Growing up, hair was a gift and a curse. I was blessed with a dense head of coils and curls that my mother painstakingly raked through every day. Grooming was as hard on her as it was on me. That was the beginning of my resentment for elaborate hair rituals. She’d sit me squarely between her legs and attempt to comb and brush my hair dry (cue violins). In order to preserve her sanity and my strands, mom relaxed my hair at the tender age of five. For the next ten years, I sat faithfully in my stylist’s chair as he carefully applied Ultra Precise Relaxer to my roots every six to eight weeks (do they even make that brand any more?). Even then, I enjoyed having someone else care for my hair, despite the application of burning lye. However, I did not particularly enjoy that my back length baby hair breaking off steadily, until my damaged strands barely brushed my shoulders. One day, I went to see a new beautician, who urged me to cut out the chemicals. She gave me the courage to wear my hair relaxer free, but she didn’t teach me how to properly care for textured hair.
Over the following three years, thick brown gel became my best friend. It was the nineties, way before textured hair was cool and people swapped tips and techniques online. I don’t think the Internet had even been invented yet. Okay, technically the Internet existed, but only for scientists and the government, and Al Gore, of course. I struggled to tame my cottony curls, and wore my hair in a gelled back, Sade-style braid every day. The middle of my head, filled with pen spring sized coils, became choppy and wild---it was my kinky little secret. My hair wasn’t exactly flourishing, but it was easy to manage and style. Wash days were a breeze with Crème of Nature shampoo, until I discovered it contained sodium hydroxide. My routine was set until I went to college and learned how to care for my hair with the help of a few upperclassmen.
Stepping on campus was like walking into to the set of Spike Lee’s “School Daze.” Although I didn’t attend a HBCU, the African American students had a major presence at my school. There was a whole contingent of women who were natural, rocking curls, coils, braids, and locs, and they took me under their wing. With their guidance, I learned how to properly detangle and moisturize my curls. I also discovered that when I two strand twisted my hair, it grew like dandelions. By junior year, my hair had reached waist length. I cut it because it was too much to handle, and to also rid myself of damaged ends. I experimented a bit with my hair, searching for the easiest and fastest ways to care for it. Through trial and error, I developed my lazy natural philosophy.
The key to my natural hair success is keeping it simple. No elaborate overnight deep conditioning marathons or chemist level understanding of pH balance and hair care. Not trying to master every new natural hairdo under the sun. Here are my hair care principles:
- Become an expert on your hair. There’s no getting around the time and energy needed to master your unique head of hair. Experiment with different products and wash routines. Figure out what make your texture tick. For me, glycerin and coconut oil have been my curly BFs. Products with those two ingredients generally work well for me.
- Master a few key styles. I keep my hair routine pretty basic. I love twists, twist outs, braid outs, puffs, and the occasional wash and go. While I admire trendsetting coifs on other people, I don’t play around much with different styles on my hair. I like having a signature look that I can usually manipulate to my liking.
- Visit a qualified natural hair stylist. Seeing a stylist has meant the difference between good hair and great hair, for me. I’ve occasionally trimmed my own ends on a single strand knot and split-end eliminating frenzy, but that’s never come close to the amazing shape I get when visiting a stylist. If I want something new or trendy, I go see a stylist. If I need surgery, I wouldn’t do it myself, I’d find a qualified doctor. I feel the same way about my curls.
These are my lazy natural rules of the road. They’ve served me well for the past 24 years, and now I’m passing them on to you. Over the course of this column, I’ll be sharing my best and easiest natural hair tips, techniques, and insights, all from my unapologetically lazy point of view. My goal is to add a bit of fun into your natural hair routine, because really, what’s the point if we can’t celebrate our curls? Going natural doesn’t have to mean a life sentence in your bathroom.
Are you a lazy natural? What are the bare necessities of your regimen?