Yesterday, I took M and C to the hair salon to get their hair cut. More accurately, they got a trim, but you would have thought the 2 inches that they lost between the two of them was the equivalent of Demi Moore shaving her head in G.I. Jane. What pleased me most, however, was seeing them realize how much better their hair felt and looked after it had been cut. Add to that the fact our stylist left their hair in big, giant afros, flying free also added to their good moods. It’s rare that I let their curls just be out, and as I de-tangled, sectioned and braided well past bedtime last night, I remembered why. I’m thinking it’s time to let my little curly girlies be more proactive in their hair care. While they often ask for blow-outs and press-outs, I constantly remind them to love the hair that’s growing out of their heads. If they learn to take care of their own hair, that can only reinforce what I’ve been saying. A little self-empowerment can lead to a lot more self-love. So where to start?
It occurred to me this morning, as scooped my own hair into a high puff, I have been wearing my hair naturally for close to 15 years. 15 years! Sure, I’ve had one or two moments of weakness when I returned to the creamy crack, but in each case, those were brief reconciliations, neither one lasting longer than 10 months.
What surprises me most about my natural hair journey is how much has changed in 15 years. Women have been wearing natural hair for a long time. That’s nothing new. What has changed is the prevalence with which natural hair is now embraced, celebrated, encouraged, and applauded. Maybe, 15 years ago, people were just starting to explore and understand natural hair. Maybe 15 years ago, the scope of the movement was greater than where I was living at the time. All I know is that when I did my Big Chop, the term Big Chop wasn’t part of the lexicon. A few of my college classmates also did a big chop, each of us for our own reasons. We relied on Elasta QP Gel and Infusium 23 Leave In Conditioner to get our curls coiled and defined. Our wash and go’s were literally wash — and go. I figured I’d be using Sebastien’s Wet Gel on my curls and coils for the forseeable future. Never would I have imagined that there would be multiple product lines, salons, books, websites, and YouTube channels all dedicated to natural hair.
As time has passed, I’ve learned more about my hair and what it requires in order to stay healthy and strong. The more information that has become available, the better equipped I am to keep my hair looking good. In turn, I’m able to share that with my own curly girlies in the hopes that they will always love their natural hair. We have enough products — shampoos, conditioners, creams, gels, lotions, puddings, oils, you name it — to open our own pop-up shop. A lot of trial and error occurs on our Sunday wash days, figuring out which combination is going to work best for our hair different types of hair. Between the 4 of us, we’ve got at least 6 different curl patterns going.
I look to hair typing simply as a guide to help me better describe and care for the hair I’m working with. I don’t subscribe to the “this type is more desirable than that type” foolishness. All hair is good hair. My job is to keep it that way.
I have the honor of being Test Subject A when it comes to trying out new methods and products in our household. I figure if it works for me, then we can let it trickle on down through the ranks and let M, C, and V benefit from my experiences. What I’ve been doing is called the L.O.C method. This method enables curly girlies to have well hydrated and moisturized curls without having to go through the process day after day.
LOC is an abbreviation for Liquid, Oil, and Cream — though I have seen some bloggers and naturalistas substitute Leave-In Conditioner for the L. The name itself represents the order in which you apply your products and while it may seem as though you are layering a lot of product on your hair, you’re doing so in order to retain the moisture your hair desperately needs. The liquid, usually water or aloe vera juice, provides the moisture. The oil and the cream, preferably a butter based cream, act as sealants to trap the moisture in the hair.
After many weeks of using the method, I’m a believer. My hair is hydrated. My curls are defined. My hands are out of my hair which means, my frizz is kept to a minimum. My products of choice have been Kinky Curly Leave-In Conditioner, Trader Joe’s Coconut Oil, and then Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie. Recently, however, I switched up and used Aloe Vera Juice, which helps promote hair growth, as my L. I use Jojoba Rosemary Mint Oil from Two Curls One Mission as my O, and the Deva Curl Curl Enhancing Cream for my C. I finished it with a little Deva Curl Light Defining Gel.
So, how does it all go down? Well, in the shower, I saturate my hair with the water. I use a spray bottle to soak my hair with the Aloe Vera Juice and I separate my hair into two sections. What is tricky about this process is that I work from the nape of my neck forward, meaning, I’m bent over at the waist while I work. Water up the nose? Yup, that happens, but I’ve found that it’s easier for me to detangle and distribute product when I can see the hair in front of me.
I begin to detangle my hair, one section at a time, using only my fingers. Once my hair is fully detangled, I apply the Jojoba Rosemary Mint oil, paying special attention to my roots and my ends. This particular oil smells fantastic and the mint is stimulating to my scalp. Moving on going one section at a time, I coat my hair with the cream making certain to keep the section detangled. I then combine the two sections and then, using a dollop of gel, I work that through my hair making certain to coat every strand. If you’re going to have your fingers in your hair, this is the time to do it. I usually end up with a big wad of shed hair for my efforts, too. I’ve been told by my stylist, as well as by several naturalistas that this is entirely normal.
Still bent over, I use one of the Hubs old undershirts over my hair like a turban to absorb the moisture as I finish my showering and dressing routine.
I use the undershirt because that fabric is gentler on my hair. Also, I try not to put a lot of heat on my hair as a general rule. With the exception of a diffuser on high pressure and low heat, I don’t really use a hair dryer. For the next six months, I’m participating in a no heat challenge. I’m still eating relatively cleanly, taking some vitamins and drinking lots of water, all of which promise to aid in the hair growth. I’m excited to see what happens, and if there’s little to no growth at all, well, I know that I’m treating my body very well otherwise.
After the majority of the moisture in my hair has been absorbed by the t-shirt, I unwind it and let my curl fall down. I put a thin coating of oil on my hand before manipulating a few wayward curls into place in order to minimize frizz. After that, I may give my head a shake and let things settle a bit more, and then I’m out the door.
Over the course of the day, my hair dries, and shrinkage sets it. I’m not a fan of shrinkage, but I recently read that if you have a lot of shrinkage, it means your hair is healthy. After a quick Google search, it turns out shrinkage is a reflection of lack of heat damage and lack of over-moisturized hair. Good to know!
At night, I pineapple my hair and throw on a satin bonnet. In the morning, I use a bandana to keep my curls in place while I workout. When I’m ready to get on with my day, I untie the bandana and let the steam from the shower make my curls fall back into place.
This entire process is way more labor intensive than anything I ever did 15 years ago. But like I said, a lot has changed in 15 years. I am fully a part of the natural hair community. I write about it on my blog. I share tips and tricks with friends and family, even complete strangers, who are also looking for the perfect combination to achieve healthy hair. Instead of having my dad touch up my afro with his clippers, I seek out salons that cater to natural hair for quarterly trims. Oh, and I’ve written a book about it, too. It is more than fitting for the next step in my hair journey would be to help my curly girlies discover and employ the variety of options available to them when it comes to their respective hair journeys.
For right now, I’ll continue to wash their hair myself and gradually build up to letting them take the reins on such a multi-step process. In the interim, we’ll start with the basics. First lesson: Mastering the high puff.