My Journey to Accepting My Natural Hair

Monday, 25 August 2014, 0:00 | Category : Christina Patrice, Guest Bloggers
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I had no idea what my natural hair looked like until I was 29.

All my life, I’ve had straight, pretty, long hair. As a kid, my mom relaxed my hair once, to make it more manageable. After that one time, she never did it again. Instead, she opted for pressing my hair, or having my grandma do it on weekends while visiting. My earliest memories of doing my hair involve holding my ears down and wincing when the hot comb got too close to my scalp. My hair was pretty, though, and everyone liked it.

So did I.

This trend of straightening continued throughout middle and high school. Instead of doing it herself, my mom would ship me and my sister off to a beauty shop once or twice a month on a Saturday, where we’d spend 5 or 6 hours getting cellophanes, fresh presses and trims. When I went off to college, there was no such thing as taking an entire day to spend at the shop. My roomies and I shared hot tools and products and whipped our hair into shape for class, clubbing and other occasions.

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Colors, cuts and a general lack of care for my hair landed me in the lap of desperation in 2011. My hair was breaking off faster than it could grow, and I was losing alarming gobs of hair in the shower with every wash. My hair was long-ish, but thin – the thinnest it had ever been.

In fear, I turned to Google in search of remedies for thinning hair, and tried them all. Some, like henna, worked wonders to improve the condition of my hair. Others, like oat flour (yes, I mixed Bob’s Red Mill into my conditioner) were a total disaster. But beyond products, one thing remained:

I had to let go of the heat.

 

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I learned from a number of natural and curly hair resources that my hair was indeed heat damaged, and that my cuticles were weak and melted. So I swore off heat for 3 months, and was floored at the results. I extended that another 3 months, and another. Each time, my hair was thicker, retained more length and was scores healthier. After about 9 months of my “no heat challenge”, I realized what I was doing was indeed transitioning to natural hair. The majority of my hair was still heat damaged, but I could see curls peeking through.

I allowed my natural texture to gradually grow in and in December of 2013, after 21 months of transitioning, I got my hair chopped into a curly cut.

For the first time in my life, on December 5th, 2013, I saw my true texture for what it was.

It was emotional. It was exciting. If nothing else, I finally knew that this was me — this was my hair – unadulterated.

Natural.

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My entire life’s haircare routine consisted of pressing combs, flat irons, and chasing after a sleek, straight aesthetic that truly didn’t belong to me.

Eight months post-chop, I can truly say that my journey to natural hair has been a complete blessing. There is something so freeing about not having the old flat iron ball-and-chain. I don’t fear the rain. I don’t stay away from swimming pools. I work out with reckless abandon. My natural hair has freed me to enjoy life – to celebrate my own inner and outer beauty, on my terms.

My journey to natural hair was the catalyst for major changes in my life. I stopped wearing makeup completely (save for a little mascara on the weekends or a special occasion), I’m way more active, and my eating habits have greatly improved. My skin has a healthy, natural glow because the things I do to take care of my hair also take care of my body. Talk about a win-win situation!

I’m happy. I’m balanced.

But don’t be mistaken – the road to accepting my natural hair was no walk in the park. There were days when I was frustrated, times when I wanted to give up. Times when I wished for someone else’s hair! But once I took these 5 key points to heart, I was able to navigate the tricky terrain of transitioning to natural hair:

The Keys to Accepting Your Hair

1. Live in the now.
Many people give up on the journey to embracing their natural hair because they’re too busy focusing on their hair crush, or too preoccupied with what limitations their hair has. One of the keys that helped me have such a successful long-term transition to natural hair was being very aware of where my hair was at all times. Although I wished for the days where I could rock a carefree wash and go without heat damage, or pined after the hair of vlogger Hey Fran Hey, I never let that stop me from appreciating my own hair exactly the way it was at every step along the way. Aesthetically, my hair wasn’t what I wanted it to be. But it was healthy! It was thicker. It had stopped shedding and breaking so much. All of those positives kept me going, and helped me appreciate the amazing (albeit slow) transformation my hair was undergoing. The average head of curly hair grows half an inch per month. You may as well start loving and appreciating it as-is, because it will take YEARS for you to reach your ideal head of hair. I’m still working on it myself!

