Learning to love and care for your curls is a journey and while it's not an easy one, it's most certainly worth it. Living in a society that has a narrow scope of the definition of beauty, it can be intimidating as a young girl growing up with a head full of curly coarse hair and feel like she's not being seen. Regardless of what the media shows us, there is nothing more beautiful than rocking your natural crown unapologetically and I hope to inspire many girls by sharing natural hair stories. I spoke with NaturallyCurly Senior Copywriter, Gerilyn Hayes about her natural hair journey, what inspired her to shave all her hair off, and her life changing experience getting braids for the first time! Here's her story.

Gerilyn with a shaved head

Chemical hair straighteners were a way of life from my childhood to the age of 19.

It wasn't until I was 20 when I first cut my hair (or 'big chopped') that I realized that shaving my head was something that I wanted to do. So, I rocked a shaved head for about a decade, with the last couple of years teetering between my natural hair and skin. About three years ago, I wanted to see what my hair looked like if I were to stop shaving it. Much to my surprise, there was a world of curl growth, enviably density, and springy coils that I never knew were there. As I continue on my natural hair journey, I am fascinated by its dynamism and seeming perpetuity, consistently offering up new challenges and revelations.

Gerilyn on her transitioning hair regimen . . . SHAVE IT OFF - Ha!

Serious notes, only? Okay, well, I did not have one. A hair regimen that aided my transition from shaved head to natural hair/Afro queen dreams consisted of Sauve shampoo and conditioner, with the occasional Africa's Best Ultimate Herbal Oil applied to my scalp and ends. That was it, because I didn't know what I was doing. Fortunately, I found Napturally85, CurlyNikki, and NaturallyCurly and was able to understand that wrapping my hair with a satin scarf at night would prevent my ends from breaking, that I had fine-to-medium curls, and that my curl pattern needed particular types of maintenance.

Gerilyn with bantu knots

Brio Photography

Being the wearer of 4C, tightly coiled, hair is empowering for me; I would like to believe that it shows. Would I be as confident, as bold, as outspoken without it? Maybe. But having it makes me feel emboldened to stand tall because of what the Afro and dense coils and "nappy" hair means on the world stage. It is an invocation of strength, resilience, and beauty; I am hopeful that my hair, no matter how I choose to wear it, communicates that.

"I do not feel autonomous in this aspect of my body's physical presentation of DNA, ancestry, or inevitable presentation. Nature chose its display; I'm just here to nourish, maintain, and love the skin I'm in."

Since getting box braids for the very first time this year, I have been having a full-on love affair with them.

My favorite thing to do with them is the hair flip and headbang when listening to music – rock on! When they're not in, my go-to "I'm gonna look so cute"-hairstyle is Bantu Knots because they protect my ends, are neat looking and make me feel connected to my African heritage.

Gerilyn with red box braids and sunglasses

CJK Photo

Since my journey is not over, the most poignant moment is getting braids for the first time.

A whole world of possibilities has opened up regarding styles that I never, ever thought I would be able to try. In fact, I've been eyeballing a few wigs to rock in between box braids and my 'fro and Bantu Knots. The experience was revelatory for me, and I'm just getting started!

Uggggh – length!!!

What I did not understand when I was growing up was that my chemically straightened hair would NEVER grow long because it was chemically fried on a regular basis. My hair didn't stand a chance. However, when I began growing my natural hair out, I realized that it would do just that: grow OUT, not down. When this became clear, coupled with the fact that shrinkage is a magical function of Type 4 curls, the desire for length left my mind. It hasn't worried me ever again.

Gerilyn hair journey

Gerilyn's current hair regimen

Being able to product test on a regular basis gives me the opportunity to switch up my hair regimen during any given wash day session. Although this is a reality for me, I tend to do the same three things every time I need to regiment my wash days:

  1. Apply oil to my scalp before shampooing/cleansing.

  2. Clarify my scalp and curls.

  3. Apply more oil to my scalp and seal my hair strands with a light leave-in conditioner.

The steps in between can vary, but for the most part, I never skip these three pivotal steps in my routine, including those times I have protective styles.

Read More About Gerilyn's Favorite Products:

The Detangler and Shampoo Combo that Saved My Heat Damaged Hair

My Deep Treatment Routine for Coily Hair, Protective Styles



What inspired your natural hair journey? Share your story with us in the comments below.