In the beginning
When deciding to go natural, I, like many, had no recollection of how my natural hair looked or felt and if I would love it or hate it.
What I did remember was the weekly washing process, the combing, the grease, the sore scalp and the ‘chiney bumps’ now known as Bantu knots. But as for the texture, manageability, curl pattern, etc….who knew. I was in junior high when my hair was first straightened with a hot comb heated on the stovetop. Ladies do you remember that? The blue grease and the hot comb sizzling a path much too close to your precious ears? After years of that I graduated to relaxing and proceeded to inflict 20 years’ worth of damage to my hair. My hair grew thinner and would often break. What was set to grow out of my scalp was a total mystery to me; one that I was excited to solve. I knew this hair journey would be eye opening.
1. All Hair is not created equal
My first stop for information was YouTube. There were so many posts of women with beautiful 3c and 4a hair. Those curls and coils were so inspiring. But my first realization was that you can’t choose what will grow out of your head and it may not look like those videos. My instinct was to use all the products my new found YouTube friends were using, plus anything else I could find at my local beauty supply store in the hopes that by some miracle my coils and kinks would somehow transform into wavy beautiful tresses. But my hair grew out and up and no matter how I religiously used the products the way others did, I could never recreate their look. Lesson learned – your hair is uniquely yours, you may share qualities and similarities of other naturalites but your hair requires its own unique regime developed through trial and error, patience and time. The quicker I accepted that fact the more I enjoyed the process and the less frustrated I was with my hair.
2. Products, products, products
My second realization: Hello, My name is Janet and I am a PRODUCT JUNKIE! And I own it.
3. Porosity trumps hair type
As I learned more about hair type, through the LOIS system, I concluded that knowing my hair type was not really helping me find my holy grails. No matter what I tried my hair was dry and rough. However, I came to better understand my hair after watching this series of videos on the Green beauty channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTQ91na1G10. I also attended a session at the 2013 Toronto Natural Hair and Beauty Show and learned about hair porosity there. I have high porosity hair; meaning that my hair cuticles are raised. This is great on one hand because my hair can soak up liquid quickly and easily. On the other hand my hair dries very quickly resulting in dry and brittle strands because those same raised cuticles allow moisture to escape. Understanding that my hair was craving certain products to help seal my cuticles and keep that moisture locked in was the key to truly loving and understanding my hair needs. Incorporating apple cider rinses in my wash routine and using Aloe Vera juice in my moisturizing process help close my cuticles to retain moisture.
4. Density plays a role in your product choice
I also have low density hair. Density refers to the number of hair follicles per square inch. Hair can be low medium or high density. Why is this important? Density will help determine the best products and the best application for your hair. In my case – low Density – I use light products such as hair milks for moisture, sweet almond oil or grape seed oil to seal, and whipped butters or lotions to style my hair. On the other end of the spectrum is high density hair that can handle heavy oils such as castor oil and olive oils, and creams and butters. Those that fall somewhere in the middle have the flexibility to use heavy or light products.
5. Shrinkage is a B—H
Since going natural in early 2012 I still can’t bring myself to wear a wash and go primarily because of shrinkage. Although my hair when stretched is down to my shoulders, with 75-80% shrinkage, a wash and go still turns into a TWA! Yes you heard me right from 9 inches to 2 inches. As a result my go to styles are twist outs or coil outs that allow me to stretch my hair for maximum length.
Shrinkage does not discriminate; it is simply a natural part of our hair texture and gives us the versatility to rock so many different styles. If shrinkage is not your friend, there are a myriad of tried and true styles and techniques out there that help preventing shrinkage.
So after many years of being natural I must admit that I have yet to solve the mystery that is my hair but I’m loving the journey and hope that you learn to enjoy yours.