So I've been transitioning into my real hair for a few months now (three or four, I don't remember), and I'm at about an inch and a half new stuff all around, some places longer some shorter. I was over at VSB the other day and the topic was women and the amount of money they spend to be beautiful with the focus on hair. What I found out was that not a lot of women, relaxed or natural, know what's really going on with their hair care products and what the things they use actually do. So, I made a list of things I've learned that I didn't previously know.
1) Most shampoos are made to strip the hair of oils; Black hair needs oils to thrive. See the problem there? The solution is to simply not use shampoos; most conditioners contain less harmful sulfates (the things that make the bubbles) and silicones. If you must use shampoos though, go for the ones low in sulfates and dimethicone; you can tell how much is in the bottle by the ingredients list as it goes in descending order from what's used most to what's used least in the product. If I had to suggest any I'd say Carol's Daughter Ameh Khoret Shampoo, or Kinky-Curly's Clarifying Shampoo.
2) Most things ending with "-cone" are hair coaters and don't help the hair either. Try using your shampoo on it's own one day and wait for your hair to react. Most likely the hair will be dry as straw, but shiny. Shiny hair isn't necessarily healthy as a lot of chemicals can mimic those results, but ultimately harm the hair by making it brittle. Instead, co-wash (natural girl term for conditioner wash); using your fingertips, conditioner and a little friction, your hair will be just as clean as if you use shampoo. Most conditioners do still have cones and sulfates in them; try to avoid the ones with heavy doses of those and try to get the ones with the least amount possible or, better yet, all natural ones. Personally, I use Herbal Essences Totally Twisted (and a bit of baking soda.).
3) Natural hair is no more difficult than relaxed hair. It's all about preference, honestly, and I find that I spend more time on my natural hair than I ever did on my relaxed hair even though the same things I do for my hair now would have logically worked for my hair then. I spend more time because I enjoy my hair now, whereas before I was always so worried about it getting messed up or doing something wrong that I wouldn't experiment with it at all. With my hair now I can try anything and if it doesn't work, I can wash it out and try again or stick to the basics, but just because that works for me doesn't mean that it's the right choice for everyone else.
4) Product junkie tendencies wear out over time. When I first started I was buying everything I read about on the hair blogs; Kinky-Curly, Jessie's, and Carol's Daughter to name a few. After working with my hair and trying a lot of things out, I found what works and what doesn't. There's no need to keep going out and buying more and more things if you already have something that works. Put the curling custard down. And the shampoo too. Now walk away.
5) I make my own staples out of things I have in the house. For instance, I mix baking soda with my conditioner (Herbal Essences Totally Twisted) to clarify my hair (natural term for: get out the dirt and product build-up). In my spritz bottle which I use to moisturize on hot, dry days I have extra virgin olive oil, sweet almond oil and water (an orange oil, which I had to buy at a specialty store). At one point I used paprika for something. I forget what. In any case, it doesn't take a lot of premade chemical mixtures to make your hair behave. Quite the contrary, with what little I use, my hair's healthier and easier to manage than it's ever been.
6) It's your hair, you don't have to explain anything to anybody. When I see people who used to know me in high school their eyes go from my eyes to my hair and back. They ask what I'm doing. I say going natural and keep it moving. The few times I have explained why (the last relaxer incident) I get that sketpical "mmhm" or a "girl, pain is beauty." No, it actually isn't. Pain is pain, that's why people call it that. I get the nappy conversation from people, I get the "you don't know what you're doing" conversation from people, but at the end of the day, I know what I'm doing is right for me. There may be days when it doesn't look it, but my decision is actually for the best.
7) Prove them wrong. My grandmother is adamantly against my natural hair and she hasn't even seen it yet. She thinks that it's this afro of tightly coiled, matted hair. In actuality, because I'm transitioning, I have about 5-6 inches of straight hair and 1-2 inches of curly hair. I mix the textures by twisting and then deriving styles from that texture. My hair is soft, it's easily manageable (yes, even from the roots) and in a few months when she sees me, she's going to know that it's beautiful just like I know it's beautiful.
Hope this helps the girls out there struggling with their folicles :)
Educating the masses <3