Firstly, if you are a new natural, CONGRATULATIONS! Welcome to the squad honey. Whether you transitioned and then big chopped, or shaved your head and started over from scratch, you’re likely going to feel a little overwhelmed in the beginning. That “WTf did I just do” feeling every time you look in the mirror is going to come about often. But you’ll get over it, trust me. Once you remind yourself about all the reasons you decided to go natural, you’ll start to feel a little more confident and sure of yourself. This is a wonderful journey of getting in touch with your roots and learning to love what many of us were taught to hate and view in a negative light from a young age. Welcome.
Natural hair isn’t the easiest to deal with, if we are being honest. If you have 4C type hair like I do, most times, it will be disrespectful and feel like barbed wire in spite of your efforts to make it softer. I’m going to share with you with a few tips on how I like to keep mine in a manageable state, and hopefully these are a little helpful to you on your journey.
- Moisture is your friend!! Never attempt to manipulate dry hair, as this causes so much more breakage than is necessary. I spray my hair with a little water and conditioner every morning before combing/styling to help loosen out the knots. I also like to use Creme of Nature’s spray leave-in conditioner for the same purpose because it smells oh so good! It’s also important to moisturise your hair when it’s in underneath protective styles, so try not to neglect it.
- Get to know your hair. Start by defining your hair goals. Do you want to see length, do you want your hair to be well-moisturised, or do you just want healthy hair? Once you’ve decided what your short and long-term hair goals are, you’ll be able to work towards them by applying specific actions. For example, if moisture is your goal, and your hair gets dry very quickly, find an oil or two that your hair likes, and try to apply the oil at least twice a week. My holy grail is coconut oil, and occasionally, olive oil, but I will dedicate a future post specifically to what moisturising method I like to use.
- Deep condition. This step is very important, especially following a shampoo-wash. Shampoo washes have the effect of stripping your hair of its essential oils and moisture, and they tend to leave the hair feeling brittle. Leaving some conditioner in your hair underneath a shower-cap for at least an hour can help you to regain that moisture and restore the softness to your hair. You can check out what products I use in my Deep conditioner here. I also wrote a guest post on a quick DIY avocado banana hair mask I like to make using items in my kitchen, so treating your hair does not always have to involve spending lots of money on expensive products.
- Establish a simple regimen you will be able to easily follow. When you’ve just transitioned, managing your new hair texture can feel overwhelming. It can be easy to fall into the trap of buying so many products (you watch one YouTube video and become convinced that you need this product for hair growth; and then you watch another video and you have to buy that product too) and it soon becomes a vicious cycle! Trust me, it’s a thin line keeping you from turning into a product junkie when you are a newbie. Try to establish an easy regimen that works well with your timetable and budget, and stick to it. The unpopular truth is that your hair just needs good, consistent care for it to flourish, not several products off the shelf.
- Silk Pillows. Apart from inspiring good dreams (in my opinion), silk pillows are also encouraged as they cause less friction to your hair strands during sleep. This is especially great if you are not one to sleep with a headscarf or bonnet over your hair. Less friction ultimately = less breakage!
- Protective style. This is my favourite. I can go from having an afro to having waist-length hair overnight, and there are endless styling possibilities! Protective styling does not always have to involve any hair extensions, however. The definition of a protective hairstyle is a style that tucks the ends of your hair away from being exposed to damaging agents such as sun, heat, and constant manipulation. So anything from braids, to weaves, to cornrows, to mabhanzi: the choice is yours, sis. Check out my DIY protective style with my own hair here.
- Lastly, Respect all choices made by all women. Having an afro does not make any woman more ‘black’ or more ‘African’ than the woman who chooses to wear wigs and weaves, or who straightens her hair. This is not a competition, and neither is this a platform for any one side of the spectrum to judge the other. We are all on our own journeys tbh, and I’m here to celebrate all of you. So if your hair is healthy and it’s growing, then you’re probably doing a great job of minding your own damn business!