Defining My Curls

Getting good definition for your natural curls in probably one of the most sought after abilities for those with natural hair. This is especially important if you have any 4 type curl. I would put myself at 4a/ab. My hair in the front is a loser 4a curl pattern, and the hair in the center of my hair is the thickest at 4b. When I was going natural I was praying for a bouncy 3c hair type, but I have learned to love wait I was blessed with. But even if you do have denser, tighter curls, that doesn’t mean you can’t have that defined curl look. There are a couple ways you can achieve this look regardless of your hair type.

Different Sets:

Setting you hair in various ways can help you achieve a defined curl look. This may not be the way your hair “naturally” looks, but that’s the beauty of natural hair, the ability to manipulate the way it looks so easily. You may choose a roller set, braid out, or twist set.

  1. Wash hair using your typical conditioner and shampoo (if any)
  2. Starting with very damp hair, apply your favorite moisturizer.
  3. Separate hair into small sections and apply gel. I use Eco Styler Olive Oil. It will hold the style without making it dry and crunchy.
  4. Put each section into your choice of roller, braid, or twist.
    • If you do a roller set I would choose either a straw or small perm rod set to achieve small, tight curls, rather than the big “Shirley Temple curls”.
    •  With braid and twist out sets, although more time consuming I get the best results with individual twist and braids, rather than cornrows on under twist. Under twist and cornrows will still look good, but for me they tend to be more wavy than curly.
  5.  Use your favorite drying method
    • For a very sleek and shiny look sit under a dryer until hair is completely dry. It takes my hair up over 2 hours to dry under a hooded dryer.
    • You could sit under the hooded dryer for a shorter amount of time like 20-30 minutes, then let it finish by air drying.
    • Or you can let it air dry totally. I usually set my hair the previous day and let it dry 24 hours. This works for me on a lazy weekend and my hair is ready to go the next week.
  6.  Once your hair is dry take out the rollers, braids, or twist. I CANNOT stress how important it is that you wait to take your hair out until it has dried completely. If you don’t you’ll have a puffy mess on your hands once it dries.
    •  When you have out your hair you have choice of separating your hair on leaving it in “clumps”. Sometimes I like the way it looks separated, others I prefer unseparated. For me it’s a catch 22. If I separate my hair, it can turn out fuzzy, if I don’t separate it doesn’t look at full as I’d like and it looks like its been set, not very naturally curly. I typically do which ever I feel up to that day. Choosing between roller, braid, or twist sets are away of achieving a defined curl “look” if your hair doesn’t seem to cooperate on its own.

Wash and Go:

I don’t get to use the wash and go method of defining my curls often. I can only use it during the summer as when I am not working, because my mornings are too early and hectic to attempt this during the school year. This method can be more difficult if you have 4b/4c hair. But there are a few things I can do to make the curls I do have “POP”.

  1. Wash your hair in sections with a VERY good, moisturizing conditioner, saturating each section. When I am attempting to do a wash and go I save it for a co-washing day, not a long shampoo and deep condition day.
  2. Lightly rinse each section out. I never completely rinse conditioner out of my hair.
  3. Ring hair out, so it is not dripping, but DO NOT towel dry.
  4. Apply you favorite oil to wet hair. I use extra virgin coconut, or EVOO.
  5. Apply your favorite curling moisturizer and gel (optional) to sections. I use Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie and Eco Styler Olive Oil gel.
  6. Blow dry hair. You can set under a hooded dryer for 15-20 minutes or run a hand dryer over your hair for several minutes.
  7. DON’T MESS WITH YOUR HAIR- this is my biggest flaw. Let the curls be or else certain places with turn into a fussy mess.
  8. My wash and go typically only looks really good for one day, but I can come times stretch it out by putting it in a pineapple at night and in the morning spritzing it with a leave in conditioner (water, conditioner, and oil) and reapplying some of the Shea moisture curl enhancer.

These are my techniques for achieving a defined look. What I do may not work for you. Everybody has to experiment to find what products and techniques agree with their hair. When I first went natural and came back to college after winter break I had a twist out. One of my friends asked me, “Why doesn’t your hair look nappy like it did in the pictures?” I took it as a compliment meaning that my twist out made my hair look like defined curly hair. But it did start to make me feel like doing these sets was a cop out, rather than embracing my natural hair texture. I know people who only wear there hair out if it has been set someway because they aren’t confident in their texture. I just see it as another style. Just like I wear different clothing styles, I change my hair style. Its not about not accepting my natural texture, its about getting the look I want at that point in time. I hope everyone can love their natural texture as well as learn different ways to style and show off the versatility of natural hair.

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Is colored hair natural?

