10 years ago I went natural. I stopped relaxing my hair. It was more than a hairstyle change. It was a lifestyle change for me. I want you to learn from my mistakes!
Today, even after 10 years and at age 31, I’ve still had relaxed hair longer than I’ve had natural hair.
10 years ago in the month of October, I did the big chop or cut off most of my relaxed hair. I had grown my relaxer out for 5 months and decided I wanted to cut my bra strap length hair into a short Toni Braxton cut. Without fear and hesitation, I did it.
Not realizing that my hair would be both short and natural. Both of these were completely foreign to me. The next day, you can say I had buyer’s remorse. I completely freaked out, thinking what did I do?
My hair was nothing like what I thought it would be. It was short with 3–4 different curl patterns or what I like to call multiple personalities. Some of my hair was curly, other parts waving and some still straight from the relaxer. Here are some pictures from the early days of my natural hair journey.
But if I knew what I know now, I would’ve done things a little differently. Here are 10 things that I’ve learned from being natural for a decade.
1. Shea Butter is Not a Moisturizer
When I first went natural, I would slather raw Shea Butter on my wet hair and then style. But my hair was still frizzy. I found out later after a conversation with a celebrity natural hair stylist that shea butter is too heavy for hair.
It’s also an oil based natural butter that can seal in moisture but does not add moisture to your hair.
2. Shampoo is a Must
Early in my natural hair journey, I discovered the No Poo (No Shampoo) Movement. At the time there were no or very few natural, sulfate-free shampoos in stores. I happily embraced exclusive conditioner washing or co-washing my hair. My hair was softer and less dry initially. But over time my hair became dry and my scalp itchy and flaky after about a month of only co-washing.
Co-washing is great in between shampoos. But not as the only way of washing your hair. Shampoo is needed for a healthy hair and scalp.
3. Baking Soda Can Damage Hair
Baking Soda has a lot of purposes. It’s great as a natural cleaner. But not for hair. Baking soda is very basic or has a high pH. The natural pH of hair is 6 and baking soda is 8.
When the pH of hair is raised to 8 the hair cuticle becomes lifted until the pH is balanced. Hair with a lifted cuticle losses proteins and becomes frizzy and more prone to breakage.
Baking soda is also very granular. This makes it very abrasive to the hair. It can gradually file away at each hair strand. This leads to lifted cuticles as well.
4. Heat Doesn’t Equal Heat Damage
Using a blow dryer or flat iron once or twice won’t damage your hair in most cases. High heat too often and too frequently causes heat damage. But occasionally blow drying or flat ironing your hair won’t hurt it.
I’ve shared 5 ways to prevent heat damage here.
I’ve found that sometimes my hair needs heat. It’s actually helped me get my wash day routine to 60 mins or less. Read more about that below. I found that I experience more breakage when manipulating my wet hair and this was one of the main reasons I quit the no-heat challenge.
It is possible to use heat and not get heat damage.
5. Natural Hair Still Needs Trims
Some people believe that natural hair doesn’t need regular trims. If you take good care of it and don’t use heat, you won’t have to trim your ends regularly. I know from experience, unfortunately, that this is not trim. Your hair splits naturally every 3 months regardless of how well it’s maintained. There are 4 ways you can know that your hair needs a trim.
Trimming split ends is the best way to make sure your hair remains healthy.
6. Protein Treatments Are Necessary
Proteins are the building blocks of the hair. They provide hair with the strength and elasticity needed to resist breakage. Proteins are also responsible for binding to water molecules. Healthy hair has a balance of protein and moisture. One without the other leads to breakage.
Proteins are loss gradually through regular maintenance; shampooing, conditioning and combing hair. To restore protein loss, you need a regular protein treatment. Here’s a list of 5 of my favorite protein treatments.
7. Anything in Excess is Damaging
Like most things in life, there needs to be balanced. Overdoing it can damage your hair. That means too much moisturizing, conditioning, blow drying shampooing or anything else can damage your hair.
Things like deep conditioning your hair overnight and over moisturize your hair. It leaves your hair gummy and ultimately break it.
8. Sometimes Your Hair NEEDS Heat
Heat gets a bad rep in the natural hair community. There are two types of heat, direct and indirect heat. Indirect heat from a steamer, hooded dryer, or heating cap can be very beneficial to the hair. They add an extra boost to your deep conditioning treatment and help to moisturize the hair and scalp.
Even occasional direct heat from a blow dryer can stretch the hair and get rid of stubborn tangles and knots. Just make sure to use a professional heat appliance.
One of the reasons I went natural was to wear a wash and go. It took me about 2 years to get it right. Using a leave-in conditioner made the biggest difference in how soft and define my curls stayed.
10. Wash Day in 60 minutes or Less
I used to spend hours, like literally, hours doing my hair on wash day. Pre-poo (pre-shampooing), detangling, shampooing, conditioning, deep conditioning, and styling my hair.
After I had my first child, I had to figure out a way to simplify my wash day routine. With a newborn had to make important decisions, like eat, show, or sleep. Usually, sleep won.
The key to shorter washes day are regular trims and wearing your hair in styles that minimize tangles.
Some of my favorite products are:
Ouidad Curl Quencher Moisturizing Shampoo
Ouidad Curl Quencher Moisturizing Conditioner
Ouidad Trial Set for Tight Curls
Kinky Curly Stella Strands
Kinky Curly Curling Custard
Bass Brushes Large Square Paddle Brush
SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo
SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Reparative Leave-In Conditioner