Whether you’re a new natural or natural hair veteran, you’ve probably come across Whitney White’s (also known as @Naptural85) youtube videos. Since 2009 Whitney has been sharing her natural hair journey with the world to share the importance of natural ingredients, DIY recipes and styling methods to educate and inspire women to live a holistic lifestyle through simple hair care. 10 years and 1 million subscribers later, the naturalista has helped empower women to embrace their natural hair with confidence and pride. No wonder she’s been voted the Best Natural Hair Blogger for this years Best of the Best. Here’s more on her natural hair journey, what’s made the biggest impact on her hair health and what you can expect from her latest hair care brand, Melanin Haircare.
Tell us about your hair journey . . .
I've been natural, including the transition, for over ten years now! It's wild to think how fast that time has flown by. I decided to transition to natural during my last semester of college, back in 2008. I was really busy with my studies and hated the salon process of spending the whole day waiting, and coming home with straight, chemical-scented hair. I would literally just wash it as soon as I got home and wear it in its curly state, as curly as my hair could get while relaxed. So I just decided to stop the madness since I wasn't enjoying it, and try to go natural!
At first I was using whatever products I already owned for my relaxed hair, as well as a few homemade concoctions. Then once I became more comfortable, I started branching out into buying new products in stores and online that were popular in the natural hair community at the time, to see how they worked on my own hair. At this time I was starting to post about my natural hair journey on Youtube, and began reading material about the FDA and living a natural lifestyle. I became really focused on ingredient labels and living a more natural lifestyle to support good health. I began mixing more of my own hair products to save money and to control what I put on my body, and decided to also share those recipes online!
My hair was thriving and I was having a ball styling it, and sharing my journey online! I became complacent with my routine and wanted a change around 2014. I decided to go to a stylist that was recommended to me, to get my hair colored and shaped. At first I loved my results, but as the style aged, my hair became extremely weak and it became a chore to do my hair. I think it was a mix of my stylist going way too light with my color - too much bleach - and also not setting me up for success at home after the visit. She never told me what to use on my hair now that it was chemically-altered, and I just went home and continued to use my all-natural hair products as if my hair had the same properties. Now that I've learned more about hair in general, hair products, and the different processes, I know that as your hair changes, so should your hair products. I really should have been using products that would help support and fill those new weak spots created within my hair shaft from the chemicals, to help strengthen and stabilize my new hair structure. But at the time, I didn't know that. And my hair just started to fall apart.
I became really depressed about how my new hair looked and couldn't take it anymore, so I decided to color my hair black to hide that old hair color that I now hated... so I wouldn't be reminded of it very time I looked in the mirror. I also started to trim the damage off, little by little. I trim my own hair at home, so as it came time for my scraggly ends to be removed, I took that opportunity to cut off large amounts of the color damage. I could see and feel exactly where my healthy hair from the root ended and my color-damage began. It was a long process to remove all the damage, it took about 3 or more years to completely see all the color-damage gone, but once it was gone, I was ecstatic! My hair was definitely super short after all the damage was finally removed, but if you've ever experienced color or heat damage, you know that the desire to have happy healthy hair again outweighs any sadness regarding lack of length. Having unhealthy hair really helps you to evaluate what it most important in your hair journey, and hair health is definitely it!
So fast forward to 2019, my hair is now the healthiest it has ever been! I am so blessed to have gone through the experiences of damaged hair because it helped me learn more about the hair structure, why my hair was behaving in certain ways, as well as methods to help improve and strengthen my hair. I am currently dealing with some internal issues that required me to take medication that, of course, affected my hair again *sigh* but that's why they call it a "hair journey" not a "hair destination," it doesn't end! There's always going to be triumphs and setbacks because that is life. Your hair is one of the least important organs on your body, as far as functionality is concerned, and it requires a lot of nutrients in order to grow to it's peak. That means that if you are going through any situation when your health is compromised in any way, expect your hair to be affected. The body will immediately redirect nutrients away from the least important organ - your hair - to support the other more important organs needed to survive. And that is why you can always expect to continue having to learn about your hair, because it is always changing - fluctuating back and forth with the health of your body.
Are there any techniques or methods that have made a huge impact on your hair health?
Yes! Pre-pooing and weekly deep conditioning were game changers for me! I pre-poo with aloe vera and vitamin E, and that is like a powerhouse SNACK for my hair and scalp. It helps to heal any scalp issues and rejuvenate my hair follicles to help repair damage and allow new hair to grow in healthy and strong. Deep conditioning has really helped my hair retain more moisture. It's a clear difference between my photos from before 2014 and the photos of my hair now, in 2019. My hair just looks shinier and more moisturized overall.
What's your advice to women who are still struggling with loving their natural texture?
My advice is to give it some time. It's easy to dislike something that is new. Why? Because the learning curve it takes to master your natural hair might give you the impression that natural hair is too hard, or that your hair texture is not ideal. But that's not the case. It takes time to master anything in life, your natural hair is no different. Once you figure out the best methods to styling and caring for your own natural hair texture, you will begin to feel more comfortable and move more towards loving your texture. I have been natural for ten years and I still have more to learn. Like I said before, your hair is ever-evolving, you cannot have a one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to caring for your hair. You have to take the time, the months, the years - however long it takes, to figure out what your hair needs in order to thrive. If you are someone who loves playing in hair, this is going to be a fun time for you. If you're someone who hates playing in hair, you're going to have some challenges here, but there are plenty of patient, skilled natural hair stylists who can help walk you through the process. Utilize their expertise if you think you can't go the journey alone. It's always helpful to have mentors along the way who can make your process easier.