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I went natural December 16th, 2011. It was the day before my 22nd birthday. I had intended to transition and slowly cut the relaxed hair out, but I got impatient and decided to do the BIG CHOP. I wanted to go natural because it seemed like the healthiest thing for my hair. I was on a quest to make my body the healthiest it could be….from my head to my toes. Before I went natural I had relatively long hair, for a black girl. So my hair dresser was not happy when I was prepared to cut 10 inches of hair off. I was getting my hair done by her while I was transitioning, but maybe she didn’t believe I’d actually do it. But, as you can see, I did. I went back to get a roller set in my hair for Easter that following March or April whenever the heck Easter was that year. On that day she convinced me to get my hair permanently dyed red.

I’m not sure if she had motives other than just wanting to introduce me to a cool new look. Part of me feels like she wanted to keep me as a consistent client, because since going natural I had not been making my regular 6-8 week appointments. I can’t blame her though, its good business to try and keep customers. I thought the red looked really good on me. It was a dark, kind of burgundy red. I probably wouldn’t have liked my short afro as much without that brilliant color. It never dawned on me that I was doing anything out of sorts until one day I saw a Facebook status from a friend that said “how you gonna be natural and dye your hair, doesn’t that defeat the purpose?” This person was also natural, so I began thinking “I’m a natural hair sell out?”

I continued to get my hair dyed red for 2 years. I had always been the type to not judge others, so I was making my own decision for what I wanted for my hair and that was to keep it red. I LOVED the red look, especially after one of my colleagues said it made me look like a superhero ( I’m thinking Jean Grey or Black Widow)! I even got my eyebrows lightened a little so it didn’t look so obvious that they were different colors, although I didn’t go red all the way with them. It wasn’t until after I had my son that I decided not to color my hair anymore. I got my hair dyed for my Superhero Wedding (that I will highlight in another post), but I did not tell my hair dresser that I was pregnant. There is a theory that the chemicals in the dye can seep into your scalp, and then body,
harming the baby. After some research I deduced that it was just a myth, but I didn’t want to risk telling my hair dresser and her not put in my superhero red color. It seems kind of silly that I’d even risk something like that. If there was a question for the baby’s safety I should have just not done it, but that just shows how vain our society is. I could not have brown roots at my wedding. After that I did not dye my hair the entire pregnancy. After I had my son I decided to go completely natural and not add any chemicals at all to my hair. I slowly cut my ends each month and in about a year I cut the rest of the color out of my hair. So now it is my natural brown color.

Does being natural mean that you have NO chemicals in your hair? Or is it just, not having a relaxer? What about people that get texturizers? Its kind of like when people question what it means to be a virgin. I guess it something you have to decide for yourself. Why did you decide to take the journey to become natural? Was is it purely a decision for cosmetics and you just like the look of your curly hair texture? Or,is it part of an all-natural lifestyle? People will always have their opinions about natural hair. Even within the natural hair community there is some judgement. I just try to be comfortable and work what I’ve got and hope that others do the same.

Twist and Shout

To all my naturalistas out there, What’s your regimen like? Mine fluctuates, depending on my level of commitment and dedication. In a perfect world, I would deep condition and detangle my hair every week, especially in the winter, when hair tends to need m11410539_935279409841593_718639953_n(1)ore moisture. But, of course this is not a perfect world. During the weekends, when I make these grand plans, I usually end up running after my son making sure he doesn’t wreck the apartment too much, looking at anime, and sleeping when I can. Before I know it, its Sunday evening and no real time to do anything fancy along with cleaning, meal prep, and getting clothes ready for the next day/week. So what do I turn to, my tried and true twist out rotation.

This regimen was formed by accident. I started twisting my hair about 8 months, to year after I did the “big chop”. Before I had enough hair I would do a twist out, but I wasn’t comfortable wearing twist as a style until I had enough length. Once I did, it was the perfect style, because you get a 2 for 1 special. I get 1-2 weeks with my hair twisted, then 1-2 weeks afterwards with a twist out. Once again, in a perfect word, this would only be a 2 week process. I week with twist in and another with twist out. But I tend to try to stretch that time out, usually I get 3 weeks out of it.  During the winter I tend to leave the twist in longer or not do the twist out option for protective styling. Only at my busiest or laziest times to a let it go for 2 weeks each. After a week the twist are fuzzy and don’t look that great. The fresh twist out look only really last a couple days, before my hair reverts.

