So as some of you may know from looking at any of my photos or reading my blog name, I have naturally curly hair. Like… really curly hair. Believe it or not, I’ve actually only had my natural curls for about 2 1/2 years. Crazy, right?
After I turned 2 years old, my mother got tired of trying to comb my mini afro and decided to relax my hair instead. Of course I was a bit too young for such harsh chemicals, so it tore all my hair out and my hair came down just to my ears. I was too young to be embarrassed, but she grew it all out in my youth, so no big deal. However, I came across a “natural hair photo” on Pinterest when I was about 16 years old and quickly became obsessed with the movement. At 19, I made the decision to stop getting relaxers and at 20 I completely big chopped. I was finally natural!
Only… I had almost no idea what I was doing.
There weren’t many 4C YouTubers or blogs that I saw and most of the information I learned was easier to practice on those with thinner or looser curls. I bet my hair would have been longer if I had known then what I knew now, so I hope that these Top 10 Things will help someone who has thick 4C hair like me!
Number 1: I wasn’t going to have the same hair type as everyone else. (Even my own family!)
Yup, my father and little sister had thinner, looser coils than I did. My older sister had smaller curls than I did, and my mother’s hair is much more coarse than my own. When I was first introduced to the natural hair movement, I had this idea that if I used a certain hair product or used a certain method, then I would have loose waves that would fall elegantly down my back and would be easy to pull up in a bun whenever I wanted. I don’t want to discourage anyone, but this just ins’t the case for everyone. My younger sister and father (If he wanted to grow his hair out that long) would have no problem expecting the hair that I just described. My older sister, mother, and I however, simply don’t have the same hair type. This wasn’t a bad thing; it was just a fact that I had to learn and embrace.
Number 2: I should have blended my transitioning hair with curls, not heat.
I know for a fact that my hair would be much longer than it is now if I hadn’t been so impatient and still stuck in the whole “Western beauty is the only beauty” phase. I transitioned for 11 months before I big chopped, and let me say that my new growth made me look like a rat had been sucking on the side of my head. Of course I was still stuck in my old ways and quickly turned to my flat iron over and over and over again. Unfortunately, the more I used heat, the more I saw breakage and other signs of damage. It caused me to constantly have to trim my hair, and I wasn’t retaining any length. If I had that 11 months to do over again, I would have treated all my hair as if it was natural; using some sort of protective styles or ways to curl all my hair without heat.
Number 3: I shouldn’t have cut my hair directly at my line of demarcation.
My very first (and very last) hair cut was on my 20th birthday. I wanted to get my big chop done professionally, mainly because I didn’t trust myself with scissors at the time. Because of where I lived, there weren’t many places to go where they had stylists who specialized in black hair care. When I finally found a woman, I decided to settle with her even though I knew she mainly worked on women who were relaxed. I didn’t care at the time and was desperate to get my relaxed ends removed. I didn’t know this at the time, but what is supposed to be a big chop is cutting the hair after the line of demarcation… like say… 1/2 an inch. But what ended up happening was my hair was cut directly at my line of demarcation, leaving almost an inch of scab hair that continued to break and travel up my hair shaft for a few months. I could have had much more length retention had I cut where my hair needed to be cut from the beginning.
Number 4: I needed to keep my hands out of my hair.
Ever hear of HIHS? It stands for “Hands In Hair Syndrome”, and I had it BADLY! I believe the most common reason HIHS occurs is because we have this whole new texture that we either haven’t seen in years, or are just seeing for the first time. I hadn’t seen my curly hair since I was 2 years old, so once I saw what was now attached to my head, I was overwhelmed, overjoyed, and I was constantly playing with my curls. PLEASE DON’T DO THIS! All the moisture, oils, and other products I was putting in my hair was constantly being rubbed off by my hands, my fingers created more frizz than curls, and my hair would dry out super fast. I don’t care what curl texture you have, I bet you your hair will be more thankful if you let it grow on it’s own.
