My hair gets me attention. Eyes look my way longer and conversations are extended for 5 extra minutes from the usual when I am wearing out my natural hair. I receive a compliment or two more and smiles are quickly offered when my curls are out. I get more escort offers and requests for selfies/pictures. I notice more stares from passengers in Matatus and customers in Malls. I get stopped in the streets just to be asked how I did my hair. It’s good to assume I am walking around with tutorial content of my very mainstream hairstyle. Most times I am tempted to say I woke up like that, because, it is real hair from my roots anyway 🙂 I get messages from people I have not heard from in a while and I get excited about it thinking how nice it is to be remembered, only to be met with “Oh, your hair looks good these days, what products do you use? ”
I get conversations that go like this:
Her: Heeey, are you Gertrude? I have heard about Tech In Pink, it’s amazing, how did you guys start?
Me: Oh thanks, well how we met is interesting. We…
Her: Let me not beat around the bush, it’s your hair I am interested in..what products do you use?
I have been asked at a natural hair store where I asked for Marini curling butter and at a Healthy U store where I was buying Coconut Oil if this is actually my real hair and I was confused. It was too real to be real? 🙁 Well, maybe people buy coconut oil for their weaves. Coconut oil is good for everything anyway, right?
My hair has a personality of its own. Of course, that is how it gets its own attention. It’s never mine. I don’t play a part in anything. It could practically walk around on it’s own in the streets and get all the stares it needs and hold the conversations on it’s own. Some days it’s full blown fabulous, especially after a full spray of water for moisture the evening before and some days it is dull, e.g when I once sprayed a mixture of Apple Cider, rosewater and some water on it. Some days the curls are defined in all their glory, when I moisturize and use the right amount of products (Leave-In Conditioner, Coconut Oil and Curling butter). Some days the curls go on leave, when I decide to sleep with the day’s hairstyle hoping it will be there the following morning. Sometimes it detangles easy and I can run my fingers through without a problem, when it is properly moisturized and conditioned. Sometimes detangling is a war, after days of neglect.
2 years ago after I cut my damaged hair from heat and chemicals, I had no plan of how I was going to take care of my natural hair. I did not even know it needed taking care of. My routine was wash and braid. 4 weeks later, wash and braid. I did not have any break in between. If I was wearing my own hair then it would be straightened with heat. But I would avoid that because thankfully I knew one thing (and probably the only thing) about natural hair: stay away from heat. One time a church mate confessed she would never know when I changed the previous hairstyle. Initially she thought I was the type that rocks box braids for 6 months. You know that type, once the braids are installed they are pushed into their own world with occasional visits of scratching an itch or oiling the scalp. Shame.
Tucking my hair away under braids was to me, a way to encourage growth. I wanted growth, but I did not know what I would do with growth. The only thing I knew to do was straighten it with heat. I was definitely not wrong about braiding for growth, I had heard of it being a protective hairstyle so I knew I was doing something right, only that I was not moisturizing or conditioning. Slowly I began washing my own hair at home. Not because I wanted to give my hair a good wash day, but because salonists were just rough with it. Scratching your scalp forcefully with their already overgrown nails and pulling your head almost detaching it from the body and sulking at you like you are the reason she did not make it to her favorite high school. I must have been a Nelson Mandela to my hair when I freed them from that oppression.
It was during wash days that I would admire my hair and fantasize about wearing it in a puff or a bun or anything fancy. Sometimes I would wash and tie a head wrap to bed. I would try to wear it as a fro the next day but it never worked. It never looked how I wanted it to. There weren’t any defined curls. Because I had not applied any sealant and my head wrap was cotton, the hair was already feeling dry. Clean, but dry. It was also tangled since I never detangled as I washed. It was basically a mess and I did not want to deal so, like you are already guessing, I would run to box braids.
But even with box braids I still struggled. Because the salon I would visit would only spray your hair with Ors Moisture Olive Oil Nourishing spray (this thing basically lives in every salon) my hair would be dry in days. I would then have a problematic scalp. I would look forward to getting new braids but dread the feeling a week later. My hair would feel so dry. My scalp would sometimes get itchy and more often than not my scalp would get flaky because it was dry. I would oil it of course, but that never helped. I will especially never forgive Nice and Lovely hair food 😀 I would always feel like I am suffocating my roots with the hair food.
So here I was in the middle of my hair woes. Not knowing what to do next when one night after washing, I sprayed Miadi leave-in conditioner and applied Dark and Lovely Moisture Plus cream and did three strand braids (matuta). When I undid them in the morning I almost collapsed in shock. So this was it? Just this? I held those curls with so much love because I had sought them for a long time. I fasted for them. I performed rituals for them. I even ate only vegetables for a week for them. It was a moment for me. Seeing my curl definition changed how I looked at my natural hair 🙂
And that is how I began visiting youtube frequently to get ideas and natural hair blogs to get insights. Trust me, it is just this year that I understood how important water is for 4c hair. Water is moisture. Coming from a background of don’t get water on your chemical hair, I lived with that mindset even after going natural.
That is how everything turned around. Right now I wash my hair every week, whether braided or not. Sometimes I co-wash. I spray my hair with water every night before I do twist outs and twice a day when I have braids on. I still wash with Nice and Lovely shampoo (we go way way back with this brand). I know about sulfate-free but I am not yet convinced and I also think not everyone can afford TRESemmé in the village yet they still have good thick natural hair. It must be more than using sulfate-free shampoo. I however use conditioner generously and I let it stay in my head for a while before rinsing off. I do my final rinse with cold water. I detangle with my fingers. I have not combed my hair for the past 8 months. And this month, I will install my own box braids 🙂 I am moving towards doing everything for my hair on my own. I use Coconut Oil as a sealant and recently I started using Shea Butter on my scalp.
As you can see I do not have a solid pattern yet because I am also still learning but what is important to me right now is water(moisture) and conditioning. I drink a lot of water too 🙂 I am also trying to keep away from wearing out my hair too often. I did wear my hair out for three months straight and in as much as it was healthy, I noticed it was not growing.
So, with all the attention my hair gets. I still struggle with it. I don’t think it is a big mane, I only care if it is healthy. I am still trying to fix breakage. I also wish it were darker or thicker or less soft with smaller coils, since it is quite soft with larger coils, but at the end of the day I embrace and love it.
I still have a lot to learn, I am no expert. And these changes and learning experiences are what will make my stories 🙂