Ask Afrobella — Curly, Coily, Kinky, or Coarse

I had a really interesting experience recently. Picture this. It’s a Wednesday afternoon, I’d just finished my deadline for work. About to have a window of downtime before the cycle picks up again… Then my editor-in-chief calls and asks me to represent our newspaper on a panel at a meeting of the South Florida Black Journalists Association. I immediately said no problem, got myself together, and headed over to the venue. I had absolutely no idea what I was heading into, and I’m so glad I went. The evening turned out to be really interesting and I met a lot of cool people — fellow journalists, members of the audience, business owners.

At the end of the question and answer session, I was swarmed by people who wanted to introduce themselves, and to exchange business cards and stuff. A few people told me they’d heard of Afrobella, but had no idea I was local. Some people just wanted to ask me about my site, some people wanted to ask me about that novel I’m writing… good grief. Every time I think of my novel, I hear the voice of Stewie Griffin in my head.

So anyway, at the end of the business card bonanza, I stepped out of the crowd and wound up chatting with some media peeps. Then a tall, striking, beautiful black woman approached me to talk about hair. And the fact that she wanted to go natural, but couldn’t. Why? “My hair isn’t like yours. It wouldn’t look good natural.” She wore her hair short and relaxed, but in that stage where my old hairdresser would advise me to “touch up my roots.” “Are you kidding me? What does that mean?” I asked her. I tried to tell her that I disagreed with her sentiment. I told her a little about my own transitioning period, and that it took my hair a long time to recover from years of chemicals. I had to teach myself how to style, shampoo, and care for my natural hair. I told her that I was sure if she gave it a shot and stuck it out, she’d grow to love her hair in its natural state. “That’s easy for you to say,” she said.

She kept asking me how I got my hair to “do that.” I explained that I really didn’t do anything to it, it’s really just how it naturally grows out of my head. Some parts spiral perfectly, other parts are more kinky and own-way, some curl down, some stick up. Some of it feels soft to the touch, others feel as tough as rope, depending on when I’ve last conditioned it. That day, I didn’t even comb through in the shower — all I’d done was conditioner washed it, added some Elasta QP Mango butter moisturizer, and sped over to the venue as fast as I could. I even air-dried it with my windows down. She said she liked the natural style and the look, but she was adamant that it didn’t look good on her. Once again she reiterated, her hair wouldn’t be attractive in it’s natural state. Here’s where it got kind of vague.

She was asking me how best she should style her hair so it could “look like mine,” because her hair didn’t curl up when she did briefly try to go natural. She told me she didn’t like her natural hair when she just washed it and used a styling product. But she didn’t want to do twists to achieve the curly style she described, and it annoyed her that every quite-unquote natural stylist she went to insisted that she do twists to get what they thought she wanted. OK. So… your hair doesn’t grow naturally in spirals, but you want it to, but you don’t want to twist it? She looked at me, expectantly. But I honestly had no idea how to answer her question… or even what her question really was. I explained that even though I call myself Afrobella and I write about hair issues and do product reviews, I am SO not a hair dresser, or a hair care professional. I haven’t tried a range of natural styles, and I’m not intimately familiar with a wide range of natural hair textures. I just do what works for me, and I let people know what’s working and what’s not.

I chatted with her for quite a while and tried to explain that her hair is beautiful in its natural state, all she needed to do was to give natural another try. Stick with it, don’t give up, and take the time to make sure your hair is healthy — that’s the most important thing. I even recommended some products she should try. She didn’t seem moved. Then I realized that I couldn’t convince her of anything. I was basically trying to talk someone into loving their hair, and it felt like preaching, so I stopped. I didn’t know how to make her believe that her her hair was beautiful, or to make her understand that everyone’s natural is different, and her hair could be unique, beautiful, healthy, and strong — if only she let go of her preconceived notions of what natural hair “should” look like. It felt so strange having someone act like my own hair was their gold standard, after the comments and criticism I’ve faced in my own natural journey. I absolutely horrified my family when I decided to stop using the creamy crack completely. People have called me Brillo-pad head. To this day, I still get the occasional “what are you going to do with that bird’s nest” comment from people who have known me for a long time. And even now when I am a proud and self-described Afrobella, sometimes I still have fleeting moments of doubt. Sometimes I wake up in the morning, comb through it, add product, look at myself in the mirror, and feel a quavering in my self-confidence meter. Is my hair too big? Too puffy? Too crazy for work? That’s when I put on more lip gloss, add some jewelry, and convince myself I’m the flyest chick on the scene before I leave the house. I wanted to tell this lady that she had to believe in her own beauty and learn how to own her fro on her own terms, but I didn’t have the presence of mind, the energy, the time, or the knowledge to say what I think she needed to hear. So, I went to an expert.

Bellas, I’d like to introduce erin shell anthony, author of Nappturosity — How to Create Fabulous Natural Hair and Locs. Erin has conducted over 200 presentations on health, natural lifestyles and related empowering topics around the country in the last 3 years, and is the creator and founder of the adaru natural hair salon in Indianapolis. She has seen it all, and produced an e book that is chock full of photos and guidance to keeping your hair naturally beautiful.

I asked her my Ask Afrobella non-question — what would she say to a woman who is convinced that she can’t go natural? She said this.

To the women who don’t think they can go natural because their hair isn’t __(fill in the blank)_, or those who are having a hard time loving their natural hair, I say – FIND the beauty! Countless women who successfully transitioned to natural hair had to go through the process of discovering the beauty in their own kinks and curls. The very essence of the word “transition” is movement and change from one state to another. For many, it’s going to feel very un-natural to be natural in the beginning! It doesn’t matter how many supportive women, books, or magazines you have, the experience will still be solely yours.”

AMEN, Erin!!! She said it so much better than I could.

Erin reminisced about her own hair journey, which might strike a chord with many of you.

I remember my hair-emancipation, which was guided by the experienced hands of Valencia Jones of Mandisa-Ngozi – despite her level of skill in styling my hair, when I cut my hair, I literally felt it in my soul. I cried – no, really – I sobbed! I didn’t know what to do with all of those kinks, and to the point of my friend Kaya Casper of Naturally You! Magazine, most of us didn’t have anyone to show us and teach us how to care for natural hair when growing up. What I had to realize, and what those who successfully make the transition know, is that each of us has hair that is unique to us, which means there is beauty in your hair, you’ll just have to find it. But trust – it is there. Allow yourself the patience and skill-development this transition requires, which may mean finding a good natural hair stylist or even hours in the mirror yourself, learning what works for you (not your fav celebrity)! It will be worth it when you discover the beauty of your hair. The compliments you receive on the other side of the transition will serve as confirmation of what you will have already received – healthy freedom to be you, and to experience what being natural has to offer. So, the real story is, if you’re not ready to face the transition and go through the process, you aren’t ready to go natural. If your hair is already natural and you still don’t feel connected, allow your mind to transition as well by being open to different kinds of beauty. I believe that if you’ve ever empowered yourself in any other area of your life, you have the ability to empower yourself for the natural journey as well – if you just let go and do the work, you’ll be rewarded!

Erin even went so far as to suggest her Top 5 Styling Tips for Newly Natural Bellas:

1. Begin with the end in mind! Research the styles you like and develop a plan to get there, utilizing all of your resources, including books, friends, websites and stylists. Take the time to gather the tools and products needed for your hair in one place before you get started and keep them there, so you’re not running around the house looking for your rat-tail comb with pre-poo running down your neck!

2. Part and Comb! The same techniques that worked on your relaxed hair won’t necessarily work on your natural hair. Sometimes the most simple changes are the most effective, and in the case of a head of curls and kinks, learning to part and comb the hair in sections from the ends working down to the roots makes a world of difference.

3. Condition and Clarify! More conditioning and more clarifying will be needed now that you’re natural. Conditioning improves the sheen and elasticity of the hair, and clarifying regularly reduces build-up from products like shea butter which can dull the hair over time. Build-up can also reduce the length of time your hair can hold a style. My favorite easy clarifyer? ACV. Don’t like the smell? Use lemon juice instead. My favorite basic, no-frills pre-poo conditioner? Castor Oil. Always follow up with a good light moisturizer like Karen’s Body Beautiful Hair Milk.

4. Get into a Routine! Know what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it, but don’t be afraid to be flexible within that routine and experiment. Get to know your hair and what it needs, and realize that everyone’s hair is different. I discovered that I have to apply a moisturizer at least every other day, and sometimes more frequently in hot weather, whereas that regime could weigh down someone else’s hair.

5. Roll it Over! A technique I talk about in Nappturosity called “roll-over styling” is the process of choosing one style that can be modified over time, building off of the previous style to create a new look. For example, you can pin-curl your two strand twists and wear that style for a few days, then release the pin-curls and wear the twists for another few days, and finally release the twists for a twist out. You’ve given your hair a break from the comb, plus you’ve saved yourself a lot of styling time!

