Thinking about going natural? Here’s what I wish I had known

It took me forever to finally decide to go natural.  I was so scared of how I would look, what other people would think, of making my hair fall out, of what was involved with just wearing what God planted on my head. Every time I saw someone that had beautiful natural hair, I approached them and asked them questions. The majority of the time they were really nice and gave me tons of great feedback, but occasionally, they gave me the “You’ve creeped me out look.” Oh well!

Now, that I’ve been living the natural hair lifestyle for over a year, I wanted to share the 10 nuggets of wisdom that I wish one of those people I had interviewed about going natural would’ve told me.   

1. You do NOT have to do the Big Chop to go natural.

My Big Chop

On the weekend right before I want natural, me and my mother-in-law were talking about going natural. I was SO excited that she was considering it. The idea of going natural with someone else really energized me and made me feel confident that I was moving in the right direction.

When I did the Big Chop, I called her and told her. I was SO happy and excited, I was talking really fast and didn’t give her a chance to really get a word in until I realized that she was being quiet. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that she also did the big chop and hated her short hair. She had worn her hair long for so long that she felt like a boy with short hair.

Here’s what I didn’t know, and wish I did, so I could’ve told her. You don’t HAVE to do the big chop to go natural.Going natural for me meant the big chop, but it doesn’t have to for you.

If you don’t want to cut all your permed hair off and wear your natural roots while your hair grows out, don’t. Make the decision to go natural, then don’t perm your hair again. Allow your natural hair to grow in while wearing your permed hair.

You’re going to have to maintain two different textures, and that can be tricky, but it’s do-able. And while you are transitioning, you can still wear your hair at the length you feel comfortable with.

2. Water is EVERYTHING!

Water is your most important moisturizer

Your natural hair needs water. . . and lots of it. And when you’re natural, water is your most important MOISTURIZER. Oil (coconut and olive oils are my favorite) seals in the moisture. Conditioners stick to your hair and help close in the pores (African American hair is highly porous), so it’s also important to keep a full, healthy head of hair.

After my morning run, I rinse my hair really well and add just a little conditioner while I’m in the shower. Just a little for my short hair means 1/4 of my palm.

When I get out the shower I pat the excess water out of my hair so it’s not running down my face and clothes, but leave the rest in. I add leave-in conditioner (still 1/4 of my palm because my hair is really short) and seal it with coconut oil and then I’m done.

3. Limit the amount of time you spend touching your hair.

I could not control my self. When I first went natural, I spent all day with my hands in my hair. I was just SO amazed at how soft and curly my real hair was. I spent a lifetime being teased about having “bad hair,” and just couldn’t believe that the hair on my head was mine.

Well, I had to deal with breakage and dryness as a result. Continuously touching your hair over-manipulates hair that is really vulnerable. And your hair is taking away the moisture you add, and your hair needs it. So, get your feel on, then stop.

4. Embrace your natural curl pattern. Don’t try to re-create someone else’s.

I love looking at photos of other black women that have gone natural and every once in awhile I fantasize about having HER hair, but fantasy is fantasy. In real life, you have to learn how to embrace and care for the hair texture and curl pattern you have. It’s YOURS. It’s just as unique as you are and that in itself makes it absolutely beautiful. Work with it, girl!

5. Try out products, but not all at the same time.

When I learned how to cook I did so by finding tried and true recipes. Once I mastered them, I starting adding all kinds of different spices to make them mine. The food my family loved became almost unrecognizable because I had thrown in flavors they didn’t recognize or like. When I couldn’t figure out what it was that I added that was throwing off the flavor I just went back to the basics. Then I learned to introduce one new ingredient at a time. Now, I’ve created a unique spin on all my tried-and-true family favorites. But that took time.

Same with your hair.

Spend some time getting to know your hair, by giving it what it needs: water, conditioner, oil. Then, introduce new ingredients (or in this case products) one at a time and observe how it changes your hair before you add something else.

6. You can have so much fun selecting hairstyles and hair colors.

Natural hair is flexible, resilient and just GOOD LOOKING. Test out whatever hair color or hair style you think will work for your length and texture (and prep time). If you’re looking for natural hairstyles, here are hundreds of options for natural hair of every texture and length. Looking for a natural hair color? My natural hair color has changed half a dozen times since I’ve gone natural. Try one out, commit for a couple of weeks and change it if it doesn’t suit you. Or change it if it does. Have fun with your natural hair.

7. Yeah it’s natural. But it’s not always easy.

Your permed hair is not always easy. It’s hair. Your natural hair will not always be easy either. It has to be cared for and maintained to give it the maintained look.

On the inevitable bad hair day, don’t be afraid to cover it all up with a protective style (or wig). When you want to give it a rest period or on days when you don’t have time to do the really ornate style you wanted to try or that you started and don’t have time to complete, braid it up or wear a (satin-lined) hat. And move on!

I’ll admit, because I have a super-active lifestyle, I maintain a TWA (teeny weenie afro) so I don’t have to comb or fool with my hair on most days. I have a limited amount of time, so keeping my natural hair short just works for me. Find what works for YOU and rock it!

 8. Don’t try to explain WHY you went natural.

Well, you can, but some people will challenge you because of the pre-conceived notions they have about what the going natural lifestyle represents. I’ve tried. Now, I don’t. I’ve now accepted that this is one of those decisions I’ve made in my life that’s just personal to me. And I just shouldn’t have to explain why I’ve decided to be me.

9. When and how do you wash your hair?

Since I’ve gone natural, hair washing has a bit of a different meaning for me. Washing my hair really means cleaning my hair, and the majority of the time I don’t use shampoo to do that. I just use conditioner. I may wash my hair with shampoo once a month. But I clean it almost every day by rinsing the workout sweat out with water and adding conditioner (and leave-in conditioner). But my daily natural hair regimen may be a little different from yours because my hair is so short. [It’s my life’s perk.]

Just know that shampooing your hair removes the oil that you’ve added to seal in the moisture; and it’s really not necessary to do every day.And if you wear your hear long(er), be prepared to de-tangle immediately after.

10. People will either love it or hate it.

When my Momma was about to share her most insightful advice, she would say, “Bring your ear closer.” So, in this case, bring your eyes closer. You can’t afford to miss this one.

For whatever reason, not everyone is going to love your hair when you go natural. Some will think it makes you look too ethnic. Some will think your permed hair was cuter. Some will think your permed hair was just better.

YOU have to love your natural hair. And if you don’t yet love yourself overall, you may not want to fool with the natural hair transition right now until you clear up your other misconceptions of what true beauty really is.

But there’s nothing more beautiful than you being the true you that you were destined to be. Don’t start down this path if you’re not ready to embrace that fact.