Category Archives: 4b Natural Hair

How I achieved my best wash and go with 4b hair

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I finally achieved a wash and go style that I was happy with. My natural curl pattern was defined and held up pretty well. Contrary to what I use to believe, 4b hair does have a curl pattern. However, if you have fine strands and hair that loses moisture relatively quickly, your strands are unlikely to clump together in uniformity, like other hair types. So a little help is needed with a product that has a strong hold. Of course, by now we should know that no product is going to give your hair curls that do not already exist. So my expectations have never been unrealistic.

The first time I attempted a wash and go, I literally washed my hair, applied some gel and went out to dinner. My hair shrunk horrendously, which led to terrible knots the following day. I’ve tried conditioner only wash and go’s, where my hair turned into a glorious afro. I’ve also used the ever popular Eco styler gel. I’ve had the same tub of gel for three years! Here’s what I learned through my trial and error, which led to a successful  attempt recently.

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Day 2, After Working Out

 

 1. Stay in the shower

One of the mistakes I made was to apply the gel outside of the shower, believing that my soaking wet hair would remain that way. The reality is, your hair begins to dry as soon as you step out of the shower. Re-spraying my hair with water didn’t soak it thoroughly, and I would often forget to do this anyway. So the gel did noting but hold frizzy hair in place, as opposed to defined curls.  Curls are at their most defined when the hair is fully hydrated.  Staying in the shower creates a convenient way to reapply water, and ensures that you apply a good amount. Even after you have gone through all the steps, apply water one last time before exiting the shower. This will replenish and give the hair that last boost of moisture.

2. Use a product with a strong hold 

I love my homemade flaxseed (linseed) gel. I use it for styling twist outs, flexi-rod sets, you name it. I believe it works just as well, if not better than most popular styling products. It is an all natural alternative to the gels that are currently on the market and doesn’t leave the hair crunchy. However, I learned that my hair type is prone to frizz, as the hair strands don’t clump together naturally. So for definition, I went back to the Eco Styler gel, which claims to provide a maximum hold of 10. Without it my hair would frizz instantly upon drying.   The conditioner-only wash and go may work well with other hair types but it didn’t with mine. I learned a new technique for creating an afro but that was not the look I was going for. Avoid gels with harsh alcohols and with as few synthetic ingredients as possible.

3. An oil rinse will minimize the crunch effect

Maximum shrinkage is hard work, shrinkage cemented with gel is a disaster!  For this reason I avoided Eco Styler gel, as it brought back bad memories of previous attempts.  With this attempt I applied it differently and  did an oil rinse after deep conditioning, to seal in the moisture. This was simply applying oil, then lightly rinsing my hair with the water to remove  the excess.  The oil helped to soften the gel slightly and minimize the crunch effect that most gels have.  Most importantly that crucial moisture was sealed to promote curl definition.

4. Use a clarifying shampoo

Wash and goes work better on clean hair that is free from product buildup. Product buildup weighs the hair and can interfere with strands clumping together. Previously I have tried to do a wash and go after co-washing.  This did not lead to the best results.  This time, I used a natural clarifying shampoo, which left my hair with that squeaky clean feel.  It is important to follow clarifying with a good quality conditioner, free from silicones, mineral oil or petroleum.  Detangle thoroughly with the conditioner. I saw my curl definition immediately after clarifying.  The aim is to maintain and hold that definition.  This is achieved by keeping the hair hydrated and using the right gel. If you are styling your hair in back-to-back wash and go’s, co-washing will be more appropriate.  Product buildup should be minimal if it has only been a week or so since your last clarifying session. The use of clarifying shampoos should be limited, as frequent use could lead to dry hair over time.

5. Deep condition

This step is important, especially after using a clarifying shampoo. It also helps to maintain maximum hydration. Deep conditioning does not require you to leave the shower and sit under a dryer. Simply put a plastic cap over your head and continue showering for ten minutes or so. After rinsing out the deep conditioner,  apply your leave in conditioner.

6. Smooth, don’t rake

I was a big believer in the shingling method, which is simply raking the product through your hair with your fingers. Looking back, I believe this method actually created more frizz and worked against clumping the strands together.  For other hair types, this may work well but it didn’t with my 4b hair. Instead I took  a big clump of gel and smoothed it onto my hair gradually, until I coated every strand. I  noticed immediately that my curls were held together and had a more definition.  My hair looked a little flat when I came out of the shower but it gained more volume as it dried.

