Natural Hair: How To Deal
It's just been about 6 months since I chopped my ‘creamy crack’ hair off and began my exciting new journey with natural hair.
As you can imagine, it’s been quite the ride!
The obviously glamorous part of it being that I could shower, walk in the rain and jump into pools, as I pleased…no caps needed, no emergency salon appointments to be arranged.
Basically - no hell freezing over.
The spooky part of it? Well, there was this one time I was on a bus from Belgrade to Nis, Serbia earlier this year.
My ‘strange’ hair was touched by curious Serbians behind me as I slept.
There I was, in the middle of nowhere…alone; only ‘black’ female in that bus or in that 10 kilometre radius…having my hair touched in secret by curious Serbians.
I guess it was a bit of a compliment (but still spooky) that I was some sort of scientific specimen X for them. I obliviously showed them how Afro hair feels like. And from their excited banter, after touching it, I knew that at least I contributed to adding some new knowledge in them.
Apart from my hair being a strange thing for people outside Kenya, it has continued to meet those standards in Nairobi.
My mum is particularly dreaming of a day when she can drag me to a salon, kicking and screaming, to get my hair back to its ‘former glory’.
Then there are a few who look at my hair now and wonder what I do to it.
“Wait—Is it natural?”
“Why does it look so curly?”
“How do I get mine to look like that?”
“What advice can you give? I am considering cutting mine too!”
After receiving quite a number of such questions, I figured I would write a blog that I can easily point to when asked any of the above.
My answer is always something like this: “I learnt by watching lots of YouTube videos and reading a lot about Natural Hair. But I now realize that it will be of greater help if I share my personal learnings in summary and make everyone’s work easier.
Besides…there is too much out there. Just enough to confuse the hell out of someone just starting out. Trust me- I know.
So here goes. I will start with the DON'Ts so that they stick and can scare you enough to want to remember the DOs :p
- Avoid chopping your hair off all by yourself. At least do it slowly in front of a mirror(I did!); But if you are not artistic or a risk taker, please just head over to a professional salon where they know how to cut! ( Which I still had to do in order to taper my ends). Don’t be afraid to spend on this one. It will be worth it.
- Don’t use or let anyone(salonists are notorious for this) use shampoo on your hair unless it is once a month or so and it does not have ingredients such as sulphites, sulphates or anything that says…xxxxcone or xxxparabens. Apparently mineral oil as an ingredient is also not good. They make natural hair dry and dull. They are the big bad wolves that steal the moisture in the hair. If you ever have to use shampoo(though not regularly)….use a good one but be sure to deep condition your hair right afterwards.
- Other big bad wolves are soaps of any kind. Get that stuff as far away from your hair as possible! Worse than shampoos even. Unless they are baby soaps…but I am not sure about that one. Just better to keep off.
- Don’t comb your hair while it is dry! Actually you don’t need to comb it every day. And no, it will not turn into dreadlocks. Keep your natural curls/coils and if you have to manipulate, use a brush lightly while the hair is wet.
- Don’t sleep with your hair open on cotton sheets. Bad news! Steals all the moisture, oils, juices…anything good in there is jacked!
- Don’t rinse your hair with hot water. It is better with cold. Google for scientific explanation on this one to know more.
- Avoid using any oil that is not organic olive or coconut oil on the hair or scalp. Others will just sit there and gather dirt. Olive and coconut oil have small enough molecules(is it?) to be absorbed especially by natural hair that needs nutrition. Heck, coconut oil is Ksh. 67 on the counter and it is good for you! All our parents used to use it on their natural hair before the perm revolution.
- Don’t use heat on your hair especially if you intend to have it grow. Gentle heat once in a while is okay. Too much heat, breaks the hair.
- Avoid using a towel on the hair after washing. It sips too much water and water is good for natural hair as you will discover. Get an old t-shirt or a kikoi.
- Use conditioner to wash your hair. A phenomenon called ‘Co-washing’. It softens the hair, adds nutrients and still contains some cleansing properties. Not just any conditioner- be sure to choose the ones without sulphites, sulphates or anything xxxxcone or xxxparabens or even mineral oil as their ingredients, otherwise it will still rob your hair. Alberto Balsam Herbal Conditioners work for me.
- Deep Condition the hair every week if possible. Fortnightly if not. Adds nutrients to the hair. Choose Deep Conditioning treatments that are ‘organic’. From my experience…those with Shea Butter worked best. Otherwise, if you want to go homemade: honey and a bit of olive oil/castor oil mixture, 15-second microwaved, works.
- Only comb or detangle your hair when it is wet or when it has conditioner or Deep Conditioner in it. When it dries, it weakens.
- Only sleep with open natural hair on satin pillows or sheets or tie your hair with a satin/silk scarf or bonnet. You can find them in cosmetic shops. Anything else robs your hair to dryness!
- Use Leave-In conditioner on the hair everyday to soften and nourish it. It has to be the basis of everything else that will go on that hair.
- Natural hair loves water. It has to be a key ingredient while styling.
- Always seal in moisture with an oil(above mentioned) after using water based products.
My Daily Hair Routine( At the moment)
It has changed over time as I progressively discovered what worked and what didn’t. Each hair loves and hates some things. What works for me, might or might not work for you in the exact same way. The great thing about natural hair is the experimentation…and God knows I love experimenting
Wash my hair with a good conditioner. I usually let 3-5 minutes pass before I rinse with cold water. Alberto Balsam’s Herbal conditioner is working for me at the moment. My hair is short enough to wash every other day.
Wrap the washed wet hair in my reserved hair kikoy for 5 minutes. An old T-shirt could work too as I mentioned.
I then put Leave-in conditioner onto the hair, still wet (Annoyingly now dripping on my face and neck). I prefer Olive oil Leave-in conditioners, without the harmful ingredients of course. Or worst case, use one with xxxxcone in the middle or the bottom of the ingredient list…like I am :/ It takes quite a lot of time to stand at the shelves and look for one without any of the big bad wolf ingredients. So I would rather settle for one with xxxxcone in it rather than one with xxxxparabens.
I take some castor oil and rub it into the hair. Not too much though. This oil is thick! But apparently does wonders to natural hair. I use this instead of moisturizers. If I wasn’t using this I would use any good shea butter or jojoba oil moisturizers without the harmful ingredients. But pure castor oil is easy to get…small bottle…good for the hair.
If my hair needs a bit more wetness, I spritz it with some Water and castor oil mixture. You could mix water with glycerine, with extra virgin olive oil or any other good oil at your disposal. Castor oil smells bad but it has good benefits for natural hair, as I have come to know.
I then take some Styler Gel and rub generous amounts of it into the hair. Eco Styler Gel is good since it is alcohol free and I like its firm effect. If you get another that is alcohol free and works for you, go for it.
At this point, I continuously rub the gel into the hair in circular motions to activate the curls and coils.
After that, I seal in the moisture with some pure coconut oil.
Sometimes, I leave it as it is or I lift bits of the hair with a tail comb or a brush…very gently, to avoid ripping through the coils. I do not comb. I just lift and disturb the hair to make the curl pattern uniform…if that makes sense :p
Then I put the forehead baby hairs to bed with some gel and I am good to go!
Usually- the hair looks wet at that moment; just walk it off or drive it off. It dries eventually.
Takes about 10-15 minutes to style.
I hope that this information will help you or a friend of yours who embarking on a natural hair journey!
Further questions….are welcome.