True Life: It Takes Me 8 Hours to Do My Hair

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I spend eight hours on my hair every week. Not one hour styling every morning or one hour primping before a party on Saturday night. Eight hours in one day.

Growing up, I spent hours in the hair salon. So much more than hairstyling happened there. I ate my meals under the hood dryer and studied for exams near the shampoo bowl. My mother would catch up with faraway friends on the phone and the latest small-town gossip.

Since I stopped getting relaxers, I no longer spend days at the salon, but "natural" hair doesn't necessarily mean easy. It takes me 30 minutes to wash my hair when for others it's a five-minute job. Why? I blame YouTube. When I went natural seven years ago, the bloggers were my new gurus. I have washed my hair with mud and apple cider vinegar, trimmed my own ends (which I still do), and made a yogurt deep conditioner, all based on the recommendations of popular YouTubers. I can literally watch a 10-minute video of a woman shampooing in her shower.

With the help of these styling pioneers, I locked down a routine that works for me — and believe me, I'm not the only natural woman out there spending hours in the bathroom. Here's the breakdown of my weekly eight-hour wash day routine.

  • One hour for a hot oil treatment: I mix my own concoction of base and essential oils for my dry scalp. My favorite is a blend of castor, tea-tree, and argan oils. First I heat it up the oil with boiling water, and then I apply it to my scalp and sit under a heated conditioning cap. This weekly preshampoo remedy has become the only thing that keeps my dandruff under control. I also use Philip Kinglsey Elasticizer ($49) on my ends.
  • 30 minutes for shampoo: My 4B hair type is so coarse and wiry that it's hard to get shampoo to my roots. Therefore, I have to wash my hair in four sections — two in front and two in back — which I clip up before getting into the shower. My favorite cleanser is the SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo ($11) mixed with Ouidad Mediterranean Bay Leaf Exfoliating Hair and Scalp Treatment ($26).
  • 30 minutes for detangling: I divide each quarter into smaller sections and apply deep conditioner, like Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! ($26). The moisturizers in the conditioner help a wide-tooth comb glide through my wiry coils. Then, I twist up every section of hair afterward to keep it from tangling.
  • One hour for deep conditioner: Afro hair can be very dry, so I take the time to sit with my conditioner in for at least 30 minutes. I use my favorite heated conditioning cap ($39) to help the products penetrate deep into the hair shaft.
  • Three or four hours for twisting: Let me tell you . . . I NEVER #wakeuplikethis. To get my "natural" curls, I create 30 to 40 two-strand twists all over my head (usually while catching up on the latest Netflix streaming fad). I apply leave-in conditioner like Kinky-Curly Knot Today ($12) and a styling gel like Andre Walker Hair Beautiful Kinks Styling Crème Gelee ($22) to get a stretched length and defined curls.
  • One hour for untwisting/styling: Using coconut oil, I unravel each twist the following morning.

While the beauty market is making bank on "express treatments" (a 20-minute manicure at the office, a blowout that takes less than an hour), I prefer to avoid salons at all costs and take the long route instead. For me, walking into a salon has now become an anxiety attack. Will the stylists run in horror when they see how thick my hair is? Or worse: will they try to style my hair without knowing a thing about natural hair?

At the end of the day, I have found that I'm my best hairstylist. And it saves me the hundreds of dollars that salons charge to deal with my "coarse" hair. I actually enjoy the time I spend with my strands on a Sunday — 80 percent of the time. It minimizes the amount of time I spend styling before work, so I can always hit snooze. Plus, my hair actually looks better as the days pass by.

RELATED: 2 Party Hair Ideas That Will Make You Glad You Went Natural

No matter how much women with natural hair complain about how long it takes to style, it's a ritual. Every week, I take time to honor my strands, which has positively affected my hair health. I am familiar with all the ingredients in the products I use (no sulfates or parabens, please). I recognize the difference between baby hair and breakage. I can track the growth inch by inch. I know when I need to add more oil because it's so dry. But at the end of the day, the eight hours between me and the Afro on Sunday have become my way to accept the beauty that I was born with.

RELATED: The Styling Essentials Every Girl With Natural Hair Needs