7. Use a leave-in conditioner with a naturally acidic pH levelNew Aloe Juice 500ml

The natural pH level of the hair and scalp is 4 – 4.5.   I sprayed my hair with aloe vera juice to use as a leave-in conditioner.  This has a pH level of 4.5-5.5. As it has an acidic pH level, similar to hair, it works to close the hair cuticles and thus eliminate frizz.  Using a leave-in conditioner with an appropriate pH level also helps the hair stay better hydrated. This all works to promote maximum curl definition. You can purchase pH strips online for testing your leave-in conditioner.

 8. Use a diffuser for drying and stretching

Rather than letting the hair air dry, I used a diffuser. My hair would simply take hours to dry and there was no guarantee it would dry fully before going to bed. A diffuser is a great tool for drying as it doesn’t mess up your curl definition. When the hair is about 80 per cent dry, you can switch to the concentrator attachment and begin to stretch your hair from the roots. Gently pull small sections taut from the roots until you achieve the desired shape and length.

9. Find a great way to maintain and refresh the style

My wash and go lasted for 5 days. Each day my hair got bigger, and gained more length.  So I actually preferred the style more as the days progressed.  I tried the pineapple technique but it involved too much manipulation and stretching for my hair. Instead, I put my hair in two low pigtails and banded each pigtail with three bands. I also kept my hair in this style for the gym or when I went running. After a workout I would remove the bands, spray my hair lightly with water, shake my hair out and shape as desired.

10. Add some oil for shine

To finish off the style I rubbed some almond oil into my hands and gently applied it to my hair, just patting it on slightly to prevent frizz. This made the hair shiny.  Use an oil of your choice. Grapeseed oil is also great for creating sheen.

 

Other techniques that may help

Whichever technique works best for you will depend on your hair type and individual preference.  I researched different techniques and applied it to my hair. Some vloggers advised using a Denman brush to smooth the gel into the hair and separate the strands. I preferred not to use the brush, but it might work for you. Some techniques involve shaking your head vigorously as a final step. This is to separate the curls and create volume. I was scared of ruining my definition so I chose not to do this. However, my hair was quite flat as a result (which I didn’t mind), so shaking the hair out may work for those who prefer more volume. I will probably try this method next time.

Denman Brush

Denman Brush

This style took me one and a half hours from start to finish. If I do it regularly I will be able to do it faster.   I like this style because it did feel like an actual wash and go, probably because most of it was done in the shower. I could do it before going out for the day and don’t have to wait overnight to see the results, like other styling methods. I also found it very convenient for working out 5 days of the week. Plus it allowed me to see and enjoy my natural curl pattern in all it’s 4b glory :-).

 

Which method works best for you and your hair type? Share your tips below.

 

 

 

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Wash and Go’s on 4b Hair

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Can wash and go’s really work on 4b hair? Here are some methods that may be more suitable for this hair type.

The first time I tried a wash and go I vowed to never do it again. The method I first used was to; wash my hair, coat it with Eco Styler gel and then literally go.  This resulted in severe shrinkage; my hair looked like a TWA. I didn’t mind the look but the next day my hair was severely tangled. I had to painstakingly separate every strand as carefully as possible or risk breakage.

So what has changed? I have tried a number of methods in the last few months. Now I believe the wash and go is a styling option for me. Stretched out styles are better for my hair because they result in less knots. However, wash and go’s are great for women who work out a lot and enjoy frequent co washing. Here are some of the methods I found useful.

The Winter Wash and Go

This method was demonstrated by Naptural85. The style is prepared overnight and there is no need to rake gel or curling puddings through your hair. Wetting and washing your hair helps to bring out your natural curl pattern and putting your hair in large twists allows it to remain stretched.  Some wouldn’t call this a wash and go but it is the most convenient method of bringing out your curl pattern.  It simply involves washing and putting your hair in twists, while in the shower. So it encompasses the convenience of a wash and go, that may be lost with the traditional method. It’s ideal for winter because you don’t have to walk around with wet hair all day.