Not only did Erin give me all those fabulous tips, she wanted to share her favorite homemade recipe with my readers. Her Curly Frizz Vanilla Pudding sounds incredible, and can be used as a pre-poo and as a styling pomade. I’m going to have to get these ingredients!

Curly Frizz Vanilla Pudding (alternative to commercial hair puddings)
by Charise of nappturality.com with modifications by erinshellanthony, The Nappturous Diva

9 oz. of conditioner (I recommend Karen’s Body Beautiful’s Luscious Locks Moisturizing Hair Mask)
3 oz. of Real Hair Gel (100% natural aloe hair gel)
1 oz. Sweet Almond Oil
1 oz. Vegetable Glycerin (optional)
10 drops eo of choice
10 drops of vanilla fragrance oil

Combine all ingredients in a bottle and shake well, or blend with a mixer for a lighter texture. Apply to wet tresses and pull the product throughout the hair for even moisturizing. You can use this product to set the hair in a style (ie. twists), but allow to dry completely before releasing the style. Also can be used as a pre-poo. Leaves the hair with a natural hold and smells wonderful!

I was so glad that I reached out to Erin after our e mail interview. While I have no way of contacting the sista who approached me recently, I hope Erin’s positive and reaffirming words touch some of the other bellas who have e mailed or commented before about feeling unsure of their own natural hair journey. She helped me better know what to say to the next bella who approaches me and tells me why they “can’t go natural.” It’s about accepting yourself, accepting your texture, and loving yourself as you are. It’s not always easy, but it definitely is always worth it.

What say you, bellas?

** all photos are from erin’s e-book, Nappturosity — How to Create Fabulous Natural Hair and Locs. She’s also created the Natural Success Network. Check it out!

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Comments

  1. ChocolateOrchid says:

    This is great!! I am so greatful for your website. So much needed information! Keep up the great work!

  2. I can somewhat relate to the sista you met at the panel. I’m almost a year sans relaxer and I have no clue what to do with my hair. So far I’ve relied on blowouts/flat ironing but that’s becoming increasingly difficult. Most of the natural sistas I see have a vastly different hair texture than me so what works for them won’t work for me. (I’m 4b maybe. I never could figure it out.) I admit that I’m attached to my length (a little past shoulder length) so I have no desire to do a ‘big chop’. My hair is quite frustrating right now and everytime I get my hair done I debate over whether I should chop it off (unlikely), get a texturizer (vs relaxer) or what.

  3. Afrobella – I am blessed to be featured on your blog! It’s exciting to share the journey with so many others. The natural movement is taking place, and it’s not going to stop! 1,000 blessings!

  4. Great, great, GREAT article Bella!!! I recently had someone ask me how should they proceed w/ growing out their perm and becoming natural. It’s a difficult question to answer if you’re not a certified beautician b/c in my opinion it’s all about knowing who you are and what you are trying to achieve. My friends don’t like to hear me talk about kinky or nappy hair b/c they feel I don’t know what I’m talking about. They say I have ‘spanish’ curls so how I could I possibly understand what it’s like to have ‘kinky’ or ‘nappy’ hair. This is when I explain that all people of color have VARIOUS types of hair textures. And like you said Bella- My hair also varies- some parts spiral nicely, other parts are very tightly curled, and then I have a section thats just slightly wavy!!

  5. Thanks so much for this post! Over the phone last night I directed my sister to your site, urbancurlz, and healthy textures. She has relaxer damage, and she is about to transition. I think she just needs a lot of conditioning, so I am advising her to pre-poo and condition again after shampooing. I am sending her some products this weekend, and I will direct her to this post later today for help with getting started.

    This post couldn’t have been more on time :)

    I’ll tell you what happened with the sister you talked to. She, like many people, has convinced herself that natural hair must be perfectly spiraled ringlets. She is convinced that since her hair won’t do the ringlets, it won’t be right. I use Ms. Jessie’s curly pudding, and even using it, after the first day or so, some of my hair holds the ringlets, and some of it holds a completely different curl pattern, and I just work with it. The sister you talked to probably is also afraid of the looks and comments she will get. Sometimes, particularly in a business environment, people will perceive you very differently if you wear your natural hair. I had to move past that and just do my thing. My hair was thick when I was using a relaxer, but now it is super thick & bouncy.

  6. Whew! So glad you are all getting as much out of this one as I did. Thank you SO MUCH, erin! I think your words of wisdom will touch many. And you’re right, DH and Wes… I think so many natural bellas want that Tamika Ray hair, that big, bouncy curl… and not all of us have that. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and forget what the essence of “going natural” is about — healthy, happy hair.

  7. Also, does eo in the recipe stand for exotic oil? I’m not quite up on the lingo LOL :) I will definitely be trying this hair recipe.

  8. It is SO worth it! I’ve been natural for three years. The first was a year of discovery and acceptance. The second was a year of wonder and amazement. The third was a year of love and affection. Now, going into my fourth year, I suspect it will be one of testimony and example. I don’t like to preach to others about my hair (and I’m often tempted) but I hope other women and girls (most especially my daughter) will see in me enough confidence and pride to inspire them to take this journey, as well.

  9. Good question DH – I think it means Essential Oil. Erin? Anyone else got feedback?

  10. Thank you so much for this post! I realized one day that I am not going to have the coarse spiral curls, and I had to make peace with that. I identify with so much that was stated by both of you in this post. But once I made peace with the fact that I don’t have hair that coils or spirals on its own, I started really looking into what worked for me. My hair is just plain ole kinky for the most part, it could be 36 inches long and still shrink up to a 1-inch fro all over once it is freshly washed, and there is no way I could wash and go and ever be able to comb it again! I use metallic rollers to help stretch my kinks out a little, and I like the fluffier, slightly longer look, I think it flatters my face better. It is still very much a fro, though, trust! I’m so happy to have information about Erin’s site, I am very committed to staying natural, but the longer my hair gets, the more help I need maintaining it the way I like. What works has changed with each 1/2 inch. Thank you again, bella, for the information.

  11. Thanks Bella, people come up to me and say that to me frequently. You know, they wish they could go natural, but… It’s like they think I’m some kinda hair god. I try to convince them, they can do it too. Then, I finally get to point where I realize my words aren’t penetrating. I’m often on the move and I have to leave them alone. I direct them to your site for tips. Hopefully, eventually, their self esteem will be lifted, and they will have the fortitude to make the transition.

  12. African Rose says:

    Hi Bella,

    Thanks so much for your article. I have been natural for about 7 years and can soooo relate to the comment about my hair to wild for work. I am in a corporate office and when I first started was a little nervous about what people would think. Well, I too have have stop and think sometimes..am I going overboard? I tend to tie it up so at least it’s neat, but LOVE when it’s out free in the wind.

    Anyway, you can’t make anyone love being natural…unfortunately most of us, have been brainwashed into thinking we need to confirm our ideals/our hair our beauty to fit in today. Why should we be ashamed or uncomfortable with being/loving the state that were created to be in?

    Okay, sorry, I’m going to step awayyyy from the soap box, but before I do. I will add that it wasn’t always comfortable going natural. My hair hated a perm, but I continued doing it till I was almost bald because well does it matter? Anyway, it took a long time and I have days where I have a little self doubt but I would never go back to a chemical…why would I? I was created this way for a reason..I have to accept and love me..all day everyday, I just can’t wait until everyone can feel this way. Okay…I’m stepping away for real.

  13. I REALLY relate to your experience with that woman. I get that alot as if my journey in natural hair is easier because of my texture. That is not true and is really no different than us comparing our skin tones. I am also tongue-tied when people ask me what the secret formula is to get my hair to do “that”. Some people almost demand to know what procedure I had done! I am a strong advocate of black women going natural because of the spiritual and mental freedom found in it. However, I don’t speak on it too much because many sistas resent it, especially from someone without a very tight coil to their hair. It really isn’t about hair but about self identity and that is a very emotional topic for women of the diaspora.

  14. Wow! Bella! I feel for that woman you met. I felt so scared when I decided to go natural and I had anxiety about the “big chop” for weeks before I actually did it. I hadn’t seen the natural texture in a decade or more and would you believe I was disappointed when I saw that my hair had no kink, sprial, springy-ness, or nap to it???!?! It was bone straight! This totally made it hard for me to loc it a year later, but I stuck with it and now, almost 5 years later I so happy I embraced my natural hair. I’ll never go back.

  15. DH, eo means essential oils.

    Thank you Bella for this article. I have been natural for over 5 year and this has helped me so much. It reminded me why I stated my natural journey in the first place and encouraged me to get back into a routine. Again thanks.

    I have one bit of info that over the years I learned and would like to share. For me trims have made all of the difference in the world. From the beginning I have been conditioning and all the things mentioned above, but I was so caught up in length that I neglected to trim my hair. But once I got into the habit of getting trims my hair started to grow a lot healthier and my curl definition was/is a lot more defined. Curl defining products are no longer a necessity for me. I hope that has helped someone.

