Tuesday, 31 March 2015

So You're Thinking Of Going Natural: 7 Common Questions Answered

I get lots of questions about going natural. Some are just out of casual interest but many are from people who have been considering going natural for a while but are too scared to commit. I'm going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions or dispel some common misconceptions.

1. Natural Hair Seems Like SUCH Hard Work!


I'm not going to lie. It is hard work. The main reason for this is because you end up doing a lot of the basic maintenance and styling yourself and if you were a salon queen, this is quite a shock. Although there are more and more salons coming up that deal with natural hair, there are still a great many who are completely rubbish at natural hair so do your research before you try one. It is also virtually impossible to go to a hairdresser every day to do simple things like twist or moisturise or style your hair. Plus some salons charge extra for natural hair. Don't even get me started on that one. 

Like anything, though, you only do as much or as little as you want. Some people twist their hair every night, moisturise daily or cowash multiple times a week. Then there are the lazy naturals who swear by low manipulation and only wash and deep condition once or twice a month. It is really up to you.

The individual effort required to care for your natural hair, especially in the beginning when you are still learning, is probably more than with relaxed hair but it is a great way to really, truly understand your hair (you'd be surprised how many of us actually don't) and you feel an immense pride when you see your hair thriving because you know you're entirely responsible for it's improved health.

2. Are Products For Natural Hair Easily Available?
When I first went natural a couple of years ago it was almost impossible to find even basic things like silicone-free conditioners. I remember we would post on Facebook about Tresemme Naturals conditioner hitting the shelves and they would usually sell out within hours because we were all buying 10 bottles at a time. I do not miss those days. Times have changed, and now supermarkets stock so many natural-friendly shampoos, conditioners ad styling products. There are also a number of locals making and selling local products, as well as shops, online vendors and private individuals selling imported ones. Popular foreign brands readily available include Shea Moisture, As I Am and Cantu, among others, although there can be a hefty markup on some of these so shop around.

There are also many natural butters and oils that can be repurposed for natural hair and a lot of naturals use DIY products on their hair like deep treatments, leave-ins and styling butters and gels.

3. Is It Expensive To Buy All The Products And Tools?


It can be initially. There are a few basic products and tools you need when you first go natural but the cost will depend on the brands you chose. My advice would be to try before you buy, especially for the non-essentials. Read online reviews or ask any natural friends you have if you can have a small sample of a product you are dying to try. I bought a lot of things in my journey that I now no longer use, like the infamous Denman brush, and I could easily have saved myself some money if I had just asked someone.

Product costs can skyrocket if you are a product junkie or if you don't understand your hair but again, this is a personal choice, not necessity.

4. But My Hair Is Just Too Hard To Go Natural


I used to think the same exact thing. Particularly for those of us with kinky, coarse hair, we were raised being repeatedly told how hard our hair was. We would break combs and slice fingers and fry our hair, all to to beat it into submission.

But hard hair is usually just dry hair. Water was never our friend growing up, oil was. What we didn't understand was that oil doesn't provide moisture; it gives slip, making hair easier to handle, and some natural oils have conditioning properties, leaving your hair feeling soft, but for real, long term softness, you need water. Understanding how to keep your hair moisturised is key to having hair that is soft and easy to 'manage' (I hate that word). 

5. I Don't Want To Cut My Hair, Is There An Alternative?

natural hair with relaxed ends

There is, and it even has a name. Transitioning. Just this morning I was having a conversation with a client who has long relaxed hair about transitioning as she didn't want to cut off her hair. Managing two textures can be daunting but many naturals have successfully transitioned into natural hair with no major problems.

Don't do what I did and live in braids with tons of blow drying in between. Unless you are really careful, you will end up with dry, neglected, heat-damaged hair and a non-existent hairline. Do your research and read as many transitioning stories as you can to get tips on how best to do it.

6. I Won't Feel As Pretty With Natural Hair


There has been an article floating around about naturals having lower self-esteem because they don't feel as pretty and although the piece itself was 'satirical', I know lots of people who are too scared to go natural for this reason. And one (a beautiful, talented, successful friend) who actually went natural then went back to the creamy because she didn't feel as cute with natural hair. 

Before I really figured out my hair, I went through a stage of feeling (and probably looking) ugly because I just had this dry-ass, tangled, HARD mess on my head. Having natural hair definitely takes a change in mental processes. For so long we have been subtly taught that our natural hair is ugly or low class so you do have a mental transitioning period where you have to repeatedly and consistently reaffirm to yourself that your hair is beautiful, even on days when you don't believe it.

There will also be a lot, and I mean a lot, of people, friends, family, colleagues, employers or even strangers, telling you they don't like your hair and questioning your decision at every turn. You really have to develop thick skin, a quick tongue or a strong sense of humour to carry you past this stage, but you will be surprised how many of the same people will turn to you in a few months and ask for your help or advice or simply just compliment you.

7. What about Boyfriends/Husbands/Potential Partners?


This is a huge potential worry for women who are dating, because the fear is that potential suitors may be put off by natural hair. And you know what, some will. Just as some will be put off by weaves or tattoos or cat owners. You can't please everybody, so the sooner you stop trying, the happier you will be. And while your natural hair may close some doors, it will also open others.

It's a little trickier when you're already in a relationship. Communication is key, and having a conversation about your reasons for wishing to go natural usually goes a long way. You can accompany this with lots of beautiful pictures of natural hair, although this can backfire on you if you don't know your hair type. A client of mine told me her husband once asked her when her hair was going to 'become curly'. 

My husband did not love my hair when I first went natural. He kept saying 'So...you're never going to wear it straight again?'. We had lots of talks about how wearing my hair naturals was better for my hair, was great for our daughter's self-esteem etc but he still wasn't that keen. I love my husband more than I love my hair but after a few months, I was like 'Dude, suck it up.', because my natural hair was here to stay. My personal belief is that, in a strong, committed relationship, hair should never be a deal breaker, especially not if it's hair that grows out of your head as God intended. So now we're in a happy middle-ground where he doesn't love the conditioner death-trap that our bathroom has become, the greasy door handles, the spray marks on the wall in the dressing area, the smell of henna, the flexirods to bed, the clingfilm DCs or the bantu-knots, but when I wear my hair out in all it's glory, he often likes it and sometimes even loves it. That's good enough for me.

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