Conditioner only wash and go

Instead of using  gel, perhaps try the ‘shingling’ method with your favorite conditioner. All of this can be done in the shower. Use your fingers to rake the conditioner through the hair. Some choose to leave a little conditioner in their hair, not rinsing it out  completely. Now with other hair types, air drying may work best. However, with my 4b hair I found that this resulted in too much shrinkage, as my hair is very tightly coiled.  Using a diffuser to dry my hair, gently stretching it with my fingers in the process, worked much better for me. To seal in the moisture you could also add some oil to the hair and rinse it slightly so that your hair doesn’t turn out to be too greasy. This is called an oil rinse. Simply using conditioner as opposed to raking gel through my hair resulted in far less shrinkage.  The curls were not as defined and quite frizzy but I liked the level of volume my hair had.

Conditioner only wash and go

Conditioner only wash and go

Check out Alicia James’ wash and go tutorial, where she uses a diffuser to stretch her hair.

The traditional method

The traditional method is washing your hair and using gel or a styling product to enhance your curls. This usually ends with allowing your hair to air dry throughout the day.  I believe this method is less effective for 4b hair because the amount of shrinkage experienced can be excessive.  There is also a level of uncertainty about how the style will turn out because your hair will shrink gradually.  Many women become disillusioned with their 4b curl pattern because it isn’t usually as defined as 4a or type 3 hair.  While others can enjoy the convenience of this method and see their curls pop easily, 4b  girls may not have the same experience.  The other methods highlighted in this post may be more suitable.

Shrinkage

Shrinkage with traditional method

It is simply a matter of trial and error. Most importantly, remember that a styling product cannot naturally create curls that do not already exist.   I believe gel is more effective than a curl enhancing pudding/smoothie when trying this method on 4b hair. 4b strands need hold, in order to clump together. Otherwise the hair becomes more puffy and frizzy. However, I would avoid gels with maximum hold as they will cause too much shrinkage. Try gels that offer light to medium hold.

Eco Styler gel with a hold of 5

Eco Styler gel with a hold of 5

My natural curl pattern

My natural curl pattern

The fake wash and go

This is simply making a twist out look like a wash and go.  Put your hair into small to medium-sized twists when wet, for more definition. When untwisting, instead of separating the hair three to four times, separate the twists once.  This takes longer than a twists out, as the twists are smaller. However, you can wear your hair in a protective style for a few days and take your hair down for the weekend.  This way you get two or more styles out of one.  I find that this style lasts longer than a normal twist out because the twists are more defined.  It looks like a wash and go even though my hair would never look like that after a real wash and go. There is no shrinkage to contend with and you will avoid the dreaded tangles that 4b hair usually experiences after a traditional wash and go.

Check out the tutorial for this method by Alicia James.


Fake wash and go, a few days old.

Fake wash and go, a few days old.

Don’t be discouraged

If  the end result is the same it doesn’t matter which method was used, or that you were unable to achieve a wash and go by the traditional method. Do what works best for your hair type.  4b hair isn’t inferior to other  hair types simply because it is kinky rather than curly.  Your hair will have its own unique strengths, which you will discover as you practice caring for it.

Have you tried a wash and go? Share your experiences below.

Caring for 4b Hair

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My top six tips for caring for 4b hair and retaining length.

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1. Moisturize regularly

Afro textured hair has a tendency to be dry.  With all the kinks and curls it is difficult for moisture to penetrate every strand thoroughly. Therefore we constantly have to keep our hair moisturized. Moisturizing in advance is better than waiting for your hair to dry out before adding moisture. This will also minimize the breakage that occurs as a result of dryness.  A moisturizing deep conditioner applied after shampooing will give your hair a well needed moisture boost. How often you do this is up to you.  I try to do mine once a week but if my hair is in a protective style like mini twist I find it easier to do a hot oil treatment instead.

