanted the hair that somebody else had. Love my hair only if it inspires you to love your hair.” – Tracee Ellis Ross