Natural Hair 101
Going natural is the process of intentionally leaving behind harsh chemicals and heat, to allow your natural hair to grow freely. This process is different for every individual — some people stop using chemicals and continue to straighten their hair with heat, others go natural but decide to use weaves and wigs, while some decide to rock their natural hair all the time. Whatever you decide, the following tips will help you get through this sometimes-difficult process.
It’s All in Our Head
For years we are told that our natural hair is bad hair, unprofessional, unkempt, unmanageable and simply not beautiful. In order to go through this process, you need to begin to deconstruct these ideas. You can’t change the way society thinks about natural hair (at least not right away), but you can start changing the way you look at it.
Tips for Going Natural
Tip #1 | Admire Yourself
Start by standing in the mirror and admiring yourself — the entire you. Understand that contrary to popular belief, hair does not define your beauty, you are more than just hair. It’s been almost two years since I cut all of my relaxed hair and I continue to do this mirror exercise.
Tip #2 | Watch What You Say
Start paying attention to the way you talk about your hair or hair in general. Stay away from the terms good/bad hair, brillo pad, ‘cacata’, ‘macho’, or any other negative references to curly, kinky, coily, natural hair. Replace these words with positive terms like beautiful, healthy, bouncy, wavy, or any other word that makes you feel good about hair.
Understand that you might receive negative comments and reactions from co-workers, family members and friends. When this happens remember the reasons why are going natural and either ignore them or come up with a standard witty comeback. I usually say, “I love my big hair!” I then smile and keep moving. Don’t try to educate everyone about it; chose your battles wisely because defending your natural hair can become tiresome.
Let’s talk about hair baby
When you decide to go natural you have two choices: you can do the Big Chop (BC) or you can transition. The BC entails cutting off all of the chemically/heat-processed hair. If you choose to transition your current hair into all natural hair, you will let your natural hair to grow on top of your relaxed or heat damaged hair — this is also known as the period after your last relaxer or heat process. People sometimes transition with braids, protective styles (twists bantu-knots, buns) or weaves and wigs. No matter what you decide, here are some important tips for a more natural, healthy and beautiful you.
Tip #3 | Start Using Sulfate-Free Shampoos
The ones that contain this ingredient will dry your hair because it strips your strands of its natural oils. Sulfates have also been linked to causing hair loss and irritation of the skin and scalp.
Tip #4 | Keep Your Hair Moisturized
Curly hair is naturally dry and dry hair equals breakage, so to retain length and to enjoy soft hair make sure you keep it moisturized.
Tip #5 | Take a Break From Irons and Blow Dryers
Natural hair is very versatile and you can definitely wear it straight, but remember that excessive heat can cause heat damage, which is when you curls lose their curl pattern and appear straight, this is irreversible.
Tip #6 | Deep Condition (DC) Often
Do it at least once a week for more manageable and moisturized tresses. You can alternate between your favorite bottle of DC, or make your own at home with any of these ingredients, avocados, eggs, mayo, mangos, bananas, yogurts and olive oil and honey.
Tip #7 | Somos Lo Que Comemos
We are certainly what we eat! If we want healthy long hair it starts inside. Make sure you are staying hydrated and eating foods that contain Vitamin A and C, Protein, Biotin, Iron, Zinc, which are found in beans, dark green veggies, salmon, carrots, eggs and nuts.
Tip #8 | If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again
Truth be told, it took me a total of 6 tries before deciding to go through with this process. It’s not easy to be going against the strong current of the media, your family, friends, co-workers and society. You will question yourself and wonder if you are the one with the problem or if you are the one who is wrong. There will be days when you will feel ‘unpretty’ and isolated.
Remember that you are not the only one. Keep in mind that if we want the world to change its perception on natural hair, the change starts with you. One of the most important things a friend told me when I was transitioning was, “Carolina, you are Carolina now, you were Carolina before going natural and you will be Carolina after your last bit of relaxer was cut off.” Animos!