Washing your hair doesn’t just clean it; it adds moisture that you can seal in for days or even the whole week, depending on how well your hair absorbs and retains moisture. After shampooing and conditioning, use a good sealant to lock in the moisture. A natural oil such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or Shea butter will work well for sealing in moisture. Then check your hair during the week to ensure that it isn’t getting dry. A spray bottle with water can be used to top up the moisture of your hair or you can use a leave in conditioner of your choice. Make sure any leave in conditioner you use is water based. Water should be first on the list of ingredients.  Some people prefer to use a leave in conditioner especially if they have their hair in a twist out or braid out style. Spraying your hair with water can cause frizz and not allow your style to last as long. I usually just lightly mist my hair and then rub some oil into my hands and pat my hair lightly.  It depends on what style my hair is in. If your hair is in twists, you can spray or moisturized more easily. You have to do what works best for you. I think the main rule is to take action if you notice that your hair is getting dry, don’t simply ignore it.

Plastic caps are also good for locking in moisture after lightly misting your hair. You could wear one around the house during the day or to bed at night. You will notice that the moisture has remained in your hair overnight and your hair should feel soft and moist in the morning. Cover your head with a silk or satin scarf or use a satin pillow case. Cotton pillow cases absorb moisture and dry your hair out.  Most importantly be aware that moisture comes from within, so don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

 

2. Handle your hair with care

Once your natural hair gets longer you will find that your level of patience must also increase. Afro-textured hair is usually more delicate than Asian or European hair because the strands are finer in diameter, especially around the bends and twists of the strands.  Therefore our hair is more prone to breakage with heavy manipulation and rough handling.  4b hair in particular is tightly coiled and every kink, curl and bend presents a potential breaking point. Growing up, I  always believed I had ‘tough’ hair because my hair has a thick density. However, I know now that my individual strands are quite fine.  According to The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy; medium-sized strands are the same size as a strand of frayed thread. If your strands are thinner than this they are considered to be fine.  If your strands are larger than this, then they are thick.  I must be extra careful when handling my hair. It’s just isn’t wise to do my hair when I’m in a rush because there will be little broken hairs on my shoulders or on the floor! Be careful when styling your hair and use your fingers as much as possible to detangle, before using a wide tooth comb. Hair should also be handled when damp as it is more pliable in this state. Finally split your hair into sections before styling. This makes it less daunting and allows you to concentrate on one section at a time. This will minimize the damage and breakage from styling and manipulating.

Lauryn-Hill

3. Low manipulation and protective styling

Almost every time we style and manipulate our hair there is always the potential for breakage or damage. The aim is to keep this breakage to a minimum. If you have 4b hair, separating your strands through combing, detangling and styling is always risky business. Therefore the less manipulation your hair goes through the less breakage it will experience. Keeping your hair in protective styles or low manipulation styles like buns, twists, braids or updos, will give it days, weeks or months of little to no manipulation. This will give you a break from managing your hair and protect the ends of the hair from damage.  It will also help you to retain length, maintain the volume of your hair and reduce tangles and knots. Be aware that leaving your hair in  a protective style for too long may cause the shed hair to tangle with the existing hair strands and create more knotting. Also, failing to moisturize your hair while in a protective style, can counteract the benefits of that protective style.

 

4. Keep your hair stretched

The first time I tried a wash and go I literally washed my hair, raked some gel through it and went to dinner. My hair was completely shrunken, it looked like a TWA. I was happy to have tried a new style but I suffered the next day. My hair was so tangled I thought I would never get it back to normal. Although I tried to remove the knots and tangles with my fingers as carefully as possible, I couldn’t avoid the breakage and damage that occurred as a result. So I realized the importance of keeping my hair stretched. Other hair types may thrive with wash and goes but it is not always the best choice for us 4b  girls, considering how tightly coiled our hair is in its most shrunken state. Others hair types may not shrink as much and thus avoid the tangles that result the next day.

Hair can be stretched without using heat simply by putting it in large twists, braids, bantu knots or through banding. Twist-outs, braid–outs and roller sets are also great styles that allow your hair to remain stretched throughout the week. When your hair starts to shrink in between washes, it may be time to take action. Spray it lightly with water (or use your leave in conditioner) and put it in some twists or braids before going to bed, to refresh your style. Even when I wear my hair in a puff I like to put the ends in twists at night so that it is stretched out in the morning before styling my hair again. Otherwise I find that the puff gets flatter and smaller throughout the week as my hair gradually shrinks. This creates more knots and tangles and makes detangling more difficult.

