In 2006 I decided to go natural with my hair (it was sort of on a whim). I woke up one morning and just stopped using relaxers or chemical straighteners — and boy, was I in way over my head (no pun intended). Everything that I had learned about my relaxed hair was almost completely null and void. I realized that my natural hair didn’t like any of those products I had been using and had never cooperated with the styles or techniques I had grown so accustom to. Going natural was no easy transition, though. There were many times in the process where I was on the verge of giving up. I found myself scissors in hand, threatening to cut it all off.
Fast forward to today, I’m 7 (almost 8) years in, and I finally feel like we (my hair and I, that is) speak the same language.
Hoping to help you decide whether to take the natural journey I did, here are 7 things I learned about my hair since going natural:
My Hair Needs Less Manipulation Than Expected
As much as I love to style my hair, it can be somewhat temperamental — and I’ve found that it thrives when left alone. I don’t dare comb or brush this tightly-curled hair daily, not even every other day. Low manipulation styles, like twist or braids, protect my hair from manual breakage and moisture loss.
Giving Each Section of My Hair Attention Actually Saves Time
I have been blessed with a very thick head of hair. It’s beautiful, I love it, but it can be challenging. The longer my hair grows, the thicker it becomes. Everything must be done in sections, from shampooing to conditioning to moisturizing to detangling. By giving each section of my hair attention, it literally saves me from a headache.
Lighter Oils Work Best
The first few years of my natural hair journey I would slather on the shea butter. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially in the winter. Shea butter is a natural moisturizer, great for sealing in the moisture. The problem is, it only coats my hair. Lighter oils, like coconut or olive oil, actually absorb into the hair, giving it the ability to strengthen and reinforce the hair’s internal structure.
Ditch the Gels
I have very porous hair. As a result, everything in my regimen needs to do one of two things: Add moisture or retain moisture. Gels usually have alcohols that do the opposite — not only do they leave my hair hard, but also dry. I switched over to Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea Defining Créme and Earth’s Nectar Honey Curls for soft, hydrated curls.
The Hooded Dryer is My Friend
I’m not sure how the hooded dryer got a bad rep, although I think there’s confusion about heat damage. There’s actually a greater chance of heat damage present with blow dryers than with hooded dryers, according to Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair — hooded dryers are an indirect or diffused heat source. It’s very beneficial to sit under a dryer during deep-conditioning treatments because it will help your conditioner absorb more thoroughly. Plus, 30 – 45 mins under the dryer reduces air drying time and helps your style to set and last longer.
Never Skip the Leave-In Conditioner
For some, a leave-in conditioner is optional. Not for me! Especially if I want beautifully, defined curls. I had a hair aha moment (an epiphany, really) when I used Giovanni Direct Leave-In Weightless Moisture Conditioner for the first time. As I saw my curls defined and popping, I thought, “Yes, this is what I went natural for!” Leaving in your conditioner minimizes frizz, dryness, and flattens the hair cuticle for less tangles.
Drink More Water for Hydrated Hair
When it comes to hair care it’s very easy to focus on the external. It’s the same way with your skin — when you have dry skin or hair, you look for the nearest moisturizer. Doing this only covers up dryness (not the most effective way to treat it). Moisturize and nourish your hair and skin from the inside out by drinking water. I notice a huge difference in both my hair and skin when I’m drinking water daily.