Lessons on surviving the natural hair journey and learning to love your own hair!

Lessons on surviving the natural hair journey and learning to love your own hair!

The last time I actually saw my natural hair, I was eleven. Eleven! As soon as I hit middle school, my hair went into braids, and then after that for nearly two decades I had the same hairstylist, glory, who had my hair so damn straight, I might as well have been a doll. Girls were constantly trying to jam their fingers into my shoulder length hair looking for weave tracks, but surprise, that shit was real, thank you very much! Then one day, a day that will forever live in infamy, I heard some of the most traumatic words a girl can hear from her life long stylist, "I'm moving." There was this moment of silence and then I cried. Not just like a tear or two, I'm talking ugly cried right there in the chair. This woman had seen me through proms, three graduations, my first real job, and all the moments in between and now she was up and leaving. Not only that, she was taking the amazing family discount I had because 2 of my aunts also went to her, out of the state and a million miles away. To put this trauma into perspective, I went to this woman every week for nearly 20 years, and hadn't really done my own hair in any of that time, and now, there was no one.

I freaked out. I tried calling all my permed girlfriends, but their stylists were too expensive or too far away, or just terrible human beings. I tried hillariously at this point to transition my hair on my own, which left me holding fistfulls of my own hair. After about 3 months, my hair was both stringy and thick and falling out completely in the back due to a texture difference. So I adopted this bun thing just covering the entire base of my hair with a large headband, and then letting the straight bits curl over in 'a bun.' It was an absolute mess, and so was I and my complete lack of knowledge about my own hair, so right before my brother's wedding, I chopped all of my sad and tired and broken hair off leaving me with about 2 inches of hair in a TWA (teeny weeny afro).

So let us begin with some real talk...


1. LET THE WAR BEGIN

As soon as you make the big chop as it's called, people, and by people, I mean fellow naturals and permed heads, will come all out of the woodwork to try to tell you how it is. Some people will begin to view you like you're some type of militant for going back to Africa and a natural hair crusader, and some will view you as having ruined your entire life by a)cutting off your long hair and b)not continuing to perm. They will fight with you, argue with you, say some nasty things, some will most definitely support you...but at the end of the day, please remember that what you have on your head is just hair. It doesn't define you. No one wins a nobel peace prize because they have straight hair or natural hair. This list isn't mean to shame anyone who chooses to wear a perm, but to share what its like to have been there, done that, and gone to the natural side, but neither side is better than the other. Your personal happiness with who you are and what you look like trumps whatever you're rocking on your head.

2. YOU MAY HATE YOUR NATURAL HAIR

Yeah, I said it, you may HATE your natural hair. Change is a difficult process. You think after 20 years of seeing myself look exactly one way, chopping it all off, also something I had never done in 20 years, I was cool with all of it?!? Did you not read my backstory? I cried in the hairstylist chair for goodness sakes! Pssh. I hated my hair. I have a five head, not a forehead, and short hair has never been a good look for me and with that tiny afro I couldn't 'do' much with, it was hard. I debated for 6 months almost every week if I was just going to go back to the perm and even now, some two years later, I still have moments where I question it. That is okay. There is a lot of psychological who am I, what's what, and who's who that we have to deal with as African Americans related to our hair, but its important to realize that its your hair. If you hate it either permed or natural, you are allowed to do whatever the hell you want with your locks. If you go back to permed, you're not a failure. If you stick with it, well, that's cool too.



3. KNOW YOUR HAIR TYPE

There are all types of articles on black hair types which indicate the level of curl or kink each person has in their type of hair. Some people hate a typing system, but th reason I personally say, know your type is because it will save you from some dellusional expectations of what your hair can and will do for you. I have 4c hair. I see these Pinterest photos of these girls with these bouncy locks for days that just spring out of the shower and their hair natural curls in a defined way. My hair won't do that and its importnat to note that that's okay in the same way some people will never be up and down skinny or have a curvy body. We are our genetics and you have to learn to work with whatcha momma gave you. Focus on articles, and videos, and pinterest photos that will inspire you to keep going and to love you rather than trying to spend forever trying to obtain something you never will.



