It’s been exactly one year since I big chopped my chemically straightened hair, returning to my natural texture for the first time in over twenty years.
In the twelve months since I lopped off my locks, I’ve experience growth both personally and afro…ly. Living with a head full of nappy hair isn’t always easy, but for the most part it’s been a lot of fun! So in the spirit of fun, I thought I’d celebrate my twelve months of kinky living, by sharing twelve things I’ve learned about my natural hair this year.
1. Water Water Water
When my hair was relaxed, I had to work very hard to avoid getting it wet. Moisture is the natural enemy of chemically straightened tresses. Unless you’re at the ready with a blow dryers, straightening irons and various hair serums, water will turn a smooth, shiny relaxer into a jacked-up mess in the blink of an eye.
But my hair in it’s natural state is prone to dryness, which means I’m now obsessed with getting my head wet. I put damp bags on my head and squirt myself with spray bottles. Humidity is my new best friend and umbrellas are my mortal enemies!
Most folks I know use shampoo to wash their hair. I use mud. For real, y’all.
Regular shampoo strips my hair too much leaving it brittle. So instead, I use this special wash from Terressentials about once a month. It’s similar to the type of fancy mud that people sit in when they go to the spa. It’s made with bentonite clay, nourishing oils and other goodness that kind of draws the gunk out of my hair and cleanses my scalp without stripping out the little moisture I have.
I also wash my hair once a week using conditioner only. Occasionally I use an apple-cider vinegar rinse in lieu of clarifying shampoo. Works like a charm!
3. Shrinkage…no, not THAT kind of shrinkage!
Pulled out straight, my hair is about collar-bone length but I’ve got a mad-tight curl pattern. I can do a style that stretches them out longer, or I can let them spring back for a shorter look. It’s like getting a commitment-free haircut!
4. Defying gravity
My hair only grows in two directions: Up and out.
5. Conversation starter
Sometimes I’m at the bus stop or in line at the supermarket and I’ll spot another person with nappy hair like mine. Invariably we’ll strike up a conversation, comparing notes on our big chops, our respective hair care regimes and all of our afro-related feelings. Being able to meet new people has been especially important this year when I’m away from home. Who knew that hair could be such an effective ice breaker?
6. Accessories Included
I can style my hair into its own headband. I think that’s kind of neat.
When I first went natural, I was worried that my styling choices were going to be very limited. Not so. I can pin and tuck and stretch and twist and braid it in all sorts of fun ways. I can do it up or I can let it out. Now that it’s grown out some I can even do a couple of fun, pulled back styles. I’ve also had some major style fails, but it’s all part of the fun!
8. The Five-fingered comb
Not only do I not use shampoo, I no longer brush my hair and I very rarely use a comb. I have a lot of hair, but the individual strands are actually very fine and tend to snap if I go at them with styling tools. So I detangle with my fingers. I don’t just mean raking my fingers through my hair. I put conditioner in my hair and then painstakingly separate the individual strands and undo any knots that have formed. It’s tedious work, but them’s the breaks when you’ve got natural hair.
9. Olive Oil…It’s not just for fancy restaurant bread anyone!
Sometimes after I put water on my hair, I put on a tiny bit of oil to seal in the moisture. I like olive oil because it’s cheap and I always have it around, but I’ve also used avocado oil, jojoba oil, castor oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil or sometimes a mixture of everything.
10. A flax-inating discovery
Did you know you can make hair gel by boiling flax seeds? If you’ve never done it, you need to YouTube that shizz pronto because it’s super-easy to do! The gel not only holds well, it makes my hair really soft.
11. High maintenance
Washing my hair takes about two hours. Styling it can take 30 minutes. Detangling takes upwards of 90 minutes. The trade off is that I only have to do these things once or twice a week as opposed to every day. Still, sometimes I do wish that my texture was a little easier to manage. But I try to look at my hair-doin’ efforts as self-care time when I can groove out to my good-bad music or binge-watch Orange Is The New Black.
12. New love
When I cut my hair last year, I wasn’t sure I’d be okay with it. At best, I hoped I’d get to a place where I was able to accept my natural texture. A year later, I love my hair! It’s weird to feel love for the random strands of protein coming out of my scalp but over the course of this last year, my hair has become my favourite physical feature. I don’t know how to describe it, except to say now when I look at myself in the mirror, I look like…me. It makes me really happy.
And finally, I have to say thank you to all of you. When I first presented my newly natural hair last year, you responded with tremendous encouragement. I can’t tell you what that meant to me. Your kindness quelled my fears of what other people would think of my decision to go natural. In the grand scheme of the universe, my natural hair is a very small thing, but it’s been a big, positive change for me. You all helped me embrace that change. So from the bottom of my heart…thank you!
Already Pretty contributor Nadine Thornhill is a sex educator and blogger at Adorkable Undies. She is a new resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, having recently moved from Ottawa, Ontario to pursue a PhD in human sexuality. Her writing tends toward subjects such as clitorises, feminism, vibrators, body image, gender politics and non-monogamy. She is a passionately committed Scrabble player and lifelong klutz, having sustained 16 concussions to date.