  16. Yeah, shani, it’s sad how we compare ourselves and make assumptions and all that. Being on the “very tight coil” end of the spectrum (I tried Miss Jessie’s — all I ended up with was whitish-coated grape-smelling kinks), I do understand how some of the people you refer to might feel, but I remind myself that is MY perception and has to do with how I feel about myself. I tell myself every day my hair is Divine Design just like any other. The fact that I don’t battle with eczema anymore on my neck and people compliment me on how much better my skin looks, and the fact that my hair is so much thicker! since leaving the creamy crack alone helps me to see I’m on the right course for me. Going natural has helped me love my physical appearance more than anything I’ve ever done, because it definitely takes strength! Sometimes you have to change what you see as beautiful. Days when I’m still having trouble with that, I slap on a little more eye makeup and wait for tomorrow, when I can see how my pretty and healthy my kinks are again.

  17. I can totally identify with that woman. I am a 4b and I look at the so call natural sista icons in the media and its usually a bunch of biracial women or someone with a curly weave. That serves as no inspration to a 4b’er. I sampled some of the so called natural staples and it does nothng for my hair. IC gel doesn’t hold my hair and Miss Jessie’s was nothing but a good detangler. Thank God I bought the sample and not the full size. I did find some great shampoo and conditioners, but nothing when it comes to style. And why does it cost so much to style natural hair?

  18. Erin, your the DA Bomb and your advice on hair is very useful, keep spreading your wisdom.

  19. “Divine Design” : cosigning w/ya Bebroma!

    Unlike many women, the texture on my head is all the same — tight fro. I mean where my hair, when completely coiled (freshly dampened/washed), forms a perfect O and measures about 1-2 mm in diameter. Yeah. I’ve remained natural since 1999 and rocked short and long styles. Right now my hair is about 3.5 inches when stretched, although I’ve had it longer before.

    Like nicola, I’ve found myself frustrated when looking for affirmation from others on the hair front. I found one site in particular that really spoke to me on the hair front. Her hair is like mine and she wore it long and loose! She has since locked it, but it’s so refreshing to see others out there with a head full of really coily hair proud to wear it long and free. Here’s the site: http://www.crazycoil.sili.net/texture.html

    You’re right, ‘Bella. The lady had only one view of natural hair beauty and couldn’t see beyond it. That’s like saying tulips are ugly compared to roses because they don’t look the same. I hope this post and the comments boosts the confidence of others with a similar mindset as the unfortunate lady.

    I’ve often seen natural women with hair like mine that’s short, but rarely long (unless it’s locked). I wear my hair with a scarf most days, but I’m low-maintainence. I knew a young woman in college with hair similar to mine that was shoulder length *before* a blow-out. So, don’t let anyone fool you, our hair can do anything! And it’s beautiful no matter how it grows out of your head as long as its healthy and well-maintained.

  20. First, I love your website and I make it a point to read it everyday. I too used to be like the sista mentioned in the story. I went natural 2 years ago and my friends were like “what are u going thru?”. What I was going thru was finding the beauty in myself, I did everything to my hair(weeves, perms) but I’ve had the most easiest time being natural. Now like alot of sistas on this site I have curly patches to nappy patches on my head but I love every strand! When I went natural I felt like this was a part of the self love that I was giving back to myself. Love yourself and you won’t worry about if your hair falls in ringlet or not, love yourself for you!! Peace and Blessings, Nikki.

  21. Mrs.Mckinzie says:

    Two years before going ntural i was bleaching, perming,and cooking my hair on a regular basis.Don’t get me wrong i looked good,but my scalp was in bad shape.One day i permed my hair to soon,and when i went to smooth the perm in my hair was comming out.I went to the barber shop to get the rest of my hair cut of ,because i had an unintentional gumby and i needed help.The man who cut my hair off told me that i should grow it out naturally,but i just laughed and thought about how crazy i would look with natural hair.At the time my life was a mess,and i did’nt have the confidence,or self esteem that i have now so i did’nt hear him then,but i remember the good advice he gave me now.I continued to do the same to my hair,and as a result i had a mole in my head that could have been cancer.After this scare i said enough is enough ,and i went natural,and have not turned back since.I love my hair just the way it is ,and will not change it’s texture for nothing in this world ,and it is how god made it.I think going natural started on the inside for me.You know when the time has come to make the big chop and go for it.

  22. Hey Bella!!

    You should have simply directed her hair woes to http://www.longhaircareforum.com or http://www.napturality.com :)

    Trust me…she would have learnt to see and believe!!

    Love you site bella…keep it coming!

  23. Great post, Bella! I’m a volunteer at my daughters’ school and some of the 6th, 7th and 8th graders (girls and boys) just don’t seem to understand why my hair has been natural all my life or why I refuse to “relax” my daughters’ hair. I am going to direct them to your post and hopefully they might understand alittle more. It really amazes them that my hair is my hair meaning I don’t have a receipt for it. it is very difficult for some of women and girls to ever think about having natural hair. I love myself and my daughters too much to give in to the creamy crack.

  24. HeavenLeiBlu says:

    *sigh* Bella, you and Erin are SO much better than me. I used to have the same exchange with countless women when my hair was loose, and like you, I had to just stop talking because I felt as if I was coming off “preachy” and maybe even overzealous. I just did not know what to say to convince these ladies to come “home”. I actually STILL go through this, now that my hair is locked. I have a coworker who is natural (and I believe she has been so all her life, so her issue disturbs me more than someone who hasn’t, for some reason), and almost everyday goes on about how she’d like to lock her hair and have it look like mine and another locked coworkers’ locks, while frowning down on how other people’s locks look. I don’t even have to get into what that “look” is like, do I? *rolls eyes* ;-)

    For my part, I’m not crazy about my hair being “just so”. She’s hesitant about the “baby stage” where locks just do whatever the hell they want. I guess she forgets that not long after I started this job, my hair was in that stage, and instead of working against it, I just let it ” do what it do”. I don’t know what to say to her either, anymore. I feel like I’m just beating my head against a brick wall.

    It really bothers me that some people frown down on natural hair period, and some others are fine with it, as long as it fits into a certain aesthetic, or isn’t offensive to white people, of all things. ( The funny thing about THAT is, in all my stages of nappiness over the years, I have taken more flack from my own people, than anyone else, but this is obviously a topic for another day, LOL) anyway, I’ve rambled so long that now I have to get outta here so that I can get to work in time. I think I’ll refer people to this post next time I feel like beating my head on my special spot on the brick wall. Great work!

  25. I can completely identify with the woman you referenced. I’ve been natural for close to 3 years now, and I’m still grappling with what do with my hair sometimes. I’m even breaking down and going to seek professional help (aka an actual hairstylist!) because figuring out what to do with my hair can be so frustrating. A large part of that has to do with laziness, but the truth is I STILL don’t understand what my hair wants and needs. I have 4a/b hair and it does different things on different locations on my head: the top is a tight wave, the sides and back are a tight coil, and this one tiny part on the nape of my neck is almost stick straight! Go figure. Anyhow, going natural has been a big learning process and not many people are ready for it. I had to be comfortable with myself first before I could be comfortable with my hair and going “counter-culture”. The best we can do is to continue to share with each other the wisdom and advice we’ve acquired. I don’t have any right now, but I’m so grateful for this site and for those who post comments. You guys help more than you know…

  26. i found myself nodding and amen-ing all throughout ur retelling of the conversation with the young lady. sooo many times i’ve found myself in the same conversation with women who want to go natural, but are so encumbered by years of sometimes subtle but mostly overt mental conditioning on what beautiful hair is. like shani alluded to, sometimes women seem to get upset when i tell them that there’s no magic to the coil in my hair…it’s just the result of a 10-year-plus ‘relationship’ where i’ve figured out what works best for her (yeah, i call my hair her). others appear to be genuinely shocked that i can exist as a normal member of society with my naps intact. in one such conversation, i was asked rather pointedly if i had a boyfriend…i tried not to read too much into the implied sentiment (giggle).

    it saddens me that there is still so much self-imposed shame that exists for women of color when it comes to their natural beauty. NO OTHER PEOPLE ON EARTH have our hair, but many see it as something to hide instead of celebrate. but i’m also encouraged that i see more and more sistas making the transition…i take every chance i get to try and offer support and tips, and i’ll definitely be recommending ur site!

    viva the kinky crusaders! lol!

