It’s that time again when we get together as black African Queens to learn a little more about our natural hair and locs, and to have some fun and yummy treats while we’re at it. Space is limited so make sure you book your spot asap!
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!
The gorgeous black African Queens that formed a part of the first “Natural Hair Appreciation High Tea” event!
This past Sunday, a group of twenty-something women decided to commune and have some tea while appreciating the crown of glory God has blessed them with. “What crown of glory?”, you may ask. The natural hair each of these ladies has been blessed with – free from harmful chemicals and manipulation.
We had our dear sister Zanele share her experience with finally going natural and embracing her natural hair as being a reflection of who she really is close to the age of 40. It really is never too late to choose to do what is best for your hair.
Then yours truly gave a brief outline on the history behind black hair and why we perceive it the way we do today. I also shared my reasons for going natural and how it is a part of our identity and is important in God’s eyes.
Thandiwe from Afrolocology (who co-hosted the event with me), then gave great insights into the myths around natural loose and loc’d hair, as well as practical tips on how to care for one’s natural hair.
We also had such yummy treats to indulge in, and the ladies got some cute little take-aways! We enjoyed talking about and sharing our journeys with natural hair, while encouraging each other to patiently care for our crowns. The ladies also had so many questions that opened our eyes up to natural hair and how it impacts one’s whole life and identity. In future, we will be discussing broad topics around natural hair including how to best style one’s hair or how to figure out your hair type, amongst other things.
I would like to give a BIG thank you to my sisters who helped to plan and co-host this awesome high tea event! Sis’Nosi, Zanele, Rumbi and Thandiwe, your assistance and support was unmatched and I’m truly grateful to have you! To all the ladies who came to be a part of this very first Natural Hair event, thank you! Your presence made an impact and we so look forward to hosting you again soon.
Look out for more of these and other events at bAw!
Just to let you know that our very first “Natural Hair Appreciation High Tea” is SOLD OUT!! If you were planning on making payment to attend the event, please do not. Unfortunately, our places have been filled.
We will, however, be having more of these and other events, and you can keep your eye out for them in future. We’ll be sharing feedback on our first event to give you an idea of what to expect when you choose to join us next time.
To those who have reserved their places, we’re so looking forward to hosting you this Sunday, 2 April! We’ll be discussing:
your hair and identity;
myths around natural loose and loc’d hair, as well as;
tips on how to care for your natural crown.
There will be awesome prizes to be won and yummy treats to enjoy too!
So I’ve been on this natural hair journey for a good 4+ years, and it has been an interesting one. I’ve written about why I decided to go natural and how I transitioned into being a naturalista. That is a decision I absolutely do not regret in my life. Nothing beats walking in the fullness of who God placed you on this earth to be, including how you wear your hair.
That being said, it hasn’t always been easy doing this natural thing. Starting off, my sister and I had no clue how to keep natural hair. My experience with natural hair was limited to childhood when my mum would wash it then blow and comb it out. It was PAINFUL! And near to impossible to put a comb through that hair and I honestly hated it. I had to convince myself as an adult that this wouldn’t be the case this time around. So we did our research – reading up online about different natural hair types and how to care for them, as well as watching YouTube videos about how to care for and style your natural hair.
This, and years of experimenting alone has led me to a routine that works so beautifully for my hair and I wanted to share cause some of you have been asking how we manage to keep our hair looking so good. In today’s post I will be sharing the products I use on my hair to wash it. And the routine I follow in doing so. In a later post I will share how I moisturize and style my hair as well.
First things first, you need to know what your hair type is so you know how to care for it. Below are two charts of different hair types to help you out:
We black Africans are mostly Type 4 hair types. I personally am a 4b/4c. Hair Type 4 is what I’ll be referring to in sharing my hair care regime.
Wash Products and Process
I personally am one of those people who believes that the simpler a product is, the better. In fact, organic and natural is what I have found to work best for me. You may not believe that these two simple products are what I use for my weekly-to-bi-weekly wash but I promise you they bring out the best and most natural texture to my hair. I make sure to buy the organic and natural versions. The shampoos and conditioners that we buy in-store are filled with harmful chemicals that dry out your natural hair and take away from it coiling beautifully.
My “shampoo” is bi-carbonate of soda or baking powder. Yep! I get it from any Woolworths or Pick N Pay.
Process: So you take about half a teaspoon of bi-carb and put it in a 250ml cup. Then add water to dissolve it (or you can do 1 part bi-carb to 3 parts water). You can put it into one of those squeeze bottles and mix it up.
Apply this to your wet hair and rub it in comprehensively, leaving it in for about 3 minutes. You then rinse it out with warm water thoroughly to ensure it’s all out of your hair and has not remained on the scalp. You’ll find it weird at first that there is no foam with this method but it’s because there are no harmful chemicals that you find in regular shampoo that are actually added to result in the foaming effect.