4. TRICK YOURSELF INTO TRANSITION

You don't just have to chop all your hair off and wait for it to grow to whatever length you want. You can buy either typical straight hair wigs, or the newer kinky style wigs and weaves that allow you to see what your hair can look like in the future. We are lucky enough now that wig manufactures are realizing there is a true market for kinky hair so they are selling clip ins, twist styles, big fros, that don't look like that cheap Halloween 60s wig of years past, but that really look, well, natural. The above picture is a wig worn by youtuber, and its namesake, Gabriel.



5. PHONE A FRIEND

If you are as clueless as I was, call someone in the know, once again, with similar hair type to you. They can tell you how it really is and what you can do or lead you to whoever gets them on the right track. Often the frustration comes because we, more than most other races, are particularly ignorant about our natural hair. I'm telling you right now, I knew next to nothing about keeping it right and tight when it came to natural hair. Hit up the internet, youtube in particular for demonstrations you can watch and learn from and knowledge about products for your hair type. There are stylists who deal exclusively with natural hair and seeking out their help can be invaluable in keeping you motivated and knowledgeable so you know what to do when things go wrong.



6. ...AND THINGS WILL GO WRONG

When I first started I went straight to youtube which is an invaluable resource for natural hair. I dutifully watched out to twist, and braid, and high puff, but as with anything, its a learning process. Whenever you learn something, you are bound to have failures, but you can't get stuck in the fact that you aren't a golden shiny master at everything you do. Success in life comes from working hard and gaining knowledge necessary to achieving your goals, in this case "hair goals!" If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. Keep in mind, the person making the video may have failed 10 times before they got it right, but of course they aren't going to show you all that...they are going to show you how they get it right. Keep that in mind.

7. TRUST ME, YOUR HAIR WILL GROW

I cannot tell you how many people have looked at me and said straight to my face, "well, you know 4c hair don't grow." All hair grows. Let me repeat that, all...hair...grows. Let me break it down for you. I have what is considered the thickest or kinkiest form of natural hair. It resembles something akin to a cotton ball/brillo pad in the amount of coil, kink, and tightness present. Now compare that with to someone with bone straight hair. When their hair grows out of the root, it travels out of the root shaft, and then straight down with no stops. When my hair comes out, it likes to take a windy roller coaster ride with many loops until it reaches the same exact point as my straight haired friends. Our hair is growing the same exact amount, but the length she phsycially sees, is one I have to take my hand and stretch out a lock of my hair to see. This is why if you were to blow out or straighten your hair, it would suddenly look oh so much longer, because it already was.



8. MO HAIR, MO PROBLEMS

I've dreamed of a big juicy Pam Grier Foxy Brown fro since I started transitioning, but I'll tell you another hard truth...more hair, equals more work, more time, more shampoo and conditioner. That's not putting our hair down, that's true of anybody who has longer hair. My fro fully fluffed out now deliciously brushes the roof of my car when I'm in the drivers seat and I love it, but as a TWA, I could wash and go tossing a few accessories about and I was done. My hair now is much too long for that and would tangle and knot horribly if I did what I used to do, so I must spend real time detangling, twisting, combing gently, and styling and moisturizing, moisturizing, mo mo moisturizing it.



9. WELL, WHAT THE HELL IS THE GOOD NEWS?

The first time it rained and I did not have an umbrella, rather than stand under an awning for 45 minutes waiting for rain to stop, or having to carry around a permanent umbrella, I just walked out to my car and didn't worry about my hair reverting, not to mention going to the gym and sweating out my perm, or worrying about having wasted a bunch of money on hair that a few drops of water managed to destory in minutes. You can do a lot with your natural hair other then wear a fro. There is a girl right now on youtube/pinterest that did 30 days straight of 4c hairstyles, each one different. You can swim, you can run, you can be active without always worrying...what about my hair, what about my hair!!! You save money not having to pay for weave and perms. You have less damage to your hair because you tend not to use heat, dangerous chemicals, or pulling at your edges and or scalp to obtain those type of styles. You don't have to worry about a wig falling off or not being pinned down or someone seeing your hair tracts or having a braid fall out. You are a natural girl who IS beautiful just the way she is.

and lastly...