I have since found a better technique of doing wash and gos (see below) but the experience taught me a valuable lesson.

Naptural85 Winter Wash and go technique

Maintaining a Wash and Go

Banding technique for stretching natural hair

 

5. Trim when needed

It’s simply a myth that trimming your hair helps it to grow, as hair grows from the roots. However, if your ends are split, they will break off eventually anyway. Therefore it is better to remove them yourself as a preventative measure. If you are looking after your ends by keeping them well moisturized and tucked away through protective styling, you will not have to deal with damaged ends as often.  Therefore you do not have to trim religiously, regardless of whether it is needed or not. This will simply result in you cutting off perfectly healthy ends and reducing your length for no reason. However, when your ends are damaged, trying to hold on to them can cause more harm than good.  This can result in more tangles and knotting and your ends will look see-through and frayed. Hair  in this condition does not look very healthy. So in order to avoid more knotting and tangles, difficulty in styling (as your ends are unlikely to hold well) and breaking hair, trim when needed.

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 6. Limit the use of heat

When I first went natural in my naivety I thought the only way to stretch my hair was to blow dry it. I blow dried it once a week after washing but I wasn’t deep conditioning to prepare it for blow-drying and I certainly wasn’t moisturizing it enough to replace the moisture lost in the process. This affected my length retention and I didn’t achieve the length that I could have. Since refraining from heat, I have retained much more length and noticed the benefits.  Blow drying and flat ironing strips your hair of moisture and there is always the risk of heat damage, which is irreversible.   I’m not against using heat but it should be limited if you have certain goals for growth and length retention. Try not to rely on heat but use it more as a treat or for when you feel like a change.  Learn about the alternative methods of stretching your hair and experiment with them.

 

Feel free to add any more tips for caring for 4b hair and afro-textured hair in general. You may do things differently for your hair. Share below.

Love Your 4b Hair

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I was recently watching a YouTube video by a vlogger who decided to go back to relaxed hair. Her main reason was that it is her hair and therefore her choice. I couldn’t agree more and I am not against women relaxing their hair.   However, one point she made that I didn’t agree with was that she had the ‘real African hair’ and that therefore her hair was somehow harder to manage as a result.  Although she may have meant it as a joke, I do believe there is this misconception within the natural hair community that some hair types are harder to manage. Also, instead of saying good and bad hair we now say 3b or 4b hair.   I get the impression that some see the 4s as inferior to the 3s and out of the 4s, 4b hair is seen as the ‘bad hair’ type, by some people.  I do not necessarily subscribe to hair typing but for the purpose of this article I will say that my hair type is 4b.

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4b hair is kinky and tightly coiled.  It has a zigzag curl pattern instead of spirals.  Hence, 4b hair types usually have a more fluffy appearance and a less obvious curl pattern.  This is NOT to say that 4b hair doesn’t have a curl pattern.  Afro textured hair is ‘textured’ by nature and therefore has some sort of curl pattern (I’m aware that some black people may have naturally straight hair though).

Styling

I have only tried a wash and go once and I did not get the same results as women with different hair types. My wash and go did not result in loose or tight spiral curls because that isn’t my natural curl pattern. I will try it again using a different technique but I know that no product is going to make my hair do anything it doesn’t already do naturally.   This certainly doesn’t make 4b hair inferior to others.  All hair types have perceived strengths and weaknesses. Even if my hair doesn’t curl up as much as a 4a or type 3, it doesn’t mean that I cannot wear my hair in a super curly style using perm rod sets, bantu knot outs or twist outs.  4b hair is still very versatile and easy to manipulate. It holds styles well and is a lot of fun in my experience.

As for managing my hair, the more I learn, the easier it becomes to manage. As I always say; it is never our hair that is the problem, it is simply our lack of knowledge. Learning more efficient techniques of managing your hair and even learning from your mistakes, is all part of the fun of natural hair.  One of the greatest challenges with my 4b hair was shrinkage. However, after learning different techniques to stretch out my hair (without heat), shrinkage doesn’t even bother me now. In fact, if my hair didn’t shrink, this would indicate that there was something wrong with it.   So in my opinion 4b hair isn’t any harder to manage than other hair types it simply needs to be managed differently. I subscribe to YouTube channels of women with different hair types and I have seen the beauty of them all, but they all have their challenges.  For example very curly hair could be more difficult to manipulate as the natural curl pattern could interfere. If I had 4a hair I would have to learn how to deal with this, it wouldn’t make my hair harder or easier to manage, just different.

