26 Oct 2014

My Hair | My Natural Hair Journey, Pt. 2

This is a looooong post filled with text. Thought you should know.
If you are interested in what my 2 years, 7 months old natural hair journey has entailed, by all means click the jump. Otherwise, you can move right along.
Thank you

*Disclaimer: this post has not been sponsored. It is a very neutral, personal post which describes my experiences since deciding to go fully natural with my hair. It is intended to answer some of the questions I get asked which involve products, routine and general hair care. Hopefully, it will also help someone out there.

About a year before I decided to go natural, I let my hairdresser talk me into highlights in my hair. As it was, I had subtle auburn and gold flecks in my hair (from relaxer damage I'm sure) so she said the highlights would enhance them and make my hair prettier. I was spotting something of a bob then and was very prone to cutting my hair so I didn't mind giving it a try. 

What she didn't tell me though, is that I would need to pay more attention to my hair especially my moisturising routine. For me, it was hair as usual even with the highlights. This of course was very bad for my hair and it began to break. At that time, I was introduced to the Nature's Gentle Touch range of products from Recare and began to use it. It proved to be really good for my hair especially with weekly trips to the salon which included steaming and longer 'no relaxer' stretches.

Why I Went Natural
One of the first questions people ask me is "Why did you go natural?". I WAS TIRED. My hair has always been full and thick but my scalp is pretty sensitive so I always had burnt hair and non-relaxed episodes in the saloon. I've even cried before while getting relaxer applied. Crying with tears streaming down my face and others in the saloon telling me sorry. I have also had loud "I said you should wash it off. Infact, where is the sink? I will do it myself" episodes too that had the saloon owner and her staff scurrying to make sure I didn't wet my clothes; because I was bending over too eager to get it off.
Growing it out and going completely natural was a relief for me.

Transitioning
When I first started though, I couldn't imagine not having any hair so I decided to transition. I also didn't know what was in store for me so I decided to start small by doing braids. Braids would let my hair rest and give it time to grow. I always did medium braids size, a little lower than shoulder length so it wouldn't be too heavy and I always made sure they sectioned it bigger in front because of my sensitive edges (which look like rat chops today and a hairy groove the next). 

The minimum I ever had braids on for was 1 month, but I mainly carried them for 2/3 months. I know there are routines for taking care of braids but I never abided by any of them. All I did was wash the hair before going to the salon (because I didn't trust them to wash it gently) and carry it damp in the hopes that it wouldn't hurt too much while they were sectioning.

The Chop
I cut my hair myself 8 months after my last retouch. That was in November of 2012. I had tried all sorts of styles during the period but none every worked because my hair wasn't ALL kinky (so said the blogs). I was tired of transitioning and wanted a head of curls. I had just taken off my 4th set of braids for the year and combed out my hair. I stood over the trash and with a pair of scissors got rid of my relaxed ends. I washed my hair and further trimmed. I then proceeded to apply an unbridled dollop of activator gel I got at the store which said 'makes hair soft'. I was eager to start achieving gorgeous styles so of course.

What the Gel did - it made my hair soft, yes. Infact, I was combing my hair every night with an afro comb. No hassles, no stress, I'd put in the comb and it would pass through. Strange to believe that my hair was all natural. I talked about that period in this post. It was the best thing that every happened to me then ONLY, I couldn't do any other thing to the hair apart from a puff (the most perfect puff), but that's all I could do. The hair was way too soft for anything else. And, I couldn't touch my hair or place my head anywhere without having sticky stuff everywhere. It was easily rinseable but that's tiresome. I finished the first jar within a week. I have another jar and tried using it again last year October but the experience wasn't the same and the stickiness was too much to bear so I stopped.

The Products
The first set of products I used were Natures Gentle Touch. I had quite a lot left over from my relaxed days, so why buy something else when I have a good thing at home? They were only used in-between my braids but I had an episode of a terrible allergic reaction where I got acne all over my back and arms. This was when I took down the second set of braids and had my hair out for longer. I had the NGT Shampoo, conditioner, daily moisturiser and hair cream, all from the Hair Breakage range. I had to give them all out.

I didn't know the acne was caused by the products until one day at work, while reading a hair blog, I read about how the wrong type of products can cause skin allergies. Why? As naturals, we usually have our hair products running down from our hair to our body as a result of the long periods of time we spend styling the hair. Relaxed hair just gets a vigorous towel rub after washing which takes off all the water and within minutes, styling products are in and the rest is history.

I turned to Atilola of African Naturalistas whom I had known since University. She had a natural hair blog, had just started making her own products and they were quite affordable. As a newbie, I didn't want to start using products for my hair only to discover that they weren't a right fit especially after my episode with NGT. Truthfully, I also didn't know any other indigenous natural hair products either. She recommended the African Naturalistas shampoo, hair butter and deep conditioner. View them here.