Number 5: I needed to wash my hair in sections.
When I first cut my hair, I was only about ear length, so I didn’t see the need to wash my hair in 4-8 sections like I was seeing other women do. I figured my hair was short enough that it wouldn’t get tangled if I washed it like I was still relaxed. Boy, was I dead wrong! I learned quickly that as long as you have curls in your hair, it can still get tangled and experience breakage just as much as someone with waist length hair. I now refuse to wash my hair if I can’t put it into at least 4 sections beforehand.
Number 6: I needed to do more protective styling.
This kind of ties into Number 4. If I had practiced more protective styling, my HIHS wouldn’t have been nearly as bad. I learned (a little too late in the game) that my hair doesn’t like to be touched. It wasn’t that I didn’t know that protective styles literally protected my hair from myself (yeah the wind and sun and cold, but really from myself…); it was that I loved playing with my new hair. This proved to be one of the worst mistakes I made in my journey, as I suffered constant breakage from over styling and playing with my hair. I didn’t need to keep my hair in protective styles, but I should’ve used them more often than I did.
Number 7: ALL types of conditioner were my new best friends.
When I was relaxed, my mother used to buy this two in one shampoo and conditioner mixture. Poor little natural me didn’t realize that this was NOT an alternative to conditioner. Not only that, but that was the only “conditioner” that I was used to using besides some hair mayonnaise every 4-6 weeks after my touch up. I don’t lie when I tell you my hair was the driest and saddest crown you’d ever seen… After watching dozens of YouTube videos in near tears, I realized that my hair can’t go without conditioner. Even a leave-in! I had never used leave in conditioner, nor had I ever used a deep conditioner more often than that 4-6 weeks. This was a huge no-no, and I learned pretty fast that my hair needed conditioner to survive.
Number 8: I didn’t need to trim my whole crown after finding 1 knot.
Because of all the previous experience I had, I was used to having more breakage than a little bit. It seemed like I was trimming my hair about once a month or so! After that, I started to get in the habit of trimming all of my hair if I found a few knots. Little did I know, I wasn’t helping my hair at all; I was keeping my hair shorter than it needed to be! Just because I caught a snag didn’t mean that my whole head was in need of a trim. Once I learned how to trim my own hair properly, I was able to add “dusting” to my routine. Now if I come across a knot I can’t untangle, I just snip that one knot instead going scissor crazy.
Number 9: I needed to twist my hair EVERY night I wore it out.
Oh boy… This was something I knew but just got lazy with. My mother always told me to braid my hair before I went to bed. Little did I realize, that rule was 5x more important now that my hair was curly instead of straight. I remember doing a beautiful wash-and-go with my natural hair and truly thinking that I could go to bed with it and just shake it out the next morning like a woman with 3b hair would. Hahaha! No, that’s not what happened… Instead, I woke up the next morning with a bird’s nest attached to my head and my mouth agape as I stared at it in horror in the mirror. That entire morning was spent finger detangling all of my hair. If I know that I have a busy couple days coming up, I braid my hair out of the way. Never again will I wear my hair out and let it go free like it was straight. It’s not.
Number 10: I shouldn’t style my hair unless I planned to maintain that style.
Although this ties into Number 9, I’m also talking about protective styling. For some reason, it didn’t click in my brain that just because my hair is being protected doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be kept up. I found myself washing my hair less and using little to no product in my hair when it was in faux locs, braids, twists and so on. This resulted in a dry, brittle, and tangled take down after leaving my style in for 3 weeks. Just because I couldn’t see it didn’t mean my hair suddenly didn’t exist. It still needed to be washed, conditioned, and oiled.
Overall, I’ve learned a ton in the 2 1/2 years I’ve been natural. Thanks to the blogs I followed, the videos I binged and my long term goal to reach my hair to my waist, I was able to learn more about the hair that God gave me and how to properly take care of my crown. I hope that reading this has helped you to do the same!