Ask Afrobella: Own Your Fro!

I get quite a few e mails from new-on-the-scene afrobellas, or transitioning bellas, who are concerned about how to style natural hair. So many of the traditional straight hairstyles go out the window once you go natural, and in certain environments there’s a pressure to conform to silly style rules and regulations. Take for example, this comment exchange that I had with a 13 year old reader, Lola.

She says in part: “This might sound really silly but when you talk about curly hair do you mean kinky as well? Because there is a difference; don’t get me wrong… My hair is alot thicker, to the point where i cannot leave it out if you know what i mean, or else it just gets very dry, brittle and matted, no matter how much hair moisturizer i use. would you suggest anything for my type of hair?” In a later comment, Lola recounted some of her past hair drama, and discussed the issues she was facing as a young afrobella.

I first got my hair straightened for a wedding when I was 6 years old and it was never the same after that. I got split ends, my hair went limp and my mum decided to relax it. This carried on until the 6th grade when I finally decided enough was enough and went for The Big Chop. I’ve been natural for almost 2 years now, and my hair is almost up to my shoulders now, but the thing I find so frustrating about having natural hair is that styling it seems so limited. My mum’s hair is relaxed and she keeps telling me that I might as well just do the same because all I can do to my hair is braid it and cornrow it, whilst she can just leave it out, tong it, curl it and do so much more. Do you have any natural hairstyle suggestions? I’ve also wanted to get highlights in my hair for quite some time now, but my mum says it will damage my hair. I’m so confused, and do not know where to begin with my hair! i’m just sick and tired of having to have it in braids all the time so that it lasts throughout the school term. I would like something different for a change.”

Lola, you’ve been on my mind ever since. Small wonder our hair issues go so deep — look at how early our chemical processes begin! Like Lola, I started relaxing early. I must have been six or seven, and I used to give my family hell to comb my hair. And I imagine Lola’s attending a school like my alma mater, an all-girl institution where students wear a uniform and are expected to look neatly similar. Back then, I constantly got in trouble for wearing too much jewelry — I was proudly sporting seven holes in my ears and had a “lucky necklace” I needed to wear every day. And my hair was at its most damaged, because besides straightening it regularly, I was experimenting with hair color and basically frying my overprocessed tresses. Anything for self expression, right?

I think that going natural at a young age takes strength, particularly if you — like so many afrobellas — have parents or family members who don’t completely embrace or encourage the natural look. And that’s why you’ve got to own your fro! Here’s how in four easy steps.

1. Take the time to get to know your hair. We’ve all got issues — I have some schizophrenic curls towards the front that are just crazy and own-way. Dry scalp is a recurring problem for me, and if I’m not using enough product (or the right kind of product), my hair winds up looking, as my Cali friend Lauren might say, “hella frizzy.” You mentioned that your hair is extremely thick, and it gets very dry, brittle, and matted. no matter how much hair moisturizer you use. Lola, I suspect you’re using products that aren’t ideal for your hair texture. When you discover products that work with your texture, a whole new world will open up to you.
Before you start saving your shillings for small sizes of Garnier Fructis Curl and Shine, Curls Milkshake, Miss Jessie’s, and Kinky Curly Curling Custard, try experimenting with at-home hair recipes! I just spotted a jar of organic coconut oil at my grocery store, and I definitely plan to get some and whip up some at-home hair remedies. Since you live in England, you should most definitely hit up Anita Grant. She’s a natural hair superwoman with a line of fantastic products, and she’s just so sweet and friendly. Definitely look into her products, and e mail her if you’ve got specific hair questions. And your mom is right on one thing — don’t think about highlights until your hair is healthy and strong, and you’ve found the right products. Hair color really can be damaging. I speak from experience.