They were great. No reactions. I had to get used to the sud free shampoo but my hair was squeaky clean after every wash, I couldn't complain about that could I?. I still have the hair butters till now. The shampoos are finished and the deep conditioner became mouldy (it's made from organic products and I did leave it for months after my first use).

I haven't any styling or curling products before except for my recent experiment, no essential oils apart from the Lemon Grass one I got at SMW2014, no special souffles or leave-ins (I use the NN leave-in but it's about to finish. I'll probably go back to just water). I tried the Argan Oil Ecostyler for styling once but it left flakes all over my hair so now I'm reluctant to try any styling product again.

Routine
If there is anything that should be in my FAQs, it is "What do you do to your hair?". The truthful and honest answer to that is 'I DO NOTHING'. Let me explain.
Last year January, I decided that I was going to create a yearly routine with my hair - since I had braids in the first year which helped my hair to grow, I would play around with my hair in the second year, do braids in the third year .etc. 
The first time I washed my hair after cutting was a nightmare. I washed it all together and spent about 4 hours detangling & combing out. I had hair the size of a golf ball when I was done rolling what I had taken off the comb to toss in the trash. I complained about it on twitter and was advised to do either of these 2 - wash in sections or wash in twists. 
I first tried the sections method. I didn't believe washing my hair in twists could completely take out the dirt.

Styling
For styling, I started out with puffs. I didn't know what else to do then. In March of that year, I experimented with the mohawk quite accidentally and it turned out a huge success. So I basically had to contend with styling, my front edges, regular washing, moisturising etc. I decided to give co-washing a try the first day I did twists on my hair by myself. After that, I started co-washing regularly and keeping the shampoo for when I felt like. I'd whip out a sulphate shampoo like every 6 months or when I feel like there is product build-up in my hair. 

For co-washing, I used Hair Fruits and it was ok. My view towards co-washing is - it is great for the hair and doesn't strip the nutrients but why spend more than N500 for a conditioner that you'll most likely use within a month or less? I liked co-washing a lot and did it as often as I could. Haven't done it since last year though as I haven't done twists on my hair in a while. I tried it once on single plaits but got conditioner stuck in the plaits after rinsing with parts of my hair still sticky.

I style my hair myself. I have been to a saloon to style my natural hair only twice - Apples & Oranges during the Natural Hair event they had and KL's Beauty Bar which I recently wrote about.

NOW
Now that my hair is longer, my routine has changed......slightly. I think I'll just list out the things I do & don't do
  • I don't cover my hair every night with a silk/satin scarf
  • I dry my hair with a towel (don't have any soft tees or anything of the kind)
  • I don't moisturise my hair every day. I do the LCO method once a month and it keeps my hair moisturized.
  • Any type of regular hair care routine involves spritzing the hair (whatever style is on it) with a water and oil mixture. And that is very rare.
  • I wash my hair once a month, sometimes once in 2 months if I'm feeling very lazy.
  • I comb my hair/detangle once a month, on wash day to be precise.
  • I NEVER comb my hair dry. I always spritz with water or apply a leave-in conditioner before combing. The more slip a leave-in has, the better.
  • I don't set out to style my hair. I transition from one style to the next until the next wash day.
  • I haven't DCed in more than a year
  • I don't know what my hair type is. I just know there are 2 different textures (there might be more but I'm unaware of that)
  • My regular products consist of shampoo, leave in conditioner, water, any oil in my house and hair butter. No more, no less.
  • When I have no shampoo, I use Dudu Osun to wash my hair.
  • I'm the most skeptical person I know when it comes to purchasing new hair products because of my past experience. I usually need to be convinced that the product is actually made from natural products before I'm comfortable with them.
  • I'm scissor happy. Everything that has to do with cutting my hair, I've done it myself.
(If there is anyone I have forgotten, I will update this post and let you know)
My general attitude towards the hair is - It has grown without any fuss, why start making a fuss?

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE MY HAIR. It has become an integral part of my identity. I tried braiding again after a year and it fell into SMW2014. All most people who hadn't seen my hair before said was "awww, and we were looking forward to seeing your hair". My edges also suffered from the braids and overall it had more negative than positive effects on my hair so I decided to can the braids idea for now. 
I'm thinking though that perhaps it's time I started focusing on length retention as I have been more focused on health than length. What do you think?

So it is a part of me now. I can't think of cutting, relaxing or covering it in anyway. I also discovered along the way, that you guys preferred makeup posts with my hair showing to regular beauty posts so I started weaving hair into my blog content.

That is my Natural Hair Journey from February 2012 to date. People ask me now what my future plans for the hair are. I'm not sure what they want to hear, but all I know is, I'm looking forward to having it twice it's current length and size, lol. That's being an Oliver Twist right?

It's a pretty long post, but I am hoping it was worth it.
Thank you so much for reading this and I look forward to what the future holds for my hair and my brand with you all of course.
Cheers *hugs & kisses*,

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