Negative comments

I have heard negative comments about natural hair looking ‘more African’ and 4b in particular being referred to in this way.  Black hair reflects African heritage. So to say someone’s hair looks more African (in a negative context) just because it’s natural or 4b, is plain ignorance. Why is something inferior simply because it looks ‘more African’ anyway? That’s implying that hair which reflects European or Asian heritage is more beautiful. That shouldn’t make it more beautiful, it should just make it beautiful in a different way. It’s a shame that these phrases are used and a lot of the negativity is coming from within the black community itself.  African hair is extremely diverse; no two hair textures are the same. Many women find that their hair is made up of more than one hair type anyway. Their hair may be 4a in the front and 3b towards the back for example. Again, this is the beauty of natural hair and these differences should be embraced, not used to create competition within the natural hair community.

Time consuming?

You learn more about your hair as time goes by. It used to take me four hours to detangle my hair, now I have learned to do it in less than one hour. This was simply by trying out different techniques. Saying that you don’t have time to be natural is again something that I do not think is a valid excuse. My profession required me to take a lot of work home with me in the evenings and it was a high pressured work environment. I simply had to learn to adapt my hair care regiment accordingly. I wore my hair in protective styles more often, which allowed me to leave my hair alone and gave me a break from dealing with it. Plus, since going natural I no longer spend my Saturdays travelling to and from the salon and waiting around for hours. I have always styled and managed my own natural hair. So  I may spend more time detangling but I spend less time and money going to the salon to get my hair relaxed, treated or weaved.

So whatever your hair type, embrace it because that’s what your hair is like naturally and no product or styling technique is going to change that. Don’t buy into the ranking of different hair types.  The hair typing system is supposed to be used as a guideline not as a ranking system of ‘good hair’ verses ‘bad hair’. Don’t go back to relaxer just because you have 4b hair, 4b hair is just as beautiful as the other hair types and has its advantages just like the others. Whatever your hair type, you are going to have to learn how to manage it and deal with challenges.   If you love your hair other people will, if you see it as inferior then that is the message you give to others. There’s enough prejudice out there, surely we can do without the kind that comes from within our own community.

.Celebrities with 4b hair?

Jill Scott

Jill Scott

Shingai Shoniwa

Shingai Shoniwa

Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu

Janelle-Monae-Guide-006

Janelle Monae

My favorite 4b vloggers

Kinky Curly Coily Me

http://www.youtube.com/user/BlakIzBeautyful

African Export

http://www.youtube.com/user/africanexport

CharyJay 4b/4c hair

CharyJay 4b/4c hair

Kinksgalore

http://www.youtube.com/user/Kinksgalore/videos?flow=grid&view=0

CharyJay 

https://www.youtube.com/user/160Days2Lose2

Stayed tuned for next week where I explain how I manage my 4b hair.

Do you have 4b hair? What do you think about hair typing? Share your thoughts below:

Do our curls always have to be defined?

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Is there a need to always have super defined curls ? Solange Knowles has been criticized in the past for not wearing twist outs or braid outs and there are numerous hair care products  that claim to define your curls, some of them cost an absolute fortune! Sometimes it’s nice to wear your hair  out big and beautiful and not worry about how defined your curls look. So, you’ve had a twist out for a few days and it’s looking more like a big afro, that’s fine. I like this stage and often wear my hair like that for a couple of days before I go ahead and wash it.  Who says  our curls have to be defined all the time or that our twist outs, braid outs or roller sets have to look perfect. If you wake up in the morning and your curls are no longer defined, don’t give yourself a hard time because you don’t have time to retwist it.  Big, fluffy hair can be just as beautiful as defined, neatly arranged coils, twists or waves. So if you don’t feel like doing a twist-out, or your ‘wash and go’ didn’t result in super define curls, that’s okay!