My monthly regimen now is centered around this cycle. I will typically do a hot oil treatment with EVOO. Then I shampoo with a sulfate free product, I like Organix Coconut Milk ( listed on the “products I love” page under Natural Hair Care). I detangle with a silicone free conditioner (Aussie Moist), then I deep condition with my own concoction. My deep conditioner consists of whatever conditioner I’m currently using, mayonnaise, EVOO, and coconut milk. I let this set on my hair for at least 30 minutes up to sometimes the whole day! The longer, the better. Afterwards I rinse, and do my twist. Sometimes I do the twist a little thicker, if its a vacation or holiday when I’ll probably only be running a few errands, so they’re in strictly to dry and take out the next day. My hair NEVER dries over night because its so thick. I always need at least 24 hours. If I intend to keep the twist in for a week or two I do them as small as I can stand. When I do the twist I use either eco styler gel and coconut oil or eco styler gel and Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie. After I’m done with the twist I usually clip the scraggly ends off. This was how I slowly cut the color off my hair over a 1 years time. I’d twist my hair monthly and cut about 1/4 inch off each time. But that’s my 2 for 1 special.

When I do he twist I get mixed reviews. I have one friend, in particular, who absolutely loves them. She raves about them every time I do it. But this is not the thought process of all. I’ve been compared to Celie from “Color Purple”. My father in particular has some particular views about natural hair. He often taunts my mother and I, mostly out of fun, but also from some old school standards of beauty. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wearing twist in my hair. I would love to get to a point when I’d be comfortable doing the same cycle with bantu knots. But I am not at a place where I am comfortable wearing bantu knots as a style. Maybe that means I still have growing to do in my natural hair journey, or maybe its just my style preference. Some people are more conservative than others. Some keep their hair straight, in a bun, braids, or weave. I try not to judge anybody. This is my natural, this is a process I’ve formed that works for me, my lifestyle, and budget.  So for my natural sisters out there, tell me, “what YOUR natural look like?, What are your go to styles?

Why did I go natural?

179895_488744731745_3801917_nThis is a question I get asked all the time. Some people chose to go natural because its just the popular thing to do. Others, because they had unhealthy hair. My reasons weren’t really any of those.  I’ve been natural for 5 years and I’d like to think I went natural before it was a fad and EVERYBODY was doing it. I wasn’t the first out of my circle. My roommate started going natural our freshman year, and thought it was nice for her, but not for me. I was bound to the creamy crack. Fast forward to the summer of my senior year. I was well into my healthy living when I decided to make my whole self healthy.

I decided to transition from a relaxer to natural hair the summer before my senior year. One day while I was on a trip in Costa Rica, it just clicked. That school year I had to take swimming, as it was required for Physical Education majors. I was stressing that whole semester about my hair. I did not get relaxers the whole time. My mom kept it braided and my hair GREW. Once I was done with the swimming class, I headed straight to my hair dresser to get a relaxer for all that unruly new growth. My friends that did not know me before that semester marveled at how long my hair was that had been in braids all semester. I began to question why people but so much into a woman’s hair? And why is it established that straight, flowy hair is more attractive than curly, kinky hair? While I was in Costa Rica, I once again had braids, so I would not have to deal with the humidity and my straight hair. I took the braids out at the end of the trip and enjoyed my curly crop. I thought to myself, I could do this all the time.

After that trip to Costa Rica, I did not return to my hairdresser to get another relaxer. I started spending hours on the internet searching for the best products, I was well on my way to becoming a product junky. I asked other naturals what they did and imagined what my hair texture would be like, since I had not been chemical free since 4th grade. My original intention was to transition slowly without doing a big chop, because I treasured my long thick hair. I don’t know when or how it happened, but I realized I was going about this all wrong. I was hoping and praying for loose bouncy curls or “good hair” and hanging on to my length as long as I could. During Christmas break of my senior year, December 2010, decided to leave it all behind and did the big chop. I left behind the idea of “good hair” and the thought that long hair is beautiful hair. I went to my hairdresser, who said, “I can’t believe your cutting off all that hair.” But I didn’t care, my mind was made up. I had my TWA (tiny weenie afro).

I loved and embraced my natural hair. I was also very thankful that my husband loved and embraced it just as I did. I feel like I was lucky, because not every man understands why women have natural hair and many prefer that typical standard of beauty. I straighten my hair once a year to see my growth. I went threw a period when I dyed my natural hair. I decided that too was contradictory to the idea of natural hair. So I grew that out cutting it off slowly each month. 5 years after my original big chop, and growing out color my hair is close to the length it was when I went natural. Sometimes I get comments when I straighten my hair like, “why don’t you keep it straight” or “I bet your husbands happy.” But they don’t phase me. I went natural because I felt it was the healthiest, most practical choice for me. Natural hair to me means freedom. Freedom from being chained to a salon chair for an entire Saturday every 6-8 weeks, freedom from that $60+ bill, freedom from fear of humidity and water, and freedom from other peoples thoughts of what beauty is and should be. Now I am free to be naturally me!