I've Had Natural Hair For 8 Years, and Here Are the 8 Things I Learned in My Journey
I went natural in 2012. At the time, I had bone-straight, strawberry blond hair that was superdamaged from excessive bleach and decades of relaxers. One night, while running my fingers through my hair in the mirror, I felt frustrated by the state it was in. So in the spur of the moment, I reached for scissors in a drawer by my bed and got to snipping. In a matter of minutes, I had given myself a big chop (what you call cutting off all of your relaxed hair), completely unplanned.
While I had entertained the idea of going natural after watching a couple of influencers' natural hair journeys on YouTube, I wasn't planning on embarking on my own for a while, much less a big chop. In a moment, I was faced with this new tiny afro (TWA for short) and no clue as to what to do with it. But I had to educate myself quickly on the dos and don'ts of natural hair if I ever wanted my 'fro to flourish — and educate myself I did.
To commemorate my eight-year natural hair anniversary, I'm sharing the eight lessons I've learned over the years, from the importance of moisturizing to the pitfalls of over manipulation. No matter where you are on your natural hair journey, I hope these lessons can help you achieve your best hair yet and embrace it in all its glory.
Lesson 1: Moisture Is Your Best Friend
Quick science lesson: the curlier your hair, the harder it is for the natural sebum (the oil produced by your scalp) to travel down your hair. As a result, curls are notoriously dry and need a lot of moisture to thrive.
Of course, just how much your hair needs depends on the texture, density, and a slew of other factors. As someone with 4c hair, it is constantly parched. When I don't give it moisture, it tends to snap, crackle, and pop — and it looks dehydrated (as seen in the image above). So I've made sure to make moisturizers my BFF, so my curls look healthy and soft.
Lesson 2: Don’t Over Manipulate Your Hair
As my hair grew out over the years, I was so eager to try all sorts of protective styles from twist outs and braid outs to box braids and space buns. After all, it's really fun to experiment. But constantly manipulating it on the daily can cause more harm than good, since my 4c hair is really fragile. In fact, styling my hair in supersleek buns and heavy braids can cause breakage due to tension.
To avoid this, I keep a style in for a few days, sometimes weeks at a time if it's a weave or braids, to give my hair a break from excessive styling.
Lesson 3: Healthy Hair Is Good Hair
There's a persistent belief in our society that the only kind of "good hair" is straight, soft, and lustrous — you know, the kind commonly featured in hair commercials. The problem with this concept is it excludes all other hair types that are equally as beautiful. Over the years, I've realized that as long as my hair is strong and healthy, I should feel proud about that. Every texture is beautiful in its own way, so we learn to should embrace the beauty in what we've got.
Lesson 4: Not Every Popular Natural Hair Product Will Work For You
At the beginning of my natural hair journey, I spent a lot of money every other week on all the products people were raving about on YouTube. Every time I heard an influencer talk about how amazing a conditioner or shampoo was, I had to see what the hype was about for myself.
After a few months, I cut that out. I realized that not only was this wasteful, it was also extremely expensive to buy a bevy of items that I'd only use once or twice because it didn't work for me and my hair type. These days, I am far more discerning about what I spend money on, and I make sure to do research on hair products before trying them out for work.
Lesson 5: You Know Your Hair Best, So Take People's Advice With a Grain of Salt
Everyone, from my family to peers, had something to say about my natural hair after I did the big chop. Some people insisted that I revert back to my straight perm hair. Others offered unsolicited advice about how to get long hair. Admittedly, at first I listened to a lot of it, spending money on unnecessary hair care without doing my due diligence and looking into the benefits of certain products.
These days, I don't cave into peer pressure as easily. While I'm always open to product recommendations, at the end of the day, I know my hair best and can make the best decisions for myself.
Lesson 6: Make Sure to Get Professional Trims Every 4 -6 Weeks
One of the most important lessons I've learned these past eight years is the importance of regular trims — and not just any haircut, but one done by a professional hairstylist. For the first year of being natural, I used to trim my hair myself, and it was an absolute disaster that left me with lopsided afro. Oops.
Thankfully, a friend of mine introduced me to a stylist specializing in curly hair, and ever since, I've been getting regular trims every four to six weeks pre-COVID 19, in order to get rid of split ends and any heat damage, which can lead to breakage and flyways if left untouched. Now my 'fro is healthy and perfectly symmetrical.
Lesson 7: The Way Your Hair Behaves Will Constantly Evolve
It's a common dilemma: you use a product that's worked for your hair for months and seemingly out of nowhere, it just . . . doesn't. This has happened to me a handful of times. I used one of my holy grail leave-in conditioners or hair treatments and instead of them leaving my hair fluffy, bouncy, and shiny, it's dry, dull and lifeless. There's a lot of reasons why this happens: hormonal changes, environmental damage, product buildup — or simply, the nature of my hair changed and it simply needed new products.
The takeaway? How your hair behaves will constantly evolve, as will your hair-care needs.
Lesson 8: You'll Learn to Embrace Your Hair and Its Quirks in Time
Admittedly, it took me a while to appreciate my hair for its unique beauty. When I saw my natural texture for the first time, I cried. I thought it would look like all the popular natural hair influencers I adored with 3a and 3b ringlets, and instead, it was a mass of undefined, Z-shaped strands. Thankfully, my perception of my hair has changed for the time. I didn't know back then, but the moment I decided to embrace my hair as it is, I embarked on an amazing journey of self-discovery — one where I'd eventually learn to love my thick, 4c hair. I just had to give it time.