    ksolo
    http://www.bonvivantonline.com

  27. Hey Bella,
    I just want to thank you for the great articles, I swear you must be reading my mind cuz these articles come right on time. I just reached my 6 month BC fro-nniversary (thank you, thank you ;P ) and I am still going through that “what shall I do” phase with my fro.
    As far as the woman you met, I can definetely relate, as I’m still new to this and sometimes I get so frustrated because my hair is thick and has probably every possible texture arranged in random order across my head…
    I think it’s a matter of patience (for those still growing it out) and acceptance (for those who know what their real texture is). I can’t lie though, I have moments where I hope and pray that my real curls will be something along the lines of the more “acceptable” natural ala Pantene Pro-v (relaxed and natural my a$$, that’s a weave!!!!) but I come to my senses pretty quickly.
    There’s a lot of issues that create those negative thoughts, probably most along the line of internalized racism/ colorism, (I’m constantly reminded by my mother that the softer, wavier sections of my hair are from her father’s side of the family, you know, the Spaniard/Indian side *rolls eyes* and even my grandma, who has just recently gone natural is always complaining “I don’t know why my hair is so hard, I used to have the ‘best’ hair in my family!!”. Needless to say, there are issues…lol.) but what i do know is that the solution is self love.
    About 6 months ago I did the BC and it was a rollercoaster of emotions; one minute I was stroking the newly buzzed-cut back of my head in amazement, the next I was crying on my bed because I felt so ugly and unfeminine. It’s been a wild journey, but what’s made it so much better is that every morning I’d get up look in the mirror, stroke my hair and say “I love you” and I mean FEEL it. Not to get too New Agey but I really try to LOVE my hair, CARE for my hair and when it gets long enough to kiss it I will. When you send that kind of feeling/vibe to it everyday it makes you stronger, and less vulnerable to those “let me just straighten it” thoughts that creep into my mind every once in a while. I’m still new to this so those thoughts come in quite frequently, especially when my hair is feeling kinda “quirky”.lol. What keeps me from going back ( and this is my third time going natural, hopefully 3x a charm!) is that feeling of love for my hair, like a small child, would I put a harsh chemical on my baby, burn them and make them feel ashamed of their natural beauty…nope!
    I think there’s a right time for everything and I hope that all the natural sistahs out there (and those considering going natural) make the right choice for themselves, it takes a lot to feel good about yourself when mostly everything around you says you’re not. Peace n Luv!!

    P.S.- Thanks so much for all the natural hair resources, they have been a lifesaver in my journey, I’ll be checking out Erin’s book too..:)

  28. be happy says:

    i found that looking at pictures of women with beautiful natural hair made it easier for me to transition from a perm to natural. you really do get conditioned by the media, family, etc on what beautiful is. you have to take control and find your own definition of beauty. be blessed sistas!

  29. LTEEFAW says:

    Bella, I have this conversation with women all the time. “How do you get your hair to do that?” Do what!!! It grows out of my scalp like this. I recently got together with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a few years. She thought I was wearing a weave.

    When women tell me “but, I don’t have hair like yours” My respond is “how would you know. When was the last time you saw a head full of your natural hair?” Then I go on to explain to them they need to throw out everything they thought they knew about their hair. Meaning you don’t have to “grease” your scalp every night and yes you can wash your hair more then once every two weeks. Most of them have no clue what “no-poo” is.

    I also explain to them that there are many products out there designed for natural hair. Afro-Sheen is no longer our only choice.

  30. Thanks a million for this post. When I started going natural I had a million ideas of what I wanted my hair to look like but alas, that was not meant to be. I realized that all I knew was how to control my hair. It’s one of the great bonuses of having black hair – with the right yaki and chemicals, you can make it do whatever you want. I just didn’t know how to appreciate my natural hair for what it was. I’ve had locs for 2 years now and been natural for 4. I know that my hair will never be a full afro, nor will I ever have the neatest cornrows on the scene, but I’ve discovered new styles and get more compliments now than I’ve ever had. You can’t have it all with natural hair, you can’t have a bone-straight ‘do one day and a luxurious afro the next. THAT’S OKAY. My hair is healthy, my scalp is healthy, and that makes me happy. It’s the happiness that makes it beautiful, not the style.

  31. I think that black women are afraid of change. I wanted to go natural back in 1998 but didn’t because I kept remembering crying as a little girl when my mom combed my hair. I finally took the plunge in the summer of 2002 and I will never go back to relaxers. I do however get a press and curl once a year to change up my style but people black/white, men/women always want to touch and feel it. Once you get over the fear of changing the hair that you’ve known since you were 11 years old…..you just let go and let the world see the crown that the good lord blessed you with.

  32. This post really hit a nerve. I agree, you have to be mentally ready to go natural because if not, you’ll just fall back to the perm.

    I’ve also learned that working with your texture as opposed to against it is your best bet. Your hair may not grow out spiraly and that’s okay. Work with what you have.

  33. tycajam says:

    This was a timely and perfect post! My journey thus far has been all about reaffirming as right now I am the only one absolutely in love with these own-way naps. It’s amazing to me how my hair has changed since the barber first cut it, to now that its become a wild twa. Even the products I used have changed over the short time as my hair changes its mind. I don’t know what it is, but I’m so at peace with my hair. I definitely want to check out Ms Erin’s ebooks and must get my hands on those recipe ingredients.

    Thanks again Ms. Afrobella!!

  34. LBellatrix says:

    Been saying this for years: Going natural is easy. STAYING natural — particularly if you don’t have what most black folks consider “good” hair — is hard. You have to unlearn everything you know about not just hair care, but hair aesthetics as well.

    Thankfully there are a LOT more resources available now than there were when I did my first BC. In addition to the sites mentioned above, there’s this site, which is created specifically for those sisters who have the very kind of hair black folks still turn their noses up at:

    http://www.cnappymenow.com

    When I went natural I knew that I wasn’t going to have so-called “good” hair BUT I DID IT ANYWAY because I was tired of being a slave to the chemicals. I could have hidden behind extensions or weaves, or pressed it to death, but guess what? I fell in love with every coily/kinky strand. 12 years later I’m STILL in love and can’t imagine ever going back to the relaxer.

    I have heard people say that some naturals seem to have a regalness about them. What they’re seeing is the freedom that comes from accepting your hair AS IT IS. It’s a wonderful feeling that I wish more black women would experience for themselves.

  35. What moderately priced shampoos, deep conditioners, and leave in conditioners do you ladies suggest for people with naturally culy hair? Has anyone used the mixed chicks line (mixedchicks.net)? I like the “after” pictures but I want to know if the outcome is really like that before I spend my money.

  36. HeavenLeiBlu says:

    @Cindy, I’d advise you to visit Afrobella’s posts on Miss Jessie’s products, starting here http://afrobella.com/2006/08/31/i-can%e2%80%99t-go-for-that/. In the comment section, there’s been a two year old discussion about their products and many others that you might fond helpful.

  37. @ Cindy. I just went natural (BCed) just over a month ago, so I’m still discovering my hair texture, what products it likes, etc. However some of the products that I really like are Suave Naturals shampoos (especially tropical coconut) for conditioner washes, ORS replenishing pack for deep conditioner and Phyto 9 or any Qhemet biologics creamy product (burdock root cream, olive cream detangler, etc) for a leave in conditioner. I bump up the ORS with a drizzle of glycerin and castor oil. I highly recommend Qhemet products, I use them for everything from a leave-in to twists. I them seal my ends with a little coconut oil for shine.

    In the end, it’s about finding what works for you. My hair loves creamy products. Also, the ladies at nappturality.com have helped me a lot. Try browsing fotkis, to find someone with hair that’s similar to yours. That has helped me to find products and has also provided inspiration for my journey. Embracing my natural hair has lead me to loving all of me, regardless of my size or the texture of my hair.

  38. Sabrina97 says:

    This is such an interesting topic… When I’m at work, I find myself explaining more to my fairer skinned co-workers how my hair works. My hair is about shoulder length stretched, but I rarely wear it that way. Honestly, I cut my relaxer out to see what my natural hair looked like. I thought I has hair like my dad, and it turns out that I do! I have found it easier to simply tell people that it was hard, but freeing to go through this experience. I only get discouraged with people that have made up their mind about what looks good on them without ever trying. For me, it’s kind of like deciding that you don’t like a certain food because of what you think it will taste like. Unless you taste it, you’ll never know! Besides, if you don’t like your natural hair, you can always go back to the scalp destroying, hair frying creamy crack!

  39. This is a great topic. When I am approached by women who are transitioning or want to go natural they always say this “but you have the right shaped head for that style… my head would not look right with no hair” WTH. I feel that statement among others is a cop-out for fear of the unknown. The biggest fear is what other will think of them and not how much more healthier their hair will be, more free time so you don’t have to run to the beauty shop and spend load of money to get your hair done (minus the new product junkie obession) and other benefits.

    When I cut my hair, grew it out and cut it again my mom would always say, she was tired of the perm but did not know what to do with it. And her head would not look good with that short hair cut. Well guess who is natural now. LOL

    We as women are our biggest critics and we have to get over that. Do what you want with your hair but Love You.

  40. HeavenLeiBlu says:

    @Diana: LOL@ “but you have the right shaped head for that style… my head would not look right with no hair.” Ain’t it funny (or NOT) how in the end, that’s how lots of women end up, continuing w/relaxers? Either like that, or with “see through” hair, like my mom? I mean, lots of women relax faithfully, with no problems, but I think most women who ponder “going” natural if only as a fleeting fancy do so out of dissatisfaction with the condition of their relaxed or otherwise overprocessed hair, but let the short/no hair thing stand in their way. Damn shame.

