I think I can hear someone scream, “I am not my hair!”
Ok ok easy, before you get too upset, two things, firstly neither are you your finger, body shape, skin colour, (get the picture?) but it all forms part of the story of who you are. Secondly, try imagine a white woman who constantly wears Afro wigs/weaves, never giving her own hair a chance to peek out, feeling beautiful only in the Afro, wouldn’t that say something about her, her mind, her thinking, her self esteem, her idea of self-love?
Unfortunately for black women who want to celebrate who they really are and wear their own texture, it is not always as simple as going out there and just being you.
There are a lot of perceived roadblocks to going and staying natural. Here are a few and tips on how to tackle them.
Include your hair regime in your to do list, and if you don’t have one create one. Before you go to bed each night write a list of the most important things to get done the next day, and keep to that list, seriously, keep to the list. It is so easy to get distracted and that can lead to time being wasted. We then spend a lot of time agonizing that we have so much to do, feel overwhelmed and then sit around and agonize some more. If you are following a list, you don’t have much time or energy to worry about what needs to be done, you just go ahead and do it.
Afro hair is really and truly not difficult to manage if you know what to do. If your hair is too tangled to comb, wet it, better still wash it. Water is magical in loosening Afro hair. Finger detangle as much as you can before you wash and condition. While hair is still damp braid or twist and leave to dry. If you wash during the day, you can use a scarf or hat if you have to go out, if you washed before bed, tie with a silk scarf before you hit the sack. Style your dry, clean and stretched hair the next morning. And if it’s a wash and go you want to rock, even better, no need for the braiding bit.
Sorry but this one makes me laugh – not enough variety? You must be joking. It would take way too much time to list all the variety of styles you can rock with loose Afro, cornrows, braids, cornrow and braids combo, twist, twist out, flat twist, twist and braid combo, bantu knots, bantu knot out, locs, wavy locs, up-does both with locs and loose Afro and of course, good ol’ threading. Just go to YouTube. And there are more yet to be created – it could be you coming up with the next knock-out style!
Honestly? You don’t need that many products. The most important product your hair needs is actually free - water, lovely glorious water, but yes you can’t just stand in the rain to get your hair clean and styled, so you need a good shampoo and conditioner. Really soap is soap and most commercial shampoos and conditioners can be used, but if you want to avoid harsh chemicals, (which generally is the best thing to do) you might have to do a little more research into finding synthetic chemical–free shampoos and conditioners.
The same goes with keeping your hair moisturized. There are many products out there in the market making all sorts of claims, but again using natural chemicals against synthetic ones is always best. Personally I use Shea Butter once a week after a washing my hair, and castor oil daily (on damp hair) because my hair is really thick. It also depends on the style I’ve got. If I am rocking a cornrow for instance, I moisturize my hair every other day by just spritzing with water and oil. You can also use Argan, coconut or olive oil.
It takes confidence to defy the status quo and go against the grain especially if your livelihood depends on you looking in a certain way. Solange to me has successfully gone against the grain and defined her beauty in her own terms. For us ordinary folk.... it's what would friends say, what would family say, what would people at work say? I remember getting my hair cut in a salon a few years back, when I heard another customer saying she does not have the confidence to have her natural hair styled. The hairdresser had asked her why she always tied her hair back in a bun after washing. Many times women have said to me how they wish they could wear their natural hair. When I ask why not, they would sight opposition from work environment, friends and family or not having enough hair. Basically they didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb.
Personally I feel terrible that black women and girls are made to feel this way about their own hair and in as much as I know we should not let what other people think determine what we do, as a species social interaction and acceptance is vital for survival and so other people’s opinions are not always easy to ignore. However remember this: Being bold in who you are commands respect and respect is attractive. It may not always be an easy path to take but it is a worthy path. Following the ‘crowd’ to the detriment of your uniqueness may get you accepted but not truly respected.
Sometimes what we think others are thinking about us may not necessarily be the case. Yes there are people who will say negative things about your natural hair texture, but I can assure you there would be many more admiring the uniqueness of your hair, all is needed is for you to showcase the beauty that is your hair. Try it and you will surprise yourself.
And if you want to go the extra mile, say it with a Tee, with the Project Embrace 'I am Enough Tshirts! Not only will you be getting yourself a fantastic Tshirt you will be helping to raise money for a worthy cause - The Project Embrace billboard campaign.