Five Things I Learned When I Went Natural For the First Time

By Valene Mezmin

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I started my transition to natural hair a few months before I started college, and did my big chop the summer before my sophomore year. The struggle has been real ever since. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my natural hair. Whenever I see another member of my family with their post-big chop afro, or I see another natural walking down the street rocking a super curly wash and go, the feeling of black pride overwhelms me. There’s a reason that there are more and more women embracing their natural curls – black hair is beautiful.

However, maintaining that beauty takes time and patience. And as any natural with a busy schedule will tell you, these things can sometimes be hard to find. Whether you’re working long hours or are a time-consumed college student, there are many things that need to get done in a given day, and, to be honest, my hair is never really my top priority. As a junior in college with two majors, I have class from 9am to 5pm, work two jobs, and take part in various extracurriculars. I barely have time to sleep let alone do a twist out.

So, for the busy woman or man who hates neglecting their hair, here are five things I learned about dealing with my hair once starting school, from one natural or expectant natural to another.

1. Brace Yourself for the Time Commitment

It’s always helpful to set aside a few hours in one day in the week when you know you won’t be busy to wash your hair. This usually coincides with the day that I like to have a general mood of relaxation, where I forget about homework and exams and just focus on me (and my current T.V. obsession). While it is known that a wash day can literally turn into a whole day, I like to quicken up the process with a co wash. By just using a light conditioner to gently cleanse my hair, it usually takes me about 30 mins to get in and out the shower. I try to shampoo and deep condition every other week or every two weeks, depending on if I have the extra time or not.

2. But Save Time by Mastering One or Two Easier Styles at First

One of the easiest styles for someone just starting out is the puff – sort of a mix between a bun and a mini afro. It keeps your hair contained while still displaying the beauty of your curls. This should only be done in moderation though because of the stress it can cause to your hair and edges. If time permits, a twist-out and wash and go are my other two favorites, and only require a few extra minutes.

3. Plan Ahead when Traveling to Cities that Have Fewer People of Color

Specifically for college students who live away from home, I’ve learned first-hand that a lot of cities don’t carry a wide variety of hair products for black hair. I’ve learned to always stock up on my favorite conditioners and moisturizers from my favorite beauty supply at home so I never run out.

4. Breathe! And Understand that It's a Process

Natural hair styles are beautiful. Just think of the confidence and joy you feel when you undo your twist-out and a) hallelujah it’s not wet and b) it’s super defined. The process of getting amazing hairstyles, however, may not always look pretty. One solution is a silk pillowcase which is gentler on your hair than a normal cotton pillowcase. But if you’re like me, wrapping my hair before bed is just second nature. I feel too weird without it. I don’t even want to attempt counting the number of times I’ve uttered the phrase “ignore my hair” to my roommate if I’m trying out a new hairstyle. The only solution to this, I feel, is just finding an understanding living partner, whether that be a college roommate or a significant other. After all, you know the relationship is solid if they accept your favorite silk hair scarf or bonnet.

5. Personalize your Hair Journey

The last thing I learned, is that no matter how busy I am, finding the time to do my hair is always worth it. Of course, there are the occasional protective styles during the winter to protect your hair and keep it out of the way, but just running my hand through my curls reminds me how amazingly unique and beautiful black hair is. Although we are now coming off this period where straight relaxed hair is the norm, I encourage everyone to stick through it and embrace their curls. Watch all the natural hair gurus on youtube, google new hairstyles and play around with your hair, find the hair products that make you go “wow, I didn’t know my hair could do that.” Your hair isn’t your world, but it has the power to give you the confidence to take on the world.

Alana Brown