  41. Betty Chambers says:

    Well anyone who feels uncomfortable with their hair has my sympathy. Sometimes we make ourselves uncomfortable about our hair. Aside from a couple of cranks who dislike coily, textured hair, most people do not pay our hair any mind.

    I write down what works and what doesn’t. I have two routines, one for winter and one for summer. I keep this information printed out, and allow myself to change to routines a bit for flexibility.

    I have 4a-z hair, and sometimes just starting out with Aloe Vera, then Castor Oil, etc. and changing the mixture to see what works is part of my routines.

    Spending a lot of money on expensive products isn’t necessary.

    My hair is always dry so I start with shampoos that hydrate, but I mostly wash with conditioners about every week or so.

  42. I went natural back in December, because my hair just would not grow as long as I had a perm or straightened it. I am so happy that I made that decision. My 4a/b hair is gorgeous, healthy, shiny and curly! I experimented with different products until I found something that worked for me. Now my hair looks like I have Indian in my family. LOL!!

    Our hair is not the problem, lack of knowledge about proper hair care is the problem.

  43. augusta says:

    LOL @ sabrina97, “if you don’t like your natural hair, you can always go back to the scalp destroying, hair frying creamy crack!” ROTFL. so true. i’ve been relaxer free for two and a half years now and i don’t miss that burning sensation at all.

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  45. @ Cindy. I haven’t had much luck with the “moderately” priced products. For some reason all the products out there that are good for your body are bad on your wallet. LOL!! Go to MotownGirl’s webpage she has a lot of recipes for homemade hair care products.

    Here are some of the products that I love:

    Pre-Poo: Avocado Butter Pre-Shampoo Hair Treatment

    Shampoo: Deva Curl No-Poo, Cream of Nature

    Conditioner: Miss Jessie’s, Ganier Frutics

    Styling Products: All of Miss Jessie’s products (Try buying them on Ebay!!!), Organic ROOT Stimulator Lock and Twist Gel (great for twist strand) if you go on their website you can receive free samples

  46. I started using this FABULOUS new line of products yesterday called Oyin, http://www.oyinhandmade.com . They make everything by hand and you can use the products on both your hair and body. My 4a/b hair is so soft, curly and shiny, I can’t stop touching it and looking at myself in the mirror. Because they make everything by hand it takes a while to get the products, but it was well worth the wait! I use to use Miss Jessie’s, but I didn’t like that I had to use so much and my hair was always thick and greasy. With Oyin, a little goes a long way, and my hair is soft, not thick and greasy. I ordered the Oyin Honey stock up pack and I am so glad I did. This stuff is great!

  47. This is slightly off the texture topic, so bear with me. I did the big chop a year and half ago. My hair is about to my shoulders and runs the gamut from spirals, to z’s, coarse, soft, absolutely stick straight, it’s all up there. Some days it’s beyond fierce and some days I want to bag it all. Reading the comments it sounds like I’m in good company. The texture issues however are stating to take a back seat to color issues. I just turned 40 and I’m thinking of growing out the gray. My first grays started to appear at 14 and if I had to guess I’m about 30-40 percent at this stage. I think my hair would be in better condition if it wasn’t colored but then I have to suffer not only the “brillo” comments but the “old lady” ones as well. So what is everyone’s take on not only transitioning texture wise but color wise? For the most part I adopt a sticks and stones attitude and negativity generally strengthens my resolve to keep on my path. I know more and look better than at any time in my life. I love being 40. I love having my natural hair texture. I want to love my natural color. Any insights?

  48. NotUrAvg says:

    I cannot tell you how many women, including my family members and best friends, have told me “More power to you girl, but I couldn’t do it.” I am truly 4a (some random 3/c)and when I was relaxed it was bouncy and “flowy” so it gave the illusion of “good hair”. When I went natural and people saw that it wasn’t “blackrican” but instead coily and puffy, they insisted I’d be happier with a texturizer or a perm. I, on the other hand, was amazed at my hair, and that feeling hasn’t worn off 2 years later. I cannot wait until I am five years into this thing— there will be NO stopping me. I am so inspired when I see women like yourself, Erin (reppin’ for Nap– I love Adaru), Rhonda Ray (my hair resembles hers…)and all the beautiful ladies who frequent this blog (nappturality, longhair and my favorite, BlackHairMedia.com) really and truly loving themselves and their God-given beauty. It just makes me proud to be a black woman. Even as I type I am amazed at the thick shiny ropes that are my twists and excited about the soft, poffy mass that will be my stretched fro at the Common concert tonight! And I am even happier that one of the former “I could never do that’s” in my life, my big sister, will be rockin’ her gorgeous shiny, loopy curls and waves right next to me.

  49. Deejeanine says:

    Wow! This is great! I’m new to the whole scene, just did my bc Jan 4 ’08, and I’m loving it. I tried transitioning for about 4 mons but got to frustrated and just decided to do it. It was very hard at first; I looked in the mirror and almost cried because I looked like my brother (he looks good-i just didn’t want to look like a boy) and I had like a 1/2 to 1 inch of hair on my whole head. I too have the very tight and kinky hair with no definition but I absolutly love the texture and I will admit I had to grow to love it. I’m only at about 3 to 4 inches now and trying to figure what my styling options are. Afrobella.com and all the posts and websites has definitly played a big part with my learning. I just want to say thank you to all my sistas who have and are paving the way. I do get funny looks at work, and this one sista who always has special names for me, especially now because I can’t really style it at this length or if I try little twists all over it takes me about 5 hours now. Is that normal? Anyway, I’m just afro-ing it right now til it grows some more.

    Loving every post, story, and journey I read. Keep it up BELLAS!!!!!

  50. dettygirl says:

    I live in Indy and Adaru salon is a great environment for us naturals up here. Also, I think most women understand that there is serious work needed for transitioning. No you don’t HAFTA do a BC, but that really is what seems to work best for most. To those of you who are going natural, I have a friendly reminder. Depending on how long your hair was permed or even colored, even after you BC, your hair will still grow in kind of straight/relaxed/wavy/textured/??. I’ve been natural for almost 5 years, and the whole first year after my BC, I was SO frustrated with my hair texture. Some parts were straight, some were really kinky! Please be patient and let your hair & scalp grow out all those years of chemicals. There’s no magic formula! Just b/c your hair isn’t permed anymore or the perm was cut out doesn’t mean you’re back to its natural state yet. I think I finally got a consistent hair texture about 1 – 1 1/2 yr after my own BC. But I love my hair though!!! :)

  51. Thank you SO much afrobella for this post and introducing us to this amazing resource!

    Last fall I had braids put in for convenience and had them in for nearly 4 months. I took super good care of them, washing and conditioning regularly, and by the time I was about to have them out, I was amazed at how soft, springy, THICK, and inviting my 2-3inches of new growth was on my head!

    I’ve had relaxers for well over 10 years and simply fell into the rut and generally accepted “long straight hair = most attractive/desireable” belief as a habit. I started to accept that my hair was thin, refused to grow, and broke off easily – until the days just before I took my braids out.

    So that day convinced me to go natural. Unfortunately the girl who did my braids left town unexpectedly so I couldn’t complete the transition, so my plan is to start all over again next month. I figure I’ll wear braids through the rest of 2008, and cut off any remaining natural hair the last week of December. It will be expensive and trying, but I truly truly can’t wait!

    And I will definitely be purchasing the Natural Hair Book next week! Thanks a million for all of your encouragement, hard work, and support!

  52. Bebroma says:

    @Deajeanine — My hair is like yours, and right now it is about 3-4 inches long, just like yours. AND it took me HOURS at first to get it twisted or whatever. I thought I was on the only one!! Plus, when I untwisted it at this length, it just didn’t act right! What has worked better for me and is MUCH faster is that instead of twisting it, after I olive oil, no poo wash, and comb in leave-in conditioner (Kinky-Curly’s Knot Today) I just take 1-inch sections, smooth a little setting lotion through it (I like Let’s Jam) and roll it on small to medium metallic (hard plastic) rollers. I let it dry, unroll it, separate the curls or whatever with my fingers, and then take a pick and work through it, but I do NOT go all the way out, just just about 1/4 inch to the ends. This gives me a cute fro that I can smoosh to the side with clips in front or whatever. At night, I just tie it up and then fluff it in the morning with a pick, again not taking the pick all the way through. I also spray on a non alcoholic glosser to give it some shine, or smooth a little Oyin’s Brown Sugar Pomade on the edges — I love Oyin’s stuff! I get compliments, even from my mother who was really NOT feeling the whole natural thing and kept giving me suggestions (you know how mamas do) on what I could do w/my hair. And it has cut HOURS from my whole routine, which was about to bring me to my knees.

