Things You Should Know Before Going Natural by Chelsea of Curly and Young
As a new natural, things can get very confusing. There is a wealth of info out there, but looking for it and figuring out how to implement the plethora of knowledge into your regimen is a whole other ball game. Plus, it is hard to find the info that is inexpensive and easy to implement for a curly on a budget. So here is a compilation of all the things that I would have liked to know before going natural, as well as simple and cheap tips and tricks to help newbie naturalistas get started… Enjoy!!
There are two ways that you can embark on your journey, you can either:
Do The Big Chop (BC)
This involves cutting all the relaxed ends of the hair off and growing your hair out naturally.
Long or Short Transition
This process involves stopping the use of relaxers on your hair and allowing the hair to grown in naturally whilst trimming off the relaxed ends gradually. This method is preferred as it allows the transitioner to gain a sufficient length of hair that they are comfortable with and get to know their hair and how to care for it before taking the plunge.
Proper moisture is an integral part of caring for your natural hair. Because of the kinks in natural hair, it is very difficult for the natural oils of the hair to travel down the shaft and keep it pliable and moisturized. Thus, as a natural, it is imperative that you moisturize your hair and often. Here are some easy things that you can do to keep your hair moisturized:
- Use water; water is by far the best moisturizer known to man. In between a styling session, simply dampen the hair then seal in the moisture with a light oil (jojoba, grapeseed etc). A popular method of doing this is with the use of a spray bottle. Usually water, a light oil (jojoba, grapeseed, olive) and glycerin is combined and used as a style refresher or light moisturizer during the day.
(Distilled or boiled water should be used for mixes to ensure that a bacterium is not introduced to your mix. Also, to prevent the mixture from becoming a breeding ground for bacteria, mix small batches at a time. Lastly, a few drops of an essential oil like grapefruit seed extract or tea tree can act as a preservative for your mix.)
- Use a water based moisturizer; continuing with the water theme, any good manufacturer of a product will know that the best way to moisturize the hair is using water thus, any good moisturizers will contain water as the first ingredient. Having mentioned water based moisturizers, I should also explain that some moisturizers are oil or butter based. In and of themselves they are not moisturizing. The way they work is by trapping water near the hair shaft and softening as well. Thus, they should only be applied to damp hair or over a moisturizing leave in and never on their own.
- Another easy and inexpensive way to get your moisture on is by baggying. This method involves placing a shower cap on your head for an extended length of time (usually done whilst asleep). This helps to trap the moisture around the hair and create a slight steam effect. I swear by this method of moisturizing and have experienced whole days of moisture after one night of baggying.
(If you run out of shower caps or your hair is big and puffy and laughs at the small plastic shower caps, then grab a grocery bag. They work just as well as shower caps and are larger to accommodate more hair. Simply put it on your head and to secure it gather the excess around the rim twist and tuck under. Not only will this help you get rid of all the grocery bags lying around the house and make you feel less guilty about your environmental footprint, it is also cheap.)
If you neglect all else, please remember that failure to properly moisturize your hair will lead to tangles and breakage.
DEVELOPING A GOOD REGIMEN
It is critical that as a natural you develop a good regimen that you can stick to. Persistence is key.
Relaxers work by breaking the protein bonds in the hair that normally give the hair its kinky texture. Once those bonds have been broken to straighten the hair, it can become weak and brittle. As your new growth comes in stronger it is important to keep your relaxed ends healthy to prevent excessive breakage. The best way to do this is by deep treating the hair using protein treatments. Some inexpensive and well raved about protein treatments are Aubrey Organics Glycogen Protein Balancing Conditioner and Aphogee Protein Treatment. Also another inexpensive way to get more protein is by using Infusium products.
However a word of caution must be issued. Too much protein can cause the hair to become straw like and dry.
As a natural with kinks and coils, it is imperative that we take caution when detangling our hair as every bend in our hair is a site where it is susceptible to breakage. To avoid breakage simple steps can be taken. The two ways that naturals can detangle is wet or dry. Here is a break down of the best way to go about detangling either way.