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I’ve never painted myself as a team natural vice president. I don’t know the lingo and I don’t sleep with a satin cap…

However, I did noticed when I picked out my hair, I kept seeing feedback about needing a “twist out”. Connnnfesssioonnn: I HATE twist outs.Solange Knowles

Check out Essence magazine’s top 50 natural hairstyles of the year.  Here are some of my favorites that do not necessary include super defined curls.

essence  50 styles

essence updo 50

Do you feel the need to always have super defined curls? Personally, at this stage I’m over it. Share your thoughts below…….

I can’t go natural! My hair is too tough (part 2)

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Before concluding that your natural hair is too tough to manage, do some research

When I researched the best way to care for my hair I soon became aware of the mistakes I made and why I had problems managing it. I didn’t even comb my hair correctly.  Not being able to put a fine tooth comb through my hair from root to tip, left me to conclude that there was something wrong with my hair.  I should have been aware that kinky, coily afro textured hair should be combed with a wide tooth comb and combed gently from the ends, working out the knots and gradually moving the up towards the roots.  There are many examples of misconceptions related to detangling, moisturizing and styling natural hair.

If you think your hair is ‘too tough’ to go natural, do your research before concluding this. Here are some important facts about natural hair, if you weren’t aware of these then yes you would find it hard to manage your hair. If you apply these you will find managing your hair easier and become a pro in no time.

  • Water moisturizes the hair not oil (although oil seals in the moisture).  It is your friend not your enemy so don’t avoid it.
  • Hair can be washed while in loose braids or twists. The braided or twisted strands reinforce each other and less shrinkage, knotting and breakage occurs during washing.
  • Many mainstream black hair care products have sulphates, silicones, petroleum and mineral oil. These clog and dry out the hair.
  • Natural hair must be detangled regularly and shed hair should be removed in the process.
  • Finger combing can be just as effective as combing but gentler and less damaging.
  • Never comb your hair when it is dry and tangled. Spray it with water first.
  • Afro textured hair is actually quite delicate and must be handled with care to avoid breakage.
  • Shrinkage is good as it shows that your hair is healthy and reverting back to its natural curl pattern when wet.
  • Natural hair can be stretched without using heat, simply putting your hair in large braids, twists or bantu-knots will stretch it out and make it more manageable for styling.
  • Natural hair is very diverse and has many styling options appropriate for all occasions. Check out the posts: The versatility of natural hair part 1 and 2
  • Rather than tough, natural hair is actually delicate and is prone to breaking off at the ends. Protective styles help to protect your ends and thus retain length.
  • Sleeping on a satin pillowcase or covering your hair with a satin scarf will help to retain moisture while you sleep.
  • Manage your hair in sections (usually 4-6 sections); don’t just plough a comb through your hair as this will lead to breakage. A small section of hair is less daunting than dealing with a full head of hair.

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There is much more information about natural hair relating to products, hair types, styling and even how diet affects the hair.  Do your homework and you will feel more confident about going natural. Everyone’s hair is different and you will have to adapt the information to suit you but that’s what is so wonderful about natural hair. Saying you can’t go natural because your hair is too tough is like a learner driver saying they can’t drive because it is too difficult. Experienced drivers never say driving is too difficult because they know how to handle a car and deal with the roads.  Your hair isn’t too tough; you just haven’t learned how to manage it yet.

What was your main fear about going natural? How have you found the experience so far?

Share your stories below.

I can’t go natural! My hair is too tough (part 1)

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In part one of this article, I address one of the greatest misconceptions about natural afro-textured hair.

I have heard this statement many times from women who are apprehensive about avoiding chemical relaxers and wearing their hair natural.  When I point out that I no longer rely on chemical relaxers, they tell me that I must be fortunate to have soft hair and this has allowed me to stay natural. I usually laugh out loud when people tell me this because the last thing people used to say about my hair was that it was soft. I have certainly broken a few combs in my day and remember constantly having to replace the comb attachment on my blow-dryer, and this was when my hair was relaxed!