  53. Whew! I love love all the positive comments on this discussion. :D Makes me really happy!

    @ Parker: I’m a ways away (I think) from having a significant amount of gray hair, but I am reminded of my grandmother (bear with me; I know you’re not my grandmother’s age but the story still applies). She relaxed her hair for YEARS until around age 60-something it thinned out dramatically. She “needed” a wig, which she hated. My aunt (her daughter) finally convinced her to give up the Dark & Lovely and rock it natural. Well, after going natural she looked years younger (mistaken for her eldest daughter’s sister) and had a head FULL of hair when she died.

    How does this relate to your question? Even gray natural hair can look youthful because it’s healthy hair.

  54. Elisheva says:

    First of all, I love this site and totally related to this experience!

    I decided to go natural, I knew that I could not just do the big chop, so I wore braids and sew in weave for a year. I made sure that I kept my scalp clean and moisturized. Oct 2007 I went natural and got a light brown color. I haven’t looked back. By the time I got the relazer cut out I was READY to let it go.

    I did research while I was growing it out, bought products, the right comb for me and prepared for the excitement. Now, I usually wear a twist out or a big afro. I 2 strand twist it, using miss jessies curly pudding, I let it air dry and I take it apart. I LOVE it! It’s sexy! People always ask “how did you do that”, “oh your hair is beautiful, but mine won’t look like that”. I tell them, I wore a perm for 21 years (since I was 12)and I had no idea what my hair would be like. But I decided to love my hair, because I’m loving what it authentically ME!

    It’s coarse and a bit unruly at times, but I’ve learned how to work it with it by being patient. It’s definitely a process, but a good one.

  55. There is a lady at work who tells me all the time – “if my hair would look like yours, I’d go natural in a minute.” My response is always the same: “your hair will look like your hair, and you’d be beautiful.”

    I never wore my hair “out.” I transitioned with braids and went straight to locs. I had to realize that my locs will never look like “his locs”, or “her locs.” They’re mine and will look exactly the way they are intended to.

    Hair envy seems inevitable, we often want what someone else has, and it just doesn’t work that way. I think the most important part of being natural is embracing your natural hair no matter what texture springs from your scalp. Often much easier said than done.

    @ Parker – I am 35. I’ve had gray hair since I was about 19. It was easier to hide when I was relaxed – I’d just switch up my parts. I have had several people tell me how cute my “granddaughter” is since I’ve been natural. At first it bothered me, but I just had to realize that whether folks thought I was 15 or 75 really didn’t matter or affect my life. I look good to me and mine, and that’s what counts. Good luck!

  56. Bella,
    I get asked the question/statement “who did your texturizer”, “mine won’t do that” on a daily basis. Usually by a lady (or guy) who are still in the creamy crack mode. (My hair is naturally nappy. And it’s happy. I go to Supercuts, once every 6-8 weeks. Wash/condition it daily. While wet, add Ecostyle Gel. Do not comb. Combs separate curls. Finger place it into desired style. That’s it.)

    What’s interesting to me, is how they refuse to beleive what their hair could look like, if they actually decided to let go of the perm. And that’s what I tell folks now, “you don’t know what your hair looks like underneath that perm.” It’s like a lightbulb goes off, like taking off a hat or a wig and really taking a look at what you are really working with.

    It amazes me every single time I get the questions, that some people are really in disbelief as to what their real hair could actually look like. Instead of me trying to convince them, I tell everyone who asks, if your hair curls when you wash it, and you have a perm, that’s just your true waves/kinks/curls showing through. You just have to find a style, and products that will compliment your natural curls. I did, and I never went back.

  57. @Parker, I used to keep my natural hair dyed about 6 monthes out of the year, but decided to slow it down a bit when my gray start coming in. I still love the dying, but my texture is also starting to change.

    This is what has helped me:
    I stopped the daily use of products (shampoo, conditioner, anything) that contains sodium laureth sulfate. As I wash my hair at least five days a week, I found my hair becoming more and more stiff, even after intensive conditioning. And all I was using all the years I’ve short is Pantene Shampoos and Conditioners. My stylist at Supercuts told me to switch to soy-based shampoos, or to find ones without the two ingredients listed above. Soy-based shampoos are great, but IMO are too expensive for everyday use. I found the Shikai to be inexpensive, and relatively fragrance-free. Other good choices can be found at http://www.smallflower.com.

    My alternative recommendations comes from my granny, Clairol Shimmer Lights Products and the Phyto line of products. They have some of the ingredients that I am trying to stay away from so I can’t say I’ve tried them….but she still looks good at 83 with a full head white. The Phytargent Whitening Shampoo For Gray and White helps tone the brassiness, control and soften the texture of gray hair.

  58. Oh man, this post is SO on time although I have a bit of a different experience. I’ve been natural pretty much my whole life, except for a brief period in junior high when I went over to my Grandma’s house to perm my hair because I was tired of snot-nosed kids making fun of my cornrows and afro puffs. (I went to Catholic school.) I did the Big Chop when I was 15 and never looked back AND I got more compliments on my hair.

    Anyway, I started locking my hair pretty much right after I did that and after 5 years, my locs cascaded down to my shoulder blades. Everyone complimented my hair, told me I looked great, asked me how long I grew my hair out…then I cut them last year. One minute I had hair, next minute I didn’t. No big deal right? I’d chopped my hair off before. But this was different. I had no idea what to do with my ‘fro, because my mom was blessed with the braiding skills, definitely not me. And even picking up Essence was unhelpful because most of the hair tips are for sisters rocking the straight hair or the weaves. And every 3rd ad is for some relaxer. And we all know most beauty magazines have decided Black women don’t buy clothes or wear makeup or want to do anything to their hair so that was a wash.

    I started panicking. I looked in the mirror for a very long time and wondered, WTF did I just do?? The thoughts stayed with me for a long time. I felt — dare I say it?– ugly. Unfeminine.

    But recently, something finally just clicked. I realized having long locs or little curly ringlets or straight hair or whatever doesn’t automatically make you beautiful (or ugly or more “conscious”, etc.), and by extension, automatically being light-skinned or dark-skinned or medium brown doesn’t accomplish that either. And to take it further, neither does being a particular size or having a particular job or being part of a couple or any of that. It’s how you feel about yourself and realizing that it’s okay to be full of yourself, not in a negative way but in a way that lets you embrace you, flaws and all.

    And you just can’t force someone to feel that way about themselves. People just have to make that individual journey for themselves. I actually didn’t get to that point of just accepting myself and owning it, flaws and all until, um, this week. And I’m 22. I’m stubborn and couldn’t see for myself what other people have told me for years until literally this week. Hopefully that AHA! momemnt will happen to the lady who came up to you, Bella, and the ladies my fellow posters have encountered. Because I wasted a lot of time and emotional energy not embracing myself and it’s draining. And I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

  59. This is a great post, thank you Ms. Bella. Going natural IS hard; you’re going against everything that popular culture says is attractive. But the longer I’m natural the longer I can see that as an illusion — Black beauty in all it’s forms STILL is not represented as beautiful, so we’re still swimming against the tide. The more of us who show our natural beauty, though, the more that will change. And I think for every woman who looks at your natural hair and thinks “I couldn’t do that,” there’s another one who’s finally inspired to try it herself. Wearing your natural hair is quietly revolutionary. :)

    Also, product suggestion: I have short natural hair, mostly 4a texture, and my favorite product so far is Blended Beauty’s Happy Nappy Styles. It moisturizes really well and defines curls. I use it every day. Their website is . (Note that most of their products are made for “mixed” hair. Don’t be put off. The Happy Nappy styles is a thick, creamy leave-in conditioner/styling agent for afro-type hair.)

    And, as others have mentioned, don’t underestimate the power of great earrings and eye makeup in rocking a fierce ‘fro or other natural do.

  60. Wow, i just loved reading all these comments and stories. The encouragement offered on this page makes up for all the silly comments I hear on an occasional basis… and yes, like someone else mentioned, I normally hear it from black women. People would assume it would be the other folk. Not so!

    When a black woman says to me, “I wish I could do that” or “my head is shaped funny” (which is so completely insane, as if they’ll look like the SNL coneheads), my response is always encouraging. Lately I’m prone to say nothing beyond “thanks, sis”, because I can now discern between the ones who are really excited about doing it from the ones who are lukewarm… or downright chilly. In fact, I’m beginning to think many of these women are just trying to say something nice and they really could care less about being natural, much like someone complimenting your shoes or a cute top — but they know they either never would (or never could) rock it.

  61. I figure so many of us are finding this post to be right on time because we are all living in tha same society where we hear from day one that almost nothing about our natural selves – hair, skin color, culture, etc. -is quite right.

    I played around with my relaxed hair for years trying to figure out what my hair would look like natural. This was despite looking like my mom, who looks great in her natural. Despite going to a Black college where you’d think it would be more run of the mill. Despite burning out some of my hairline in a “creamy crack” accident. I don’t begrudge those wearing relxaers and I think it’s my right to be able to creatively express myself thru hair – no matter what texture strikes my fancy.