10. BE AN ADVOCATE FOR YOUR HAIR

Like I said, I went through a hard period of hating myself and my new or old depending on how you look at it, natural hair. The struggle was real because I didn't know how to love myself like this. One day a guy was ringing me up at a check out counter, and he told me point blank how beautiful he thought my hair was. Another lady walking down the street said she liked my fro. This support even from perfect strangers, made a world of difference. Ladies, we need to support other naturals because often we do not see ourselves reflected enough in media/magazines/tv, or just walking down the street. For me personally, that was where a lot of self hatred came from towards my hair. No one was saying it was okay or it was beautiful. I had to discover that to know it. Make it part of your mission to praise the beauty of the naturals you come in contact with. Instead of natural hair being this rare thing that only "certain women" have, we need to just make it normal, like every other hairstyle, because it is. Also if you have young children, buy them sisters of style dolls which offer Barbies with natural textured hair, read them books with characters that look like them, seek out resources that teach them to love themselves at a young age and by seeing you love yourself, they will learn by seeing and doing as well.


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What Guys Said 3

  • Why is this only about black chicks?

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    • Other races with straighter hair typically don't do frequent weaves or relaxers like black people.
      Obviously some do straighten their hair and such but typically for black people it's a weekly (or everyday) kind of thing.
      Not to mention Black people have a lot less of an acceptance and knowledge about their own hair. Someone with lightly wavy hair has a much easier transitioning period.
      And lastly she's black so she probably just used people who she identifies with the most and sees herself in. But transitioning is really for any hair type.

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    • Well sorry for not watching hair tutorials on women considering I have no interest in them and that I am a guy @manax

    • @blondfrog this isn't a question of gender, it is a question of common sense and your immediate jump to 'race' as an issue.
      You've pointed out your own ignorance. Shouldn't have bothered commenting on a section you know nothing about in the first place.
      aaand i'm out.

  • Ouch so i am gnna be guy giving a beauty tip lol but well...

    So basically, my hair was starting to fall out a little before. For the past 2 months i haven't used shampoo at all and my hair is in perfect texture, in fact dad never used it and he has a full bowl of jet black hair at 50. Since childhood i have used almond oil though i think thats very helpful

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  • I'm glad that you finally made it :)

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What Girls Said 15

  • My hair goes like 2C. Curly, but in all the wrong places and mad directions. It's rare for it to curl nicely and even then, it looks really untidy and dry! I'm trying to grow my hair longer, down to my ribs preferably and hope that the weight will pull the curls down and I will then be able to have fairly straight hair.

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  • I don't know why but I seem to be the only girl that doesn't care so much about her hairstyle? Like seriously, my hair used to be waist length and when I got bored with it I just chopped it off at a jaw-length - I'm growing it again but only so I can experiment with it more. My hair is naturally very curly, not like an afro (well, obviously) but just extremely curly for a white person so I straighten it a lot and that causes damage but since I treat my hair a lot with conditioners and olive oil a lot it never leaves a permanent harm to my hair. I've grown my hair, chopped my hair off, dyed my hair - but never cried about it. I think not matter hair style or texture it is, it should just match your type and personality and you're gonna rock it!

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    • That's basically it. If you love you and your hair is a part of you, then at the end of the day it doesn't matter what it looks like which is why I started with my number one. Other people can tell you what your style should be, but its your hair... you do what you want with it.

