I got my last relaxer in March 2011. Ever since, I’ve worn my hair either in twists, twist-outs, braids, Bantu knout-outs or under wigs. I’m still surprised that up until this point, I’ve never worn my hair without manipulating it in some shape or form. Even though I’ve technically been natural for eight years, I don’t know my hair.
Afro natural hair is beautiful and extremely versatile. You can blow dry or flat iron it for a straight look, and you can wear it in its natural, kinky shrunken state.
Afro hair is also very fragile, it is very prone to knots and tangles, and if you don’t keep it moisturised, it becomes brittle and breaks off. Most times it looks short, but you’d be surprised at how long it really is when you stretch it out.
My 4C haircare journey before I decided to make a change..
When I decided to go natural in 2011, I was inspired by ladies with long, beautiful, thick Afro hair. My first thought was to grow my hair as long as possible – mid-back length was my ultimate goal. To do that successfully, I had to abide by a plethora of rules from the natural hair gurus, a few of which include:
- Pre-poo my hair every week with a mixture of natural oils
- Shampoo my hair at least once a week with a sulphate-free shampoo to avoid drying out my hair and stripping it of its natural oils
- Co-wash my hair at least once a week to replenish my hair of moisture
- Deep condition my hair with a deep protein treatment for strength then follow up with a deep moisturising treatment to maintain my hair’s elasticity
- Moisturise and seal my hair daily to maintain moisture
- Stick to low manipulation styles or wear my hair in protective styles majority of the time to avoid breakage and promote length retention
- Oil my scalp with castor oil for growth
There were quite a few other rules and challenges I engaged in all in the name of growth. When I was diligent, I saw results. In fact, I was retaining a lot of length until I decided I wanted to wear my hair straight in 2013 and then suffered severe heat damage.
I thought I could reverse it with lots of protein treatments, but in the end, I accepted that I had to chop my hair off. Reluctantly I did, but my hair thanked me for it.
I started the whole process of growing my hair again, sticking very diligently to the rules, but also trimming (more like cutting) my hair almost every other month. Of course, my hair was not getting any longer, but it was super healthy.
I got bored of following all of the stringent haircare rules and decided I was going to start exclusively protective styling. My protective style of choice was wearing wigs. I wore wigs back to back for almost three years and naturally, I retained a lot of length.
Unfortunately, when you wear wigs, it is very easy to forget about caring for your hair under the wig. I fell into that trap, and so, even though my hair was a lot longer, it was extremely dry with a lot of knots, so I decided to cut it all off again. You would think I would learn a lesson from that, but no, I didn’t. I repeated the same cycle for two years and then chopped my hair off again.
I did a lot of Bantu-knot outs in between wearing wigs. Bantu-knots are by far my favourite hairstyle. I just love how predictable the results are, and how much volume it gives my hair. My only gripe with them is how much time it takes to put them in and how long my hair takes to dry. I also have to reknot my hair every night to ensure my curls look pretty and last at least a week before I wash my hair and repeat the whole process. I can’t begin to explain how time-consuming it is. I got tired of the entire thing a few weeks ago and decided I needed to make a change.
My new 4C haircare journey
As I mentioned earlier in the post, I’m still surprised that over the last 8 years, I’ve never tried to wear my hair without either manipulating into a ‘false’ curl pattern or hiding it under wigs. I’ve always known that my hair shrinks to at least 85% of its length once wet, but I’ve never really tried to learn how to take care of it in its shrunken state.
Your hair is indeed less prone to tangles when stretched, but I’ve come to learn that wearing your hair stretched and spending the whole day pre-pooing, deep conditioning and styling is not the only way to grow long healthy hair. I found a lady, Taylor Anise on YouTube who inspired me to wear my hair in its natural state with zero manipulation.
Just like me, she got tired of extended wash days and having to manipulate her hair to look a certain way. Her routine is effortless; I have adopted a lot of her ideas. All I do at the moment is cleanse my hair with a sulphate-free shampoo, deep condition with a protein or moisturising masque, condition with a leave-in conditioner then apply a hair butter to seal in the moisture.
Once I do that, I allow my hair to shrink as it pleases and call it a day. Daily, I spritz it with water then apply my leave-in conditioner and hair butter. I haven’t experienced tangling, but I still get knots (this is normal for Afro hair) and no more than I would usually.
I have fallen in love with my hair all over again, and I’m seriously enjoying the freedom of letting my hair loose. I’m no longer hung up on curl definition, and I can go to sleep without any tension on my scalp from twists or Bantu-knots.
I’ve decided to incorporate the Curly Girl (CG) method into my routine. If you don’t know what that is, you can either google it or wait for my next post when I detail what it is, how I intend to modify it for my hair and the products I will be using to be CG compliant.