    But here’s what I’m struggling with now. I’m facing the realization that my nautral short hair is an impediment to my career goals. Can we talk about that ladies??? Do you resign yourself to “relaxing” for financial purposes. Or are you strong/determined/rich :-)enuf to keep looking for an environment that is accepting?

  62. Bebroma says:

    SJO — there was a big Ask Afrobella about the issue of natural hair in the work place. It was called “The Professional Prejudice” and it’s from 08/24/07. It got a bit off topic sometimes but maybe there are some things there you might find informative.

  63. HeavenLeiBlu says:

    @ SJO: I remember interviewing for jobs over the years with a bald head, a huge ‘fro, and two strand twists. Each time, I got the job. when it comes to the Black hair/job issue, I feel the same way as I do about the “Black name”/ job issue. All of my cousins and I (as well as my daughter) either have Arabic or otherwise decidedly non-Anglo first names.

    My attitude is, my skills speak for me. I can easily be weeded out just by my name, before I even get to the process of interviewing. If an organization doesn’t want me there because of race, or because of my hair, then I DON’T WANT TO BE THERE! Even if a company does let you slip through the cracks, their predjudice would be pretty evident after a (short) while, and you’d probably have a pretty uncomfortabe tenure there. It’s better to show an organization the real you up front, rather than having them snipe you once you drop the cloak.

    Have I just been lucky? Perhaps. There might also be the possibility that the organizations that I’ve worked for are afraid of being obvious or caught out there for being discriminatory in those ways. Either way, I’m glad that I haven’t had to compromise what I feel are things that are important to me and how I identify myself.

    But of course, I’m just one young woman, so what do I know? LOL. I’m off to read the post Bebroma suggested up there. :-)

  64. Roxy Rocket says:

    My Truth. When I started i thought my hair would look like yours, jill scott, Badu’s afro wig or Tanika Ray. Being a 4b or z this is an impossibility (the whole wash and go ease) and i am a little sad. My Truth (may not be real truth but in my mind). Don Imus and Glamour Mag weren’t talking about your hair type or the ladies i mention before they were talking about hair like mine. I really feel that c-4a is feminine.

  65. Bebroma says:

    Roxy Rocket, have you ever visited nappturality.com? I understand your feelings, really. I try hard to retrain my thinking and perceptions, but I have my days! :-) Like I said earlier, if I washed my hair and ran out the door, I would never be able to get a comb through it again. Nappturality has lots of pictures of people with the kind of hair I have, and you have, lots of chat/advice, and it is limited to the supertight coiled/kinky/nappy end of the whole hair spectrum. I was tired of my TWA, but as it got longer it became more challenging for me to keep it up in a way I liked. I found it very helpful in figuring out what do with my hair, and also helpful in seeing my hair as feminine/pretty, even if it didn’t flop down in a spiral anywhere. Check it out, you might find a little soul balm.

  66. @SJO – In response to your question regarding going natural because of financial reason or are we strong enough to keep looking for an environment that is accepting. My background is software engineering and it is a white male dominated profession. When I got my first job, fresh out of college I had a perm. A year and a half later I chopped all that hair off because my hair went from thick to thicker after I had my first daughter and I refused to pay 65 every two weeks for a perm. The reception from the white females on my job were great. The male engineers cracked jokes for about a week.

    I’ve had several other jobs after that and what stood out to them was my skills not my hair. You know which folks like your hair and who does not.
    If I felt that during an interview all they were concerned about was my hair, I knew I didn’t need to be there.

    I say all that to say, your skills will speak for themselves whether you are permed , natural, weaved or otherwise.

  67. lanatural says:

    I LOVE YOU LADIES!!!!

    I feel like I have been in Oz all my life and just got back to Kansas!

    You are all inspiring and great and fabulous and I thank and honor every one of and your journey.

    I loved, loved, loved my hair when I went natural the first time. Had a relapse of the creamy crack. The second time I let it grow out longer, spent a summer going swimming and unafraid of humidity and I LOVED IT!

    Moved to LA. Ladies, I practically had a mental breakdown. The women in my family, god bless them, but they made me feel like my acting career was doomed because of my hair. I won’t bore you all with the details, but my journey had been rocky indeed. After a trip down the “thio” lane, (thio is to creamy crack as methodone is to heroine), I have been natural. Weaved at times, admittedly, but natural. I am still on my journey, ladies.

    As to the lady who asked about mixed chicks. The deep conditioning treatment is the bomb. The daily styling aid stuff, well, you really have to have a silky texture to achieve the looks on the pics. It is for people with silky curly locks.

    I wanted to add WEN to the list of super products! It is a shampoo/conditioning system that is just delightful. Get the Fig one, you will love your hair. WENHairCare.com, and http://www.chazdean.com are two sites to help you find the info.

    Lastly, my friend has hair that she decribes as being like wires. Lucky her. No matter where she puts her hair it stays put, and it is impervious to humidity! She is the She-Ra of hair! What she does is twist her hair every night, in double strand twists, maybe about 15 total, using JAM gel (I know, but it works for her). She doesn’t comb it, she just gently twists it and massages the gel into the twists using her fingers. Her hair is THE BOMB and she gets stopped ALL THE TIME. Her hair is not curly coily at all, but she rocks it!

    Hope that helps!

  68. I’m going natural for the first time in decades, and it’s not easy. But it’s worth it not to have to go through touch ups, scalp burning, losing your edges, and being a slave to some hairdresser.

    I’m dreading now, and my dreads are growing in nicely. Dreads are not as easy as people think either, but once again they’re worth all the work that goes into them!
    There are days when it’s so hard, and I don’t even feel like it, but I stick to my resolve to keep it real. I wash, I twist, and resist the urge to steam them out and go get it straightened. Now that they’re getting long, I’m so curious to see how my hair would look straightened one more time!!!

    But I Wont. Give. In!

  69. I’ve never had a perm, and I’m in my fifth decade of life. After wearing an afro for much of the 70s, I cut it down to a teeny ween afro in the 80s and wore it that way until just a couple of years ago. I decided it was time for a change and decided to stop chopping and let it grow.

    You wouldn’t think it, but it’s taken some adjusting to having long natural hair (just past my shoulders). For the first time in my adult life I wake up to having to style my hair. That’s a BIG change for someone who’s worn a tiny fro most of her adult life. It’s a fascinating journey, absolutely fascinating.

    There are days when I love the way my hair looks, and there are days when I hate that I can’t figure out what to do with my hair. Some days I feel like a 12 year old girl experimenting with different hairstyles. And then there are other days after twisiting my hair when I stand in the mirror and stare at all the unruly silver natural hair spiralling out in all directions and say to myself, “You go girl.”

  70. Afrobella,

    Thanks for sharing about Erin’s book. You always showcase the best!!!

    Blessings,

    Maryee

  71. @SJO – I had an interview for “my dream job” as a Senior Financial Analyst 8 months ago. My natural puff decided to misbehave on the day of the interview, and because I was going to the interview immediately after work, there was no time for fixing it. It would just have to be as neat as I could make it. I popped on a slightly wider headband and off I went.

    Two hours later I had the job and a $12K pay raise. With a jacked-up puff!

    Now my hair is huge, and though I do believe that not every natural hairstyle is appropriate for the workplace (EX: a ‘frohawk, big BAA), natural hair is most certainly appropriate everywhere. To say otherwise invites discrimination. How can something I naturally possess somehow be wrong or “political”? I can tell you this – my boss has no time for begrudging my choice of hairstyle. He could care less about my 2-strand twists when I just saved our company $400K over the last 3 months LOL!

    At the end of the day, your skills, potential and personality should be what matters in the interview room. I’m not so naive to think that there are certain places where nappy/kinky hair wouldn’t be welcomed, but places like that probably wouldn’t want a person of color on staff at all, whether relaxed or natural. You wouldn’t want to be in that environment anyway, so they’re really doing you a favor. Chances are, though, if you exude confidence and wear your hair like you KNOW you’re the bomb,others will start believing that, too.

    Best wishes…..

  72. I thought the same exact thing , but you know what? not everyone has that “spiral curly video girl hair look” sometimes you have to work at it . my friends approach me and ask how I get my hair like “that” , and I tell them condition and braid(my secret)it and they have the same reaction, claiming that their hair will never look like that when they go natural….its annoying but you will never know unless you actually do it …it takes work and you will reap the benefits.

  73. Greetings,

    I am so happy to see more resources for natural beauty. The tips are great. I’ve gained great satisfaction helping to support and empower clients to love their God given hair!

    Be Radiantly Beautiful,
    Chanelle
    Indigofera Beauty Expert

  74. The Hurricane says:

    I love your site. I’ve been relaxer free for 13+ years, and stopped blow-out/hot comb straightening at all about 10 years ago. I’m growing out a short natural after 6 years.