Re-growth terrified me because the more re-growth I had the harder it was to manage my hair. So I would relax my hair every six weeks without fail, whereas most of my friends could wait at least eight weeks.  I have terrible childhood memories of the first attempt at relaxing my hair. The first time, my mum used a ‘kiddy kit’ and it was as if she simply put moisturizer in my hair. Nothing happened. Then we tried again a few weeks later, with an adult relaxer. My aunty, who happened to be a hair stylist, left the relaxer in my hair for a very long time and my scalp was burning, only to find that my hair had barely straightened. I was so disappointed. On the third attempt it finally worked but my hair never really stayed sleek for the full six weeks. After two weeks it would start to look frizzy. So for as long as I can remember I used super strength relaxer. If anyone was to say their hair was ‘too tough ‘to go natural, it would be me.   In fact, isn’t that one of the main reasons the majority of black women use chemical relaxers in the first place?  According to a recent article in Ebony magazine, over 65% of black women in America opt to use chemical relaxers to straighten their hair. One of the reasons for this is this misconception that afro textured hair in its natural state is hard, unmanageable and doesn’t look presentable.

After years of believing that lie I had to really ask myself why people of other races could manage their hair with no problem, but when it came to black people we had to resort to chemically treating our hair as a norm. The pain of harsh combing when I was a kid, the burning of my scalp when I relaxed my hair, only reinforced the lie, that there was something wrong with my hair and that it needed ‘fixing’.  The solution for that was relaxer. Getting a relaxer was seen as a rite of passage among young girls when I was growing up in the UK. In fact I didn’t get my first one until I was 13. As a result I was bullied in school for being one of the remaining few to still have natural hair. When my hair wasn’t braided it looked messy as I didn’t know how to style it and I received negative attention from some of the other children. I couldn’t wait to get a relaxer (or perm, as it is referred to in the US)!

So what changed?  Well I grew up and was no longer an impressionable kid trying to fit in. I was a grown woman approaching thirty, who refused to believe that there was something wrong with my hair or that afro textured hair had to be fixed. I realized that I never really learned how to look after my hair in its natural state. I had only learned how to alter it and never embraced it as it was. I was also curious to see what it looked like in its natural state.  Perhaps if I learned how to manage my hair it wouldn’t be so unattainable to have it natural. I stumbled across some helpful advice and information on the internet and saw positive examples of women with natural hair on YouTube. If they could do it then surely I could.  I was tempted to simply dismiss their success by telling myself that they must be the exception, perhaps they are just fortunate to have ‘good hair’, hair that was soft, or maybe they were mixed.

I cringe every time I hear women make such statements to convince themselves that there is no way they can go natural even though they are interested in doing it.  The number of black women wearing their hair natural is increasing. According to a 2010 study commissioned by Atlanta based black hair care company Design Essentials; the number of black women wearing their hair natural increased to 36% in 2011. Sales of chemical relaxers were also believed to have dropped by 17% between 2006 and 2011, according to the market research firm Mintel.  So more and more women with afro textured hair are learning how to manage their hair and no longer rely on chemical relaxers, something that seemed unattainable just a few years ago.  There is also a greater awareness of the dangers of relaxers and the effects they have on the health of our hair and scalp. Many women with natural hair testify to the improvement of the health of their hair and scalp since going natural. The American Academy of Dermatology states that highly textured, curly hair is, “by its nature, more fragile than naturally straight hair,” and “relaxers make curly hair more fragile.” My hair is the longest it has ever been simply because I handle it with care, keep it well moisturized and wear protective styles from time to time. 

Afro hair is very diverse and no two heads of hair are the same, even within the same family. Some of us have more kinks than curls or more coils and some have a combination of all of these.  However, the principles of managing afro textured hair are the same and if they are applied you will have healthy, manageable and yes, long hair. We may all face different challenges; our hair may grow at different rates, vary in thickness or retain moisture differently.  But if you learn how to manage your natural hair then it will thrive. I always say that it is our lack of knowledge that is the problem not our hair. There is nothing wrong with your hair; you simply need to learn how to manage it. Any hair that is dry, knotted and damaged from styling will be harder to manage, whatever type of hair it is. I have always had very thick hair and that was one of my biggest challenges I had when it came to managing my hair. The very thing I hated about my hair is the main reason I receive compliments today. I have learned how to manage my hair so I no longer consider it ‘unmanageable’. In part two of this article I will list some of information I learned about natural afro textured hair.  This information gave me the confidence to take the next step and continue on my natural hair journey.

What were some of your main concerns about going natural?