By Ajai Nicole
Hi chickadees! Today’s column is all about transitioning your hair back to its natural curl. I want to share my own hair story with you to begin. I’m mixed — half black, half white — and was raised by the white side of my family, my grandma and grandpa and Aunt Linda. They didn’t really know what to do with my hair, which is naturally a beautiful, kinky curl. It turned out to be easier for them to take me to get it relaxed than to deal with my locks in their natural state. Aunt Linda found a hair salon owned by a mother-son team in Inglewood, California when I was nine, and she started taking me there every six weeks. My new, easy to manage hair made me feel like I fit in a little better with my family and the kids at school and my aunt and I did that drive to Inglewood until I was around 19, when I switched to a hairstylist in Long Beach.
But after awhile, I got tired of sitting in the chair to get my hair done. I worried it would cause hair loss, and there were other good reasons to make the change, like the occasional burning of my scalp and the horrible itchiness that relaxing causes. When I was 26, I stopped relaxing my hair.
I was still living in LA at the time, and I was keeping a short bob cut and getting a blowout every other week. I never even considered wearing my natural curls until I discovered Ouidad, a hair salon that was known for specializing in curly hair. I got brave and decided to make an appointment. It turned out that I loved the way Ouidad styled and cared for my hair, and the staff taught me how to twist my curls and work with with my new look. But my hair was super short! I realized I wanted to let it grow out, hoping that the longer the hair got, the bigger my curls would be. WRONG! Clearly I was still thinking I had that texture that people usually associate with white people.
Right now, my hair is the longest it’s been since high school and over the last year I’ve worn my hair natural more times than I have since I was nine! But there’s been plenty of challenges. Even now, seven years since I last relaxed it, the front part of my hair grows straight. This is complicated stuff, especially since I never grew up with anyone who taught me how to deal with my natural hair — black hair isn’t easy! Over the last four months I’ve put a focus on caring for my hair, and I’m learning so much. Let me tell you, sometimes I just want to throw in that towel and give up. But I knew I had to share my experience with anyone who is going through the same, difficult process of getting their hair back to natural. Here’s some tips to get you started. Get it. Love it. Hashtagme!
CHI CHI’S TIPS FOR NATURAL HAIR BABES
Essential transition style: twists, before and after.
1. Find your transition style The goal is figuring out how to blend two VERY different textures of hair into one. Try putting your hair in bantu knots or twists before you go to sleep at night. I’ll admit, it’s time consuming — it’s hard for me to do this every evening before I go to sleep. But my hair looks hella good when I do, and the two textures blend together and look more consistent. I will usually dampen my hair with a spray bottle full of water and conditioner, twist up little buns and pin it or braid it or even roll it into curlers. Another style I’m loving is achieved by applying styling crème and small flexi rods right up against your scalp, which looks way more my like my natural curls then the look you get from sponge rollers. I sleep with it all covered by my silk scarf, of course. Which brings me to my next point …
2. Get a silk scarf, bonnet, or pillow case If you can’t find silk, satin is the next best material for your hair. The scarf is a key part of the hair care regimen, always remember to tie one on before bed.
3. Stay moisturized Well duh pretty much everyone knows about that! But what happens when, like me, you have two different types of hair in the middle of your transition? I wash my hair with cold water and conditioner once a week, sealing it with castor oil while my hair is still damp. My curls are loving the ritual. Another trick I’ve learned is mixing together one part cold water and one part apple cider to use as a final rinse after you condition. It helps constrict the cuticles, which corrects porosity levels. You should always rinse your hair with cold water because it closes the cuticles — raised cuticles are a major culprit in regards to frizz. Close those pores and you’ll seal in moisture as well as nutrients.
4. Avoid petroleum, sulfates and mineral oil in your hair products This is the one big thing that will cut down on breakage when you’re transitioning. These three ingredients are big no-nos for anyone’s hair health, but when transitioning they are especially awful. Be warned: sulfates can be found in most shampoos. One easy way to tell if shampoo has sulfates in it is whether it gets sudsy when it hits water. (Of course, you can check the label on your products as well.) I’ve discovered that hair grease products usually contain mineral oil. Educate yourself about what’s in the things you put on your hair.
5. Cut out the heat WHAT!? It’s true — forget about using heat to dry or style your hair if you’re trying for a healthy, relaxed mane. Do not try to straighten your newly natural hair to look like your relaxed ‘do, that’s only going to create problems. When I moved to the Bay Area I purposefully didn’t pack my blowdryer, which has forced me to let my hair air dry and kept it softer and more supple. At night when I remember, I’ll detangle my hair with conditioner and water, then twist my hair into little bun knots and sleep with a scarf wrapped around it.
6. Remember to detangle There is an art to detangling your two hair textures that you can use to your hair advantage, detangle the ends first. The ends are the weakest/driest and this is especially so when you have the two hair textures. Part your hair in four sections and start detangling from the ends and work your way up to the root of your hair. Use a wide tooth seamless comb. It’s become my fave!