What are your top curly girl tips?
My top tips for curly, coily, kinky girls and guys is to try to be diligent in maintaining a moisture balance for your hair. If that means moisturizing two times per week, instead of one, do that. Take the time to baby your hair and give it what it needs in order to thrive and to get the most out of your texture. I've found that my moisturized hair behaves much better than when I let it dry out and weaken. So even if it adds an extra thirty minutes to your styling routine during the week, over time you'll notice your hair will become more elastic, healthier and stronger, making your overall hair care and styling routine easier and more enjoyable in the long-run.
Share your career journey. What led you to create a career in hair care?
I really fell into this organically. I've always loved talking about hair with my family and friends, and when I went natural in 2008, I found myself completely alone in my real world. I came across the small natural hair community on the web, and loved sharing my knowledge and new experiences online, with those who were new to this too. It became my hobby and a way to destress after work as a freelance and contract graphic designer. I decided to start monetizing my videos in 2010, under the recommendation of a fellow vlogger-friend, and I am so happy that I did, because as life became unpredictable career-wise, Youtube was always something I had to fall back on. I'm really lucky to have fallen into this. I obviously didn't know what would become of my then, awkward hobby of posting my haircare trials online, but that's really the beauty of following your heart in certain circumstances.
You’ve been working on Melanin Haircare for 6 years. What are some obstacles you’ve overcome as an entrepreneur and businesswoman?
As an entrepreneur, I've definitely learned to be more scrappy and not give in. I think a lot of people think that because I'm a youtuber, this process was probably easy or handed to me. It was not. In fact, being on social media lent me no advantages in this circumstance of starting completely from the bottom-up. Melanin Haircare is a completely self-funded venture, and so funding this project alone was a huge obstacle we had to overcome. Trying to secure loans with organizations that don't understand what you do, or how you make money was a huge roadblock we had to overcome. So it was an uphill battle every step of the way.
What are the key ingredients found in Melanin Haircare?
At Melanin Haircare, we work with all-natural and safe-synthetic ingredients which all work equally together to create a balanced, healthy and effective hair product. We use simple, yet luxurious natural butters such as kokum, cocoa, cupuacu, shea, and mango butter, along with vitamin E, aloe vera, and essential extracts of sage and geranium. We're obsessed with rich avocado, jojoba and sweet almond oils to soften and penetrate the hair shaft, providing it with the necessary nutrients needed to maintain strong, healthy, thriving hair.
One thing that I personally learned after coloring my hair is how wonderful synthetic ingredients can be. I probably could have avoided a lot of heartache if I had known to support my hair using the correct hair products needed to repair and strengthen my damaged hair shaft. But through that process I learned so much about the safe-synthetics on the market, and I definitely wanted my hair product line to be enhanced with them so that our customers could have the best of both worlds as well. So we made a point of including safe synthetics, such as the fatty, conditioning stearyl, cetearyl and cetyl alcohols, along with stearamidopropyl dimethylamine, which is a little hard to pronounce but is an amazing hair conditioning, detangling and smoothing agent derived from vegetable oils. I used to be someone who was afraid of synthetic ingredients, but I've learned through my years that all synthetic ingredients are not created equally. It took me a long time to learn that, but having gone through all my trials, I feel that I now have a beneficial and healthy balance between my desire for natural ingredients and naturally-derived synthetics, which I definitely wanted represented in my own hair product line.
How is Melanin Haircare different from other natural hair care lines and products?
Melanin Haircare is an extension of me and my commitment to the natural hair community. The products we sell come directly from my own personal homemade hair product recipes that I've shared over the years, and that have been proven to support my natural hair health, growth, and length retention. We provide rich, high-quality ingredients that you would expect from an exclusive, expensive boutique, at affordable, drugstore prices.
What legacy do you strive to leave?
I just want to leave this world having helped in some way. When I graduated high school, I wrote in my scrapbook that I didn't know what I wanted to be, but as long as I was happy and was helping others, than I would have been successful. So I've followed my heart and it turns out that helping women and men find their confidence through their hair is what makes me happy! I would love to leave my mark on the natural hair world as someone who helped to make a difference, because this community means so much to me. I didn't grow up with many significant cultural traditions. My mother has obscure American slavery roots and my father is second-generation from Jamaican immigrants, but he wasn't taught all of the customs, seeing that he was the youngest boy out of five children. So it has always been a struggle for me to find my roots and where I belong as an American black woman. My confidence wasn't always there. My love of natural hair became my biggest root connecting me back to my culture, and I think that it is one of the reasons why it is so important to me today.
I also want my kids to remember me with pride, and to be able to master the lessons that I've struggled to learn over the years. My parents gave me so much knowledge to get me to where I am now, and it is my responsibility to take the next steps and build upon that knowledge to pass down to my children so that they can then do the same for theirs.
What can we expect from Melanin Haircare in the future?
You can definitely expect more product launches, so look out for that soon!
Thanks Whitney for sharing your journey of natural hair and entrepreneurship with us. You’re an inspiration to us all! We can't wait to see what the future holds for you, we know it will be nothing short of amazing.
You can stay connected with Whitney on Instagram, plus she will be speaking at the ultimate celebration of black beauty in NY at Beauty Carnival April 27-28th. Grab your tickets, you don’t want to miss out!