Bellas, I’d like you to meet Katrina Coffee.
She’s one of my favorite co-workers, and she’s a funny, smart, fierce sista who has just decided to go natural. Again.
See, Katrina’s had a long and turbulent hair journey, just as so many of us have. She hasn’t had relaxer in over a decade, but the memories remain.
“There were times in the past when I did perm my hair, then decided I wanted to go natural all of a sudden. It hurt my hair bad. It looked horrible. The process made my hair look a hot mess! I’d get frustrated with how horrible my hair looked while in the process of trying to go back natural and would perm it again because it didn’t look how I wanted it to. Chemically straight hair calls for different products then natural curly hair, so when I would decide to go natural after perming my hair it would go crazy and fall out from all the different products I was using to get that natural curl back. My hair would still curl up at the roots but some parts would become really stringy at the ends, and my hair lost its bounce; I assume from perming it. I think I confused my hair and it didn’t know what to do.”
Gee, do any of those issues sound familiar to you? My most vivid memories of those creamy crack days aren’t visual. More than the actual look of my hair, I remember the stinging stink of the chemicals, a smell your eyes could feel. And I remember the slow, creeping burn of the white paste on my tender scalp, and how I’d let it build to the point where I couldn’t take it and tears were stinging the backs of my eyes — just so I could get it “as straight as possible.” So of course, transitioning from treatment as harsh as that takes a long time, and lots of TLC. ‘Tree got sick of that stuff, so she switched it up to braids and briefly, weaves.
“It’s been like about six years since my hair was natural (without braids or weave). I started wearing braids/weave because I bleached it then (wanting a funky look) and my hair started falling out! I wasn’t taking care of it. So I had to cut it really, really short. Didn’t like the way I looked with really short hair so I started getting braids to help the growing process. It was only two years ago that i started actually wearing weaves,” she says.
Now that she’s totally natural, she doesn’t want to go back to the tracks. “I’m rocking my hair natural now because I missed it! I just think it fits me more…brings out my natural beauty! Plus I love the natural look. It’s also low maintenance. I feel free! I don’t think I’ll ever go back to getting my hair braided down and tracks put in! YUCK!”
Now here’s the thing. In the early stages of transitioning, Katrina’s having some natural-girl hair issues. She actually hit me up with an Ask Afrobella question that I’ve gotten many an anguished e mail about:
“Mama, what do you think I should get to moisturize my hair better? I like some frizz but I need something to tone it down just a lil’ bit that will give me more shine in the process. I wanna pick up something for my hair, so let a sista know what I might wanna grab.”
I know I did a Moisturize Your Situation on hair products recently and I still recommend those products, but I’ve made some more discoveries since then. And besides, this Ask Afrobella really gets down to the roots of transitioning from one style to another, so to speak.
Such a change really takes patience and courage.
Every now and then — like last weekend at Target — I’ll meet someone who doesn’t believe that this is my “real” hair, or says something tragic like “oh, I wish I could wear my hair like that. But my hair wouldn’t be that curly if I went natural.” Said it before and I’ll say it again — I had absolutely no idea what my hair would turn out until I actually took the plunge. And neither did Katrina!
It’s weird, feeling your roots get thicker and coarser, and watching your processed do get puffier with new growth. It takes a lot of self esteem to get through those early transitioning days, and it takes the right products to do the job.
Katrina had been tring some of the usual suspects, but they all left her limp. “I’ve used a Marc Anthony mousse that defines curls. It seems to work OK but seems to be more for not so tight curls.” Katrina’s right about that, and about many other curly-hair products cluttering the shelves right now. I’m glad there’s so many options now, but a lot of that stuff seems to be for a looser curl pattern.
“I’ve also used the Garnier Soft Curl Cream. You can use it on dry or damp hair. I think for my hair it works better right after I wash it and put it in as it’s air drying that it does its job. After my hair is fully dry and I use it, it seems to just weigh it down a little.”
