Tag Archives: Afro hair styles

I Am Natural! (Underneath)

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Although wigs and weaves can be great protective styles, isn’t it time you revealed your real hair.
Weave and wigs can work great as protective styles.  They allow you to leave your hair natural and enjoy the convenience of straight hair. No shrinkage to contend with, less detangling, protection from the weather and versatility. However, for some women it may be time to let their natural hair out, to shine in all its glory. Here are some benefits to doing this. Hopefully this will encourage you to take the next step and come away from being reliant on weaves and wigs.

So what are the benefits of ditching the weave and letting your hair out more often?

Tamar has said she has natural hair

Tamar claims to have natural hair

You will become better at managing your natural hair
As with most things practice makes perfect. The more you leave your hair out the more practice you get at managing it. You will learn the best techniques for maintaining it on a daily basis. This includes forming a hair regimen that suits your routine and lifestyle. You will also have the opportunity to eliminate products and techniques that do not work well on your hair. If your hair is packed away under the weave or wig cap every month, you many only see it once in a while. Some people only take their hair out of the weave to wash it, then they reinstall it all over again. If you wear your hair out regularly you will become familiar with it and learn the best techniques managing it.

You will be in a better position to assess the health of your hair
Detangling my hair this week made me realized it was definitely time for a protein treatment. Because I am familiar with my hair I noticed there was more shedding than usual. I was able to rectify this straightaway because I had access to my hair. When your hair is weaved you don’t have immediate access to it. If there is a problem you will not know until you take the weave out. By this time more damage may have occurred that could have been avoided. When your hair is out you can assess it regularly and decide what action to take, such as: a trim, a wash, a treatment or a moisturizing boost.

Janelle monroe

Janelle Monae

It is easier to moisturize
Many of us know that we should moisturize our real hair regularly when it is in a weave. How many of us actually do this though? I certainly didn’t.  It seemed too complicated at the time and out sight out of mind. I spent more time grooming the weave because it was the weave that was visible to everyone. I would take the time to style it with curling tongs or a flat-iron, moisturize it and blend it with my real hair so it would look its best. I would usually forget about my real hair underneath. If your hair is out more often you will know immediately when it becomes dry and be in a better position to moisturize it. You are also more likely to moisturize it on a regular basis and prevent it from drying out in the first place.  When it is hidden away under the weave, it’s easy to forget about it.

Others will become use to your natural hair
If you are concerned about the reaction friends, family and work colleagues will have to your natural hair remember that the sooner they see it the sooner they will get use to it. If people see you with your hair out all the time it really doesn’t become that much of a big deal after some time.  They also get to see how beautiful it is natural.  You may have to deal with comments and questions, some may be negative but you will be better equipped to deal with them after some time. Some people may not admit that they feel more comfortable with you when you wear your weave. The sooner they realized that you are not going to hide your hair away for their benefit the better.

There is also that dreaded feeling you get when you have to take your weave out and don’t have an appointment to get it reinstalled straightaway. You kind of feel naked or may not be sure how to style your natural hair in between weaves. If we are honest some of us dread bumping into people that are used to seeing us with our weaves. If you wear your hair out you will no longer have to deal with the dreaded ‘in between weaves feeling’. What you see is what you get with natural hair.

Liya Kebede

Liya Kebede

You will become a hair styling queen
Styling your natural hair will become second nature to you. It’s like learning to play the guitar. If you never take it out of the case how will you ever learn to play it? Your natural hair is like a blank canvas, there are endless styling tutorials on YouTube and you may also surprise yourself  by inventing some styles and techniques of your own. The more you leave your hair out the more of an expert you will become about styling and managing it. Weaves and wigs are great protective styles but there are numerous protective styles you can try with your own hair that are elegant and appropriate for all occasions. These include: two strand twists, buns, roll tuck and pins, French braids and various updos. Check out CharyJay’s and Fusion of Cultures’  YouTube channels.  They are protective style queens. If their styles seem too complicated, you can  adapt them to suit you personally. These tutorials should provide you with inspiration; you don’t have to follow them exactly.  Remember natural hair is very versatile so there is no reason to get bored or run out of styling options. Check out the series: The Versatility of Natural Hair.