    • so true! :)

  • I like curly hair, just not MY curls... I curl it with a straightener every day or two. It fits my face better. My hair is either to disorganized or when I use mousse it's too structured. It's not like black girl unstructured... it's just a mess. Half pretty waves and half rats nest with nothing but tangles. I'm glad you encourage natural hair acceptance though 😊 I bet a lot of people really need this.

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  • It seems absurd to me that you're talking about self acceptance when you wrote this article and published it anonymously.

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    • First, self acceptence means I except who I am for myself. I don't need to prove that to you. Second, you have no clue who I am even if I had an entire profile written on here because you don't know me, so I'm not worried. I post anon all the time for just about everything. So what? Does that change anything about what I've written here? Does it make it any less true that I love my hair or encourage you and anyone else to love their own? No. Let's move on.

    • easy buddy xD no judgement honey

    • Then why did you bother even mentioning this ridiculousness?

  • Natural looks great when people keep it neat at the edges.
    Very great take.
    I just perm and leave it alone and let it grow. can't be bothered with my hair in the morning. Wigs are the greatest ❤
    I never cared for weaving. Even though it looked gr8, it was still a lot of work to keep up.

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  • Good take, but at the moment, i'm in love with my box braids. My hair is still growing underneath though. It's curly past my shoulders and i'm type 4c.

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    • Rock those box braids. I think there is a misconception that when you go natural that means you can't ever wear a wig, or a weave, or do anything but have just what's growing out of your head, but sometimes we just need a break, to let the hair grow and not manipulate it, and a good way is to do protective styles like that. These things are very much temporary and of course when you take them off, you're still natural!

  • I've been natural since 8th grade and I still barely know what I'm doing.
    But I regret absolutely nothing I'm so happy I got don't with the relaxing and straightening years ago. Looking back I don't know how I spent my childhood that way.

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    • Ha ha, the struggle is real, but you're making it! Congrats!

  • It's one hell of a journey that I'm still on lol. I have a love/hate relationship with it and the online community its my only support. I've been natural for 2 years now I still get the ugly remarks from my family its sad that they have not accepted I'm natural and that I don't want to relax my hair, cut it off, style it the way they want and I wish they would understand how natural hair works my curl pattern is not like another persons I can't just slap a product on there and go from one hair type to another I can bring mine out more but it sickens me when someone who stays tracked up have never even seen no more than a centimeter of new growth wants to give me advice on my hair. Besides that, the issue i'm having right now is dealing two different hair length. It's really short and thin at the back middle and long at the end at the neck and the front and middle is long and thick but I don't want to cut it I try to just work with it. I'm looking for some type of hair growth oil to put on the spots I want to grow and thicken because vitamins will make it thicker and longer all over and my hair will never be even. I would be willing to cut a little once the other part starts growing and I already took a bit from the long part but its a struggle that's mine and I wouldn't give it up for straight hair or anyone else satisfaction :)

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    • Your story is as common as sunshine. Natural hair is often that rare white tiger at the zoo for our people, and nobody really knows how to handle it or what to do with it because its not like everyone else. I'm lucky in that my mother is natural, and one of my aunts has dreads, but a lot of my family... grandparents, other aunts, I mean it was brutal and hurtful some of the things that were said about my hair when going from perm to natural, but you have to have that internal love and the online community is absolutely a life saver on styling tips and support and education about our hair. As far as your hair... I hate to say it, but the only way to get it even is a cut, and its an almost a, 'better do it now, rather then later,' b/c all its going to do is continue growing at those odd lengths and then you may suffer breakage trying to wrangle the different textures. Go to a stylist that deals with natural hair if you can, and let them assess and help you make that decision.

    • Thanks, I'll be looking for a stylist that knows what to do but I'm skeptic because some of them claim to have experience with natural hair and they really don't that's the reason why my hair is uneven now because of a bad hair cut I got from a stylist :(

    • Best thing to do is on your daily travels, look for women around you who have similar hair types, and ask them about their natural hair and if they personally know a stylist that does good work. That way you can see results and they can tell you what they are like. In my area at least, the more popular and well known natural hair care stylists all over consultations before actually giving you an appointment. It gives you time to sit with them, let them analyze your hair and hear your concerns if you have any, and then of course decide if you want a further appointment.