I personally wasn’t impressed with the Soft Curl Cream, it works much better for my friend Jessica, with the 3b curls. For my thicker locks, I need something more substantial. I advised Katrina to get Garnier Curl & Shine Leave In Conditioning Cream for starters, just as a $3.99 drugstore tide-over until she gets the real Holy Grail Hair Products. I still personally love Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk and Lisa’s Hair Elixir, both of which you can get (and sample!) at Sephora.
I had read glowing reviews on Nappturality, and on Motown Girl — whose opinion I hold in the highest esteem. So when the opportunity came for me to sample this stuff, I jumped at the chance.
I fell in love at first use. Because natural hair is so thirsty, it needs thick, rich, nurturing, moisturizing products. Curls Milkshake is made with pure coconut and aloe vera, and it smells good enough to eat. I slather this stuff on my hair when it’s still moist from the shower, and my hair just soaks it in. It leaves my curls shiny, happy, and gorgeous.
And right now — for the Valentine’s Love Your Curls special — they’re offering 10% off for all styling products! (at checkout, enter promo code: Ilovecurls2)!
For $30, Curls is also offering an adorable Pamper Her Curls gift bag, that includes Moist Curls Moisturizer, Curly Q Milkshake, and Radiant Ringlets. Yo quiero!
Taking care of natural hair also means cutting back on harsh shampoos. Katrina was having some issues there, as well.
“I only wash my hair once a week. I try not to wash it too much. When I rocked my natural hair before and I washed it more than once a week it got really limpy and dry. Maybe because I was using the wrong products. I dunno,” she groans. I wash my hair sometimes twice a week, if it feels too dirty or clumpy. When I start to get major knottage, I know it’s time for a wash. It’s not just how often you wash, it’s also what you use to wash it.
I just got myself some Creme of Nature Moisturizing Shampoo on the advice of regular commenter Coffy. It was on sale at Target and cost less than $3.00. I’ve only used it once, but I love this stuff so far!
Currently, I’ve been using the Curlicious Curls Cleansing Cream. Don’t get it twisted, it’s a cleansing cream, NOT shampoo! This stuff doesn’t lather up like you’re used to, but it does leave your hair feeling more pure, healthier, and clean without being stripped of all its natural oils. I adore it, and highly recommend it.
Since she’s a more recently converted afrobella than I am, I asked Katrina to give advice to all of the newly transitioning bellas out there, or for those who want to go natural but haven’t yet taken the plunge.
Let the record show that she recommends the Big Chop.
“I do suggest cutting the hair when in the process of going natural. It eliminates most of the processed hair if you have permed hair. Maybe not the “old Halle Berry short” but maybe a bob short. I also suggest that if you do decide cutting your hair to grow into that curly spiral natural look and you want to speed up the growth process, get braids. Or if you’re into wearing weaves that will help also. If you hair is not processed don’t chop it! I suggest from that experience if anyone wants to go natural and has permed hair not to get frustrated with the process. Let the perm grow out and the natural come through. It’s worth it in the long run,” she says.
Often, women will start out rocking the natural, then throw in the towel due to external pressures, or just plain not knowing what to do with it. I blame that on years of brainwashing. We’ve all been told that our hair needs to “look a certain way,” and that just isn’t true. Because that “certain way” is a very Eurocentric, “straight by any means necessary” look. If we were all meant to look the same, we’d be carbon copies of each other and the world would be a much less interesting and beautiful place.
Now that ‘Tree is figuring out her curl pattern and hair needs, she’s ready to celebrate her curls. “The journey of transitioning is a scary one because your hair will go through some hard times. There are all different types of natural hairstyles and to get your hair to look how you want it to look will definitely take some time and patience. As long as you take care of it and feed it what it needs, the outcome is a wonderful one! I’m happy to be nappy, especially now that my hair has grown out full and thick and is free from chemicals. I love my hair…it’s BEAUTIFUL! I get compliments on it on a daily! Not to sound corny but it’s who I am and I don’t need to add anything to be just that…ME!”
Hooray for Katrina!
Got an Ask Afrobella question? Post a comment, or shoot me an e mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sometimes I take a while, but I will get you an answer eventually!