This is an article on “Natural Hair 101 – How to care for & Grow your Natural Hair” that was initially published in The African Perspective Magazine issues 8.
It makes me really happy to know that there are so many sistas who are getting inspired by the natural hair movement and are looking to embrace themselves and love who they really are.
As you’ve probably seen on the internets, naturalistas refer to it as a natural hair journey because it is indeed a journey. For many of us, we grew up with chemically altered relaxed hair and essentially had no idea of any other way of wearing African hair. We aspired and yearned to have the straightest, silkiest of hair types. As we grow older, we start to realize the pain (literally) it takes for us to achieve this straight hair. We start to realize that there must be something wrong, it must not be naturally who we are. Well, this is what happened to me. At around 17yrs old, I started to question my identity, my individuality and what my hair said about that. My natural hair journey began.
Recently, I started to dedicate a good part of my life to inspiring and teaching others how to care for and grow their natural hair. This piece is aimed at assisting those who are seeking to begin their journeys as well as those who have already begun but may need a reminder of the true basics. We hope this will be a good starting point. Without further ado, let’s get into the beginner’s guide to taking care of, maintaining, and growing natural hair
If you’re not already natural, there are two options for starting your journey. The first and easiest is yep, you guessed it! BIG CHOP! Chop all the relaxed hair off. This is also the bravest of the two options. This will leave you with a cute short hair style which naturalistas refer to as a TWA (Teeny-Weeny-Afro). The second option is to transition. This is a lengthier process where you basically stop relaxing and wait a couple of months to get natural hair growth beneath the relaxed hair. Once you get to the natural hair’s desired length, you then chop off only the relaxed hair. You’re probably thinking, but how do I walk around with two different hair textures? Well, what’s going to happen is that you’ll have to add braids, twists and the like to your hair. As you’ve already guessed, transitioning allows you to not deal with the shortest hair length after you chop. In the end, you’ll have more hair to work with and style. All a personal preference really.
KEEPING AN OPEN MIND
Okay so now that you’re natural. What I need you to know is that you’ve got to keep an open mind. You need to explore, learn, correct. This will be the phase of trial and error. Regard it as a new relationship with your mane. Just as you would a relationship with someone, find out its likes and dislikes. From what it likes to drink…eat…whether it appreciates being touched or not and how often!!
Using the right hair products is very important in maintaining healthy hair. Even so, I still want to emphasize that brands and products should not be seen as the Holy Grail of natural hair but merely tools that assist you in achieving what you want. Natural hair is just as happy with natural food products such as organic virgin coconut oil, just as well as it can be with branded hair products – the right ones at that.
Naturalistas often become what we call product junkies. Essentially, every time another naturalista makes mention of any random hair product that is working sooo well for their hair, they jump on it without hesitation and hardly any research, ending up with buckets and buckets of hair product at home, and unhappy hair. I advise against this.
Natural hair is very stress free but the movement has also come with hectic consumerism that can bring on quite a lot of unnecessary anxiety. Just like Hair Type & Hair Porosity (check next paragraph), I urge that when trying new hair products, you stick with one brand’s collection for at least 4 weeks, that way you’ll be able to tell whether a product actually works or not. This will also aid you in hopefully pinpointing an ingredient your hair may not vibe with.
HAIR TYPE & HAIR POROSITY
Hair Type describes the manner and pattern in which your hair strands grow. This goes from silky straight (1, 2A, 2B) to the moist kinky coily pattern (4C). Although a good thing to know, it’s not nearly as important as Hair Porosity in terms of how it will help you to care for your hair and maintain your styles.
Hair Porosity (low, medium, high) refers to your hair’s ability and readiness to absorb moisture and retain it. Natural hair needs a lot of moisture. It is very important to know your hair’s porosity as this allows you to choose which natural hair products are best suited for it. You’ll be surprised to know that some oils and creams will absorb into and work well for a low rather than high porosity, and that for some, the frequency of moisturizing will be different to others. We will delve deeper into porosity in the next issue, helping you find out which category your hair belongs. For now, visit this site for more info on hair type > Hair Typing for beginners
As just mentioned, moisture is very important for natural African hair. If it’s not properly moisturized, it will result in brittle hair that is prone to breakage, which means no growth. I know everyone is after that growth, length and volume! Leave-in conditioners, deep conditioners, and protein treatments are all important steps to consider which we will get into more detail later.
BYE-BYE COMB, HELLO FINGER DETANGLING
Our hair loves moisture and so if it’s touched and styled when dry, it needs to be done with caution otherwise it leads to breakage. This is especially true for the Type 4 category hair. In between washes, you need to avoid combing and detangling, in fact it needs to be left alone altogether! Ditch all your combs, invest in a Denman brush and a very wide tooth comb which you will only use when your hair is wet or damp.
As well, covering the HAIR with conditioner for slip, allowing you to easily and gently detangle the strands.That said, before you pick up the brush, you will want to detangle the hair with your fingers as much as possible, and then resort to the brush as a finish.
STYLING & PROTECTIVE STYLING
While short, it’s going to be easy to style, until you reach that awkward length when hair is neither long, nor short. Consider a tapered cut, it allows you to still have short hair but gives you edge. A tapered cut also grows out beautifully giving the hair a long lasting dope heart shape. When you’ve passed the awkward stage, you can start introducing styling tools such as perm-rods, flexi-rod outs, curl-formers and the like.
Last but not least for this 101 edition, I advise you find a natural hair blogger/Vlogger to follow (e.g. @tooandalee) for inspiration, styling ideas, and tips. This keeps you in the loop, informed, and inspired. Also keep an eye out for our top 10 natural hair vloggers/bloggers in one of the upcoming issues.
There you have it good people. Do not be afraid, the natural hair journey may initially have its ups and downs but you’ve got to remember to make it fun, it’s all worth it and will consist 95% of ups in the end. One thing I can promise you is that if you’re not already natural, you are going to notice an immediate difference in the appearance of your hair. And even if you are a naturalista, if you make corrections based on the above, your hair is going to be at its healthiest, most vibrant state. You are going to see it smile.
Thuli is a young South African who has spent years abroad and recently moved back home to pursue her dreams. She enjoys and writes about travel, fashion and lifestyle issues. Check out her blog and follow her on IG @tooandalee