10 Years Natural | What I Learned Over the Decade of Wearing My Natural Hair

 

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10 years ago I went natural. I stopped relaxing my hair. It was more than a hairstyle change. It was a lifestyle change for me. I want you to learn from my mistakes!

>Before we get into it, make sure you download your FREE eBook: Guide to Moisturized Hair<

Today, even after 10 years and at age 31, I’ve still had relaxed hair longer than I’ve had natural hair.

10 years ago in the month of October, I did the big chop or cut off most of my relaxed hair. I had grown my relaxer out for 5 months and decided I wanted to cut my bra strap length hair into a short Toni Braxton cut. Without fear and hesitation, I did it.

Not realizing that my hair would be both short and natural. Both of these were completely foreign to me. The next day, you can say I had buyer’s remorse. I completely freaked out, thinking what did I do?

Read: How I Grew My Hair 6 Inches in 1 Year

My hair was nothing like what I thought it would be. It was short with 3–4 different curl patterns or what I like to call multiple personalities. Some of my hair was curly, other parts waving and some still straight from the relaxer. Here are some pictures from the early days of my natural hair journey.

But if I knew what I know now, I would’ve done things a little differently. Here are 10 things that I’ve learned from being natural for a decade.

Braid Out

This is a picture from my humble beginnings, my teeny weeny afro.

1. Shea Butter is Not a Moisturizer

When I first went natural, I would slather raw Shea Butter on my wet hair and then style. But my hair was still frizzy. I found out later after a conversation with a celebrity natural hair stylist that shea butter is too heavy for hair.

It’s also an oil based natural butter that can seal in moisture but does not add moisture to your hair.

See: 10 Places You Can Buy Shea Butter

2. Shampoo is a Must

Early in my natural hair journey, I discovered the No Poo (No Shampoo) Movement. At the time there were no or very few natural, sulfate-free shampoos in stores. I happily embraced exclusive conditioner washing or co-washing my hair. My hair was softer and less dry initially. But over time my hair became dry and my scalp itchy and flaky after about a month of only co-washing.

Co-washing is great in between shampoos. But not as the only way of washing your hair. Shampoo is needed for a healthy hair and scalp.

Silk Press on Natural Hair 20153. Baking Soda Can Damage Hair

Baking Soda has a lot of purposes. It’s great as a natural cleaner. But not for hair. Baking soda is very basic or has a high pH. The natural pH of hair is 6 and baking soda is 8.

When the pH of hair is raised to 8 the hair cuticle becomes lifted until the pH is balanced. Hair with a lifted cuticle losses proteins and becomes frizzy and more prone to breakage.

Baking soda is also very granular. This makes it very abrasive to the hair. It can gradually file away at each hair strand. This leads to lifted cuticles as well.

4. Heat Doesn’t Equal Heat Damage

Using a blow dryer or flat iron once or twice won’t damage your hair in most cases. High heat too often and too frequently causes heat damage. But occasionally blow drying or flat ironing your hair won’t hurt it.

I’ve shared 5 ways to prevent heat damage here.

I’ve found that sometimes my hair needs heat. It’s actually helped me get my wash day routine to 60 mins or less. Read more about that below. I found that I experience more breakage when manipulating my wet hair and this was one of the main reasons I quit the no-heat challenge.

It is possible to use heat and not get heat damage.

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5. Natural Hair Still Needs Trims

Some people believe that natural hair doesn’t need regular trims. If you take good care of it and don’t use heat, you won’t have to trim your ends regularly. I know from experience, unfortunately, that this is not trim. Your hair splits naturally every 3 months regardless of how well it’s maintained. There are 4 ways you can know that your hair needs a trim.

Trimming split ends is the best way to make sure your hair remains healthy.

6. Protein Treatments Are Necessary

Proteins are the building blocks of the hair. They provide hair with the strength and elasticity needed to resist breakage. Proteins are also responsible for binding to water molecules. Healthy hair has a balance of protein and moisture. One without the other leads to breakage.

Proteins are loss gradually through regular maintenance; shampooing, conditioning and combing hair. To restore protein loss, you need a regular protein treatment. Here’s a list of 5 of my favorite protein treatments.

7. Anything in Excess is Damaging

Like most things in life, there needs to be balanced. Overdoing it can damage your hair. That means too much moisturizing, conditioning, blow drying shampooing or anything else can damage your hair.

Things like deep conditioning your hair overnight and over moisturize your hair. It leaves your hair gummy and ultimately break it.

8. Sometimes Your Hair NEEDS Heat

Heat gets a bad rep in the natural hair community. There are two types of heat, direct and indirect heat. Indirect heat from a steamer, hooded dryer, or heating cap can be very beneficial to the hair. They add an extra boost to your deep conditioning treatment and help to moisturize the hair and scalp.

Even occasional direct heat from a blow dryer can stretch the hair and get rid of stubborn tangles and knots. Just make sure to use a professional heat appliance.

ouidad moisture lock leave-in conditioner9. Don’t Skip the Leave-In

One of the reasons I went natural was to wear a wash and go. It took me about 2 years to get it right. Using a leave-in conditioner made the biggest difference in how soft and define my curls stayed.

Leave-in conditioners help to keep the hair moisturized after it dries. I keep either EdenBody Works Coconut Shea Leave-in or Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner.

