Our relationship with our hair can be pretty loaded, especially if you identify as a black person. Even more so if your hair texture falls in the 4A – 4C category, mistakenly labeled “nappy” by Eurocentric standards and insensitive people. At some point or another a person with curly or coily hair has heard/seen things that imply that our hair is unkempt, unprofessional and simply not beautiful. We’ve heard dating preferences that err towards straight hair or socially acceptable curly hair. The list goes on and on.
The great news is that more people are deciding to defy what’s been acceptably all of these years and embracing the way their hair naturally grows. Do we still have a long way to go? As with any kind of change, yes we do. But this doesn’t take away from the fact that natural hair is more appreciated these days. There are numerous hair care products, ad campaigns and more that cater to natural hair compared to when I was growing up in the 90s and even early 2000s.
When Tracee Ellis Ross announced that she’d been quietly working behind the scenes on her hair care brand Pattern Beauty, the wheels in my mind started turning. I’ve been grappling with the idea of writing an article about natural hair but I wasn’t sure which direction to go in. Despite the fact I’ve been natural for a while, I am NOT an expert on all hair textures or products that cater to natural hair. My journey started in 2014 but I didn’t really start wearing my hair more often until the end of 2016. Even then, the pictures I’ve shared on the site and on social media have either featured my hair in buns or braids.
After finding hair products that my hair absolutely loves (Alikay Naturals), I’ve started to appreciate my texture for what it is. It won’t ever identify as “curly” but it is coily with more than a few zig zag patterns. Most importantly, it’s what grows out of my scalp and the new life it’s seemed to have taken on is probably a direct result of me learning to appreciate it. Wash days are no longer dreaded and looked at as a form of self care even. Like pouring energy into myself, starting with my hair. It’s taken some time but I realize there is so much beauty and versatility that comes with having naturally textured hair.
If you pay attention then you can see how the relationship with my hair has changed over the past couple of years. I used to wear long box braids then traded them in for bob box braids only to start wearing my hair in space buns. The space buns are still my go-to style when I don’t feel like doing my hair (it happens) but I do wear my hair in a twist out (sometimes in a puff as shown below) from time to time. Some of my favorite products to use for my hair are Alikay Naturals Moisturizing Black Soap Shampoo + Lemongrass Leave-in-Conditioner + Shea Yogurt Moisturizer, and Jamaican Black Castor Oil (no specific brand).
While this isn’t necessarily an informative natural hair article, I decided to speak to a couple of women about their natural hair journey. It’s important to note that while two people may have similar hair textures, the porosity of their hair may differ which leads to them using different products. Beyond that, some people may have differing styling preferences and journeys that led them to embracing their natural hair. There are so many “rules” that come with choosing to wear one’s hair in its natural state but I think the best rules are the ones we create for ourselves that actually work for us.
For Kemi, her relationship with her natural hair came about after having her son. “Braids weren’t really an option for me because my edges were thinner. I had to wear my natural hair a lot more often.” As far as her hair texture is concerned, it varies from being curly or coily depending on how she’s taking care of it in any given period.
The products Kemi likes to use on her hair are anything from the Pantene Gold Series collection, Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Shampoo, and Aunt Jackie’s Nourish My Hair Flaxseed & Monoi Growth Oil to aid with her dry scalp.
While natural hair is defined as the hair that naturally grows out of one’s scalp, protective styles are a part of some people’s journey. In Kemi’s case, she says “80% of the time I’m wearing my wigs, 20% [of the time] I wear my hair in a puff or an easy to keep natural hair style.”
When asked about what inspired her to wear her hair in it’s natural state, Gene said, “I kept seeing baby pictures of myself and pictures of me as a toddler, and noticing how curly my hair was compared to what it looked like when I was getting relaxers.” After realizing how much shorter her hair had gotten by the time she was 14, Gene decided to get her last relaxer at 15 so her hair could curl up more.
Gene’s hair is a mixture of 4A/4B textures which means she has curly and coily strands. For those who are unfamiliar with curl patterns, this means her hair is a mixture of tighter and looser curls. Gene says “It took some time to love it, I won’t lie because you see a lot of looser curl patterns receiving praise but I’ve learned what products work for me.” The products she has been using lately are Wet-Line Xtreme Gel for a nice hold when wearing slicked back buns, Lotta Body Foaming Mousse, Camille Rose Aloe Vera Whipped Butter Gel, and the Camille Rose Curl Maker. These products keep her hair moisturized without weighing it down.
Gene’s personal go-to hairstyles are a twist out, slicked back bun or flexi rod set when she’s wearing her natural hair. When she wants to opt for a protective style, she chooses to wear a ponytail when she doesn’t want to deal with all of her hair.