ASHLEIGH BEFORE TRANSITION
What was it like for you growing up with textured hair?
Generally speaking, it was difficult. My mum didn't know how to properly care for my hair so the less I had on my head the better. She used to have all my hair cropped short when I went to the hairdressers. This resulted in my nickname growing up as "mop head." Santa Clause also mistook me for a boy! I laugh thinking back at it now but as a child, that had a big impact on the relationship I had with my hair and insecurities with my image for years to come.
In my early teenage years, when I went to senior school, I found a love for straightening and curling irons once I'd seen how they could "make" my hair behave. I didn't see my natural texture again until my late 20's.
What made you decide to embrace your naturally curly hair?
When I left school, I joined the gym and spent over a decade focusing on a healthy body image and self love.
I can't remember the exact moment where I decided to embrace my naturally curly hair but I just remember thinking "my hair is part of me and I should start treating it with the same respect as I treat my body and mind." Learning to love my natural texture was the last part of my journey to self love.
What has been the most empowering moment of your natural hair journey so far?
When I decided to embrace my curls, I had never heard of the Curly Girl Method so I just started using a line of hair products that were labeled "for curly hair." Ingredients were never something I looked at and these products still had drying alcohols in them or silicones.
The biggest turning point for me was when my friend invited me to a Facebook group where the focus was all things Curly Girl Method related. After doing some research on the Curly Girl Method using social media, I decided to remove drying alcohols and silicones from my regimen to see where it took me.
After 3 months, I had a big chop and that's when I really started to see a change.
ASHLEIGH DURING HER TRANSITION
How do you protect your curls at night?
If I want to preserve my curls after styling, I usually wear a Hyggeband or a Bambonn buff to bed. I can't pineapple my hair as that just stretches my curls out.
I always sleep on a satin pillow case regardless of whether I'm wearing sleep protection.
Who is your curl crush?
That's a tough one! I have so many! But I have to say Marisa (aka. @marisascurls on Instagram).
We have different hair types and texture but her journey was what ultimately gave me the push to keep going. I mean, have you seen her transformations between then and now?!
She is also a lovely person and is always happy to help in times of need.
What's your curly girl essential you can't live without?
Without a doubt, I have to say a good strong hold gel. My hair is super thick and heavy and without it, my curls don't last more than a day or two.
What is your hair type?
ASHLEIGH AFTER TRANSITIONING
What is your current hair regimen? Any favorite products you’d like to share?
A standard wash day for me is as follows:
Step 1. Dry detangle
Step 2. Co-Wash or low poo
Step 3. Brush through conditioner, squish to condish then rinse
Step 4. Brush through leave in conditioner
Step 5. Section hair? rope in a light hold gel, brush and scrunch then glaze and scrunch a strong hold gel over the top.
Step 6. Diffuse before scrunching out the crunch!
I have favourite products for each stage of my wash. These include Giovanni, Curlflo, The Innate Life and TréLuxe.
What has been the most challenging moment of your natural hair journey so far?
Not getting disheartened on wash days. Every one is a gamble because curly hair never looks the same. Products, styling methods, even the weather has an impact on how your hair will look on any given day!
I had to lower my expectations and learn to embrace the beautiful chaos that comes with each day.
Are there any techniques or methods that have made a huge impact on your hair health?
For the first 6 months of my quest to healthy hair, I didn't use a brush. I ended up with uneven product coverage resulting in fluffy hair where styling products hadn't touched or stringy hair where there was too much!
Introducing a brush into my styling routine really helped distribute product evenly through my high density hair.
What's your advice to women who are still struggling with loving their natural texture?
Start simple. Don't go buying all the products all at once! Focus on scalp and hair health above everything else. Once you've got that down, start to experiment by changing little things at a time such as swapping out one product for another or using a different styling technique.
Try to refrain from making big changes all at once because you won't know what does and doesn't work for you. Everyone's hair is different and what works for one person, may not work for you.