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The journey to natural hair for some of us is an emotional experience--wrought with frustration, overrun with failed products, and sometimes, downright traumatic.

Social media doesn't make it any easier, either -- with Instagram accounts dedicated to incredibly gorgeous manes, and YouTube tutorials that promise results you'll never be able to replicate. But all hope is not lost -- don't throw in the towel on your natural hair journey just yet. In five easy steps (just stay with me for a moment), you'll be able to turn your attitude and perspective toward your natural hair right around!

Step 1: Social Media Detox

I love social media just as much as the next person. Actually, probably a little too much (follow me on Instagram to help fuel my habit). But every once in a while, I'll totally log out. Not only does it give me a certain amount of freedom, but it allows me to disconnect from the images of other women's beauty that I am constantly being fed. Don't get me wrong -- I LOVE celebrating the beauty of other women, regardless of hair texture, length, skin color, or size. But there is something incredibly self-affirming about stepping away from looking at others to focus on myself. No, I don't have the length of Hey Fran Hey, the gorgeous uniformity of curls that Melshary has, or the jaw-dropping volume of Mahogany Curls. But guess what? That's okay. And the more time I spend focusing on understanding and appreciating my hair as-is (instead of fawning over theirs), the more accepting I become of my natural hair. This is not to say that I don't follow, subscribe, and support all these ladies -- because they're all dope for various reasons. But my appreciation of their hair can't outweigh my appreciation of my own.

Step 2: Understand What Your Hair CAN'T Do

This may seem counterintuitive. Popular thinking dictates that in order to love, affirm, and accept something about ourselves, we need to focus on the positives and on the "cans" instead of "can'ts". While beating yourself into the ground over things your hair can't do IS unproductive, there is a certain freedom in having an understanding of what your hair isn't quite capable of. How many times have you virtually beat your hair into submission in an attempt to replicate a style, only to have it almost instantaneously fall apart? Because of the diversity of our textures, porosity, density, and everything else, everyone's hair is not going to be able to do the same things. Try as I might, twist-outs and some updos are a fruitless endeavor for my hair -- and I accept that. Some ladies may never be able to rock a wash and go, and that's perfectly okay. The sooner you accept the handful of things your hair can't quite do, the quicker you can move on to #3.

Step 3: Perfect A Few Skills

Here's the fun part. Now that you have a decent grasp on styling limitations, immersing yourself in the world of things your hair CAN do is an amazing treat. I have two styles that I can do in my sleep--a wash and go, and a satin strip braid-out. I have dedicated an immense amount of my natural hair journey to perfecting those styles to the point where I can execute them flawlessly, and anticipate how the style will play out in the 3-5 days following. I'm sure most of you are a lot more talented than I am, and can bang out bantu knots, twist and curls, and flexi rod sets in the blink of an eye. That's how it should be! Inasmuch as the natural hair journey does involve trial and error to a degree, you should reach a point where some things are not a guessing game or left up to chance. You won't ever fully be able to love and appreciate your hair if every styling session is a gamble that more often than not ends in disappointment. Break the cycle!

Step 4: Understand That Sometimes It IS The Products

Sometimes, no matter what you do, and what styles you have perfected, the products will defect. Products aren't always drying because you did something wrong. They don't always leave flakes behind because you mixed it with a product that wasn't complimentary. Some products that promise definition will turn your hair into a complete fuzzball. In these situations, learn and understand: it's not your fault.  Not everything is user error. So rather than get mad at your hair and curse its existence, ditch the product. E-mail the company and let them know their product didn't work for you. Leave your honest opinions on sites like Naturally Curly, so that other ladies can be informed and perhaps even share similar experiences that will affirm that it is truly not you, and there is something wrong with the product formulation. In this same vein, do spend some time understanding ingredients (without going back to school to become a cosmetic chemist) and try to isolate those that work unfavorably with your hair so as to minimize future frustrations. For example, my hair hates sodium cocoyl isethionate, a popular sulfate-free shampoo alternative. So I try my darndest to avoid that ingredient altogether, or find cleansers that have it listed outside of the top 5-7 ingredients. And my hair is happier for it.

Step 5: Live In The Moment

When I was transitioning to natural hair, I would always say "I can't wait until..." or "I'll be so happy when I can...". There's nothing wrong with thinking ahead and envisioning the future when it comes to your natural hair journey. After all, it is in our very nature to care for our hair with the long-term in mind. That's why we protectively style, minimize heat, finger detangle, deep condition, and the like. We are maximizing the health of our hair for the months and years to come. But don't get so caught up in what is to come that you neglect what is already here. Today, right now, in this very moment, I want you to understand and realize that you've got a badass head of hair. It will get even more amazing in the coming months, and I'm sure you look forward to it (just like I look forward to waist length hair). But in the present, your tresses are perfection because they're yours. Appreciate exactly where you are in your journey today, and watch your hair flourish.

 

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