I once saw this meme equating natural hair to a disrespectful child—you feed it, grow it, and take care of it with your hard-earned money, and still it has the unmitigated gall to have you out here looking stupid on a constant basis. Personally, that constant basis has gotten to be enough, considering it’s been six long years since my big chop.
I know we naturals love to get extra-religious about having our minds made up and not turning back to the olden days, but I’m a big believer that some black hair care tips will always apply. My aunts have schooled me on the importance of training your hair more times than I need to hear, and thankfully, I’m now listening to them. Even though I’m not heat training anything over here, the general idea is the same—identifying your hair’s consistent problems, developing a routine to solve them, and sticking to those solutions until they work. In the hopes of us all getting where we want to be, I’m sharing my problems and fixes with y’all today.
Precautionary Note: Some of these suggestions are pretty wash-and-go specific, because this is pretty much the only way that my fine-textured hair consistently looks full. Some of them are also pretty specific to women with low-porosity hair, because I’ve found that our necessary routines go against much of the common wisdom in the natural hair community. All of these suggestions are intended for women who have less than 4 hours a week and $40 a month to spend on hair.
Problem: The front of my hair doesn’t curl like the rest of it. This fix could definitely apply to any part of your hair, it just happens that due to over-manipulation (I’ll admit it) and a bit of a finer texture, the front pieces of my hair are significantly shorter and stragglier than the curls in the back or crown of my head. If you know me off the internet, then you know that I usually solve this problem by flat-twisting the front pieces halfway, and pinning the rest back to the sides, which works to blend the length and keep my hair out of my face. In addition to probably harming my edges long-term, the detangling I have to do to get a neat flat twist un-clumps my hair, which means that the hair doesn’t blend texture-wise.
Solution: Twist your problem sections to make them more defined. Recently, I’ve found an easy fix—pinning the flat twist, and then continuing it into a two-strand twist, which I later take out. This is perfect because it causes all those straggly pieces to clump together, almost a bit too perfectly. You can frizz this section up a bit by running your fingers through it once you take it out, preferably while it’s damp, though sometimes you will forget and be walking around with several twists in your otherwise curly head—exhibit A, my work badge.
Problem: None of my hair curls like I know it can. Please don’t get this confused with hair hate, which, unlike Shea Moisture would have you believe, weighs the heaviest on women with more kinks and coils, who have been told that curls and straight hair are the better options. As many natural hair bloggers and vloggers have discussed, texture discrimination is very real, and very wrong, and not of for debate.
What I’m talking about here is when you know your hair curls a certain way under water and when you first put in your products, but it quickly loses its hold and amounts to frizziness or stringy-ness during your day. For years, I’d constantly have the problem of seeing my hair look and behave a drastically different way in my bathroom mirror and shower versus out in the real world.
Solution: Get serious about your styling products, and shingle with cheap conditioner as your base. First off—I’m listing the products I use, because I do think they make a difference. When it comes to wash-and-go’s, Kinky Curly’s Knot Today Leave-In Conditioner/Detangler and Curling Custard Natural Styling Gel are the real deal. They’re products that work on most all hair types and textures, and for a myriad of different styles, though they’re primarily intended for wash-and-go’s. For those of us transitioning from Shea Moisture’s $7.49-with-BOGO price-point, paying $20 for a gel and $12 for a leave-in isn’t ideal, but these really are the only things that consistently work for my hair. In terms of longevity, the gel lasts at least six weeks, and the leave-in conditioner lasts a month for me. If it helps, you can use the Curly Custard as gel and edge control, so you’re really paying $10 for each.
To consistently achieve the most defined results, I’ve been using the shingling method, which I learned from this video, but was inspired to try based on this one. I have to use lots of conditioner for this, because the Curling Custard is pretty sticky, and also because my hair takes a lot of product to detangle, and I don’t want to waste the aforementioned, super-expensive, good stuff. I’ve heard Knot Today is a great detangler, but honestly, I’ll probably never know because I don’t feel like wasting the 8 ounces.
Instead, I rake Aussie’s 3 Minute Miracle Moist Deep Conditioner through my wet hair until it’s satisfactorily detangled, and the different curls are clumping together. Then, I smooth in a bit of Knot Today, not really for detangling, but just because it activates the Curling Custard. If you decide to (or already do) use these products, you’ll get a feel for how much of this you need with the Aussie already under it. With the curling custard, it’s easy—I just rake it through the whole section (I part my hair in two sections, and only need two globs for each), and then smooth it through each individual curl with a bit more product on my fingers.
