Monday, 22 October 2012

Natural haircare: A minimalist attitude.

I decided to go natural and stopped chemically straightening my hair a little bit over a year ago. I did not come to this decision in an effort to be healthier, though I had grown weary of the burns, scabs and ensuing itching that the chemical straighteners were causing to my scalp. I had simply tired of the perpetually straight and rather limp hair on my head that did not retain any of the curls that I occasionally attempted to put back into it. I then realized that I had no idea what my natural texture looked like. After a cousin of mine transitioned successfully from relaxed to natural texture, I researched further and stumbled upon a large archive of videos on, dedicated to transitioning, caring for and styling natural African textured hair.This is the first time I have worn my natural texture of hair for more than one year since nursery school. I have six sisters and we all got our hair cut like boys, once at the beginning of the school year, and then again after the Christmas holidays. It was cut down to about 0.3 inches short or shorter! This hair cut was part of the uniform requirement for all school girls in our part of the country. This haircut was always administered by our dad. I don't know what it is about hair that gets some women emotionally attached to it, because it is interesting to note that I was the only one who shed tears over the loss of my head of curls at the age of seven (six and seven are the earliest ages when I can vividly remember childhood). Anyway, because of this haircut, and my subsequent attempts at emulating what was considered fashionable in the 90s, I had no idea and went ahead, straightening without giving it a second thought.

Sporadically, during long holidays as a teenager and through out adulthood, a span of about 22 years... yes I'm that old (almost 37); I had worn my hair chemically straightened by a process of applying a relaxer cream to the new hair growth every 8 weeks. When you do this for nearly 25 years, you tend to become an expert in the process and in hair-care products. Getting it done professionally costs a pretty penny, an average of $60 a pop! I did it myself for the most part. I also tried various hair-care products, constantly changing them to find the ones that worked best. What I learned over time is simply this; you can't change how you are naturally. You can, however, cause a lot of damage to your physical and emotional self while trying. Contrary to the general perception of people who know me, I do not have thick hair. Honest truth! I just have hair that is not as tightly curled as is expected. Because of this texture, my hair tends to look fuller, detangles easily, and is generally easier to manage. 

I became a young adult in the late 90s. The whole reason for chemically straightening was firstly, to have an easily manageable head of hair, and secondly, to easily achieve the popular styles I saw in magazines and on other women on the streets. Generally, beauty products are marketed in such a way as to create a hedonistic appeal, but more importantly they almost always exaggerate the results they promise. This I've learned after using most of the popular/salon/expensive/for-African-hair/add-shine/increase-volume/stop-breakage/stimulate-follicles branded products! They won't perform any miracles, but they will deplete your bank account unnecessarily, if you keep buying them. What I've ultimately learned is simply to keep my hair clean and moisturized, and that is easily done with the cheapest shampoos and conditioners on the shelf.  So, when I go to my local chemist/drug-store to buy products, I first browse the store brands which are usually the cheapest. I've watched a lot of natural hair care videos and I'm always struck by the amount of products women slatter on to their tresses. I'm still learning how to take care of my natural hair but I realise that this particular practice just boils down to personal preference.

I can say that I have a minimalist attitude towards purchasing hair-care products. The most expensive product I have bought so far, is the Tiana Extra Virgin Coconut oil, which was on sale for £11 at the time at Holland and Barrett. I've had it for more than a year now and I still have some left, despite the fact that I have used it to cook Jellof rice twice! I recently switched to Holland & Barrett's Perfectly Pure Coconut Oil(store brand), which was on sale for £7.99. This means I don't have to come out the pocket for a major hair-care purchase till next year! That makes me feel really good and I can feel less guilty about splurging somewhere else!
Products I like: Olive oil cream, Tiana extra virgin coconut oil.
Products I no longer use:
Aussie Miracle Hair Insurance leave-in conditioner.
Olive oil cream moisturiser. 

I did experience a little bit of the hair-care obsession with products recently. I got two tubes of leave-in conditioner. I had been thinking about replacing the olive oil cream, but I'm usually too keen about price and smell to buy any of the popular products. I've now stopped using the Aussie Miracle Hair Insurance Leave-in conditioner because I don't like the lingering smell which appears to be more overpowering than my perfume! I came across the Naked Style range of products, formulated for naturally curly hair. They are keen to market their products as being "97% natural", and  "silicone free". The tube of Gorgeous Curls promises to be a "curl taming cream" with "botanical ingredients" which "help to define and add lustre to curls". My my! The tube of Little Miracle leave-In conditioner offers "Shea butter and Argan oil", to "repair and protect dry hair against heat styling and breakage". 

My recent splurge.
The words used to present these products make them irresistible to anyone browsing for products for natural hair. Though I know this, I was hooked. I stood there holding one tube in each hand and looking from one to the other for a good long while. I sniffed both of them and was pleasantly surprised with the mild smell of summer berries from one, and that of almond nuts from the other. I think I stood there a little too long, because I noticed the store security guy lurking around the aisle near me, acting like he'd lost something! Oh well, I went ahead and got them both. I tried the Gorgeous Curls leave-in a few days ago and I'm pleased with the added moisture in my hair now. My texture is pretty much the same and that's expected. The smell is only a very faint strawberry.
My new routine products.
My new hair-care regime is made up almost entirely on store brand products. The results are not much different and I'm satisfied that I'm getting what I want for very little money. Gorgeous Curls for £4.19, Coconut & Almond shampoo for £1.29, Coconut & Almond conditioner for £1.29, and pure coconut oil for £7.99. A total of £14.77, and here are the results, three days into a two strand twist-out. Just about the same quality plus more moisture, for a lot less money.

I can say that I am happy with my natural hair. There are those days when I wish it was as easy to manage as straightened hair, but what I would gain in ease would be lost in beauty. At least, that is how I like to think of it! I`m adjusting to some surprising reactions to it, mainly that of fascination with how it looks. Sometimes I quite like the attention and other times I wish it were a much more common sight and people wouldn't stare so much. My most enduring challenge seems to be how to wear it to job interviews and maintain focus on my personality, submerged as I seem sometimes under all that hair!

1 comment:

  1. Your style is so unique compared to other folks I've read stuff from. Thanks for posting when you've got the opportunity,
    Guess I will just book mark this blog.

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