Na­ture’s way

Tak­ing your hair back to its nat­u­ral state re­quires ex­pert guid­ance to re­store every­thing from the hair­line to the scalp’s health. It will take ef­fort, care and pa­tience on your part, but the re­sults will be amaz­ing.

True Love Hair - - CONTENTS - By SONTO POOE

Often, women em­bark­ing on their jour­ney to re­gain­ing their nat­u­ral hair are con­fused about where to start and how to prop­erly care for nat­u­ral hair. This is be­cause so many of them have re­laxed their hair for as long as they can re­mem­ber.

Un­til the in­tro­duc­tion of hair re­lax­ers in Amer­ica in the early 20th cen­tury, women only had nat­u­ral hair. The first doc­u­mented dis­cov­ery of a re­laxer was recorded in 1909, when African Amer­i­can in­ven­tor Gar­rett Au­gus­tus Mor­gan found out by accident that he could re­lax the curls of kinky hair. This oc­curred dur­ing his at­tempt to make his sewing ma­chine op­er­ate bet­ter. He re­alised that the chem­i­cals ap­plied to im­prove the ma­chine might be ap­plied to re­lax­ing hair. Af­ter test­ing his cream on a dog’s fur and then on his own head, with suc­cess­ful re­sults, Mor­gan es­tab­lished the GA Mor­gan Hair Refin­ing Com­pany and be­gan sell­ing his prod­ucts. And so, a mega in­dus­try was born.

It was only in the late ’70s that the afro and nat­u­ral kinks be­came pop­u­lar again. It took an­other 20 years for this nat­u­ral hair move­ment to fully gain mo­men­tum. Now nat­u­ral hair has be­come the way to go for African women the world over. In South Africa, about 40% of women – aged be­tween 18 and 35 – are go­ing nat­u­ral, with more grad­u­ally join­ing the move­ment. It’s not as wide­spread as the 70% or so women go­ing nat­u­ral in the US, but it is grow­ing.

So, why are women go­ing nat­u­ral? There is no sin­gle an­swer. Women are do­ing so for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, be it health or their need to fol­low a per­ceived trend or to claim back their African roots and sense of African pride. Health rea­sons ap­pear to be the big­gest driver.

A healthy hair and scalp is aligned to healthy self-es­teem. Many women have be­come aware of the toxic ef­fects of chem­i­cal re­lax­ers as too much use can re­sult in thin­ning, hair loss, bald patches and a re­ced­ing hair­line.

Although chem­i­cal re­lax­ers are not the only cul­prits, they’re one of the big­gest con­trib­u­tors. Re­lax­ers work to straighten hair by break­ing it down. This re­sults in a weaker hair strand that breaks and thins. Com­bine that with plaits and braids, and you have a recipe for dis­as­ter. This is why con­di­tions such as trac­tion alope­cia – hair loss that’s caused by pulling on the hair, such as with a tight pony­tail or bun – have be­come so preva­lent.

Hair growth is a com­bi­na­tion of what hap­pens be­neath the scalp and how you take care of the hair that lies on top of the scalp. Un­for­tu­nately, treat­ing hair chem­i­cally and pulling it too tightly can harm the roots, or hair fol­li­cles, that lie be­neath the sur­face. This, in turn, af­fects what comes to the sur­face – to your scalp – and what be­comes vis­i­ble to oth­ers. When­ever hair strug­gles to grow and you get bald patches or a re­ced­ing hair­line, it means the hair is dam­aged.

Don’t ig­nore the signs. The longer you take to act, the harder it will be to re­verse the ef­fects. I re­ceive emails daily from women in dis­tress, ask­ing for help be­cause they are hav­ing ma­jor hair is­sues. Change your rou­tine as soon as you no­tice a change. Give your hair a break and start nour­ish­ing your scalp and fol­li­cles.

And please leave your chil­dren’s hair alone. Their scalps and bod­ies are still de­vel­op­ing. As much as their nat­u­ral hair can be tough to han­dle, teach them to care for their hair with­out chem­i­cally treat­ing it. Their hair is beau­ti­ful just the way it is.

If you want to take your hair back to its nat­u­ral state, here are the steps to fol­low:

WHERE TO START?

If you’re start­ing from re­laxed hair, you have two op­tions: chop it off, or let your­self un­dergo a tran­si­tion. Each method has its ben­e­fits and dis­ad­van­tages. Few women are brave enough to cut their re­laxed or heat-

dam­aged hair and start afresh. Most want to ease into the process.

