I am so lucky to have so many options when it comes to styling my hair. Since I gave up the creamy crack in 2011, I have had the best of both worlds: being able to wear my natural hair curly and straight, but the curls always come out on top.
Back when my blog first started as The Lipstick Giraffe, I shared pictures of my hair journey when I first went natural. It’s hard to believe how long I’ve gone in my adult life without a relaxer; I was so “dependent” on one for about 12 years. I’ll have to walk down memory lane one day, but almost a decade later, I’ve never regretted my decision. Of course, I’ll see a really, really short pixie cut that entices me (while I can get my hair straight, many factors can affect how fast my hair reverts) and I’ll think about what it would be like, but that never lasts. The hairstyling possibilities have opened up so much for me since going natural!
I was so excited when my friend Katrina pinged me about sharing our natural hair journeys and favorite products. We always talk about all of the things, and as a fellow curly girl, of course, we talk about hair! While we share some similarities in care methods, our journeys and go-to products are different so two perspectives are fun. 🙂
My journey began about a year and a half after I got my first industry job out of college back in 2011. I didn’t have too long of a transition period from relaxed to natural. Between my realization that this was something I was passionate about and the actual night of the big chop, I think two months may have passed. At first, the change was prompted by my budget and realizing how much I spent on maintaining my hair versus everything else I had to pay for (rent, car, utilities, etc.) making $12/hour full time. But, then the question that changed my life was asked and I couldn’t get it out of my head:
“What does your hair look like?”
I honestly had no clue. At that time, I hadn’t “seen” my God-given natural hair in ten years beyond my roots growing back in and me knowing it was time for a relaxer touch-up. When it came to my curls, I didn’t have any recollection of touching or combing them as a kid beyond dreading wash day (I was a ‘tender-headed’ little thing). I looked at pictures, but my hair was always well-groomed and styled for the playground and a busy mom’s schedule. I got my first relaxer for my 6th-grade promotion after begging my mom for months prior. A lot of my life from that time period is blurry (with her passing a couple of years later).
I knew this, though. I knew that I couldn’t know myself if I didn’t know some very human things about myself. I knew that my answer being “I don’t know” was not going to suffice. While I wasn’t planning on having children at that time, I couldn’t help but think about the example I’d want to set for my kids. When it’s time for them to decide what to do with their natural hair, I hope they wouldn’t feel shame around what they’ve been blessed with, as I had been. And at the time, I didn’t realize that preference could be shame, too, until time went on.
I know for many Black women, the family generational complex around hair coupled with our society’s inability to bend has been heavy as shit. I’m happy to live in a time where natural hair is becoming more normalized. It’s awesome (and a little ridiculous) that California had to pass a law that says employers cannot discriminate against types of hair.
It’s often the topic of conversations and I’ve bonded with people over it. I went from no compliments on my hair from strangers, to receiving at least one every time I go out. Often other black women will come up to me and ask me who does my hair and what products do I use. It’s an important question, one I give details to. If it’s a lengthy answer, I’ll ask them to review my highlight on my Instagram account and feel free to send me a message after. Because, in passing, you can forget something if you don’t write it down, and being able to reference “that transformative hair conditioner” is important. 🙂 Given that this is a common question, I’m spilling the beans today!
I can’t tell you how many products I’ve used over the years trying to manage my bed of curls. There’s been a lot of trial and error. In hindsight, I probably spent what a touch relaxer costs in hair products the first time after the big chop. As my hair has grown, been cut, dyed, changed textures, changed climates (and the list of factors goes on and on), I’ve had to adapt as my hair has. Depending on if I am keeping my hair curly or opting to wear it straight, the cocktail of products changes. But, these are the longest standing products of the trade, starting from $2.99 all the way to $45.99.
Once those that are part of the natural hair crew find something that works product-wise, it’s a wrap! The case is closed, thank you all others for playing, but that’s when you identify those products that make it into the daily rotation.
I apply the curling cream on the top 3/4ths of my hair after I’ve squeezed excess water out of it. I wash my hair in the shower, with shampoo twice weekly. I don’t towel dry because my hair sets the best when it is practically soaking. Instead of scrunching the curls, I comb the Coconut Curling Cream through my hair in about four sections. Because my hair is short now, it doesn’t take a lot of product. With the cut, I now also don’t have the luxury of taking my time. My hair dries much faster these days. If I wait too long, I’m going to end up with more frizz than anyone wants and back in the shower to remedy the situation. Applying the product on soaking wet hair gives me more defined ringlets versus a semi defined wilder style.
Because I am working with multiple textures on my head, I will mostly use the Eco Styler Olive Oil Gel on my sides, the nape of my head and a bit toward the middle. This gel really defines the curls in that location where the cream makes the hair a little too heavy and it lays down flat and doesn’t coil. It’s so weird, but it’s my hair so I do what I gotta do!
I do this before I do anything else in my routine. I let my hair “set” and air dry for at least 30 minutes. At that point, it is mostly dry, and I blast it with my blow dryer on high, but cool air. Many use a diffuser but I just add the concentration nozzle to the end, move it around my hair, and when I get to the top “pineapple” I flip my head down and shake my head from side to side while the blow dryer air gets in there. It gives me a little bit of a tousled look in the end!
Being able to compare daily routine products with Katrina was fun. It is always nice to learn what’s working for others and get educated on a product you weren’t up on game about before! More than products, it was an opportunity to get to know each other even more and share stories of horror and triumph (yes, you will have both when you embrace your curls). When you choose to go natural, you really become part of a sisterhood that transcends time and location. When I made the choice, there were a handful of blogs that had dominated the space. Today, there are countless resources, tutorials, and product reviews to help guide the next step. I would love to know how you’re doing in your journey, or if you have any questions for me that I can address in a future post. Please leave a comment and let me know! xo
Photos by Christina Best Photography