  • I've been transitioning for one year now. My permed hair started breaking off the moment I started transitioning. It was depressing at first but under that was a healthy Afro of newly grown natural hair that I needed to focus more on. I'm not going to lie, I'm quite tender-headed so sometimes combing my hair is unbearable and too painful. I started learning more about protective styles and one style in particular that I do is 'crochet braids'. It's like weave accept better. I love using Marley, Bohemian and Brazilian wave hair. It suites my face well and I often get a lot of compliments on it. Since only one year, I believe I'm about 5-6 inches when kinky. I'm lucky that my hair does grow quick, but some areas grow slower than others. I also take a vitamin supplement for my hair called 'biotin'. Along with a high protein diet my skin and hair began to shine. I learned to love my natural hair. I'm 4B, not quite 4C, at least that's what I was told by my stylist. My hair is healthy and that's what matters in the end. Natural hair can be beautiful too😃.

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    • Correction: natural hair IS beautiful, period! I absolutely agree with the protective styling. I mean we can do so so so many things with our hair other then just pull it up in a puff. I had always had issues when permed that carried on to my transition and through to my BC with the back of my hair growing. It just wouldn't. I learned through going back to natural, it was a two texture issue. I was trying to treat my front texture, the same as the back and was putting too much stress on the more delicate strands, so I had to change my routine, to treat the hair differently, stopped wearing things that pulled or stretched across the area, upped my water intake, started on a vitamin regimen, focused a concentrated effort on conditioning and moisturizing, and now that back section is like bam, long and I love it. A lot of people's hair grows unevenly, not specific to natural hair, it just does, so I wouldn't worry too much. It sounds like you managed to get it back to a healthy place!

  • I didn't like my natural hair at first (I'm transitioning) because it's a 4c and doesn't have loose curls or lays flat but it's better than having uneven, dry relaxed hair that doesn't grow anymore 😭. I just hope that I won't have to start over again after going natural (since I have trouble taking care of my hair and what to put in it).

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    • I hear you! I'm lazy when it comes to my hair. I admit that 100%. I mean I paid someone for nearly 2 decades to do it for me when I was permed, okay! 4c hair especially though, I know, takes a lot of care and maintenance to prevent dryness and breakage. Make sure if nothing else you are moisturizing and conditioning. I would say for you, go the route of doing more protective styles... the wigs, the braids, so you can let your hair grow, but not get frustrated in the wait game or constantly bogged down with having to do it all the time. Then when its in its natural glory, find like one or two easy go to styles and stick with that until you have time.

    • I've been thinking of getting twists but I had no clue what to do after that so I guess I'm going to do protective styles for a long time then , thanks for the advice!

  • My hair grows incredibly slow, its been four years and it finally is off my neck. Praise God!

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    • Unless you are on certain medications, have a medical disorder, are constantly aggressively cutting your hair (rather then a few trims here and there), or just not taking good care of your hair, your hair doesn't grow any slower than anybody elses. It's one of the biggest natural hair myths that our hair doesn't grow or doesn't grow as fast. I can only guess that you mean, the physical length you see in the mirror seems slow, but actual length as in you stretching out a coil with your hand, is much longer by virtue of it being the actual length of your locks. Happy for you though. Four years of growth is awesome.