2. Once you’ve figured out what hair products work for you, then consider the ocean of hairstyles that stretches before you! If you’re bored with braids and cornrows, try playing with different styles over the weekend. Afro puffs (two little ponytails) can be adorable. So are two or three-strand twists, and then when you do a twist-out, your hair falls into fantastic spirals. I’m a big fan of the wash and go fro, that’s pretty much how I wear my hair every day. I’m also loving a little asymmetry — take a look at the photo of my amiga Katrina up there. Some of you might remember, I wrote about her a while back when we talked transitioning. Now she’s working the fro like there’s no tomorrow! She wore her hair like this for her birthday last month, and achieved the look with bobby pins. I love her “to the left, to the left” style, and the confidence she’s got in this photo. Now THAT is how you own your fro! Thanks for letting me share your fly foxiness, Tree!

3. Now you can start thinking of hair accessories. I’ve already expressed my love of headbands, and Jennifer Behr makes some exquisite (albeit pricey) ones. This stretch silk rosette headwrap costs $92!

But it gives you a great idea of the kinds of looks you can work with a headband. Glamour magazine has a great blog that featured some cool hair accessory sites, all wonderful sources for inspiration. If you’re an afrobella with big hair, you will probably need a much wider, stretchier, and bigger headband than your straight-haired friends. Comfort is a must, so I’d steer you clear of the tight plastic variety. Think cloth, think glam.

Accessories are a quick and easy way to switch up your hair style from day to day. You could find inspiration in Billie Holiday, and rock a flower in your fro for a cute, feminine look. Also check out Brunsli’s hair ties, they’re amazing, especially for rastabellas.

4. Most importantly, you gotta wear your fro with pride. The purest beauty comes from within, so the best advice I can give you is, love yourself and celebrate your beauty. We all have our insecurities and self consciousness, but if we allow those doubting voices in the back of our heads to get to us, we won’t get far. It can take years to get to the point where you don’t care if people talk about you because you look different, or you can walk into a crowded room and feel radiant and confident. It took me practically all of my teens and some of my early twenties, too! But after years of faking it, I finally made it to the point where I carry myself with genuine confidence. But it’s important to work on feeling that way, and the more you work on it, the stronger you’ll feel it. So before you go off to school, I suggest you look yourself in the mirror and give yourself a big, bright smile. And mean it! Believe it. Then throw your shoulders back, strut your stuff down the hallway, and know you’re a fierce, strong afrobella with a bright future ahead of you.

Hope that helps, Lola. Write back and let me know! Any other suggestions for owning your fro, bellas and fellas?

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Comments

  1. Auragirl says:

    Afrobella, a post everyday this week…I’m lovin it!!!!!!!!!!!! My hair isn’t natural (I keep it braided), but I enjoy reading about natural hair care tips…*wonders what I would look like with an afro* Hmmmm…

    Thank you daahhhling!

  2. spotlight says:

    there is a whole community of women out there with natural hair that can show you how to style your hair in different ways, recommend products and give all sorts of advice. I understand her frustration. Before i went natural i had no idea what to use or how to do it i thought people hair just grew out a certain way til i learned about twists out and all that. if anyone is interested or needs some advice i recommend going to http://www.nappturality.com and also visit a few member pages on http://www.fotki.com (you can type in spotlight on the member page search to see my page). You would be suprised how helpful it can be

    hope that helps

  3. Bella,

    Thanks for posting on this topic. Your style is so engaging. Hopefully Lola feels inspired.

    I recently cut my locks after seven years and have been wearing a wash and go fro. It’s longer in the top and a bit asymetrical and I’m loving it.

    http://www.myspace.com/tenura

  4. I am so happy for the 13 year old afrobella deciding to do her thing early in life! She inspired me!
    I wish her much success and lifelong happiness with her natural decision. Peace and blessings.

