Natural Hair, Don’t Care (Except I Do Tho) by Tiffany Tharpe

I knew going natural was going to be hard for me. My hair is one of the top three things I’m overtly self-conscious about, so my hair was always straight, braided with extensions, or hidden in a weave. More often than not, however, my hair was pressed with the heat that I, naturally, shied away from. I hated having heat in my hair. I’ve had my fair share of burns and close shaves; it was also pretty expensive once my mom stopped paying for it.

The fact that I spent so much time outside, it was annoying worrying about my hair sweating out or froing up all the time. I love to swim, but if my hair wasn’t in braids it was a no go for me. After spending much time on Instagram and seeing so many beautiful black women rocking the natural look, I made my decision: it was about damn time to start my natural hair journey.

Months 1 & 2

Wash n’ go at Vasquez Rocks

The beginning was easy. After taking my birthday weave out (featured picture above), I washed, conditioned, and just let my hair be for the first time. I started to prepare and research what exactly I needed to do during my hair transition. I purchased a slew of hair products, mostly products from Shea Moisture (including a beginner kit to natural hair), growth oil from The Mane Choice, and coconut oil, and learned a little bit about protective styling. I mostly wore my hair in a bun, or two buns, when I was out hiking or at work, then put my hair in cornrows for a few weeks after getting a feel for the long journey ahead.

Month 3

It’s trying to do… somethin’

After taking the braids out.. month three happened. Month three was super hard for me. I work full time and don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to styling my hair, I soon learned (especially when my shifts usually begin at 7 AM). I never really played in my hair because it was always straightened, but after taking the braids out and washing it myself, I got a feel for the different textures in my hair. There was constant de-tangling and breakage. The protective styles I tried didn’t seem to work out. My hair felt unmanageable and gross and I wanted to just return to my hair stylist. My aunt kept suggesting different products, one of which was conditioner from Maui Moisture, but they didn’t seem to work out. I would soon find out that not every product that worked with someone else would work for me. And what I thought worked for a while would stop working later.

A lot of naturalistas encouraged me to keep at it, saying I would be fighting two textures of hair for a while, to try new products if it didn’t seem like the ones I was using were working out, and to NOT GIVE UP. I decided to do more research but, in the meantime, I put my hair back in braids. It seemed the easiest way for someone like me to continue to moisture and condition my hair without using heat and without having to worry about styling, while enjoying my time outdoors with no real struggles.

Months 4 & 5

Rockin’ twist extenstions in Zion National Park

Months four and five passed with no real conflict, and then I took the braids down and utilized some new products after learning more about my hair. I found out that I had a mixture of 4C and 4D type low porosity hair. My hair didn’t like to retain moisture and some of the previous products I had bought didn’t help with that. My mom came through and bought me some Fantasia Curl Custard to help with styling and Eco Style Black Castor and Flaxseed Oil Leave-In-Conditioner. The latter left my hair feeling so soft after washing!

It was the first time after a wash that I felt satisfied with how my hair felt after detangling it and letting it air dry. I couldn’t stop patting it, it was amazing. I then tried the curl custard and, while I didn’t get full curls because the ends of my hair refuse to curl and need to be grown out or chopped off, the roots were looking hella curly. I had almost a fro and it felt great!

Month 6

Post deep conditioning

I’m now coming up on month six and have about three inches of new growth. I can tell where my new, healthy hair ends and my dry and damaged hair begins. I am debating cutting it and just letting my new, natural hair grow out, but I still have worries and debates. I’m afraid that I won’t look good with short hair and won’t be able to rock the look. I also like seeing and feeling the change in my hair and having that line of demarcation as proof of how far I’ve come. But I also dislike the constant struggle of the different textures. See, I stay debating with myself over this.

I do know one thing: I still have a long way to go, but I’ve come pretty far from where I was in the beginning. I’ve been heat-free for six months and I think my hair is definitely starting to thank me for it.

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