After this, I hop out of the shower, flat and two-strand twist my fronts in the mirror, put on my edges scarf, and put the rest of my hair in a Turbie Twist for a half hour. Lots of people use a diffuser or air dry, but this is the broke girl’s guide to quick natural hair success, so I really just do enough to not have my hair dripping excessively! Lots of times, I will leave my scarf on while I ride to work, just because I like my edges to be really laid so I don’t have to touch my hair again for three or four days.
Like I said, I really don’t like having to redo any part of my hair, so for the next few days until another wash and go, I just put my scarf on, pineapple with a wide scrunchie, and then cover it with a bonnet. This lasts me three or four days, and a whole week if I unravel the front twists and go with a less-defined, bigger look.
Problem: My hair never lasts the whole week! This has been a continual problem of mine. While I’d love to be one of those girls who can stretch a wash and go a whole week, with my current length and lifestyle (i.e. living in a perpetually and randomly rainy city), it usually isn’t possible. I’d love to just re-wet portions of my hair without getting back in the shower, but whenever I do this it irrevocably frizzes up, which isn’t always the move.
Solution: Do it more often! Before you protest, this doesn’t necessarily mean more time, just more frequency. One of the main reasons I stick to wash and gos is because even with shingling they don’t take too long, and if you’re training your hair to anticipate the style, you can re-wet your hair mid-week without having to spend forever detangling (since you just did earlier that week.) Right now, I wash/detangle/deep condition/style on Wednesday mornings, and simply wet and style on Sundays (so I basically start my hair routine by detangling with the 3 Minute Miracle.)
When I was first getting used to my curly hair, my mother used to tell me that I needed to wet it everyday to work. While we have different hair textures, and this does not work for me, I do see what she means now, because the once-a-week styling doesn’t either. Though my scalp doesn’t need to be cleansed every three or four days, my style definitely does, at least until I can find another hack to this wash and go game.
Problem: My hair comes out great some wash-and-gos, and terrible on others. As we all know, one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If your wash-and-go method never varies, but your outcome does, maybe it's time to change your earlier steps.
Solution: Consistently, but reasonably, wash & deep condition. If you’re low porosity, the first thing you’ll want to do is seriously consider switching to shampoo at least once a week. I know this sounds like natural hair blasphemy, but with a hair type that quickly develops build-up, it’s important to fully cleanse your hair. If you’re still kind of scared of this idea, a good natural shampoo to start with is the EDENBodyworks Peppermint Tea Tree. At $8.49, it’s reasonably priced, and will last you at least an entire season—even with weekly washes—because you’ll probably only need three squirts for your entire head. (During the school year, I use Kinky Curly Come Clean, since it’s formulated to cleanse your scalp of the hard-water minerals more prevalent in the North. I’ve also heard good things about The Mane Choice Easy On The Curls Detangling Hydration Shampoo, so I’ll probably try that soon.)
While you could use the coordinating conditioner, I pretty much stick to Aussie Mega Moist, since in the words of Curly Nikki, I enjoy using “finance-disrespecting amounts” of conditioner, and you get a huge bottle with a pump for around $5. When I’m being good, I rinse a bit of this out and follow up with the EDEN BodyWorks JojOba Monoi Deep Conditioner. This stuff is super thick—almost too thick for my hair in the summer, so I’ve thought of switching it up, but I want to finish this bottle first because I’m trying to curb my product junkie tendencies.
In terms of logistics, like I said, I’m low porosity, which means I have to deep condition with heat. I have a Hot Head deep conditioning cap, which is a great alternative to a hooded dryer if you move around while deep conditioning, or move around your city too much to keep a bulky dryer with you. I’ll usually stay under the Hot Head for 30 minutes, but sometimes I do less if I’m running late.
When I’m being bad, which is often during the school year, Aussie’s 3 Minute Miracle Moist Deep Conditioner is my best friend. The 3 Minute Miracle is a quick moisturizing deep conditioner that I use on my busier days to still get a bit of TLC in. While I’m bathing and/or shaving, I let this stuff sit in my head with a shower cap and try to utilize the steam from the shower (obviously, I use skin-scalding water during this point.)
While it definitely took me a couple eons, I’m glad I'm inheriting more of the patience, innovation, and good graces that have helped many of the women in my family become my eternal hair goals. Soon and very soon, I'm hoping to join them, but I'm not in too much of a rush—after all, to let the slideshow above tell it, I've already come a mighty long way.
Have a hack I didn’t mention? Want to teach me to take pictures that actually show my hair? Dying for Michaela to talk about her routine? Let us know in the comments!