  5. Beautiful post celebrating all textures! very cool. Thanks:)

  6. Girl, first off I love your blog! Second of all, I am also trying to learn to manage and take care of my natural hair. I’ve been natural all of my life because my mother would NOT allow me to perm it – since it is manageable. It could be described as coolie (lol) yet its way frizzier and not as soft. When it isn’t wet, there is absolutely no moisture and it can look awful. I’ve been experimenting with styles over the last year or so and I’m still in search of the right products on my student budget. However I still don’t quite have the confidence to do much more than pull it back in a ponytail and wear it in a “poof.” Rather, I flat iron it very often for the versatility and the ease of wrapping it. It’s a struggle to balance learning to take care of my hair naturally and find the styles that are “me” at the same time, you know? In any case, all that to say that I am happy to have found a blog such as yours. I LOVE my natural hair and there have been very few times in my life when I’ve considered relaxing it; but there are days when I definitely get fed up. Your site gives me motivation to continue to show the world how beautiful my hair is! You have a dedicated reader on your hands ;-)

  7. I love it! Your friend Katrina is FIERCE. I tried to do a style similar to that with some bobby pins, but I gave up after it kept flopping over. After seeing this pic, I am definitely going to try it again until I get it right.

  8. Spotlight, good grief what a HUGE oversight on my part! Fokti, Nappturality, and Motown Girl are all tremendous resources I forgot to mention, along with the new Nappy Star. I’ll edit this post later. And can I just tell you HOW thrilled I was to have a 13 year old afrobella write in? So, so happy.

  9. Mona B. says:

    Great post, Bella! I’m glad to see that Lola has decided to embrace her fro so early on. I didn’t see the light until college! ;0)

    Lola, the beauty of natural hair is that we can go from kinky styles to afros to straight styles and back! And don’t be discouraged if others around you don’t immediately see it that way. My mom wasn’t thrilled about me going natural either, but nowadays she’s the first one to tell someone how long I’ve been relaxer free!

    I LOVE headbands, too. What I like to do is go to a fabric store and pick different prints and textured fabrics to rock as headbands. I even look through the remnants section (where there are smaller, and less expensive fabrics). You can cut them to the length and width that you like. It gives you lots of options, you can get creative with them, and it’s easy on your wallet!

    Best of luck, Lola!

  10. Katrina says:

    THANK YOU!!!…Patrice for letting me grace your AWESOME website! :) I’m working on a few more styles. I’ll rock them for them for you soon! Lol!!!

    To Peajai thank you girl!! I try! If the booby pins won’t work get those little Goody combs (black) and stick them in first. Then use the bobby pins to hold up the stray pieces that the combs don’t hold. A little spritz won’t hurt either to hold the hair high so it doesn’t flop over.

  11. Beware daily use of headbands. They take out your hair around the edges. At one point I was wearing a stretch headband or scarf 5-6 days a week, and it was v. damaging.

  12. Bella, I don’t have a fro, but I want to applaud you for that last paragraph. It should be a daily read for all women, regardless of one’s type of hair. Sure, it’s important to look one’s best but if the confidence and self-love doesn’t come from within, we’ll never be satisfied, no matter how “perfect” we look on the outside. Appreciating one’s self is the greatest beauty treatment of all. Rock on!

  13. Michelle says:

    I think also that when you do your hair make it fun for yourself. I try to schedule time to do my hair, so it feels loving to me, and I’m not rushing around. I put all my things in front of me for my hair: oil, spray, hair bands, comb, etc. I turn on a favorite show of mine that I taped. Then I go to work. I take my time oiling my scalp and twisting my hair. Sometimes i like to think of positive affirmations while I’m doing my hair. So my hair knows I have love for her.

  14. babyarkansas says:

    hi afrobella, I just discovered your blog yesterday! You are so awesome! I’ve been wearing my hair natural for about 10 years, but have always had my hair super short or three inches at the max. I really want to grow it longer, and its always so inspiring to see other women who have done it and lived to tell their stories. Thanks for holding it down for us natural women!

