I think I can guess what a few of you made as a new year’s resolution this year – to go natural!

Just within the past few weeks, I’ve gotten several messages from new naturals who are seeking guidance and advice. Please allow me to be your guide and answer some of your questions! Welcome to Team Natural!

Question #1 comes from my friend Scott Hanselman, via Twitter.

Just so you know, Scott was one of the most informative speakers at the last Blogging While Brown, and his presentation How To Make Your Blog Suck Less continues to inspire me! Scott’s question reminded me that I completely forgot to share one of my 2010 accomplishments with you on the blog! Last year I wrote an article on transitioning for Essence Magazine’s special Hot Hair Issue, and I interviewed some of the best hairstylists in the natural hair biz. The issues is no longer on news stands, so I scanned it for you. Click here to open the PDF and read Essence Hot Hair Natural Hair Transitioning Tips by Afrobella!

The Essence piece offers quite a bit of information for newly natural bellas who want to try to maintain length as they transition. But if you make the decision to just go for it and do the big chop, you’re dealing with new growth right away and that brings different challenges to your transition to natural hair. You won’t have to deal with figuring out two different textures of hair, instead you gotta figure out how to work your new, short look, and what products your natural hair will need.

Now’s a good time to offer my traditional disclaimer – I AM NOT A HAIRDRESSER. All I can do is speak on what I’ve seen and what I know. So from my experience, here are the steps I’d recommend for a brand new natural bella, to maintain her hair after doing the Big Chop.

1 – Learn how to keep it clean.

Maybe when you relaxed your hair, you adhered to hair myths that don’t apply to curly or afro-textured hair. Adages like shampoo two-to-three times a week, and brush your hair 100 times a day. That kind of behavior will most likely make your natural hair dry, frizzy and quite unhappy. I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again – treat your hair like you would a fine silk kimono, or your grandmother’s antique wedding dress. Recognize that it needs a gentle touch and deserves special TLC. You’ll discover that you need to shampoo once a week at most – sometimes I go 10 to 12 days without shampoo. You’ll discover that generic drugstore shampoos may not cut it for your hair – I recommend you check out a cleansing cream. I like Devacurl No-Poo and Curls Cleansing Cream – you can browse and buy a great selection of shampoos and no-poos at Curlmart. If you’ve been using heavy hair products laden with bad-for-you ingredients like mineral oil and petrolatum, you have scalp buildup and your hair looks dull and lifeless, try a clarifying shampoo (I like Hair Rules Aloe Grapefruit purifying shampoo ) once a month.

2 – Learn to conditioner wash, and give your hair regular deep conditioning treatments.

Natural hair is so often derided as being “coarse” but you might be really surprised – your hair’s texture can also be fragile, dry, delicate, and softer than you may assume. Most naturals adhere to a no poo regimen, and instead do regular conditioner washes. If you plan on wearing your hair in a loose, detangled style, conditioner is your BFF. Motown Girl explains it all better than I can, so please click here and read this for more info!

3 – Figure out what products your hair will respond to.

This is where the term “product junkie” starts coming up. First things first, don’t get overwhelmed. I broke it all down on Vogue Black – typical natural afro-textured hair styling products can be divided into four basic categories. You got your oils, you got your creams, you got your gels and you got your butters. Your hair may respond to one category of products more during one season versus another – in general, my hair loves gels, oils and light creams in the summer, and cries out for butters, heavy oils and dense creams in the winter. If you want to start experimenting with all natural products right away, go to your nearest Whole Foods and start with some raw shea butter, castor oil, aloe vera gel and virgin coconut oil. For a wider variety of products specifically targeted to our hair styling needs, check out Black Girl With Long Hair’s Marketplace, which is a new, great resource for naturalistas looking for products made for our tresses!

4 – Be strong. Also, be bold with your style.

OK, let’s be real. Not everyone’s transition to natural hair is an experience sprinkled with fairy dust. You might be facing resistance from your family and friends, guys you know may feel the need to say outrageously offensive things to you, people in general can be ignorant. All of these things have happened to me. And if you’re sensitive like me, all of that judgment can color your self esteem. In a culture where long hair is celebrated as the gold standard of beauty, people really will try to make you feel some kinda way when you chop all your hair off. So my advice is, hold your head high and BE CONFIDENT in your beauty. For me, when my hair was at its shortest, I found confidence boosts in makeup and hair accessories. When your hair’s short and sassy, you can show off a bold hairclip like nobody else can. A stunning hair flower or feathered headband won’t get lost in a mass of coils. So rock those big earrings, work a bangin’ headband, wear bold eye makeup, go forth and be FIERCE. (A little Grace Jones always helps in this department!)

5 – Figure out if you want to let your fro grow, or keep it cropped.

Now that you’ve cut your hair off, the choice is yours! Many women feel that it’s just easier to keep it super short, and keep their hair trimmed in a TWA. Some women grow it out and wear it loose and large like I do. You can rock twists or cornrows or a frohawk or roller set styles. You could decide that a loose natural isn’t for you, and start to loc your hair. And you know what? I know many many natural women who also reserve the right to rock a wig when they choose to, or blow their hair straight if they feel like it. It’s entirely your perogative. To me, natural hair is freedom. You now know the truest texture of your hair, and now you can do with it what you will. A big chop gives you a blank canvas to start fresh, and know what you’re working with. I say enjoy the journey every step of the way, and learn to love your natural hair!

6 – Familiarize yourself with the natural hair community and know that there is support to be found online.

I meet so many natural haired women who are older, who tell me that they admire the courage of the younger generation, and nobody had the information on going natural back in their day. So I really gotta say – without the internet, I don’t think natural hair would have the popularity it has today. We are changing the game. With every blog, Fokti, YouTube video and forum, women around the world are spreading information, reviewing products, sharing photos, and inspiring each other to embrace their natural beauty and learn to love their hair texture as it grows. So if you’re lacking in support in your everyday life, familiarize yourself with the natural hair community online and draw strength and inspiration from there. Join Twitter and use the hashtag #naturalhair to introduce yourself. Look on Facebook for natural hair groups. Read natural hair sites. Check out Tumblr blogs for photographic inspiration. Get on YouTube and you’ll find a video addressing every natural hair concern you can dream of. If you ever have a moment of doubt or uncertainity, know that there’s someone online with the information you need. Things are WAY better now than they used to be, in that regard. Know that you are not alone!

If you need more inspiration, check out my post titled What’s Your Best Natural Hair Advice. There’s lots of gathered wisdom and insight in there.

I hope I answered most of your new natural hair questions here, and if I didn’t, I have a friend who can!

This Sunday, celebrity stylist and natural hair specialist Felicia Leatherwood – creator of the Loving Your Hair With Natural Care Workshop, will lead a webinar on what to do with your hair after you’ve done the Big Chop. “I’m really excited about talking to the women about their Big Chop choice and what the best products are for them to use also how many ways to style a Big Chop! All of this and more will be addressed this Sunday 9 am PST, 11 am CST, 12 pm EST – The Live Stream is $25 and the women can ask any question they may have about their hair!” she says.

Click here to register!

Welcome to the wonderful world of natural hair!

Bellas – if you’ve been natural for a while, what’s your best advice for someone just starting out?

Thanks to Renisha James for letting me use her photo!



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