Are you a naturalista? You know, someone with African natural 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 African hair. Or watching demonstrations on how to do exciting styles like twist outs or bantu knots. Because who doesn’t want their 4C hair to look like a crown?
If not YouTube then it’s Pinterest; discovering natural hair tips and admiring hairstyles we probably couldn’t pull off. Or we’re on Google, researching the best natural 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 takes 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 on the job that you had no idea of. And that’s because no one ever told you before, not even your hairdresser. 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 not be washed with hot water as it strips down all the oil from your shafts. Flashback to all those times your hairdresser used steaming 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’ll soon find out there are better ways to take care of your hair. There is hope.
Fortunately, there are a few natural hair products in the market that don’t contain sulfates and all those other nasty 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 sit under a scalding dryer 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.
Oh, and 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.
On the ground, 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.
Yes, it’s tiring to go 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 got 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 the real reason I decided to go natural is that there were so many naturalistas around me. On Instagram and even on the real streets. 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 framing their beautiful faces. Rocking heavenly Afros reminiscent of the 80s.
Okay not like the 80s. Beacuse these new-age fros, are out of this world!
So I decided to try it out myself. Took a huge risk and jumped off the cliff. I fell to the ground alongside 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 4C hair and people didn’t think I was a boy (I really hope they didn’t. Not that I’d hate being a boy).
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. Until 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 long rituals I needed in my life. And I let my hair take care of itself for a few months. My nonchalant attitude lasted till for a few months. Until everything changed.
I remember that particular day so vividly. I had just washed my hair after taking down my braids. 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 two years 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? I am still hanging out in that phase. I first experienced this phase 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, “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). Luckily, 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. 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!)
Before you go, let me share a secret with you. 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.
Now that I have open hair, my hands are 90% of the time in my 4C 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.
Another less disturbing habit I have is every time I see a mirror, I have to inspect my small elusive coils. Just 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.
If they have, 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 mixed-race kid. No matter how much I pray to the hair gods and ancestors.
But you know what, I am not alone. There are lots of girls with kinky 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 hair 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.
As this naturalista continues to search for the right hair products and grow a fabulous fro wish me luck, will you?