  15. Nickey W says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this post! I just went for the big chop yesterday and this is just what I needed! I am still in a bit of “hair shock” because it’s never been this short but I am happy with my decision and look forward to growing it out a bit and being creative. :o)

  16. Bella, I LOVE your blog. I think what you wrote is so true – get to know your hair and have confidence. I have to say I am getting to know my natural hair late in the game. I’ve been perming my hair since I was 6 and now I am in my 30s. At first, it was like I was a kid and had to learn how to style my hair all over again. But with blogs like yours and motowngirl, it hasn’t been frustrating getting to know me, it’s been fun – like it was when I use to play in my mom’s makeup and try different colors. I think a lot more women would go natural if they realized it is just as versatile as permed hair and it also looks great when you work with your hair type and use the right products. So, thanks! By the way, if you know of any good natural hair care salons in Los Angeles, let me know.

  17. Dominique says:

    I totally dig your friend’s fro! That’s exactly what we bneed to see more of. Me and my afrobellas are constantly talking about how there are not enough styles for us. Of you perm or relax, you got Hype Hair mag, Black Hair mag and a ton of others and not one sistah in there is natural. Why can’t there be a magazine devoted to the many styles of natural women because obviusly from your blog, they are out there.
    Keep up the good work and continue to add more photos of natural hair styles. I’ve been natural all of my life and have done about everything except dreads so I’m alsways looking fro new styles.

  18. I freakin love that fro.. I have natural hair… have had it for most of my life.. i’ve gotten a perm 3 times… when i was 7.. broke off so i chopped it out… when i was 13 and when i was 18.. now i’m back to perm-free and I’m thinking about wearing a fro but.. i can’t get mine to look like that.. but.. I love this site!

  19. suburbanbushbabe says:

    Ooh, more headbands! I’m already into 3 Frank & Kahns, one Cara double leather, I’ve had my eye on Rachel Weissman and Headdress. And now thanks to your blog, I’ve discovered Renee Rivera. My fluffy curls rock headbands. One of the few products that force me to set price limits.

  20. littlenappyannie says:

    I’m going to the fabric store today. Who needs to spend $92 on something that can easily be made for under $5?

  21. Bella, I’m about to start working out and I really want to know how to care for my hair. It is relaxed and I have thought about going natural…however, until then…how do I care for my hair?

  22. jessica says:

    ummm.. who’s the girl in the white dress with the side ‘fro? i wanna see more pix of her.. she seems flyy!

  23. Adrianna says:

    Thanks for the great post Bella. I will check them out!! I feel discouraged with my hair.I won’t grow!.I have had the same length for 2 years and can’t do much hairstyle with it. I have been doing the bantu knot, wash and go fro and twist for 2 years and I’m so sick and tired of it.I’m so tired of headband because it wreck havoc with the front of my hair. I was so tempted to go back to my braids last week. I have weak hair and I’m coming to my wit end with trying to find hairstyles.

    Mlle. Mitchell you are so right on!!

    I’m going to keep going on. What else I’m I going to do.

  24. Adrianna says:

    Thanks for the great post Bella. I will check them out!! I feel discouraged with my hair.I won’t grow!.I have had the same length for 2 years and can’t do much hairstyle with it. I have been doing the bantu knots, wash and go fro and twist for 2 years and I’m so sick and tired of it.I’m so tired of headband because it wreck havoc with the front of my hair. I was so tempted to go back to my braids last week. I have weak hair and I’m coming to my wit end with trying to find hairstyles.

    Mlle. Mitchell you are so right on!!

    I’m going to keep going on. What else I’m I going to do.

