It’s been almost a year and a half since I started this wonderful Natural Journey! I have come a long way, from looking in the mirror through tears and comparing myself to a 12 year old boy… to feeling like I can conquer the world after a good twist out. Some naturals make it look fabulous and effortless. But for me, it has not been smooth sailing. It came with all the road blocks, flat tires and rainy days that any worthwhile Journey throws at you!
I won’t lie though, I get excited when someone asks “What do you do with your hair!” because I think, “Okay, I must be getting better at this.” I’m even more thrilled when someone messages me to say that they are considering the natural Journey but they are hesitant.. they don’t know what they’re signing up for. I immediately feel like I want to tear out every page from my Manie’s Hair Experience and share it with them!
I’m not an expert by any standards, but I’m sure most naturals understand the urge to share their experience- from tips to shortcomings. Soooo for all of you who are on this Journey, or those who may be considering it, here are my top 9 pieces of advice to keep you going or get you started!
1) Do it for Y-O-U!
If you’re going to make this decision, ensure that you are doing it for a solid reason. Be sure that it is what YOU want- not simply compliance to the demands of someone or something else, or a trend. Whatever your reason is, make it personal. That way when you find yourself looking at your crazy reflection and wondering “Why the Hell am I doing this?” you’ll have a great argument to keep you from purchasing the first Relaxer you get your hands on!
2) Not all hair is created equal!
It is important to keep in mind that we are all different, that rule applies across the board, particularly when it comes to hair. What works for one natural won’t necessarily work for another. There are no certified formulas or rules! So don’t force it… Don’t be so hard on yourself because your twist outs look nothing like the Youtube Sensations you obsess over. Find the routine that works best for you and work with it!
3) Relax! Be patient! Enjoy the ride!
I cannot stress this enough! Each stages brings fresh joy and new distress. Don’t obsess over your final goal so much that you miss the individual beauty of the phases. That was one of my many mistakes. I was so crazy about achieving length that I hated my early stages. When I look back at pictures of myself after my Big Chop, I feel a slight sense of regret that I didn’t let myself throw on a some strong accessories and go for that sexy, confident, daring look. Be patient enough to allow yourself to fully enjoy each chapter along the way!
4) Listen to your hair.
You could read every single article from the pros. You could become an expert on what ingredient does what..but all that is useless if you aren’t listening to YOUR hair. Whenever I try something new (products, treatment, hairstyle etc.), I pay attention to how my hair responds. That determines if I continue, change it up a bit or just toss it! Trust me when your hair is loving something, you willlll know! Getting the facts about hair helps, but it is equally important to listen to what your hair asks for – a lot of the times, its moisture!
5) Never feel the need to over do the products.
My greatest struggle during the early stages of my Natural Journey, was finding the right products. I would spend hours scouring the internet for product suggestions. I went through frustrating trial and error periods and let me tell you, my purse did not appreciate this experimentation! I still have barely used bottles on my dresser as reminders! In the end, I found myself sticking to the three main items I found worked best- Cantu Repair Conditioner, Eco Styler Gel and Blue Magic Hair Dress.
6) Do not limit yourself.
I remember the days of complaining “My hair can’t do this, its tooo shoooort…too curlyyy….too stubbornnn!” Personally, my biggest challenge was finding hairstyles appropriate for work and formal events. In my mind, professional and formal meant sleek and tamed. Now, I’m aware that I can choose to go either way- sleek and elegant or fun and playful! Thankfully, I’m finally at a stage where I don’t limit myself. I try everything that peaks my interest!
7) Make your Journey a Lifetsyle!
For me, going natural became so much more than changing my hair. It started to mean changing my life. Initially, I became very conscious of what products I chose to use in my hair. Overtime, that led to me becoming more aware of what I used on my skin and what I put into my body. In an effort to help my hair grow, I chose to use natural conditioners and tried to incorporate specific foods into my diet. I was pleasantly surprised to find that eventually, I found myself eating healthier, drinking more water and analyzing my food labels the way I analyzed those on my hair products. Your body will thank you.
8) Be ready for the commitment!
For some of us, natural hair is a bit of a commitment. I can testify that I’ve found myself battling my hair on a morning and thinking “Damn, I coulda just been brushing my relaxed hair back and not be running late for work.” I can also talk about nights when all I wanted was to abandon the twisting and detangling and just sleep! Yet I knew I’d regret it in the morning! Those hours of washing and deep conditioning? Let’s not even go there! Not everyone can afford to make that commitment immediately! If you can’t, that’s perfectly fine. Don’t force yourself on a Journey that you can’t complete and end up feeling defeated. When the time and circumstances are right, you’ll find yourself where you need to be.
9) Last, but by no means least, it’s your hair, your life!
I think that being natural allows you and the world to get a really good look at yourself. I still find myself having to say to people “I appreciate your opinion. But let me stop you right there- I love my hair like this!” Not everyone is going to appreciate it, and you will have to accept that. But what is completely essential, is that you are happy with yourself and your decisions! I am convinced that it is an opportunity to say “Hey, this is me! Take it or leave it!” Whether you make that declaration while wearing a chic afro or your hair is sticking out in fifty directions, embrace it…mean it…live it!