When detangling dry it is important to note that the hair is less elastic then when wet thus, it is more likely to break when tugged on. Thus, the best way to approach this detangling session is in stages. The first stage should involve the loosening of the hair and gentle separating of any large knots with the use of ones fingers. This is called finger detangling. Then one should use a large toothed comb to further detangle and remove shed hairs. Lastly, one can follow up with a finer toothed detangling comb or brush to remove all shed hairs or for styling purposes.
Please note that it is recommended that you lubricate your hair with a light oil or water to aid in detangling dry hair.
When wet, the hair is more elastic and lubricated which is probably why it seems to be the favored method of detangling. While it is more likely to withstand tugging, it can easily be stretched and weakened in this state. This method is best executed when the hair is soaking wet and loaded with a conditioner with plenty of ‘slip’ for easy detangling. This method can be approached the same way as detangling whilst dry i.e. in stages.
Please note that hair should always be detangled from the tip to root, and NEVER the other way around. Also to prevent tangles, hair should be detangled in sections and twisted or plaited immediately after it has been washed to prevent it from re-tangling.
Neither way is right or wrong… be gentle no matter which method you employ.
Tips for purchasing detangling tools
When one sets out to purchase a detangling tool careful consideration must be placed on the item that will be purchased. Things to keep in mind are:
- Is the tool seamless? If it is not then it is highly likely that your strands could get caught in the tool and break off. This also applies to the little balls at the end of bristles on brushes. Ensure that the balls are seamless and not glued on.
- Are the teeth spaced too close together? If the teeth are closely spaced then depending on your hair texture it may be difficult for you to get your hair through the spaces.
As a new natural I looked forward to whipping up my own mixes at home. After being educated on the ingredients that were good for the hair, I took great pleasure in creating a product that I not only knew would be good, but that I knew exactly what was in it. Some easy products to whip up yourself cheaply and inexpensively are Deep Conditioners and Whipped Butters and here’s how.
The easiest way to create your own DC is by using a thick and creamy wash out conditioner as your base and adding ingredients to it. Things that you probably have at home that are good for your hair are oils (olive, coconut and castor) honey, mayo and eggs (for light protein), banana (puree well as banana can be a pain to rinse out), avocado etc. Simply mix it all up, apply it to your hair and wear a shower cap for no less than half an hour, then rinse. Please note that you cannot mix large quantities of your DC to use at a later date as it cannot be preserved.
Another fun and easy DIY hair product is whipped puddings. They are usually created with butter bases like shea, mango and or cocoa butter. Ingredients like various oils such as olive, jojoba, coconut and castor oil can be added. You can either melt the butter and oil then stir it as it hardens, or use a hand mixture to combine the ingredients. Some women also include aloe vera gel to create a pudding that can also be used as a styler. Simply mix small batches using various ratios of oils until you find your right mix.
Ingredients to look out for…
Look out for oils like grapeseed, olive oil, castor oil, coconut oil, vatika oil (a mixture of coconut oil and various Indian oils).
Also aloe vera gel can be used as a styling agent and helps to lower the pH of the hair to close the cuticles and give your hair more shine.
Things you should know…
During the transitioning process you will see breakage at the point where your natural hair meets your relaxed ends (referred to as the demarcation line). This area is very fragile, and while gentle handling and moisturizing treatments help, some breakage is inevitable.
Detangling time will increase as your natural hair comes forth. Natural hair being more textured than relaxed hair will obviously take more time to detangle. However, transitioners may have a higher detangling time as the point where the natural hair meets the relaxed ends is extremely fragile and thus to avoid breakage, extra caution must be taken.
Not everyone will like your decision…
As young naturals this is particularly hard to swallow. We are at a time in our lives when we are looking to be accepted by our peers. The last thing we want is to feel alienated and deemed ugly. However, sometimes we do not give others enough credit. There will be people who will find you going natural a powerful statement and admire your bravery for doing so at a time when straight hair is deemed the only beautiful. Also they may find your new look different and cute.
However, there will always be the naysayers in your life and all you can really do is try to educate them and keep it moving. Your healthy hair and growth will speak for itself. Also, think about it if you allow what others say to play a major role in your decision making, then it speaks volumes as to what the rest of your life will be like.