    • Actually, I don't have coils nor is my hair permed. yes, I'm referring to physical length

  • I love it! I went natural 3 months ago and it has a been a journey thats for sure, but i think its women like you that pass on the knowledge that make it easier ty tyty

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    • Aw man I had the mirror moment after the big chop, I was like omg how am I gonna be seen as beautiful now? Everyone makes fun of fros and its not seen as feminine by the media. I then realized that I was done with wearing weaves so people can reinforce the idea that black women werent beautiful unless they were model thin and tall and with weave. The long wavy hair, pretty, like short straight hair or curl hair was just not me. I have always been the takitive realitively popular person, stylish clothes, eyebrows done long hair... I had modeled myself after the 'prettiest' people on TV all who have... done straight hair. I realized that by copying these women, i was subtly implying that I couldnt be the prettiest looking like myself. Thats when I knew I had tough it thorugh and wear my hair regardless. Because if no one does it, no one will remember a pretty person with it in the public eye, like now.

    • Now, I love how soft and full it feels and how it stretches ;) I put a lot of aloe juice and water with shea butter and cocunut oil... My favorite product is from the shea moisture (the only nearly mainstream all natural African black line on the market that won't destroy our hair lol) Jamaican Black Castor Oil collection <3 Do you have a favorite product or staples that you use? ;)

    • You are welcome. I love passing on this information because the sad truth is a lot of us don't know what natural hair is. We don't know what its like and there is a distinction to be made when you see permed heads making fun of afro or natural hair---because beyond the chemical, that is what they have and to do that is putting not only themselves down, but almost all women of color for something they are born with. That is the self-hatred we need to step away from completely. That is the issue, not whether or not a person chooses to get a perm. I'm glad you're working through it and can see yourself as beautiful the way you are. That's a great thing! As far as products I use... you called it, Shea Moisture, Cantu, and I like Dr. Miracles deep conditioner. I'm trying not to be a product junkie and just stick with stuff I know works for my hair and change one thing at a time if need be. Good luck to you, and spread the word: natural is beautiful!

  • I too love my natural hair. For the most part it's straight with little bit of a wave.

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  • I love my natural hair.

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    • for mytake owner: take it easy, blocking my answers won't solve the deal
      whatever u say, what u think is nonsense is the purest truth and i don't need u to agree with me
      peace ;)

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    • @pink2000 I love your honesty, your self confidenace and your sweetness, keep being the great lady you are, keep shining girl <3

    • Wow ! Thanks. :) your wonderful comments have made my day. :D @idontneedAname @TakeOwner

  • This is an Awesome Take! I really do not understand my hair. I went natural for 1yr on my own, I didn't do the big chop & my hair was a tangled knotted mess! When wet it looked like Type 4 hair with straight ends. So I permed it myself (I've always done my own hair, I'm way too cheap to go to a stylist) and now it is Type 2 when wet but as soon as it drys it goes straight in the back where my longer pieces are but the top stays curly/wavy.

    On lazy days I just walk around with pinned up wet hair but if I'm going out I will flat iron it, but if I work out or get it wet it puffs right up! It grows but then breaks off/shreds horribly from all the manipulation, my bathroom floor is the hardest area to keep clean because of it lol!

    I work with older co-workers, who swear by going to a beautician. I went just to learn what products to use. Affirm professional hair care works miracles: http://www.avlon.com/affirm-products/

    and for frizz: www.amazon.com/.../ref=pd_lpo_sbs_dp_ss_2

    I want to try Redken Diamond Oil, I heard its great for increasing shine
    www.jcpenney.com/.../prod.jump

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    • Glad you liked it. I have a two texture situation going on where my back is naturally much straighter then the rest of my tight coils. Whenever I'm doing my hair I treat the two sections almost independent of one another... literally creating a part in my hair and styling them differently. I have to be a lot more delicate with the front part of my hair, gently detangling and making sure to comb from the tips and then work my way down the root, where as I can be a bit more free with the back of my hair b/c its not tightly coiled. I find it so weird b/c I always thought, you just have the one type, but a lot of women have 2, sometimes even three types on their head. If you find yourself struggling with the texture differences, your older co-workers may be right in that you need to head to see a stylist, maybe check in with them once a month to help maintain a healthy head b/c all hair naturally sheds, but you shouldn't be loosing hair through excessive breakage. Good luck!

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