  25. i haven’t been on this blog in a couple of days, and so i decided to check today and i would just like to say that i am SO grateful for this post!! since our comment exchange, i’ve decided to open my eyes and broaden my search for more info on natural hair products and accessories. i went on the sites you recommended to me (naani, MotownGirl ect)and the hairstyle how-to’s, reviews and advice on caring for my ‘fro have helped me to appreciate my hair alot more. I have braids right now, but i plan to take them out just before the summer holidays, so that i can give all my natural hair underneath some room to breathe!! i’ve already decided that the first thing i’m going to experiment with are twist-outs, they look really nice. Oh and I showed my mum this blog and she’s decided that she’s going to try and go natural aswell! we were up almost all night just browsing through hair websites, including miss jessie’s…when i saw the before and after pictures of those women that had their curls stretched and “silkened”, i was like wow! but my mum wasn’t so convinced and she reckoned that whatever they were using must have chemicals. you confirmed this on your post about Titi Branch, who claimed that lye was present in the process….so i’m not too keen on that, but me and mum are looking for natural alternatives and ingredients, such as sheba oil, and virgin olive oil, and malt vinegar (?)i haven’t bought any headbands yet, but i’ve found loads awesome fabrics (which just happened to be stored away in a box somewhere) and i’ve been spending some of my spare time cutting them and shaping them to wear on my head, and they do look very chic. i’m definitely starting to embrace my afro now, and i’m determined to get as many of my afrobella friends to dump those “lye-free” relaxer products once and for all!

  26. LBellatrix says:

    Afrobella, great advice to Lola!

    Like tan, I wore locs for some years and have recently cut/picked them out, so now I’m wearing the wash-and-go ‘fro. Lola, if there’s one product I’d recommend you try for softening hair, it’s CASTOR OIL. Yes, the stuff you get in the laxative section of the pharmacy! Use a TINY BIT of this on damp hair and your hair will be so soft. If you’ve had a chance to check out Nappturality, there’s a LOT of threads discussing castor oil. Good luck to you and your mom!

  27. Oh man, this post came right on time. Like two other bellas, I recently cut m locs after five years and I’m getting used to having such short hair. I’m constantly fearful of being mistaken for a boy but just reading this has reminded me that I need to be more confident in myself and know there’s more to me than my hair. Thanks for this post and thank you guys for your comments.

  28. Thanks for the tip Katrina!

  29. Thanks for the post this is great that a girl at a young age wants to live her ife natural. Kudos. I do have an issue with the Headband though as to edges and tightness be careful when using them.

  30. I actually had an in-person chat with Katrina after this post — she wears headbands regularly and became alarmed when reading all of the anti-headband warnings. I think the reason I’ve never had breakage or difficulty with headbands is, I’m very careful with the kinds I buy. Just like with my shoe purchases, you have to consider comfort first. Don’t wear something tight and constricting on your head, and don’t wear headbands every day. Switch up your style at least twice a week, and like I said earlier, wear a much wider, stretchier, and bigger headband than your straight-haired friends. Avoid the tight plastic variety, and go for stretchy, comfortable elastic. And don’t tie your cloth headbands too tight — there’s no need to be all Rambo about it!

  31. hey
    i really love ur hair and & blog
    i’m from germany and i’m a mixed girl (17)
    right now i’m transitioning
    here in germany we dont have much informations & products for curly and kinky hair
    so i’m thinkin about to make a blog like this

  32. I FEEL SO LUCKY TO HAVE FOUND THIS BLOG!!! Your recent post (Ask Afrobella: Own Your Fro!) really impressed me. Had found this blog a long time ago, I would have really appreciated it. I was searching MSN for information on b b Dress Flower Girl when I stumbled across you Friday. Keep it going!

  33. Hey Bella,

    my names is Yasmin, I have a problem my hair is relaxed which I hate I want to go back natrual, and have my lovely hair back I hate having relaxed hair and I was wondering what is the best way to come back to my natrual state I dont know what to do my auntie’s say to shave it off and start again but I dont want to do that at the moment my hair is to my sholders but its stright and I dont know if I should put it in hair extensions to grow it out or cut it off like my aunts said im just so confused please help me many thanks Yasmin out here in UK london

  34. warrior11209 says:

    Great post. Unfortunately , I was unenlightened and put a perm in my daughter’sn very thick and healthy hair when she was in first grade, although my hair was natural at the time . I never really learned how to do my hair in it’s natural state. To her credit my daughter came to me in the 4th grade and said , “No more perms”- she transitioned and we both learned how to style her hair in easy and cute styles. Now we are both rockin’ locs. The most important thing is to find products that work for your type of hair. It may be a long haul but once you find the products , you will fallin love with your hair!!

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