2. Don’t be afraid to experiment (with products).
The natural and curly haircare market has come A LONG way in recent years. Where there used to be little to no options in-store or online, major retail chains like ULTA, Target, Sally Beauty Supply and a plethora of online retailers and salons have seriously stepped up their game to meet the needs of textured hair. I’m a product junkie with a pretty legit stash, and proud of it. I love the “product chase” and discovering new ways to use the products I purchase. I love the versatility and diversity of results I am able to achieve with my hair based upon which products I choose. You don’t have to go to PJ extremes like I do (hunting down sales, hoarding products), but there is nothing wrong with stepping outside of your product comfort zone. If a product catches your eye, go for it. Even if your hair hates it, at least you tried it!

3. Have a signature style, and work it!
As a transitioner, it was the satin strip braidout. Now that I have completely natural hair, it’s the wash and go. Although I may be a two-trick pony (okay, 3 on a good day when I rock a bun), I do so with good reason. I know that I can always pull off these two styles, no matter what. Admit it – you know you have a great day and your confidence is through the ROOF when you’re having a fab hair day. So why not have more of them? Although natural and curly hair is incredibly versatile, there is no mandate that you have to change your style day-to-day, or week-to-week. So go ahead — have a good hair day, every day. And watch your confidence in your curls soar!

4. Stop obsessing over length.
Naturals and curly girls alike go crazy over length for one major reason — shrinkage. When many of us used to rock straight relaxed or flat ironed hair, our true length was apparent. But because coils, kinks, and curls have a tendency to draw up and out, we dedicate an exorbitant amount of time to protective styling, flipping our heads upside down, crazy vitamin regimens and sometimes damaging methods of stretching our hair — all in the name of gaining and showing some length. Stop the madness! Somehow, curly culture has mixed up the messaging and begun to place value on hair length over hair health. What good is bra-strap length hair if over a third of it is damaged, splitting, dry and desperately in need of a trim? A sure-fire recipe for hating your hair is lamenting over what you believe is a lack of growth. Turn the tide – instead of obsessing over length, focus on health. A healthy scalp grows healthy hair, and hair that is healthy through positive care and practices retains length. It’s really that simple.

5. Deep condition regularly, because it’s awesome.
In a world where everything changes in 140 characters or less, very few things are certain. But of one thing I am sure – deep conditioning regularly can help solve ALL of your problems. Dry hair? Brittle, weak and breaking hair? Rough feeling hair? Dull hair? Overprocessed hair? Deep conditioning regularly can mend it all. As an integral component of any healthy hair regimen, deep conditioning intensely hydrates, nourishes, strengthens, replenishes, smoothes, improves elasticity, softens, protects from environmental damage and enhances shine in all hair types. During the course of the week, the environment (pollution, sun, temperature, wind, etc.) and styling practices can take a toll on our hair. Replenishing lost water, ceramides, amino acids, vitamins and more is vital to the health of our hair. So if you’re feeling a little disgruntled with your hair, shampoo it (Ouidad Superfruit Renewal™ Clarifying Cream Shampoo is perfect for this), then deep condition. And from that point on, make an effort to deep condition your hair once a week. Your hair will thank you by looking and feeling better than it ever has before!

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Christina Patrice is a Los Angeles-based transitioning and natural hair blogger with a passion for all things hair. When she’s not knee-deep in product junkie-ing for the sake of her own blog ManeObjective.com, she writes for Black Girl with Long Hair and NaturallyCurly.com. Keep up with her on Instagram @maneobjective!

Summer Curls: Beat the Heat, Fight the Frizz

We’re smack in the middle of summer, and for curly girls, there’s good news and bad news. The good: Big hair is in, so we can rock our hair wild and free. The bad: With humidity and big hair comes frizz.

It’s an endless battle that will never be completely won, but thanks to a recent trip to Aruba (where it’s hot and sunny with more wind and humidity; basically, a major formula for frizz), I was able to nail down a hair care routine that keeps ringlets defined yet natural and fun—even in the summer heat.

Me, embracing my wild summer curls on a windy boat road in Aruba.

Me, embracing my wild summer curls on a windy boat road in Aruba.

Before we begin: If you’re going to be hitting the pool or beach this summer, before you jump in, apply some leave-in or regular conditioner throughout your hair. It will protect it from chlorine, damage, and tangling.