Charyjay

Charyjay

Fusion of Cultures

Fusion of Cultures

You will not have to worry about the negative aspects of weaves, wigs and hair extensions
Many of us gasped in shock when we saw the first photos of Naomi Campbell’s receding hairline. The damage to her hairline was believed to have been caused by years of wearing weaves or hair extensions. In an industry that promotes a certain standard of beauty you can imagine the pressure she was under as a black model to look a certain way. Over the years more photos of her have come out highlighting the same problem that only appears to be getting worse. It is as if the fake hair on her head is taken care of more than her real hair underneath. Traction alopecia can occur if your hairline is constantly put under pressure through sewing, braiding, glues and tight comb attachments.

naomi-campbell-21

Naomi Cambell

Naomi Campbell

The problems associated with weaves are unlikely to affect women who simply use them once in a while for diversity. They are going to have more of an impact on those women who rely on weaves for everyday use. Another negative aspect is that sometimes weaves look awkward, we have come a long way in ‘weave technology’ but it still isn’t perfect. Sometimes you see people’s tracts showing, your hair doesn’t blend well, or you have hair that sheds like crazy. I don’t consider any of this easier than having my natural hair out. You will also save a lot of money. We seem to be the only race that wears hair texture that doesn’t match our natural hair. Some of us don’t even wear weaves that match our natural afro texture when it is straightened (Yaki).  The silky textures seemed to be preferred.  I’m glad to see more black owned companies introducing afro-textured weaves that compliment our natural hair.

Even Beyoncé has experienced downside of lace front wigs

Even Beyoncé has experienced the downside of lace front wigs

Natural hair only gets better with time
The more you learn about managing your natural hair the more it will thrive. Most of us had to deal with negative comments from family members when we first went natural. However, the more time that passes the fewer and far between these comments become and we even start hearing more compliments from the same people. Carefully managing your natural hair will result in growth, better styling techniques and overall healthy hair. It is because of this that natural hair is like wine, it only gets better with time. Don’t hide away behind fake hair, week in, week out. This is choosing second best when you have the best on your head already.

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding

“No one should feel that they have to wear a weave to have presentable hair; a weave should be a conscious styling choice, not a crutch”

~ Audrey Davis-Sivasothy~

Do you prefer weaves to wearing your hair out? Share your thoughts below

The Versatility of Natural Hair (Part 1)

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One of the biggest misconceptions I had about going natural was that I wouldn’t have a lot of options for styling my hair. If you are thinking of going natural  and worry about this, continue reading. If you are already natural and are stuck for ideas I have complied a list of my favourite styling options. I have tried many of these styles. I have also included some links to some very useful vloggers who give you step-by-step instructions on how to achieve  these styles.

Natural hair is extremely diverse. There are a lot of styling options available. We just have to do our research and try the many different styles. It is also important to share ideas with each other.  As I recall when my hair was relaxed I simply wrapped it and wore it down or up, that was about it. When I curled it the curls wouldn’t last. However curling natural hair is a lot easier because natural hair can be shaped and molded in many different ways. So have a look at the styles below and let me know what you think.

1. The big chop

If you’ve heard the term TWA it stands for Teeny Weeny Afro. I loved my hair at this stage because I was able to see my natural curls for the first time in my adult life.  Hair styling is very simple at this stage as long as you keep your hair well moisturized.  I used a glycerin and water mix that I put in a spray bottle and would spray my hair everyday. You could also use an oil of your choice and water. There are also many accessories you could use:  headbands,  flowers, decorative clips and hair pins. A simple side or middle parting also adds another feature to your style.  When it gets a little longer you can do a mini twist out to really play with your curls.

Viola Davis – 84th Academy Awards

2. Wash and Gos

These are an excellent way of emphasising your natural curl pattern and they work well on short  to medium hair but can also be done with long hair.  You go through your usual wash and deep conditioning routine then use a curl enhancing product to bring out your curls.   Then you allow your hair to dry naturally. Below is a good example of a wash and go done with Eco Styling gel. Jane Carter Solutions also has some excellent products for this.  However, this style  requires you to embrace the shrinkage of your hair as oppose to other styles that stretch out your hair.

Esperanza Spalding‘s wash and go

SimplYounique

Short hair

3. Blow outs

Sometimes its good to just get a blow dryer and blow it out into a huge afro. This style is a lot of fun and very glamorous. It’s important to make sure you use a good heat protectant before applying heat to your hair. I think this style is best for special occasions when you really want to stand out.

Esperanza Spalding’s glamorous look

4. Twist-outs

This can be achieved by two-strand twisting your hair (usually around 12 medium-sized twists) and simply undoing the twists the next day.  One of my favourite styles that gives you great volume and defined spiral or wavy curls. Check out Natural Chica’s channel and her methods of achieving this style. You don’t have to blow dry your hair out first so I have included both methods where she uses heat and where she avoids it. Twist-outs work on both short and long hair but your hair does have to be long enough to twist obviously.

