Are you a naturalista? You know, someone with natural African hair? Well if you aren’t then let me give you an insight into the life of one.
We are always on the Internet. The Internetters we are (yup, that’s a word). Spending our precious time and bundles on YouTube videos to learn how to wash and condition our natural hair. Or watching demonstrations on how to do exciting styles like twist outs or bantu knots.
If not YouTube then it’s Pinterest, discovering natural hair tips and admiring hairstyles that we probably couldn’t pull off. Or we’re on Google, researching on the best products for our kinky African hair. (This reminds me of Ythera’s song Kinky Hair which is the anthem for us naturalistas).
Oh, and let’s not forget the time and energy spent looking for these special products. And then trying out them on our hair which usually take hours off our weekends. I’m telling you, it’s a tough life people.
When you decide to go natural, there are a lot of important hair facts you learn that you had no idea of. And that’s because no one ever told you before. Let me break some of them down.
- Most commercial shampoos contain chemicals known sulfates which are BAD for your hair. Products containing alcohol, parabens or mineral oil are a NO-NO for healthy hair. Seriously, who knew that?
- You learn that strong heat damages your natural hair. So all those sessions you spent under the dryer or used tongs to acquire fabulous waves, probably did more harm than good. (Sighs deeply).
- Your hair should never be washed with hot water as it strips down all the oil from your shafts. Immediately, you remember all those times the hairdresser used hot water in the name of better cleansing. Clearly he or she was an enemy of your tresses.
But it’s not all gloom and doom. It’s more of a reawakening. You find out that there are better ways to take care of your hair. There is hope.
Fortunately, there are a few good hair products in the market that don’t contain sulfates and all those other harmful chemicals. And since our bodies are so awesome, they can generate enough heat to allow treatment products to be absorbed by the hair with just a shower cap on. Therefore, you don’t need to visit the salon every two weeks just to deep condition (treat) your hair. There are also heatless ways of straightening your hair, saving your hair from the damage.
And finally, the ideal kind of water to wash your hair with is warm distilled water. However, your final rinse should involve cold water as it seals in the moisture. Sounds crazy, I know. But don’t look at me like that. I’m not the one who made these rules up.
It’s the people on the Internet!
Here is a blinged out shower cap. Just kidding, it’s a special type that keeps heat in and is very efficient for deep conditioning. The cholesterol cap, they call it.
Lots of people have asked me repeatedly why I went natural. Well more precisely, why I cut my hair. (It’s called a Big Chop by the way) The simple answer is this. I got tired.
I was tired of going to the damn salon every fortnight carrying at least 500 shillings. Only to have my hair pulled and stretched for two hours. And for my scalp to encounter the fiery flames of hell in the name of ‘treatment’.
I was tired of spending hours in a foreign place bending my head uncomfortably while reading fashion magazines. Okay, maybe I didn’t mind the last part. But I got fed up of it all. Or maybe I just got lazy. Who knows?
Anyway, where was I… Oh yeah, answering a question posed to me by many people. Now you have the short answer. Or was that the long one? (Co-wonders).
But the real reason I decided to go natural is because there were so many naturalistas already. Or maybe they were suddenly revealed to me at that moment in time. And mahn, didn’t they looked gorgeous with their long natural African hair flowing down their faces. Rocking heavenly Afros reminiscent of the 80s.
Okay not like the 80s. These new-age fros, are out of this world!
So I decided to try it out myself. Took the huge risk and jumped off the cliff. I fell to the ground with my chemically damaged hair ends. Until I had short hair. Until I looked like a boy. But I didn’t care much about that. All that mattered was that I got what I longed for. I had my real organic hair. I was free.
Water is African hair’s best friend
At this point, I would absolutely love to tell you how smoothly I transitioned into the new life. How I had perfectly healthy growing hair and people didn’t think I was a boy. (I really hope they didn’t. Not that I’d hate being a boy, hehe)
Short hair stereotypes aside, I refuse to sit here and lie to you how easy breezy it was. In fact a few weeks after I did the BC, I got scared. I didn’t know where to begin. I had suddenly been flung into this foreign world without an orientation, or even an instruction manual. Sure, there’s lots of information online about caring for natural hair. And of course, I coursed through it. Then I discovered that there was a lot of work to do.
For a newbie it was overwhelming and scary. I wasn’t ready. So what did I do? Did I put on a weave and run in the opposite direction? Of course not. I had already made a commitment, and had gone too far already.
Eventually I decided not to care. Not to stress myself about all these new products and rituals I needed in my life. And I let my hair take care of itself for a few months. That lasted till the beginning of this year. When everything changed.
