Tending to my natural hair is a form of self-care.
Hair is beautifully unique to every one of us, and I love spreading the word about natural hair care to make the topic less daunting for people who want to try it and haven’t, or those who’ve tried and haven’t had success.
What is the natural hair movement?
The natural hair movement has been around for years and the awareness, acceptance and support continues to grow. The movement has helped the black community unravel years of suppressing the natural beauty of our hair.
We’re witnessing hair types, textures and styles normalize in our communities and the workplace.
For so long black women lived with a stigma about their hair — a bias about textured hair, curls and styles that has led to many women reporting anxiety and disruption in their life as they tried to conform to the ‘expectations’ of their jobs and relationships.
This experience probably resonates with many of you. One study found that 80% of women reported that they alter their natural hair to fit in at the office. The same study also showed that black women’s hair is 3.4x more likely to be seen as unprofessional in the workplace.
It wasn’t until hair discrimination was under the microscope that the CROWN Coalition made a major breakthrough and initiated the CROWN Act to protect against this very thing —discrimination in the workplace related to hairstyles.
The journey to natural hair
When I decided to stop chemically treating and over-heating my hair, I realized I had more to overcome than merely learning hair techniques, trying new products and spending more time and money on my hair.
There was something deeper inside —like my desire to chase the beautiful hair that I wished I had but didn’t. Plus, I had to finally decide to be consistent in caring for my natural hair. To learn a new side of me, learn to love that side of me and have patience while the process played out.
After a few failed attempts (because of how easily it was to go back to what I knew), I decided to embrace my quest for natural hair as a journey… one of self-love and self-care. It was then that things started to click for me, and one of the main reasons I love to raise awareness about it.
Mindset shift to care for natural hair
In my journey, there were disappointments, annoyances and frankly, a lot of money spent. Oy, I’ve learned a lot since then.
…Not to mention the curl envy struggle is real. There’s this feeling of comparison and hopelessness.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Start by forming a loving relationship with your hair and look at it as a journey that will change over time.
You may only know one version of your hair, and when you begin to go natural, you’ll see another side that might not be as complicated as you thought, even if it needs to be nurtured back to a healthy state.
All 3 of my kids have curls and by teaching them how to love and work with their hair, I’m hoping to alleviate a world of comparison and self-doubt —my other main reason for sharing what I know. My goal is to help younger generations have a healthy relationship with their hair.
Getting your mind right by being informed, setting attainable goals, and realistic expectations will be your key to success.
Physical health and hydration are important for healthy hair.
Your skin, hair and nails respond to the state of your overall health. Staying hydrated and eating a well-balanced diet with protein and nutrients is essential for moisture retention, a healthy scalp and hair growth.
Getting daily exercise help to reduce anxiety and stress —two main contributors to excessive hair loss.
Draft a plan, take notes and pictures along the journey.
You’ll see it can be fun —like your own little science project when you begin to learn how your natural hair responds to products and your environment.
Like any new diet or exercise regimen you embark on, it’s a good practice to write down your goals and plan for accomplishing those goals. Take notes along the way so you can see progress, what’s worked and what hasn’t.
Things you’ll want to remember that work —the shampoo you loved, co-washes and conditioners that loosened your curls, how often you washed and more.
You can keep it simple, like adding to your Notes App on your phone or download a journal app. If you like to handwrite, do that instead!
Choose a few protective hairstyles that you can lean on to give your hair a break.
Relaxers and high heat styling tend to damage your hair, so it’ll take time to restore your hair’s healthy curl.
Helping your natural hair retain moisture and be protected from weather, sleeping and other activities like working out is going to be key to success. Lawd knows, the one thing girls with curls have to battle is dry, brittle hair.
Find protective styles that you can rely on. They’ll save you on those days when you don’t have time to wear your hair out.
On days where I don’t have time to refresh my curls or my hair isn’t cooperating, I throw it in braids, a ponytail with a clip-in or a bun. I love wearing stylish headwraps too. If you’re not used to wearing wraps, practice at home to get comfortable with your new look.
Find a shampoo or co-wash you love and add on from there.
I’ve found that just because a hair product markets to your curl type doesn’t mean it will work for you. It’s trial and error. That’s why it’s important to spend time learning about your hair texture, curl type and the different products and styles that might best fit your curl.
Curly hair is more susceptible to drying out, so shampoo choice and frequency are part of your first natural hair steps. Coming from chemically treated and heated hair, you’re probably already battling dryness. Opt for shampoos that are sulfate-free and detergent free because those ingredients are drying. Cleansing conditioners (aka co-washes) are gentle and hydrating.
Find a wash frequency that works for you and try to stick to it. I’ve learned my hair is happiest when I co-wash once every or every other week. Try not to go past the 7-10 day mark without washing because a healthy scalp is crucial to healthy hair.
Plan to spend extra time on your hair, especially on wash day.
My wash day takes anywhere from 45 minutes or longer, depending on my length of hair. On the other days, I spend time refreshing my curls. Most days, I can’t just wake-up-and-go. I’ve taken to stylish headwraps and ponytails or buns on the days I don’t have time to wear my natural hair out.
My kids know when it’s wash day. They know when mommy is taking care of her hair. My husband knows not to rush me <wink> and we all get along. Just as you make time to paint your nails or shave your legs, carve out time to wear natural hair.
Deep hydration treatments, masks and conditioning can be a calming experience all about you. And don’t forget to write down what worked.
One last tip to get you started…
Don’t buy every flashy product you see —you will go broke ha! and do your research. I watch YouTube videos and read hair blogs then I pick and choose what’s right for me. No cookie-cutter here.
Get to know your curls girls. Do you have 3C… or are you a 4B wishing you were a 3C? Did you know you can have more than one curl pattern too? (Knowing your curl pattern also helps you choose clip-ins that are a perfect match for you.)
Work with what you have. When you try to change it or pretend it’s something it’s not, all you do is mess up your process and spend money you didn’t need to.
Here are some of the brands I love. They’re popular, tried and true for many curl patterns and affordable.
Sharing our journey is crucial to our success. I’d love to hear what hurdles you’ve had to overcome, what’s an obstacle you can’t get passed or what has worked well for you. Leave me a note in the comments.