TRAN­SI­TION­ING

Man­ag­ing tran­si­tion­ing hair takes ef­fort and pa­tience. You’re deal­ing with two dif­fer­ent hair tex­tures, so take ex­tra care. Where your straight and coily hair meet is your hair’s weak­est point, mak­ing it prone to break­age. So don’t be alarmed when that hair falls out dur­ing the tran­si­tion.

GIVE YOUR CURLS TLC

Pa­tience is key to man­ag­ing your jour­ney to nat­u­ral hair. You’ll need sup­port from a pro­fes­sional stylist. Choose some­one with a good un­der­stand­ing of afros and re­laxed hair, so they can look af­ter both tex­tures prop­erly. Equally, make the ef­fort to ed­u­cate your­self about your curl in or­der to treat it cor­rectly at home.

Your do-it-your­self rou­tine has to in­clude a pro­tein-rich or hy­drat­ing con­di­tioner as kinky hair is gen­er­ally very dry. It needs to be con­stantly pro­vided with mois­ture by the prod­ucts we use.

SMART STYLING

Treat­ing two curl pat­terns will be a chal­lenge as the straight­ened hair grows out. You may be tempted to use tex­ture-al­ter­ing meth­ods and tools to man­age your mane. I urge you not to, as this will change your nat­u­ral curl pat­tern and re­sult in the tran­si­tion process tak­ing even longer.

Putting your hair in Bantu knots is a great no-heat styling method that will help to pro­mote your nat­u­ral curl pat­tern while giv­ing your hair a style. You can cre­ate the look from damp or dry hair as an overnight stretch­ing tech­nique.

SNIPPING AS PART OF TRAN­SI­TION­ING

There will come a time dur­ing the tran­si­tion process when you’ll have to trim off the pro­cessed hair. It’s

your call to de­cide at which length you want to do this. It won’t be easy to let go of your length.

But the sooner you do it, the bet­ter – es­pe­cially if your chem­i­cally straight­ened hair was dam­aged. In that case, the straight strands will need more at­ten­tion, so rather chop them off and fo­cus on the curls.

BA­SIC HAIR­CARE

Know­ing your own hair is cru­cial. Learn what works for you and what doesn’t. While the ba­sics of nat­u­ral hair­care is the same for ev­ery­one, the ap­pli­ca­tion of th­ese ba­sics may dif­fer slightly, de­pend­ing on your in­di­vid­ual hair needs and pref­er­ences.

1. Mois­turise. Water is the best mois­turiser. The drier your hair, the more water it needs. Give your hair some mois­ture daily. A spritz bot­tle is ideal if rins­ing your hair daily is not an op­tion.

2. Oil it. Seal in mois­ture with an oil of your choice. A lit­tle goes a long way. Don’t ap­ply too much as this will cause prod­uct build-up, mak­ing your hair heavy. This tech­nique keeps mois­ture in your hair for longer. Some women choose to top up with a cream – do­ing so de­pends on whether your hair needs this. 3. Con­di­tion. Do this at least once a week. The more you co-wash and con­di­tion your hair, the more man­age­able it will be. When there’s prod­uct build-up, wash off the con­di­tioner with sham­poo.

4. De­tan­gle. Knots cause break­age. De­tan­gle them us­ing your fin­gers first, and then use a wide-tooth comb if needed. Work from the tips to the root.

5. Stretch it. When­ever pos­si­ble, keep your hair stretched. Sleep with twists or am­agoda to avoid tan­gling and knots as th­ese cause break­age. So, de­pend­ing on how tight your curl pat­tern is, and how long your hair is, com­plete shrink­age can mean tan­gling. The longer your hair, the more prob­lem­atic this is.

6. Sleep with a satin bon­net. Do­ing so not only pre­vents ex­ces­sive dry­ness, it also pre­vents me­chan­i­cal dam­age to your hair. You can also in­vest in a satin pil­low.

7. Be­ware. Watch out for sharp styling tools. Bobby pins that are dam­aged, metal wig clips with nar­row teeth and combs with sharp edges will tag onto the hair, caus­ing break­age.

8. Avoid heat. Just be­cause your friend’s hair can take heat, it doesn’t mean yours will. Not all hair has the same en­durance, so be care­ful. If you do use heat, be sure to use a heat pro­tec­tion prod­uct on the hair first.

9. Do low ma­nip­u­la­tion hair­styles. Avoid styles that tug on hair and re­quire too much han­dling. Go for gen­tle, quick and easy styles like twists, god­dess braids, Bantu knots and braid-outs.

10. Fo­cus on the hair­line. Avoid styles that pull on your hair­line. If your stylist pulls your hair, go else­where.

11. Per­se­vere. It will be worth it.

Sonto Pooe is the founder and CEO of Na­tiveChild, a nat­u­ral hair and body­care brand for African women.

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