    The woman you talked to just isn’t ready. If she was, she would have been taking in your advice, not turning it away. It takes a commitment, and if you aren’t sure, no amount of talk from anyone will help. I think I was lucky; when I finally decided to stop relaxing my hair, my hair dresser at the time had decided to stop doing relaxers, and switch to doing all natural hair care. I didn’t tell a lot of people what I was doing, mainly ’cause I didn’t want to hear any noise from anyone who wanted to talk me out of it. If she really wants to go natural, there are plenty of resources available for her to learn what to do. When I stopped having my hair pressed, I had done a lot of reading about what I could try to do with my hair. “Good Hair: For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Weaves When the Chemicals Became Too Ruff” was a big help. I’ve twisted, then loced, then cut it all off when I decided there was only so much travel time, time away from my kids, and money I wanted to spend to get my hair to look the way I wanted. Now that I’m growing it out again, research is once again my friend (of course, the internet is making it SO much easier this time around). You gave it a try. There’s only so much help you can give folks who don’t really want it.

  75. Great post. To those of you transitioning into natural hair, good luck and stick with the journey. It’ll get hard, but you can do it. For me, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I used Nappturality (www.nappturality.com) as a resource. :)

    From, a natural since 2003 and now a proud dreadhead. :)

  76. Talk about right on time!! Okay so this post came the very day I took my braids out and had to really deal with my natural hair. You see I transitioned a bit, then got braids, then did the BC, then put braids in the same day to reduce Shock Value. I know that for me it’s all about Baby Steps and reducing Shock Value when dealing with my natural hair. I am learning so much about my hair and I am so excited to read these comments because they are so reassuring, even the horror stories. So let me tell you a bit about my experience….

    I decided to go natural because I was really tired of not being able to keep up with a relaxer and seeing my hair grow a certain length then break off. I decided this time that I would just go natural, get my ends clipped, and see what happens. I have dedicated 2008 and 2009 to only natural hair. I am pretty sure that by the end of it all I would have gone too far to go back to crack and in all honesty I love my natural hair. I currently am a middle school English teacher in South Korea so let’s just say Sally’s is not around the corner and since I’m not in the military shipping isn’t a breeze. So my mother being VERY supportive sent me a slew of Carol’s Daughter products, I am in love with the Kizzi Stay Put Pomade. I use it to flat twist my hair at night. And I do it every night. God did not make “Wake up and Go” hair on my head. LOL but I also started Cowashing and I must say that I like it a lot better. I use this site as a reference all the time and it really helps. I do PrePoo with Lisa’s Elixir and I also mix it with Motions CPR Conditioning Treatment, I co-wash with Motions Weightless. I use what I have access to and I must admit that I really love the turn out. I wear a curly fro, I def have 4a/3c hair. I have the same style everyday and I bought a boatload of earrings, mostly hoops so that it can offset my fro.

    Yall I am in love! But my kids hate, like they matter. I am still getting over the whole picture taking thing. I took a pic of my hair and it just didnt look the same on that little digital screen. Still to the Bellas that are thinking about it STICK WITH IT! My hair is not “mixed” and the spirals look like a jacked up phone cord. You know the curly 50′ ones that went from the kitchen to the living room all stretched out and coils going all which a way. That is my curl pattern. But it’s manageable with the right care and PATIENCE.

    Going natural is a whole new mindset and love experience, and you know what …its FREEING. I work out more cause I am not afraid of sweating my ‘do out. I wash it more cause now I know how to take care of it, well learning anyway. It’s a whole new love experience and I recommend it. I am still learning what does and doesn’t work for my hair but it’s a fun ride along the way.

    But I have 2 questions:

    1.) After Korea I will be moving back to the states to LA, Any suggestions as to a hair salon. A girl does still need her ends clipped on the regular, and I need some friends, LOL

    2.) My hair does this weird thing where one strand will tie itself in a knot. Not like Knot up nappy (which by the way I only use my fingers to comb through) but like a tie your shoe knot. And its only one strand knotted to itself. What is that? I would ask my family but we have different hair types. (Like litteraly no one has my hair)

    Thanks Bellas!!! I love this site and all your experiences keep me going! Lucky Anaiya

  77. You’re still my hero!

  78. Yea.myah says:

    I agree with everything said! Beautiful site Bella!

    Ok, I been natural almost 5yrs. My issue is getting into a good, healthy routine. I wash, condition, and twist my hair every three weeks. Thank God for my cousin and my sister-in-laws shop!!! Free haircare, BUT they specialize in weaves and perms, not Natural Hair. I am doing my research, but still have so many questions. Does Bella have a blog piece on JUST hair routine tips from washing to styling to daily maintenance? Trust me, I got the “love thy nappy hair” thing down. I just need some tips for the day to day work involved.

    My sister-in-law hot combs my hair so she can trim my ends, which I have been doing every six months or so. Why do I feel like this ain’t right? How do other natural bellas trim their hair??????????

    Also, can someone please define pre-poo and no poo wash? How often do you wash and condition? Once a week? How about deep conditions? Once a month? I should also mention that I live in the region of the U.S with all four season, but it’s mostly winter in Minne-snow-ta? Any tips for changing the regimen when the weather switches up?

    My last question for this entry: does anyone keep on a silky scarf all night? I must sleep like a litte kid. LoL! Maybe a bonnet would work better.

  79. I put the mesh wrap on first then the silk scarf and I have a satin pillow case which seems to make a difference with the coming off of the scarf versus a cotton pillow case.

  80. Yea.miah:

    A quick and dirty way to answer your questions would be a visit to MotownGirl’s site. http://www.motowngirl.com Also make a few visits to napturality.

    Our hair is so varied that what works for one may not work for another. Aloe gunks my hair, but is the salvation of another. The “poo” methods are whether someone uses shampoo rarely (or at all). Most shampoos dry out many naturals, so many of us “co-wash” or conditioner wash and do a deep cleansing method a few times a month. Again, it’s a trial and error thing.

    Afrobella has an entry on pre-poo that you may find helpful too. I personally LOVE avocado oil. A dab’ll do ya and a nice bottle is about $9. It’s not very heavy, but I like the viscosity better than olive oil.

    As for trimming, if someone uses heat to straighten your hair before cutting, ask them to use a low setting. A blow dryer may be a better alternative. You CAN damage your hair a great deal with heat (comb or dryer). Alternatively you can learn to do it yourself with a pair of hair shears (go to Sallys or even a drugstore). Take a look online for various alternatives.

    hth…

  81. yea.myah says:

    Thanks b.

  82. I applaude women who realize we have every right to wear our natural texture and know that our hair is beautiful.

    However, my hair also ties in knots. The curl at the ends is as tight as the “o’s” in this type or smaller. Each hair hooks around itself and forms knots and sometimes several hairs knot together. My natural hair has not always been his way and this is extremely frustrating. It is long enough to pull back and I don’t want to cut is much shorter.

    I don’t want to go back to straight but I have to do something about this.

    Help!

  83. Curly girl says:

    I love this website. I got a mild relaxer about 4 or 5 years ago.

    I have been back to natural for 2 years. My hair has always grown fast so the transition from relaxed wasn’t bad at all. My natural hair texture is wavy and curly. I love how I can just “wash and go” with my hair especially in the summer now that there are better frizz fighting products out.

    When I had the mild relaxer, I hated it. My hair would always be too straight and lay flat on my scalp with no body at all. The salon would leave the relaxer on my head for only 5 minutes because my hair would get straight fast but the relaxer would still irritate my scalp. I will never get a relaxer again.

    I am back to my old healthy scalp and wavy+curly hair and I don’t regret it. My hair and scalp thank me. LOL.

    I just tried the Kinky Curly products and I like them but I find you only need to use a little of their product to prevent frizz.

    I went to the Urbanella store last year and the woman looked at my hair texture and told me to try the Miss Jessie’s Curly Meringue. I will be trying it next and will post back the results.

  84. I really need to be in the bed, but your website has me spellbound. This is the information that I need and the words as I need to hear them. Keep up the good work. I love it!

  85. CoilyGirl says:

    A week ago I read about the Goldwell Curl Move Putty on this site in a post from last year. Since last week I’ve scoured the web for product reviews. The product is everywhere but no reviews not even on You Tube –which seems a bit suspicious. Anyone tried this? Did your curls or coils dry the same way the looked when wet, without a stiff or sticky finish –as Goldwell describes?

  86. Arturo Chango says:

    Another inspiring blog of yours Caleb. Keep it up.

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  1. [...] Afrobella – Beauty with a conscience and intelligence! I friend of mine introduced me to this blog, one because she’s a Hilarian, and I started reading her because as a natural hair resource. [...]

  2. [...] natural beauty. That was one of those posts that felt like therapy when I wrote it. Own Your Fro, Curly, Coily, Kinky, or Coarse, Thinking About Transitioning, and The Professional Prejudice were all posts that addressed my own [...]

  3. [...] for some sites with insightful posts about natural hairstyles visit Keep It Kinky, Motowngirl, Afrobella or Charcoalink. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Natural Hair.Black hair has always [...]

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