Yaya’s Twist-Out

Flat twist out tutorial

5. Braid-outs

Again, similar to the twist-out but done with braids instead. I personally do these more than twist-outs as I usually braid my hair after washing it to stretch it out. So I end up doing a braid-out after every wash. These give your hair a nice crimped look and create a lot of volume.

Braid-out

Again you do not have to use heat to do this it can be done immediately after washing. If your hair isn’t stretched out enough the next day you can simply re-braid it and it will stretch it out further.

6. Bantu-knot outs

Back in the day these use to be called China bumps! I love these as your hair works as its own set of rollers. It’s a lot cheaper than buying a set of curl formers or rollers. It is quite easy to do this style and you can decide how big our small you want your knots to be. I will feature two methods below and you can try whatever works best for you. You could even leave the bantu-knots in and wear your hair in a funky style like that.

Corinne’s Bantu knot-out

SimplYounique

xGOLDn

That’s it for now! I will be featuring some more styles for part two of this article. There are many more and some that I haven’t even discovered yet. Styles for formal occasions such as weddings for example and updos, cornrows, flat twists, the list is endless. Let me know if you have tried any of these styles and what your favourite style is.  Remember to look out for part 2 of this article that will follow shortly. If you have found this helpful let me know in the comments below.

Why did I decide to chop my hair off?

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Well I can only describe my experience but I’m sure many other women can relate. Just as a disclaimer, this is not from the point of view of encouraging all black women to go natural. I have my opinion about this topic of course, which I will share. But it is not a prescriptive notion that needs to be pushed on everyone. It is important to remember that our hair is just a small fraction of who we are. There are more important aspects of ourselves than simply hair.  I certainly didn’t feel ‘more black’ because I went natural. I was still the same on the inside. So I think it is silly to accuse other women with relaxed hair or weaves of not embracing themselves or being ‘less black’.

 So what made me chop off my hair one day and decide to grow out the same hair I had when I was a kid?  Well just to be clear, I never had long flowing hair to begin with.   Always half way between my jaw line and collar-bone, but I always had thick hair and not too many issues with breakage. From the age of 15 I actually began to relax my hair myself. I think I was about 13 when I first relaxed my hair and then I got fed up of begging for a re-touch and having to rely on my mum to find someone who could do my hair that month. So I bought the kit, read the instructions and relaxed my hair myself. The main motive behind this was to take the care of my hair into my own hands and no longer be subject to the bullying I had faced for three years in secondary school.  The thing is, it worked. My hair was never overdue a relaxer again. I certainly was no hair expert, neither was I doing what was best for my hair but I was able to ensure that it didn’t get ‘unmanageable’. I would relax it every six weeks without fail.

So between the ages of 13 to 27 I relaxed my hair and in my twenties I would wear weaves most of the time or have a few tracks in there for good measure. My hair never really grew past a certain length though. I just put this down to genetics or didn’t really pay much attention because it was in weave most of the time anyway.  So at the age of 27 why did I decide to go natural?  There wasn’t any major hair breakage that made me want to chop off my hair and start again. I was simply wondering why my hair was the way it was (Afro) and why for my entire adult life I had never truly experienced it in its natural state.  I remember the bullies on the back of the bus when I was about 12, calling me names and even asking me in front of everyone; “when  are you going to relax your hair”? When did getting a relaxer become a rite of passage for young black girls? I remember, even me, talking about a girl who chose to never relax her hair in secondary school.  Talking about her with insincere concern about how she would struggle to fit in at college and university with her hair ‘like that’. How would people take her seriously?

Where does this train of thought come from when we don’t even understand when a girl chooses to avoid relaxer? I was thinking about all these things and it made me realise that there was certainly something wrong with my thought processes in relation to my natural hair.  I couldn’t even imagine how women managed to get by before relaxer was invented. I couldn’t even imagine a time when women didn’t relax their hair. But I knew there was something wrong with that way of thinking because I knew of a couple of friends who had ‘gone natural’ at least at some point in their lives, although they had since relaxed their hair again.

Most importantly I knew that God didn’t make any mistakes when he made us the way we are, whatever our skin colour or hair texture.  So just as people with European hair could enjoy their hair just the way it grows out of their head I was convinced that God intended for those with afro hair to do the same. Surely our hair was fine just the way it was, without manipulation? I got to the point where I could no longer accept that we had to manipulate our hair not as a matter of preference or for an occasional change but as a matter of necessity.  When you really think about it relaxers are permanent and we are actually putting acid in our hair! Just examine the PH levels of relaxers.   After years of relying on weaves and relaxers I got tired of trying to keep my natural hair a secret from the world.  Weaves got expensive and the mixture of tracks and my relaxed hair meant that the length of my hair became uneven.  The back was excessively longer than the front and this caused me to rely more and more on weaves. I wanted to get out of this dependency on what they call the ‘creamy crack’ and wearing weaves.

