Fashion & Lifestyle · Interview

WHY I WEAR MY HAIR NATURAL

by Akumbu Uche

Early this year, I made the decision to cut off my relaxed hair and embrace my natural coils. Six months later and my afro, more Kwame Nkrumah than Angela Davis, is at that stage where it takes 10 minutes to wash, 15 to dry and 20 to comb. In other words, I go to work late all the time.  Help!

I turned to my personal hair icons for some much needed styling advice. But first, what are their reasons for sporting a natural ‘do?

 

1. Relaxers are creamy crack

Who: Mgbechi Erondu, Medical Student.

Where: USA

Hair icons: Lauryn Hill, Amber Rose
Natural since: 2004

 

What made you decide to go natural?

Relaxers really are like creamy “crack”.  I hated feeling beholden to getting my hair done every few months so I would wait 6, 7 until my hair started breaking off. Relaxed hair is weakest at its junction with new growth.  I would attain great length while my hair was in braids but once I finished combing or brushing I would be left with that thin ponytail characteristic of relaxed hair.  In my sophomore year of high school, I decided to grow my hair out by keeping it in braids. After a while, the straight ends just disappeared. No “big chop” necessary.
Some people believe natural hair is limited when it comes to styling.

I definitely disagree! Natural hair is far more resilient. You can straighten it, curl it, put it in any style of braid, weave, wig and as long as you play nice (limit heat, deep condition and give your hair a break rest between styles), you’ll get your bouncy, healthy curls back with very little breakage.  I’ve never been very creative when it comes to hair.  I usually go for kinky or Senegalese twist braids but this is expensive so I’m currently trying to figure out the best combination of strategies to get simple wash and go curls that don’t get too dry and frizzy by the end of the day.
Your hair used to be longer than this; why did you cut it?

A number of reasons.  About a year ago I experienced the weave from HELL! The stylist braided the cornrows so tight that my hair literally pulled out from the middle! I had a bald spot!!! After a couple of months (thankfully!) my hair started growing back but I was frustrated with the obvious difference in length.  I was also tired of having long hair overall that I didn’t quite know how to style and it was starting to limit my braid options SO I decided it was time to try an edgier look.  Problem is, I think the ease of having shorter hair makes it addictive! Haha. I’m actually thinking about cutting it again!
What’s your usual hair care regimen?

I’m very impatient with my hair so I prefer to keep it in braids.  BUT I am a major proponent of giving your hair a break between styles. Usually I go at least two or three weeks before getting a new head of braids.  During that time I try to deep condition at least once, wet it every day in the shower coupling it with shampoo every couple of days (depending on my workout schedule) but otherwise doing what the natural bloggers call a “co-wash”: basically washing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo.  Afterwards I try not to comb or mess with my hair too much except to moisturize the ends with castor oil and that’s really it.
What are your favourite hair care products?

Castor oil!!  And a spray bottle.  Moisture is key! Still looking for the ideal shampoo.  Apple Cider Vinegar* I use while I have braids in, Head and Shoulders I use to get rid of that post-braid gunk (eww!!), and after that I use Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo because it doesn’t give my hair that weird, squeaky clean feel.   I try to switch up conditioners because I’ve found that once my hair gets used to one, the detangling effect no longer works.  I think humectant conditioners are the best, but really even the cheap ones will do—especially if they smell nice!
Most annoying comments people make about your hair?
Can I touch it??  -_-

 

2.  I love being natural


Who: Hauwa Abubakar, Journalist
Where:  Abuja
Hair Icons: Nil
Natural since: All my life.

 

What made you decide to go natural? 

I love being natural.

Some people believe natural hair is limited when it comes to styling. 

I disagree. I style my hair however I want because it’s naturally soft, long and wavy.

What’s your usual hair care regimen?

I usually plait my hair without braids [extensions] and I do this every two weeks. I always wash my hair before plaiting it and after that I use hair cream.

What are your favourite hair care products?

Dax and Bergamot Hair Cream, Hair Fruits Shampoo and Conditioner, Heads & Shoulders Shampoo and Conditioner.

Do you ever feel tempted to change your hair texture with a relaxer?

 Yes, sometimes. But I deal with it by having a blow dry and stretching my hair with a straightening iron.

 

3. It’s a socio-political standpoint

 Who:        Ojiugo Uche; University Student

Where:    USA

Hair icons:    Just about everyone featured on lecoil

 

How long have you been natural?

With the exception of short periods that add up to between 2 to 5 months, I have been natural all my life.

What informed this decision?

I am one of those people who find it so much easier to wake up, wet my hair while showering, and run a comb through it.  For me, the constancy and simplicity makes it no stress in comparison to having to relax and retouch my hair, or go through the putting on and removing of weaves.  I have also always preferred the texture of natural hair.  However, keeping my hair natural is now a conscious decision and a socio-political standpoint born from the realization that the cultural pandemic of disfavoring natural hair as uncool, and even unprofessional in favor of expensive attachments that look like the hair of others is a way of saying that one’s own hair is not good enough and thus that one is not good enough. Subtle as it seems, I believe that this question of individual self-worth leads to, or perhaps is consequent of a societal low esteem. On a larger scale it manifests in the devaluing of our own traditional cultures, history and heritage in favor of being superficially like others.  This is a problem.

Some people believe natural hair is limited when it comes to styling.

I completely disagree! The tumblr blog, lecoil, (which my sister shared with me) clearly shows that there are so many things one can do with one’s hair. I have often cornrowed my hair into different styles like ‘basket’ and ‘shuku’. I have also threaded my hair. I have been inspired by this questionnaire to try out some interesting things. I have attempted a faux hawk, which actually turned out well. Also, I have begun a regimen of doing a quick cornrowing of my entire head (this takes about 17 minutes) before going to bed, loosening the rows in the morning and fluffing them out with my hands(as a pick spoils the texture).

What’s your usual hair care regimen?

Right now, it is a basic, wake up in the morning, shower, rub some Shea butter, do a quick comb through and ‘carry go’.  However that is changing.  As time goes on, and my braiding skills improve, I hope to include more faux hawks, zigzag cornrows and twist-outs.

What are your favourite hair care products?

I have one, and one only  – Shea Butter

People can sometimes be judgmental about those who wear natural hair; what has been your experience so far?

Well, the judgment I’ve had have been mostly good – there is a lot of great rep from Americans, mostly white people who appreciate the texture of our hair more than we ourselves do.  In Nigeria however, bad rep abounds. To be fair though, sometimes when I have gotten a bad rap about my hair in Nigeria, it was unkempt and in need of a combing touch-up (as afros are constantly wont of)

Would you like to see more women wearing their hair naturally?  

I would LOVE to see this happen, as this will mean that natural hair is gaining good rep (reputation together with representation) and it would mean a move towards a greater and more overt appreciation of self worth, not only on an individual level, but on the grander societal level.

 

* Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a particular type of vinegar that is supposed to closely match the natural pH of one’s hair when mixed 1 part ACV to 2 parts water    –   Mgbechi’s note.

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