Step 1: End showers with a fast rinse with cold water. It closes the hair shaft and prevents frizz! (This was a tip I got from a Ouidad stylist. No idea if that’s been scientifically proven, but it seems to work for me!) Post-shower, pat hair with a towel or paper towels instead of wrapping it turban-style; you want to create as little disturbance as possible for your curl’s natural pattern.

Step 2: Apply Ouidad’s Whipped Curls Daily Conditioner. I only recently discovered this product, and I don’t typically use it in the fall and winter—I find it can be a little heavy—but during the summer it really helps with keeping your hair moisturized and frizz-free. You’ll only need a nickel-sized dollop; rub it through your whole head. (If you don’t have thick hair, you might want to skip this step or only use a small amount so it doesn’t weigh your hair down.)

Step 3: Here comes the holy grail for frizzy hair: Ouidad’s Climate Control Heat & Humidity gel. Section hair into 4-5 sections, then thoroughly spread about a nickel’s worth of this gel through each section, raking with your fingers as you go and then scrunching the ends. I swear this gel is the secret to protecting your hair from the elements in every season, from heat to wind to rain drizzle.

Step 4: Once you’ve finished applying the humidity gel, give your whole head a quick spray with Ouidad’s Curl Last Flexible Hold Hairspray (not too much; you don’t want curl crunch). Then, let it air dry as long as possible. My Ouidad stylist told me—and I’ve found it to be true—that airdrying is the best way to avoid frizz because it allows your curl’s natural pattern to take shape. But if you don’t have enough time before you have to run outside, dry with a diffuser, finishing with a few minutes of cool air at the end.

Step 5: Once your hair is dry, if you want a bigger look, you can pull apart some of your curls for volume, separating bigger ringlets into two. Finish off the whole process by spreading a dime’s worth of anti-frizz serum throughout your ends: I love John Frieda’s Anti-Frizz Serum, but I hear Ouidad’s Shine Glaze Serum works great, too.

Try my step-by-step and send us photos of the result! Remember, this is just a guide to tame frizz, but the bigger your hair is, the better: Part of your hair’s personality is its imperfection, so have a little fun!

Here’s to keeping up with the curls!

xo Arianna

Seeing in Color: Arianna’s Venture into Ombre

Once I got my hair to a healthy place, I started thinking about trying color again. But I avoided it for three main reasons: First, I was scared any chemicals, especially highlights, would take my hair back to its previous limp, dead state. Second, I was traumatized by old photos of a young Arianna with blonde highlights she thought were cute but were actually way too blonde. Lastly, I have a hard time keeping track of my calendar as it is, so going to the salon regularly for touch-ups was not happening. (And, let’s face it: Color upkeep isn’t cheap.)

But there was one hair trend that captured my attention for about a year: Ombré, which leaves the roots natural and brings in color at the bottom. It looks great on starlets like Lauren Conrad, Rihanna, and Khloe Kardashian, and I loved the idea of not having to go to the salon every month. But I wasn’t sure how well ombré would work on curly hair, and I only came across a few curly girls on Pinterest who’d tried it.

So I went to Ouidad’s 57th Street salon to try it myself. I had an appointment with Melissa (who I highly recommend! Super sweet, honest and helpful—I’ll be sharing some of her tips in blog posts to come), a color specialist who reassured me that ombré wouldn’t harm my hair as long as I took care of it properly and didn’t try to keep piling color on top of color. We decided to go with a warm brown, and since it was my first time attempting the trend, we went subtle.

You’ve seen the before photo: 

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Now, here’s the after:

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At first, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping for a little more drama, but since my hair is naturally really dark and ombre doesn’t show up quite the same way on curly hair, it wasn’t as noticeable. But the longer I’ve had it, the more I like the slight pop it adds to my curls. Melissa told me that the summer sun will lighten it up, and my next product purchase will be Ouidad’s Color Sense Shampoo and Conditioner, to preserve my new shade. I also got a cut because, as I mentioned, I tend to forget when I’m in need of salon visits. I was more than a few months overdue for a trim, but it was a reminder for us all: Regular cuts help fight frizz!

What do you think? Do you like the ombré look on curly hair? Should I go back to Melissa for round two to go even lighter? The jury is still out.

Here’s to keeping up with the curls!

xo Arianna

PS: I’ve loved all your questions and comments, so keep them coming! I’ll be sharing my personal tips (and asking Ouidad stylists for there’s!) in upcoming posts.