NaturallyCurly is pleased to introduce our new writer, Evelyn Ngugi. Evelyn is a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin planning to study Multimedia Journalism, and is working as an intern at NaturallyCurly.com. When she's not in class, you can find her … on Facebook. But when she does roam around campus, she's usually making videos and trying to be part of the whole Austin scene. She recently decided to explore the whole “naturally curly” concept, and as someone who has chemically straightened her hair since childhood, she's trying to learn and formulate her own thoughts and opinions. She's already decided that only a huge Afro will capture her newfound free spirit and automatically solidify her “cool”, but the question she asks is “how do I get there?” She will write regular articles on NaturallyCurly.com that attempt to answer that question, in both educational and humorous ways.

As a freshman in college, I’m stuck in that place where “mommy will pay for it” meets “oh my goodness, I can’t afford this." The sudden urge to be economical can be also seen in this example: When my friends and I travel an hour by bus to a beauty supply store, but quickly put the hair products back on the shelves after we see the prices.

“Fifteen bucks for ten ounces of conditioner?!?” We wince and slowly back away from the shelf and leave the store.

As naturally curlies, we have a lot more to deal with in the hair department. We battle frizz and desire curl definition. And for me and for other 4bs, we especially crave moisture. There seems to be a product to remedy every problem — a magic potion to get me on the fast track to natural, healthy hair. For a price.

Frankly, I’m not willing to pay that price most of the time. Hair products are quickly becoming part of my shopping routine, and if I’m going to take the time (and money) to keep my hair naturally curly and healthy, I don’t want to end up sitting in my dorm room staring at store receipts regretting having spent the money.

So what's the solution to being thrifty and still looking good?

I just thought I’d share with you the basic products that make staying curly in college affordable.

Organic shea butter: My hair type — 4b — tends to be wiry, fragile and dry if I don’t moisturize my new growth properly. Abundantly available for sale online, my tightly packed 1-pound tub of shea butter cost about $7. I only need to apply a small amount to my new growth and scalp every couple of days, and it leaves my small curls soft and moisturized.

Coconut oil/spread: You can actually eat this stuff (if you wanted), so it definitely meets the all-natural requirement. For about $10 at Whole Foods, I can purchase a large jar of it. I know what you’re thinking: "Double digit price?! That’s not cheap, Evelyn!" But what makes this a steal (like the shea butter) is that a little goes a long way. You want to work a small amount through a large section of hair. Plus, it stores very well. Seven months into freshman year, I still don’t think I’ll finish the entire container this school year.

Apple cider vinegar: I have yet to try this myself, but apple cider vinegar can be found at most food stores for under $5. Often used as a clarifying rinse, apple cider vinegar is an inexpensive way to “shampoo” natural 4b hair without drying it out like most popular store-bought brands tend to do. For easy application, buy a simple applicator bottle for 99 cents and mix 3 parts water with 1 part vinegar. Apply to the hair and scrub. Friends tell me it removes all buildup and cleans the hair, preparing it to soak up the moisture from your conditioning routine that follows. I’ll be SURE to try this when it comes time to wash my hair again!

While I try to be thrifty when I can, it’s important to remember that some products are worth the investment.

tea tree oil

Oil from the tea tree is uber-beneficial to the scalp.

Tea tree oil: The bottle may be tiny, but its contents are precious. I often suffer from a VERY dry scalp. And no matter how much “grease” I used, my scalp would always be thirsting for more by the end of the day. Tea tree oil can be applied to the skin, nails, and hair because it usually contains aloe vera extract and other oils. It has an overall soothing effect on a dry scalp. A tiny 2 ounce bottle could run anywhere from $4 - $20, depending on the brand (of course, I gravitate towards the lower-priced options). Investing in tea tree oil now could prevent you from spending more money later on medicated shampoos and other remedies for a flaky, irritated scalp.

A really good conditioner: I still have yet to figure out exactly which one works best for me, but since detangling and extra moisture matter most, I wouldn’t mind spending a couple of extra bucks on the brand that would do the trick. Since my hair is currently in kinky twists, the detangling benefits of conditioner aren’t really as important for now. But when I take out the twists and see the new growth, a good conditioner will DEFINITELY be on my list of things to buy.

Overall, your daily hair routine shouldn’t break the bank. Every once in a while, a product to achieve a special look (like curl defining cream) could be a well-deserved splurge. But for now, I’m still waiting for the day when I can walk into Sally’s and just pick up that $15 conditioner (and the shampoo to match!) without balancing my checkbook in my head.

Until then, every cent counts.