I would like to share some of the challenges I faced during my transitioning period. Hopefully, you will also go through some challenges that will, in the end, help make your journey a little more memorable or significant.
I faced challenges not only with my hair but also with my family, friends, the general public and of course that tiny voice in my head I like to now call-me.
My hair itself was a challenge because I had no idea what I was doing. What I knew was that I wanted longer and healthier hair. I chose to take the route of going natural because it worked when I was younger. I was prepared for whatever I had to do to get there in the next 5 years. Therefore the side-effects of going natural was not a concern (in the beginning) to me b/c I knew that it was a great step towards my goal of achieving longer and healthier hair.
I was not accustomed to the styling aspect of natural hair. Putting in cornrows, braids, or flat twists myself….on my own hair was not something I ever did. Also, I was not trying to pay money for those styles. I did not have a “hair braider” in my immediate circle so freebies were also not an immediate option. I found out later that these types of styles are almost necessary to achieve lengthy hair-they are forms of protective styling. These styles protect the weaker areas (the ends of your hair) and allow them to remain on your scalp longer in order to have long hair.
I flat ironed my hair until about 2 inches of new growth became visible and flat ironing my hair was no longer an option. I sweat on my scalp way too much to make a “press” last more than an hour. If I attempted flat ironing my new growth- by lunch time you would see an obvious problem going on with my hair. The roots would be puffy and the ends bone straight. I knew I was no longer going to attempt flat ironing or pressing my hair while transitioning.
I tried to do styles that would blend my 2 textures together. I wore Twist-outs, bantu-knot outs and braid-outs. They all helped and were successful but the time it took to get the twist, bantu-knots or braids in was not enjoyable. #1 problem-washing my hair (who now had 2 horribly obvious textures) was a pain and a chore. No matter how detangled I thought my roots were, the ends would tangle as soon as I released that section. As my roots became more and more pronounced (about 4-5 inches of new growth) it was a wrap.
I was done with the 2 textures, I slowly started cutting.
I would cut pretty much whenever I felt like it. At this time (about 5 to 6 months into my transition) I was too frustrated by having the two textures. In my opinion, the styles that I thought were blending my textures were not looking cute and I opted for extensions. Before adding extensions I did more research on the BC (big chop) and thought about it heavily. I found encouragement online from other Natural hair websites. In the end, I couldn’t do it-so before adding hair I cut about 3 inches off at once. I didn’t really feel anything….except absolute and pure excitement! It was liberating to see that my appearance didn’t change, I was still breathing and in certain sections I cut off the permed ends completely….and I saw curls!
I kept cutting 2-3 inches every time I re-did my extensions. By Sept 29th, 2010 I only had about 2 inches left to cut….but I cut about 3-4 just to be certain all of the permed stuff was gone.
This seems like a short description of my transitioning phase, but at the time it felt like forever. The first 5-6 months were the toughest and in the winter months. Once I added extensions for the summer and fall-transitioning became a lot easier. I was able to focus on the products I used rather than the styling aspect that I wasn’t good at anyway.
As far as the products used at this time, I tried everything I could find in Ottawa that was recommended.
I automatically ruled out certain products/habits cold-turkey.
Obviously- PERM (duh!)
Running away from water
Alcohol-based products-including certain gels, hair spray (except Cetyl Alcohol and Stearyl Alcohol which I learned with research are fatty alcohol’s and therefore not drying)
Petroleum (although I know its definitely in 1 of my favorite products)
Sticking to what I could find in Ottawa definitely meant my options were more limited. Most “popular” natural hair-care brands are American and some not accessible in stores in Ottawa. Although online was an option for some retailers, with the shipping price included I wasn’t too sure I wanted to splurge on a test-run. Also-I kept going back to the fact that my hair grew fine when I was younger and my mother DID NOT spend on products that required shipping charges. So I guess I made it a point to stick to what was easy and accessible.
I made a few trips to NYC also during that time but stuck with 1 product line while there Cantu Shea Butter (DA BOMB). I will definitely list some hidden gems here in Ottawa on ManeAttention as I find them and I hope to list some sales going on as well.
Here are a few……the ones I still go to for different things
Loblaws organic section
Independant Grocer organic section
I tried my best to keep my product choices to being as natural as possible for my pocket. I started reading the ingredients lists on everything for hair. I tried to find products with the first 5 ingredients being items that I can pronounce and that were not on my “not-too-right” list.
NOT SO RIGHT LIST-these are the first things I am trying to avoid having in the ingredient list
Silicones (I try to avoid the word “cone” being in the first 5 items of the ingredients)
Mineral oil (although I know some product I use with success have them)
Sulfates-can be found in shampoo’s and are detergent like ingredients that strip the hair (and natural oils) more than necessary
Items that have numbers in there name – I try to avoid them since I do not know of any product that is natural and good for that have numbers AND letters in their name
That was my criteria-I can read the first 5 ingredients, the product does not contain ingredients (or too many ingredients) that are on my “Not-So-Right” list and finally it was not drastically expensive. *If I did consider it expensive I thought about how much use I would get out of it and the quality of the product.
So some examples of products that stuck with me for the long run are:
**Apple Cider Vinegar (diluted with some water in a spray bottle)-this removes any build-up of product just fine
**Baking Soda and water- if I want to scrub my scalp (scalp only)
J/A/S/O/N shampoos-natural and smell nice
Kiss my Face shampoos-natural and smell nice
Live Clean Apple Cider Vinegar clarifying shampoo
**Coconut milk, Natural plain yogourt, olive oil, honey, essential oils
Herbal Essences Hello Hydration
J/A/S/O/N Boitin conditioner
Queen Helene’s Deep Conditioners
Giovanni Direct Leave-In (* this I consider expensive but it lasts me at least 6 months so less than a $2/month)
**Whipped Shea butter (my favorite) includes shea butter, coconut oil, oilve oil, lavender
DAX pomade – the green one, sometimes the black
***L’huile Palmachristi from Haiti or Jamaican black castor oil – I am still trying to find these items in Ottawa-for now my batches come from Haiti and Jamaica respectivley
I do not use all of these on wash days…I usually have 1 item from each list and use that on my hair. I may also switch up items if I have more than 1 per section (just for fun), I may also combine some products together either to stretch it out or just for fun.
These are more-or-less my staples. They will change-I’m not stuck to products anymore-especially man made ones.
I have described my own personal experiences above. I hope they can help and work for you but if not I hope that you can use this list as an example of how easy it can be. This list took almost 2 years to be certain of BUT FOR MY HAIR ONLY. Thankfully all of us are different and if this example does not fit your hair’s needs-change it, modify it and please share with me as well…maybe there is a new method or product that I can try.
I will hopefully be able to go through my wash day, styling days and results on ManeAttention. It really is easy once you know what your hair likes, needs and how it acts!