Four years ago, I began my natural hair journey with the goal of growing my hair to become healthy and long. When I first began, I didn't realize how much time, effort and money I would have to put into styling my curly hair. I wish now that I then had a guide for caring for my fragile 4B/4C hair. I hope this list will serve as such a guide, helping you growing your hair out to its optimum length as soon as possible.
#1 Going Natural is a Journey
This is not a quick fix, and you won't see immediate results (I promise). Lauren Crymes, another Renaissance senior says you need much patience. It took her three years to restore her natural curl pattern after extreme heat damage.
#2 Moisturizing is Not an Option
No matter your hair’s length, if it's dry and without any kind of moisture, it's going to break off and grow in shorter than when you first began your journey. Tip: in between natural stylings, about three or four days after styling, lightly mist your hair with water and seal in the moisture with a light oil. Grape seed oil for dandruff prevention and strengthening; coconut oil for split ends and breakage prevention; argan oil for a heat protectant and curl definer. Make sure any store bought moisturizer is water based (the first ingredient listed should be water). Oil- and butter-based moisturizers only seal what water is already on the hair shaft; they do not actually moisturize the hair.
#3 Mistakes and Setbacks are Inevitable; You'll Live.
From breakage to dry hair, from bad cut to bad styling: You are bound to make some mistakes. As long as you bounce back, it’s not a big deal. A little extra love and being more gentle on your hair – along with cutting back on heat styling – should get your hair right back to where it was. If you discover that you have a lot of heat damage, don’t give up on the journey. Snip the ends, take notes, and keep it pushin' to the next style. (See #1 – Going Natural is a Journey)
#4 To Transition or Big Chop
This all depends on preference and comfort. Transitioning consists of doing natural hairstyles to grow your hair out until you no longer have relaxed or heat damaged ends. This is the most popular method of becoming natural. All of the people I have interviewed and I as well transitioned into a natural lifestyle. The big chop is when you cut out all of the damaged or relaxed hair, so that all you have left on your head are your natural curls. Many people don't big chop because they don't feel comfortable cutting off the majority of their hair. However, this method is the safest way to obtain natural status. Unlike with transitioning, you don't have to worry about the damaged ends splitting and breaking off your healthy hair, leaving it uneven.
#5 Products, Products, Products
There isn't a universal product for everyone’s hair. One of the biggest obstacles that men and women face in the natural community is finding a regimen of products that works for them. Brandy Harrison, a Cass Tech alumnus, said: "[My biggest hair challenge/obstacle is] finding products that don't have certain toxins and chemicals (I.e. anything listed among the ingredients ending in –sulfate or –cone excluding behentrimoniummethosulfate and water soluble silicones) in them." When looking for a product, make sure that it works well with your hair. Be sure also take a look at the ingredients on the side of the bottle. Understand all of what you're putting on (and in) your hair. Avery Shaw, another Cass Tech alum, says too that his biggest obstacle is finding products that work for him. Ingredients aren’t a problem for him, but his hair tends to frizz and lose definition after it dries. Your hair’s density and porosity will determine how products work with (or against) your hair.
#6 Density and Porosity Are More Important Than Your Hair Type
Many in the natural community forget this when purchasing natural hair products, because everyone’s hair is different. They aren’t the same thing as hair type. Your hair type is based off of the shape of the shaft that your hair grows from, and the size of your curls. The density of your hair is how thick your hair is collectively. Density = how many hairs you have on your head. The denser your hair, the heavier the products need to be in order to keep your styles in tact. The porosity of your hair is how well your hairs absorb and retain moisture. If your hair is highly porous, it is most likely damaged and loses moisture just as fast as it absorbs it. If your hair has low porosity, make sure to apply heat while deep conditioning; only apply styling product when your hair is damp or wet.
#7 You Don't Have to Have a Reason to Want to Go Natural
Many people choose to go natural because their hair is damaged and they want to bring it back to life. (Reality check: all hair is dead once it leaves the hair shaft). Camille Hollenquest, a Cass Tech junior, had been getting perms for 4 years when her mom helped her transition from relaxed to the natural girl she is today. Many choose to go natural simply to see why it has become popular: Your hair is on your head, and you can decide however you like to treat and style it.
#8 If You Do it, Embrace it
Joining the natural community works its way into your life and becomes a big part of who you are. With the hard work and time you put into your look, it wouldn’t make sense to hide behind hats, scarves, and wigs. Show your hair off! Be proud of your roots! Having curly hair is a trait that many envy. You can at least learn to love it. Avery said it best: “If you want to go natural, just do it and love it no matter what hair texture or length it is, you just have to rock whatever you want to rock. At the end of the day, it is your hair and you have to be comfortable with yourself.” Don't let anyone tell you that your hair is too nappy or too coarse or textured (that doesn’t exist). Everyone's hair was intentionally made. However your hair grows, that texture is made specifically for you. To be comfortable with yourself, you must love yourself inside, outside, and on top!