Bi-carb is so good for your hair because it naturally strengthens your hair over time. You’ll notice that your hair is richer, stronger and more full of life than when using regular shampoo.
My conditioner of choice is apple cider vinegar which I buy from Dischem or Pick N Pay from the Nature’s Choice brand. I generally buy the 500ml bottle for R75 which lasts forever or you can buy the 200ml bottle for R20 which lasts a long time as well depending on how often you wash your hair. Either way, it’s such an affordable conditioner – value for money. Again, I choose to use this product because it does not contain harmful chemicals and it brings my natural hair to life.
Process: You just need to take a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and mix it in a 250ml cup. Again you can put this in a separate squeeze bottle to make it easier to apply to your hair. After shampooing with bi-carb, you rub this mixture completely through your hair. Thereafter, take a wide-tooth comb and comb out any knots in your hair – this is the only time that I really put a comb to my hair (and it’s optional). The hair is softer when it is wet and detangles much more easily in this state.
After about 3 – 5 minutes you can rinse out the conditioner thoroughly and your hair is squeaky clean!
I wash my hair every week or every other week and it works well for me, so see what works for your hair and your schedule.
It’s good to deep condition your hair at least once a month. I’ve been slacking on this but it’s really great for your natural coils. It gives your hair body and a great, healthy shine while repairing any damage from your hair being out or exposed to harmful chemicals. It also nourishes it with the protein needed by your hair and moisturizes it.
What I have used in the past to deep condition my hair is egg yolk combined with something else – usually olive oil. There are several amazing DIY, organic and natural deep condition mixtures that you can try if you just Google them.
Process: Take about 2 egg yolks and beat them. Add 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the mixture and mix it some more. You can add water to thin it out a bit, and you can add more eggs and olive oil if your hair is longer – or less if it is shorter.
Once you’ve got your mixture right (not too thick but not runny either), you massage this “conditioner” into your dry hair from the roots to the tips, making sure it’s evenly distributed. You then take a shower cap and cover your hair for at least an hour to as long as overnight. The longer you leave it in, the better it conditions your hair. I find that about an hour and a half works well.
After your appointed time, you then wash out the “deep conditioner” with warm water, and with your normal hair wash regiment thereafter. Make sure you get all that egg out and be prepared for a not-so-great egg smell while you deep condition.
This is what I have found to work for me in terms of washing my hair. You can give it a go and tweak it according to your resources, time and texture of your hair. The key to nurturing a great natural crown is to keep trying. You will fail and find that some things don’t work but eventually you’ll come across what does work. Don’t be afraid to try.
I also have an amazing sister-friend of mine called Thandiwe who has come to understand natural hair and locks well, and can give you a consultation and treatment for your hair if you would rather not do all this on your own. You can call her on the number in the image below to check for the consultation fee and she is in the Johannesburg area. She’s running a Feb special so get in touch asap!
Hope this helps you! And watch out for future hair care posts. Please also share what you’ve tried and what’s worked very well for your hair.
I recently did a post on why I decided to go natural a few years ago. It’s been about 3 or 4 years since I embarked on the natural hair journey and less than 3 years since the big chop. A number of you expressed your desire to go natural as well but said that you have either tried and found it difficult to maintain the natural hair or you believe your hair is super coarse and are afraid it won’t be manageable. Some of you just asked for guidance on dealing with natural hair. I understand cause I was just as nervous when I went natural. I’m going to do a number of posts discussing my transition journey; my hair care regime; products I use and where I get them (plus other products that are in South Africa); hairstyles and how I do them etc. So be on the lookout for these.
To get us started, I thought to start from the beginning. I wanted to share about my personal journey of transitioning to the natural hair state. For those who are new to the natural hair game, transitioning is when you decide to let your natural hair grow out with the relaxed hair until you’re ready to chop off the relaxed/chemically treated hair. This was a personal choice for my sister and I, but you could choose to just chop it all off instantly. The main reason I chose to transition and wait for the natural hair to grow a bit longer was the fact that I didn’t think I had the face for a bald or really short haircut. Lol. To each his own!
Anyway, these are some of the steps I engaged in for the duration of my transition to natural hair (which lasted about 1 year):
Using Heat and a Comb
As my natural hair grew out, I would use a comb to my hair as well as blowing it out with a blow dryer when needed at home or at the salon. I don’t use heat any longer on my natural hair now, but at the time it helped to get my desired results in terms of styling my transitioning hair. It was mostly painful but I made sure to use a wide-tooth comb to reduce the pain and better comb out the hair. I also avoided using heat on the regular and probably blew my hair out once a week when I was wearing it out. Heat is generally not good for your hair as it dries it out and leads to breaking. Try to avoid it as much as possible.
