I started playing around with the idea of going natural over 16 years ago. On more than one occasion, I found the courage to go in for the “big chop,” only to succumb to the call of creamy crack a few months later as my hair started to grow into what can best be described as the “awkward” phase.
I’m a Scorpio, which means I love change. And, the idea of being able to move between curly and straight hairstyles has always appealed to me. What doesn’t thrill me is the effort it takes to get the look I want, especially if it’s a DIY job.
When I first started my natural hair journey all those years ago, the TWA (teeny weeny afro) was pretty much my only styling option and pomade was my “go-to” product to help fight the frizz and lay down my unruly edges.
How times have changed.
Today, my biggest challenge isn’t finding a single product to deliver the look I want. The trick is finding the best combination of products – shampoos, conditioners, gels, creams, sprays and foams – to give me the results I’m after.
It truly takes a village (of product) to help raise up and lay down a curl!
The more products that are introduced into the natural hair care market, the more questions I seem to have about what the best options are. So what’s a girl to do?
Well, I decided to ask the experts – my good curlfriends Angela Hawkins, Kiahhn Jackson and Betsy Hughes – to get their take on how they balance changing up their look and keeping their natural hair healthy. Here’s some of what they had to say:
What concerns you most when switching from natural to straight hair and back again?
Angela: I’m most concerned about the risk of damaging my curl pattern with the heat that’s required to get my hair straight.
Betsy: I don’t have too many concerns other than the heat damage blow drying and flat ironing my hair straight can cause. I also find that my hair’s curl pattern is compromised until I wash it a couple of times.
Kiahhn: I’m most concerned with keeping the health of my natural hair intact.
What do you think is the greatest benefit of being able to switch from curly to straight?
Angela: It gives me the versatility to change my hairstyle as I often did when my hair was relaxed.
Betsy: I love being able to have two totally different looks within the same week if I want to! It is a benefit I’m stressing with my daughter too so she sees having curly hair as a benefit and not a curse like I did when I was little.
Kiahhn: My hair is extremely kinky, so it’s easier to handle when it’s straight.
What are some of the preventative measures you take to avoid damaging your hair?
Angela: Deep conditioning is, in my opinion, the very best way to guard against damage. I do it weekly. Although I don’t really put heat in my hair that much, I will use a heat protectant when I do.
Betsy: I wear my hair curly more than straight so I don’t worry too much about damaging my hair. I moisturize, use Argan Oil and condition it well on a regular basis.
Kiahhn: I use leave-in conditioners, hair oils and moisturizers. (When straightening) I use a heat protectant as well as flat-irons with the protective plates. I also listen to my hair. I know that my ends need more time than the roots and the bottom half needs more time than the top half. I love getting my hair-trimmed. I also try to eat healthy.
What are some of your “go to” products to help maintain the health and versatility of your hair?
Angela: My favorite products are Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Shampoo and Conditioner, Shea Moisture Shampoo & Conditioner; Kinky Curly Knot Today Leave-in, Mixtures of African Shea Butter, Jamaican Black Castor Oil, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, ECO Styler gel and drumroll, please . . .my all-time favorite is Design Essentials Honey Curl Forming Custard.
Betsy: I use Pantene Smooth and Sleek conditioner, Argan Oil, and Miss Jessie’s Multicultural Curls moisturizer.
Kiahhn: I like Jamaican Black Castor Oil and the Carol’s Daughter hair oils.
So, do you have any secrets for keeping your natural locks healthy during the straightening process? Leave a comment and let me know.