The As I Am mascot shares how she came to accept and embrace her natural hair.

as i am coconut cowash

As I Am Coconut CoWash

Let me say here that, aside from the style aspect of wearing natural hair, there are undeniably emotional and even spiritual components involved for many women. I think that anyone who has spent time on websites such as NaturallyCurly.com, CurlyNikki.com and countless other sites and blogs can see that a wonderful sisterhood has developed. I am happy to observe that this connection is overwhelmingly based on mutual respect, understanding, a desire to help, and tolerance of others’ viewpoints and methods. How - and even if - you go natural is ultimately one’s own choice, and whatever the choice, it’s okay.

NC: Are you seeing more women working with their natural texture? Are attitudes changing?

Joy: Yes, indeed, to both questions! Wherever I go, I am seeing more women of all ages rockin' natural styles. When I encounter another natural sister, often we take the time to compliment each others' hair and choice. There's an unspoken "congratulations" in the interchange for the freedom the other is inevitably experiencing because of her choice.

Attitudes are really changing. Most of the shift, however, is occurring in the hearts and minds of the natural women themselves. This is to say that others around us may think it strange and even ill-advised to wear naturally tight, coily hair. We who have decided to go natural, however, have already determined it's the thing to do. For some, it is a matter of answering questions such as, “Why am I fighting with my hair?”, “ Who determined that only straighter textures are pretty and acceptable?”, “ Why have I internalized that determination?” and "If I believe that a creator purposely and lovingly made me this way, don’t I already have an inherent, unique and divine brand of beauty?” Aside from the metamorphosis taking place as these questions are addressed, there is measure of bravery and boldness involved in wearing natural textured hair, particularly for those of us with type 4 textures. Increasingly, women are saying that “I have the guts and I am enjoying the freedom!”

NC: What products do you use to get your amazing look?

Joy: As the official, trademarked mascot of As I Am, I am of course partial to this brand. Each and every one of the 11 products are on my shelf at home because there is a unique place for each one in my hair care regime, depending upon the style I choose to wear and my hair needs at any particular time. For the pulled back, off-the-face style that I am wearing now in my pix on the site, I use the Coconut CoWash most of the time for cleansing. I always use the Leave-In Conditioner, I deep condition every 3-4 weeks with Hydration Elation Conditioner, and I sleek my edges with the fabulous Smoothing Gel. I love twist outs, so I use the Twist Defining Cream. I also enjoy the wash ‘n go style. For this style, I use the Curling Jelly. When my hair gets a little thirsty, I reach for either the Moisture Milk or DoubleButter Cream. The CocoShea Spray is a superb moisturizer as well.

NC: What do you think women should look for in products for natural hair?

Joy: Ingredients that are gentle and moisturizing. Products that do not contain sulfates and alcohol, for sure. Many natural ladies avoid silicones and none of the As I Am products contain them, however, others still use them. That’s a matter of choice. I want to mention, though, that our R & D chemists assure me that some of the ones used in hair care products these days are easily cleansed from hair and are not as problematic as many believe. Finally, look for products that do what you want and need them to do. If a product hardens or builds up on your hair, don’t use it. If it dries out your hair in any way, get rid of it!

NC: What types of different looks can you get with your hair?

Joy: Bantu Knots: On clean, conditioned damp hair, part hair in neat medium-sized sections, smooth on Twist Defining Cream and gently twist each section until it twines around itself near the scalp. Gently wrap the ends around the base of the knot until they are out of sight. To secure, insert a hair pin through and underneath the knot.

Two-Strand Twists: On clean, conditioned wet or damp hair, apply Twist Defining Cream liberally to small or medium sections. Use less cream when twisting barely damp hair. The wetter the hair, the more Twist Cream you can use. Divide each section in two, and twist one around the other, leaving about ½" – ¾" untwisted at the ends. Twirl the ends around your forefinger and carefully slide your finger down and out of the coil. As you twist, arrange the twists in the places and directions that you ultimately want them positioned in your finished style.