During my period of transitioning, I still went to the hair salon for treatments. Since I chopped off my relaxed hair I have not been back to the hair salon to have it treated except for the one time I did a blowout. Instead, I wash and style and care for my natural hair myself at home because I find that at the salon they still don’t understand how to best treat natural hair. Anyway, during transition I would visit my hair salon of choice to get an oil treatment once a month. This was great to strengthen and nourish my hair as it grew and I felt that it helped with styling my hair better. Also, the salon stylists still knew how to deal with transitioning hair in this regard. I would sometimes do my own oil treatment at home using egg yolk – about 2 egg yolks for my hair. I would just beat the two egg yolks and rub them into already wet and shampoo’d hair that had been rinsed out, and sit with it under a shower cap for about 30 – 45 minutes before rinsing out and conditioning. So, make sure you give your hair the oil treatment it needs regularly as you transition.
Products Used on Hair
In terms of the shampoo and conditioner that we used on our transitioning hair, my sister and I chose the Organic Root Stimulator range which we found at Clicks or Dischem. We made use of their Creamy Aloe Shampoo and the Replenishing Conditioner when washing our hair. I would wash my hair once a week or once every other week depending on how lazy or busy I was. Every so often, I would co-wash which is when you wet your hair and wash it with conditioner only. This has benefits for your hair because the chemicals in conditioner work well with our natural curly hair. You just need to be careful about the conditioner you’re using. In fact, knowing what is in the products you use is so important when going natural and the less chemicals, the better.
Organic Root Stimulator Shampoo and Conditioner. Photo Cred: Amazon Online
In terms of a leave-in conditioner, we chose to use the one from Motions. Again, we would purchase it at Clicks or Dischem but I am not sure if it is still being sold there. Nevertheless, as I said above you just need to look for a leave-in conditioner that is as natural as possible i.e. when you look at the ingredients it has, it should first list water and should not have a long list of other chemicals. You can also always Google what kind of chemicals to avoid in the shampoos and conditioners you use on your natural hair.
When I was transitioning, I did not leave my hair out as much as I do now that it is completely natural. This is because it was harder for me to maintain the transitioning hair because of the two different textures. Also, combing it out and trying to style it wasn’t always easy. This meant that I regularly invested in protective styling which in my case came in the form of braiding hairstyles. I would do singles or cornrows. I would also go to the salon or to a friend to do thin and neat twist outs on my own hair that I would wear out and style. It allowed for my hair to grow, and it minimized breaking. I would advise you to do the same if you choose to transition to natural hair. It certainly makes the process easier and more bearable.
Hair Moisturizer/Hair Food
As I transitioned, I wasn’t very fussy about what moisturizer to use. I would make use of the Organic Root Stimulator Oil Moisturizing Hair Lotion. I would also make use of any other hair food or lotion that I felt I could trust at Clicks or Dischem. As mentioned above, the key is to look for hair food/moisturizer with less chemicals on its ingredients list. This is always the key when shopping for products for your natural hair.
My sister and I became natural hair YouTube video junkies. Lol. That is where I got most of the information about how to best take care of my hair while transitioning. That and visiting blog sites for natural hair. If you just type in “Transitioning to Natural Hair” in Google you will come across hundreds of blog sites and you can just pick the few that resonate most with you. The point is that many people have gone ahead of you on this natural hair journey so that it can be a much easier process for you. It doesn’t have to be that daunting or overwhelming. The key is to research as much as you can and tailor what you find to your own hair until you’ve found your rhythm. Don’t visit too many different sites as this will confuse you, but find one or two that you’re comfortable with and can keep going back to for advice.
This is a general overview of my journey to natural hair. I wasn’t so obsessed with the whole “What’s your hair type” and working with that. It confused me and I could never actually tell what my hair type was – if I was 4C or whatever. Instead, as I tried out different products and methods of taking care of my hair, I began to notice what worked best for it. I paid attention to what brought out the nice curls in my hair in terms of what I was using to wash it or to moisturize it etc and I would repeat. Also what gave it a healthy and long-lasting shine and bounce. As you do this, you begin to recognize what works best for your hair type. What works for me will not be exactly what works for you but the key is to get ideas here and there and tailor them to your specific hair type.
Above all else, have patience and perseverance!!This is not an easy journey. More times than not, you will feel like giving up but don’t. The end results are so worth it. I would say that when you’re getting tired of your hair, just braid it. Hide it for a while until you feel revived to try again. And keep reading up about the benefits of keeping your hair natural and reading about other people’s experiences with natural hair. It will encourage you to feel like you’re not the only one and will keep you going.
I will be posting more about my experience with my actual natural hair now in terms of how to best take care of it and style it etc. You will find these posts under the new category “Natural Hair Care”. If you have any other experiences or thoughts around going natural, let me know! Would love to share your experiences with others.