Going natural is a big step for a lot of black women. Many of us had that same experience of getting relaxers put in our hair at a young age and not getting to know our natural texture or how to work with it.
As a result, the experience of having short hair or “hair that doesn’t grow” is not unique to a large majority of black women. It was a stereotype that I’m glad we’ve finally gotten rid of.
We’ve started reclaiming our curls and making the decision to end getting our hair relaxed. The natural hair movement has been growing year by year as more black people embrace their “crowns.”
It’s not just hair for us. To black women around the world, it’s an identity. But what is being natural, exactly?
Simply put, being natural means not chemically treating your hair. Relaxers, texturizers, and perms are examples of chemical treatments that alter your hair’s natural texture.
Relaxers and texturizers chemically straighten the hair while perms chemically curl it.
Giving up these products means you are natural. So yes, technically anyone can be natural but for black women, it’s different. It’s a lot more than just wearing our hair how it grows from our head. It’s a statement.
Now that you know what being natural is and what it means to our community, where do we go from here?
How to start the natural hair journey
So you’ve decided to go natural. What’s next? It would be best if you started looking for products. This is the step probably every natural hates because it requires a lot of trial and error, but before you get frustrated, there are a few things you can try.
You can talk to friends and family who are natural to ask for recommendations and start there. People who have been natural for years have done it all, so they have a better idea of where to begin. You can also talk to the women in your community like your local salons.
They have a life of knowledge on how to care for natural hair and they will be one of the best resources.
Start looking for a great shampoo and conditioner because those will be the most essential products in your journey.
Despite the thickness of our hair and the maintenance it requires, we do not need to have 50 products for it.
Shampoo, conditioner, gel, and a styling product are perfect items to start with. Anything beyond that is up to you, but don’t be fooled by the hair care industry and their promises of super growth.
There are no oils or special serums that will make your hair grow overnight. Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s true.
Caring for your hair, and having patience are what is going to retain length. All hair grows, it could just not be retaining the growth due to breakage, damage, etc. If length is your goal, you have to take the time to get to know it and how best to care for it.
Hard work, patience, and care are the ingredients for helping our hair retain length. There is a huge and still growing community of YouTubers who create videos for beginners like yourself that create videos for washing, styling, product recommendations, and anything else a natural could ever need.
It can get overwhelming due to all of the differing opinions but take some time to find videos that relate to you and your hair texture. That’s a perfect place to start.
Creating a washing routine
Wash day, 99.9% of naturals dread it. I can see them rolling their eyes and canceling their plans now. It can be time-consuming, sometimes stressful, and yes… it will feel like an arm workout with all of the combing and detangling we have to do.
Also yes, sometimes your style will not come out the way you wanted it after it dries. It’s simply something we can’t avoid as naturals. There are going to be bad hair days and days you want to grab your sharpest scissors and chop it all off.
It’s okay. We’ve all been there, Just take a deep breath and calm yourself down before you proceed.
You do have to fit it into your schedule for best results, depending on the style. It does not have to be an all-day affair, but at least 1-2 hours should be set aside for the entire process.
Wash day for our hair should be about every 5-10 days or once a week. Massaging your scalp while shampooing is a critical step and aids in blood flow to the scalp, which helps with hair growth, so do not skip this step!
Also, take caution not to tangle your hair up too much while shampooing. You can lose a lot of hair trying to get knots out. When it comes to conditioner, less is more. Don’t waste product trying to drown your hair in it.
Instead, make sure to spread it evenly down the hair strands and add plenty of water. Using a detangling brush during this process is an optional but great step if you choose to do it.
Keeping your hair moisturized
It can sometimes feel impossible to keep natural hair moisturized, but it’s not! All it requires is some time during the week for upkeep.
As mentioned above, once a week is pretty standard for a wash day, but how do we keep our hair looking moisturized in between those days? Keeping a leave-in conditioner and a spray bottle is a great way to freshen up your style midweek.
Styles like braid-outs and twist-outs will only last about 3 days (if you’re lucky!), so after that, putting it up into a ponytail or creating another style out of it is what I would recommend. A small amount of leave-in conditioner and some gel can bring any style back.
However, the best method for keeping your hair moisturized when it gets dry is to wash it again.
Protecting your hair with protective styles and low manipulation styles
Protective styles and low manipulation styles are great ways to protect the hair and can also be left in for longer, saving you from having to style it every week. Examples of protective styles are box braids, Senegalese twists, faux locs, crochet styles, etc. These are styles that cover your ends and can be left in for 1-3 months.
However, you still have to maintain and take care of your hair. Your scalp can still be washed and massaged, so make sure not to forget that step.
Protective styles can also sometimes be heavy and weigh on the hair, increasing the risk of hair loss and traction alopecia, so it is important not to keep them in for too long or get them too close to each other. Take long breaks in between styles to lower the risk of hair loss at the root.
Low manipulation styles are pretty explanatory. They are styles that do not require a lot of manipulation.
Examples of these styles are braid-outs, twist-outs, Bantu knots, buns, pineapples, etc. These styles do not last as long as protective styles, but they can last between wash days.
Unlike protective styles, these styles do not cover your ends, so make sure to give your ends a lot of attention and care when in these styles and when taking them down.
The great thing about these styles is their versatility. You can leave them in, or you can take them down for a gorgeous stretched hairstyle.
how to care for 4C hair
“4C” hair is considered the kinkiest hair on the spectrum, sometimes called “nappy” hair. Due to the tight curl pattern, people perceive it as less beautiful and assume that it doesn’t grow.
However, this hair type is one of the most versatile and can retain as much length as other hair types. It also shrinks the most, which is where the rumor of it not growing comes from. It sometimes seems to be drier because of the afro texture, but that is not always the case.
Dryness is a concern, but you know your hair better than anyone else, so don’t let anyone else define your hair for you.
Sometimes 4C hair looks dry, but it’s silky smooth to the touch. If you don’t care for it weekly, yes, it will dry out, but if you care for it, there is no reason to worry about it being dry.
4C hair is beautiful hair and there is nothing different about caring for it.
Going natural does not have to be hard or confusing at all. Just give yourself time to care for it and be patient with it. Hair is like a flower. It needs a lot of love, TLC, and water to help it grow. You wouldn’t expect your plants to grow on their own, so don’t expect your hair to either. Good luck on your hair journey and remember that there are people who are there for you every step of the way.