So whenever my sister and I are roaming the Joburg streets with our natural hair out to play, we generally always get stopped to answer questions about our hair: How come it’s so soft? How come it’s so long? Why is our hair so healthy-looking? It’s almost as though we know something that other aspiring or new naturalista’s don’t.
This is something I have been reflecting on for a while now, and I would like for other black African women (bAw) to rock their own natural ‘fros with the same confidence and joy that I, and others, have come to enjoy. So here goes. Here are a few of the “secrets” I have come to understand that lead to you finally having the natural hair you’ve always wanted:
Decide To Focus On Your Own Fro: First things first – afro envy is real guys! Do not be fooled. You know that feeling of ‘fro “inadequacy” you get when you look at a sister with an afro that looks like Diana Ross’s while yours looks like the young Kunta Kinte’s teeny afro in Roots? Lol! Well, that’s normal! You’re not the only one who feels that way or has that experience. Just like braids or weaves come in all different lengths, shapes and sizes, so does natural hair.
Choose to let go of any preconceived notions you may have picked up that your ‘fro must turn out a certain way. Instead, begin to focus on and learn your own hair. How does it respond when you use certain products? What about when you’ve just washed it? And when you twist it out? Taking the time to learn your hair gives you insight into what brings the best out of it.
Remember too that your curl pattern will most probably not look like another bAw’s curl pattern. I had to accept this with my own sister. She has a looser curl pattern and her ‘fro stretches more easily whereas I have a tighter curl pattern that creates cute little curly styles that she can’t really get. It’s important to know that just because you have the same skin colour or even come from the same country or heck are even related does not mean your hair will look the same. Focus on understanding what your ‘fro does.
Take It Back To Basics: I am all about using 100% organic and natural products on my hair. The sad thing is that the world has bought into the “fake” life including the food we eat and the things we use on our bodies or hair. Shampoos and conditioners are filled with so many harmful chemicals that dry out the natural oils in your hair causing it to feel super dry and to look lifeless. No wonder why you feel like your ‘fro never looks lustrous and healthy. It may be what you’re putting into it.
Take the time to do your research. Read up on the natural oils and products that are best for natural hair. The first trick is to read the labels on shampoos – if they have a long ingredients list, you pretty much know that there is nothing good in there for your hair. More so if water does not form part of the ingredients. Better yet, go back to using products with no added ingredients such as bi-carb of soda as shampoo or apple cider vinegar as conditioner. Your hair will thank you later.
Be Patient: I can’t emphasize this enough!! We generally are a generation that has completely lost the meaning and value of patience because we get everything we need at the click of a button in most cases. So, you wake up and decide that you want to go natural and expect that by next month (you’re giving it a lot of time here!) you’ll have a soft, curly, lustrous afro just like Precious Kofi. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but that probably won’t be the case. Your hair type may not even be like Precious’ plus you don’t know how long she’s grown it or how she styles it to look the way it does.
The natural hair journey can be compared to a running race. Each naturalista has their own lane (hair type). Has been training for different periods of time (time frame of having her afro). Has different training routines and methods that work best for them (products used on her afro). Has different inherent skills and developed talents when it comes to running (different hereditary curl patterns plus adjustments to her environment). What will lead to that racer coming first in their race is understanding these different elements and maximizing on them fully. This takes time and patience.
Remember that your hair has probably been put under much strain for majority of your life – relaxers, weaves, braids, wigs, heat, combing etc. It has not been out in its natural state and needs to adapt back to it. You can’t expect it to return from decades of manipulation in a few months. Allow it the freedom it needs to grow out all the unhealthy habits and chemicals that have hurt it over the years. Then one day, when you least expect it you will see your hair come out in a curl pattern or with a shine you have never seen on anyone else 🙂
Try Different Products For Long Periods Of Time: Following on from the above point, in your quest to have your best natural ‘fro, you will need to try different products to finally hone in on the ones that work best with your hair. What works for someone else may not work for you and vice versa. There are a number of different oils that do different great things for natural hair. Make sure to read up on them. Some act as moisturizing oils while others are sealants. Some are essential oils and others are carrier oils. Sometimes they must be mixed together for best results. I personally subscribe to Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Castor Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I will write about this in future.
What tends to happen is that we hear about all these amazing oils we should use and so we get a bunch and just try them all almost at once. Maybe we use a few for a few days or weeks then switch because it doesn’t seem like they’re doing anything. But this doesn’t allow your hair to adjust to the components of that oil treatment so you can see if it’s working. At our last “My African Crown” Hair Event, hair guru Thandiwe told us that it is better to use the same products on your hair for 3 months to allow your hair to adapt to them and to let you see if they are working. I stuck to the three oils above for months despite it looking like nothing was happening and forgot about it until one day I noticed how rich and soft my ‘fro had become.
Be Gentle With Your ‘Fro: One of the greatest myths about natural hair is that it is tough and hard. Again, Thandiwe mentioned at our last Hair Event that black natural hair is probably the most sensitive hair type. That is why your reflex is to pull back when your hair is being combed or getting blow dried etc. God has blessed us with a ball of cotton wool on our heads but we’re treating it like steel wool instead. We yank at it with combs and try to straighten it with blow dryers or hot combs. Such force and unnatural heat only causes more damage and makes it tougher.
Instead of using a comb, detangle the knots in your hair with your fingers. It takes time but it is so good for your ‘fro. Refrain from putting any heat at all to your ‘fro as heat damages and dries your delicate hair. Instead, twist your hair straight after washing and moisturizing it and sleep with it like that. In the morning, you’ll wake up with soft, moisturized hair that you can style – again I will write about this in future.
Change Your Mindset About Natural Hair: This has got to be the most important secret for me. For all your life you have been fed the incorrect information about your hair and how to care for it. It is people who don’t even have the same hair as you who have sold you products and ideas about the best way to care of it. If you want the hair you were originally given, go back to the manufacturer of that hair – God. Pray for your hair and ask Him to show you how to best take care of it. It sounds silly but trust me – it opens you up to people, articles, and products etc that speak to what your hair really needs.
When you begin to see your hair correctly and why you were given it in the first place, you’ll begin to understand what you need to give it. You’ll begin to love it instead of wish it was another way. And your afro will love you right back.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this post. I hope it has enlightened you to the real secrets available to you so that you can rock that healthy and full head of hair you’ve always wanted. Maybe you already have the natural ‘fro you want. Please share some secrets you have learnt too. Maybe you just have some questions – please don’t hesitate to ask.
Let’s keep working to have the hair we have always had but forgot about!