I remember that particular day so vividly. I had just washed my hair after taking down my braids then. I remember looking at my reflection after on the bathroom mirror, and seeing tiny curls popping out of my head. My first visible curls! I was in utter disbelief and joy. I actually had curls (wipes away tears).
Seeing those cute little things immediately changed my attitude towards my hair. It was the beginning of me taking hair matters seriously, into my own hands. I threw out my old products and scouted for alcohol/paraben free ones. Went to the store and bought the essentials: a spray bottle, combs and brushes. And then I started caring for my hair.
That was four months ago. Today, I’m still not sure of what I’m doing.
Did I mention that becoming a naturalista requires a lot of experimentation with a lot of weird products? Well it does. As annoying and expensive as the process is, it is crucial in determining what your hair likes. And what it wants to throw straight out of the window.
I am still hanging out in that phase. I first experienced it when I adopted a morning hair routine using the LOC method. (This is basically applying Leave in conditioner, an Oil and Curling Cream in that order, after spritzing your hair with good ol’ H20).
In the beginning I used coconut oil which is promised to be an excellent hair oil. Only that it didn’t leave my hair as soft as advertised. Thankfully, I soon found another oil that works better on my dry 4c hair. Its name, is “Taliah Waajid African Healing Oyl”. Scary name right?
I randomly spotted it at the beauty store during one of my excursions and after reading positive reviews about it, I decided to give it a try. Fished out a thousand shillings from my savings account (sobs). However, I did not regret my purchase.
For one, it has an interestingly pleasant smell, and bottle too. And it always makes my hair feel soft and yummy. But the best part about it, is that it is way more than just a hair oil.
Despite the many hurdles I have encountered transitioning into natural hair care, I must say I’m glad to be part of a new community. The natural hair movement. This is a subdivision of the female population where we constantly advise and encourage each other online . Being natural is not an easy journey thus we need each other to navigate it.
Just like our hair, the movement is slowly growing with new members every other day. If you are one of them and feeling confused, don’t despair. We’re all in this together.
Speaking of, I recently discovered Kenyan beauty blogs that are literally saving me from my hair ignorance one post at a time. I basically go there to pick up hair tips and product recommendations (Lord knows they are many!)
The reason I love these blogs is because they provide me with a clearer roadmap to my ultimate hair goal. Currently I’m following Craving Yellow, African tresses and treats, as well as Kurly Kichana. So grateful for the existence of these insightful ladies.
If I tell you a secret, promise to keep it? Well here it goes. There is one part of my body that I play with a lot. More than any other part. And that is mes cheveux. Oui, my hair. Even when I have braids on, I am always playing with it. Can you believe it?
Unfortunately, this habit has only intensified now that I have open hair. Meaning my hands are 90% of the time in my hair, finger combing to feel how soft it is – or not. I know it’s a bad habit, but I just can’t help it. I’ve always been addicted to
touching my hair.
For some strange reason, I don’t think I’m the only one.
Another less disturbing habit I have is everytime I see a mirror, I take the opportunity to look at my hair. Just to admire those small elusive coils. Inspecting to see if they’ve increased in number, as if I can actually count them.
Sometimes I think I spot a couple of new ones that have recently made an appearance. Especially after washing my hair with my natural products. Subsequently, I take a short moment to appreciate them. True, they may not be defined or easily visible as I would want them to. But they are there. And that’s what counts.
Slowly I have learnt to accept my coarse 4C hair as it is. I have also come to terms with the fact that it will never be as soft and curly as a pointee’s, AKA mixed race. No matter how much I wish and pray to the gods.
But you know what, I am not alone. There are lots of girls with hair just like mine. Some even have coarser hair. Therefore, I feel blessed. I am blessed with thick black hair that grows well. African hair that looks shiny and healthy, at least on most days.
Like Martin Luther King Jr., I also have a dream. A dream that one day I shall be the proud owner of long beautiful hair that I can wear as an Afro. Or as two strand twists.
We’ll just have to wait to see.
My next hair project is making my own natural deep conditioner. This DIY effort will require a number of household and kitchen items (read foodstuff).
Will it take a lot of time and effort getting the right ingredients and learning the recipes? You’re damn right it will! But if it means I won’t have to spend around 1000 shillings every couple of months for a commercial product filled with incomprehensible ingredients, then I’m up for it. After all natural is always best, right?
And in the end, I think my wallet and hair will thank me for my hard work.
My hair journey has just began and is far from over. As this naturalista continues to search for the right products and adopt a healthy regime wish me luck, will you?