10. Wash Day in 60 minutes or Less

I used to spend hours, like literally, hours doing my hair on wash day. Pre-poo (pre-shampooing), detangling, shampooing, conditioning, deep conditioning, and styling my hair.

After I had my first child, I had to figure out a way to simplify my wash day routine. With a newborn had to make important decisions, like eat, show, or sleep. Usually, sleep won.

The key to shorter washes day are regular trims and wearing your hair in styles that minimize tangles.

Some of my favorite products are:

Ouidad Curl Quencher Moisturizing Shampoo
Ouidad Curl Quencher Moisturizing Conditioner
Ouidad Trial Set for Tight Curls
Kinky Curly Stella Strands
Kinky Curly Curling Custard
Snappee
Bass Brushes Large Square Paddle Brush
SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo
SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Reparative Leave-In Conditioner

 

Growing Long Natural Hair

Tell me in the comments section

How Long Have You Been Natural?
What were some of the lessons you learned from wearing your hair naturally

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14 thoughts on “10 Years Natural | What I Learned Over the Decade of Wearing My Natural Hair

  1. Constance

    Hello Tamara, I enjoy reading your articles. I stop getting relaxers in October of 15 and did a big chop in Feburary or so… My question is that I want the wash and go it works best for me when I use Eco styling gel then it dries into a crispy curl. If I apply a moisturizers it sits on my hair.. It becomes white so I have to wash it out… What products can you recommend that are light and doesn’t cake up to form a ” white head of hair”?

    Reply
    1. Tamara Post author

      I would moisturize using the L.O.C method before applying your gel. For example, after shampooing and conditioning, apply your oil (I mix olive and coconut oil together.) and then a leave-in conditioners. Here’s my favorite leave-in conditioner.
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      Reply
  2. Bliss

    My last relaxer was July 2015 and I big chopped twice this year April and July. Right now am in the TWA stage and somewhat still experimenting what my hair needs to be healthy. But deep conditioning, protein treatment and protective styling have been my staple regimen……still experimenting though. Love ur blog. 😆

    Reply
  3. Lataisha Dickerson

    I enjoyed reading this article. I’ve been natural 3 years this month. I’ve learned that with each new length I have to adjust to totally different styles. What was really cute on shorter hair hasn’t worked on longer hair.

    Reply
  4. Shawanda

    I’ve been natural for the 3rd time 3 years. The 1st time was in 2002 when living in Utah (NO BLACK HAIR PRODUCTS W/IN 50 miles). I wish I would’ve stayed with it. Now my hair is at it’s original length just beyond my shoulders but I’ve actually had relaxed hair that was longer. I read the article for tips bc it has stopped growing! However, its thicker and has more volume.

    I would tell other naturalistas that not all products are for everyone. I jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon and my hair absolutely HATES coconut oil. Trial and error was what I did w/ products, styles, and tools. It was expensive and I have a cabinet full of subpar conditioners, moisturizers, and oils but after years of buying, I have a pretty good regimen and can usually tell if my hair will benefit from a product.

    I don’t think I was trimming my hair enough in the beginning and noticed pretty good growth immediately (2 wks) after a trim like my hair was waiting on that!

    In general, I learned patience and to listen to my hair. My teenage daughter has decided not to relax her hair and my journey was worth it if it inspires her to be the beautiful person she is.

    Reply
    1. Tamara Post author

      Hi Shawanda, You’re right. Every product does not work for everyone. I would encourage you to donate your gently used products to a women’s shelter or group home. It’s something that I do a couple of times a year.

      You continue to be an inspiration to your daughter!!!

      Reply
  5. Sabrina

    Good afternoon I left a comment but I can’t seem to find your response to it. But I’ll be natural 2 years this January and I can’t seem to find the right products for my hair. And I’ve tried a lot of them, and I it just seems like they are working. I’ve been reading about your transition and I see it takes time and patience. Also what can I use to make my hair and my daughter hair soft after blow drying, our hair is so hard.

    Reply
  6. Razan

    Hello,
    Thank you for the great article.ive been going natural with my hair for a very long time.i never used a relaxer n i dont remmber when was the last time i used a bow dryer or iron.i put henna every month.n i uae natural oils only like castor oil .my hair was long n thick,now my hair falls badly,i had several tests done n nothing wrong with my health.doctor advised me take biotin 10000 units n there is no change.i use treseme shampo n condition .will you plz advise me what shall i do to my hair.? Im getting so depressed cuz of this pb.

    Reply
  7. Zina K.

    Great article. I’ve been on this natural hair journey about a year and two months. I used to get the bone straight press and curl for years which resulted in heat damaged hair (even after washing, it was still straight). I did the “big chop” about three months ago and let me tell you, my hair is NOTHING like I thought it would be. So not knowing what to do, I wash, moisturize and braid my hair once a week and cover it with a wig to go to work and try to work with it in it’s natural state on the weekends. Honestly, I really don’t like my hair and struggling not to revert back because it is much healthier.
    Any recommendations on natural styles I could rock ALL the time. This Dr. Jekyll/Mr Hyde hair regimen is getting old.

    Reply
  8. Stephanie Warren

    Should older women do anything different or anything extra to manage natural hair? I have a bald spot that just recently appeared. Have an appointment with the doctor in March.

    Your information has been helpful. Keep up the good work. Thank you.

    Reply

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