A Persian rug made from many materials.

I also craved hair that had much more volume. I have always had thick hair but I felt relaxers stripped my hair of its volume and character. I always preferred my hair the way it was a couple of weeks after getting it relaxed, because it was thicker.  So I started to relax it less  (maybe every eight weeks instead!) and started to wear braid-outs with my relaxed hair. I really enjoyed the volume and the texture this gave my hair but it wasn’t enough.  So after watching a few videos on YouTube and researching the best products to use in natural hair I began to realise that our hair isn’t the problem. It is our lack of knowledge about our hair that is the real problem.  We expect to put a fine tooth comb through our hair from root to tip like many people with European hair can do. Not being able to do that means that our hair is coarse and unmanageable. We treat our natural hair like a joke because it doesn’t flow like the hair of women in the Loreal adverts. I began to realise that our hair is simply different not inferior to other hair types. European hair is more like silk and afro hair is more like  cotton. Both materials are valuable but are different.

Watching certain YouTube videos taught me for the first time in my life how to comb my hair! Isn’t that sad? We don’t even know how to comb our own hair or our childrens’ hair for that matter.  Putting them through unnecessary pain and joking about how much pain we suffered when our mother’s combed our hair. Not knowing that the best way to comb our hair is from the ends down to the roots and even better when our hair is damp.  We use shampoos advertised on TV that are really not made for our hair type and wonder why our hair gets so dry. A little research gave me the confidence I needed to finally go natural. I no longer thought that my hair had to be beaten into submission nor that it was simply unmanageable. I understood a bit more about how to manage my hair. I decided to go for the big chop. I didn’t really transition for long. I waited until I had enough re-growth, continuing to do the braid outs for a couple of months. Then when I felt I had enough hair on my head I cut the relaxed bits off and rocked a short hairstyle for a while.

So how have things changed?

Being natural is exciting and I am always learning new ways to manage and care for my hair. For the first couple of years I still didn’t have a great deal of knowledge. I would  blow dry my hair once a week to keep it stretched out. When it was short it was a lot more curly and it was good to see my real curl pattern. Afro hair is curly and I had always wanted curly hair. I had it all along and didn’t even realise it.  Some people even asked me if I texturized my hair and referred to my hair as soft.  Of all the ways to describe my hair for the first time in my life it was referred to as soft, to my utter surprise. In fact I have a very tight curl pattern but yes it is soft. But all afro hair is soft believe or not because that’s the texture of it.  After all, our hair isn’t made out of concrete! Can I put a fine or medium tooth comb straight through my hair ordinarily, NO! But that is simply because of the way afro hair is structured, not because it is tough or unmanageable or there is something wrong with it. We are simply  not meant to manage our hair that way.  Of course if I was using shampoo with sulphates in it and not taking the time to regularly detangle, moisturise and wash my hair, then yes it would be a lot less manageable. It’s our lack of knowledge that’s the problem not our hair. It’s funny how there is no screaming when I comb my little sisters’ hair. This is simply because I know how to comb their hair as I am use to doing mine. Shouldn’t we do our research for the sake of our kids at least?

I can do so much more with my hair in its natural state than I could ever do with it relaxed. Every time I go on YouTube or on other internet sites there is always a new style to try.  There are so many different forms our hair takes. From braid-outs, twist-outs, puffs, blow-outs, cornrows, flat twists and yes we can even straighten our hair if we wish.  The difference is it is not permanent when you use a blow dryer or hot iron. There is so much more choice and it is nice to stand out and be me rather than trying to conform to what society dictates as being beautiful.  If we don’t embrace our natural hair society will not.  If we don’t accept that we are beautiful naturally then things are not going to change.  More and more women are going natural and people are noticing and paying attention to that fact. Perhaps having natural hair will no longer be considered unprofessional or ‘making a statement’ if it becomes the norm rather than the exception.   It is a lot of fun learning how to  care for my hair. I’ve even learnt how to stretch out my hair without using blow dryers and have discovered protective styling, which is great for retaining the ends of my hair and thus maintaining the length. My hair is now the longest it has ever been and it is continuing to grow and has never been healthier. It is an ongoing process. I go for job interviews with my natural  hair  and I have even got married with my hair natural, this is the norm for me now, not an exception.

Protective Style

Twist-out

Why did you decide to go natural?  Do you feel encouraged to do so if you haven’t already? Share your comments below.