I’ve been natural for most of my life. Looking back, I realize that I didn’t know how to take care of my 4c hair. For example: I did not know how to wash it without causing matting and tangles; how often I should wash it so that my scalp would be healthy; how often to moisturize my hair; or what to moisturize it with. I also didn’t fully understand how to carefully detangle it, so that I would retain length.
I knew nothing about protective styling. My knowledge was lacking on all fronts: I didn’t know how to correctly install or take styles out; which tools to use; what to cover my hair with at night …. The process was exhausting and overwhelming.
My hair was plaited, twisted, and braided using hair extensions. Not because it needed protecting, but so that my hair would look “presentable”.
I had to change my thinking in order to progress to where I am now. My mindset was unhealthy and I didn’t understand the full potential of afro-textured hair. I subscribed to the myth that only Caucasian or Black hair that is “mixed” with another ethnicity has the ability to grow to impressive lengths. It took time for me to learn that my 4c hair texture was not “difficult” to manage, but that it required methods of care that possibly differed from other textures.
In the best of times I managed to grow my hair to neck length (NL), but most times my hair hovered somewhere between chin length (CL) and NL. I viewed my breakage the same way that I did my dry hair — it was something that was unavoidable. I had never heard of “mechanical damage” and I was certain that I had avoided heat damage. After all, I was using Vaseline as a heat protectant whenever I pressed my hair.
In 2001, I started my first “real” job and got my first relaxer. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get the hang of pressing my own hair and I figured that relaxed hair was much easier to care for. Needless to say, I was even less knowledgeable about maintaining healthy relaxed hair as I was about maintaining healthy natural hair.
Fast forward to 2003 when I got my first big chop (BC). I shaved my hair down to less than an inch. I was so self conscious at first, but I ended up liking the look. Not long after that, I discovered that there was a movement towards natural hair care and I began trying the products and techniques that I read about online. Compared to the wealth of information that is available today, the information that I had access to was pretty vague.
I continued to have problems figuring out how to achieve moisture and as a result my hair was constantly breaking. Eventually, I regarded my hair as “difficult” and became fed up of trying to take care of it. As a result,I relaxed it again only to conclude that relaxed hair was difficult to maintain, too. This cycle kept repeating. When my natural hair became too dry and damaged I relaxed and when relaxing became too expensive to maintain, I would BC.
In 2011, I discovered a movement within the natural hair community. One where long and healthy textured hair was celebrated — not just shoulder length (SL) “long” which was long for Black hair by my standards — but waist length and beyond! Many of these women were type 4s with beautiful heads of healthy hair. The products that they reported using varied, but the one thing that they all had in common was that they had developed and consistently applied a system for maintaining the health of their hair. Since then, I made a vow to myself that if all it took was developing a regimen and being consistent in its use, then I would stand up and be counted amongst the long haired curlies that I grew to admire.
I hope that you will follow me on my natural hair journey towards long and healthy hair and that you will find the information on this site to be useful in your personal journey.