It’s been another year into my natural hair journey and here I am at 5 years! I started transitioning to natural hair the summer after graduating high school and it felt like getting a large flowing afro couldn’t come fast enough. The transitioning portion was 10 months where I was excited to see all of my new growth but secretly holding on to my relaxed ends because I had never had short hair before and didn’t know if I was ready for it. Well I finally did the big chop in April 2015 and started the journey of learning about my natural hair and all its forms. Now I am happy to have healthy and thick natural hair and continue to learn each day of my journey.
Things Every Natural Should Know
I’ll start by summarizing my top tips from 5 years of probably hundreds of cumulative hours managing my hair.
Get Your Trims
Going to the salon to get a trim may seem sad once you see all of your split ends on the floor but trust me it’s for your benefit in the end. There are several different methods you can try yourself to efficiently trim your hair but I suggest to at least get your hair professionally trimmed twice a year. For DIY, having a good pair of sheer scissors is important because if they are dull, you’ll end up doing more harm then good. I actually need to refresh my own pair of scissors seeing as I’ve had them for like 2 years so I will be taking my own advice as well. Knowing when to trim your hair depends on your hair health and porosity. For my hair, right around the 3-4 month mark my hair starts to just feel super dry and tangly at the ends. I alternate between trimming my own hair and going to the salon. To trim my own hair I stretch it throughout the week through a twist out and by the end of the week I can comb it out quickly or blow it out with a blow dryer to trim my hair layer by layer.
Getting rid of the split ends helps stop breakage from rising up throughout the hair strands. It helps to RETAIN the length that you’ve worked so hard to get in the first place, so don’t sleep on regular trims.
MOISTURIZE, MOISTURIZE, MOISTURIZE
When I had relaxed hair, I didn’t like to use too many hair products because I thought it would make my hair oily and dirty. I often avoided creams because it would activate the new growth into it’s curliest state at the roots, getting in the way of my dream Olivia Pope hairdo! Now in 2019, it’s no problem for me to use several handfuls of hair milk and creams for each section of my hair because the playing field has completely changed. I use variations of the LCO (Liquid, Cream/Butter, Oil) application process during the day and night. Yes, it does take time to do this but having healthy hair is going to take some time and effort. At night, I spend approximately 15-20 minutes applying a leave-in, shea butter, and coconut to each section of my hair and then braiding my hair into 4 sections to stretch it out. In the morning I’ll apply oil to the ends of my hair and style in an updo or, depending on the weather, wear my hair out loosely.
Moisturize your hair. Every day.
Deep conditioning weekly has been a staple in my natural hair routine since the very beginning. My products have ranged from $4 Suave to $10 TGIN products. At both ends of the price ranges, I have been able to get great results by just being consistent. You don’t need expensive products to get the benefits of deep conditioning. Adding in shea butter and olive oil to a low priced conditioner like the Suave almond and shea butter conditioner has never failed me! You can also step up the process by adding heat with a deep conditioning cap or covering your hair with a plastic bag with a hot towel on top.
Deep conditioning is a staple in my week to unwind and pamper myself. It’s just a great time. I’ve learned that if I’m tired, it’s okay to postpone wash day until the next day. Nothing is worse than begrudgingly detangling your hair when you don’t have the patience for it to begin with. I try to start my hair when it’s bright out so that I can avoid losing my energy during the process. Deep conditioning helps give my hair the moisture it needs.
The first oil I started using was olive oil. It’s easy to find in the grocery store and has multi-purposes. I have to coat the ends of my hair at night AND the morning because my ends are just THIRSTY! Coconut oil is also another staple in my hair routine. Since last year I’ve found it useful to purchase a gallon of coconut oil in bulk rather than smaller frequent purchases.
This past year I’ve tested my skills with doing my own hair and now I can say I can do my own box braids and twists. This is such a big accomplishment and I love the freedom of knowing I can do my own styles whenever I want. Protective styles have been a great way to give my hair a break and for me to save time. It’s always fun taking down braids and seeing how much my hair has grown. Protective styles are also super helpful when transitioning from relaxed to natural hair so you can grow your natural hair out until you’re ready to trim the rest of the straight hair off. It’s still crucial to maintain a hair routine even with a protective style. This includes washing your hair and conditioning and oiling your scalp. Having a protective style doesn’t mean you can slack off!
Changes with my Natural Hair
The biggest change this year with my hair was GETTING HIGHLIGHTS! I’ve always wanted blonde highlights and thought the color would look so cute on me. For over a year I contemplated getting highlights but was so afraid it would damage my hair and all the years of hard work would be in vain. After almost 5 years I decided to go for it because after all the years of hard work maintaining healthy hair I DO in fact deserve to play with it and try something new. I spend hours on my hair deep conditioning and moisturizing, so I felt I had a good chance of still having healthy hair after getting it dyed. It’s been 4 months since I got the blonde balayage and I am so glad I did it. It’s the color I’ve always wanted and I am super happy with it.
One thing I need to make sure I do at least monthly is a protein treatment. The ORS hair mayonnaise review still gets a lot of clicks to this day and I think it’s my favorite protein treatment as of today. I’ve tried a few others but will probably stick with this one.
Reflection on my Hair Goals
Last year one of my goals was to simply love my hair more. I think I’ve been doing that a lot this past year. I’ve been taking more pictures of my hair and having fun trying different products and essential oils in my hair routine. I also wanted to care for the crown of my hair and make it softer. I’ve come to realize that I simply have a coarser hair texture in the center of my hair and it’s not due to me neglecting my hair at all. It’s basically 4d hair texture and that’s okay. I’ve been making sure I apply lots more moisturizer to that area and being gentle with it when working with my hair.
This next year, as I mentioned earlier, I want to incorporate more protein treatments in my routine to take care of my now color-treated hair. I also want to find it in my heart to do hot oil treatments at least monthly. It’s an extra step in an already day-long wash-day, but I’d like to see if it does any good to my hair. Otherwise, I just want to help other people with their natural hair and continue growing my hair and enjoying every part of it.
And now time for a look down memory lane at the hairstyles of the year:
How long have you been natural? Share in the comments below!