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My whole natural “awakening” was by accident truthfully. My sisters were natural, I had friends who had been natural for years, but me, I did whatever to my hair, whenever, however after a while. In all honesty, I wasn’t a fan of the naturalistas who were overly aggressive and acted like you didn’t love yourself with chemical in your hair, so for years, I was pretty defiant. But after going a long time with stalling hair growth, I stopped trying to make my shoulder length hair work and started chopping it off in college. Mushroom cut for a while, cut it again. Long top short sides for a while,  cut it off again. I had no problem with people going natural, but at the time, it just wasn’t for me.

I had a texturizer that I adored about a year and a half ago. But getting to the adoration part of it was a struggle. When I got it, they literally had to give me a bald fade for it to work, so I went through an “Am I pretty?” struggle for weeks. Once it started growing out, I was certain it was fabulous. Almost six months later it became this big, curly, uneven fro. I refused to go through the same process to have another texturizer treatment done, so I thought, maybe if I can even this unexpected fro out, I can still rock a texturizer but keep all the hair I had grown (a wealth of new growth popped up by six months–Nigerian hair for you).

So when I took that texturizer to the man at my dad’s barbershop, with the help of the overzealous barber, I found myself unexpectedly natural. There I was, in the barbershop with an eerily perfect spherical and kinky fro with no more of the fake, silky curl I had an hour before when I walked into the barbershop (it was on the floor). I thought to myself, “Oh snap! Am I natural?”

While I could have chosen to go back down the same route and try for a relaxer again, it occurred to me that my TWA wasn’t all that teeny after all. So I went to the store, bought a few products and started my natural journey. It has been a year since I made the decision to stick with my natural hair, and I can’t say how glad I am that I did it. After a lot of ups and downs, some braids, a dry winter, and a sad trim or two at the salon (“I’m not draping anymore!” I thought), I, like most people have learned a lot about my hair, have grown proud of it, and actually plan to get locs this weekend (woo-hoo!). I’m sure what I’ve learned you can relate to if you’re growing with your natural hair as well, so yes, let’s share.

1. My Hair Can Feel Like Hay If I’m Not Careful

Wake up on the wrong…or right side of the bed with my bonnet off on accident, and in the morning my hair can feel like a cotton ball from one of those commercials with the catchy song. And no, the touch, the feel of a cotton-like afro is not something I’m a fan of. I’ve learned the importance of protective styling (and cool accessories for those protective styles) and the importance of putting moisturizer on not only my scalp (I’m one of those people who need to), but also on my ends. And oh yes, leave-in conditioners and daily lotions are my best friends.

2. Washing My Hair is Actually Kind of Awesome

Back in the day when I had medium length relaxed hair, or short relaxed hair, washing it was like an event. I was never one of those girls from the movies who would ditch a date because I needed to stay home and wash my hair, but back then, I could understand why a gal would say that. The suffocating blow drying along with standing on my feet for hours trying to flat iron my thick hair was no fun (and the smell of burning hair used to drive me crazy). But now, I let my hair air dry, I two strand twist it, and my hair washing adventure is usually over after an hour and a half. And if I don’t want to twist it, there’s always the miraculous wash-n-go look! Now I finally have time to wash my hair multiple times in a week when I need to. BOW!

3. If You Leave It, It Will Grow

This fro of mine only gets combed when it has conditioner in it, or possibly when I need to tame my hair for two-strands. Otherwise, it stays as is in a large ball. Back in the day I used to leave so much hair in my combs and brushes, but not so much anymore. It might shed a little in the morning from tussling with it, but as I’m sure you know, the less I’ve tugged at it and messed with it, the more my hair has grown and made for a very thick head of hair.

4. With Pain Comes Prosperity

Doing twist outs aren’t the most fun things in the world. In fact, if you reach back and turn your head far enough to make the smallest and most fabulous ones your little fingers can churn out, you will probably start complaining after 20 minutes or so. I know I’m not the only one whose fingertips start to uncomfortably tingle after a while. But the most defined twists can make for the best looking twist-out fros ever. Plus, they give your hair length and bring in lots of compliments…

5. If You’re Going to Use Heat, Take Precautions

I personally won’t be using flat irons anymore on my afro. I had my hair pressed for an event last summer and it took two washes for my curl pattern to get back to the way I like it, and that’s just too long for me. However, if you do choose to use heat, as my co-worker with a large fro says, be sure to utilize heat protectants to keep breakage and more damage than necessary from happening.

6. Rain is Now My Other Friend

If you would have caught me a few years ago, I would have been one of those people thirsty to find a grocery bag to throw on my head just to make it from a store to the car. But nowadays, I take my time walking in light rainfall. I don’t freak out and run or pull out a shower cap, and if I don’t have my umbrella…*Kanye shrug* Worst damage is the annoying droplets in my eyeglasses.

However, I do know better than to let my afro get TOO wet. Not only is that not good for my hair, but I can get sick playing around like that, so don’t think you’re invincible. But don’t be afraid to drink lots of water!

7. Seriously, Find a Few Products and Leave Your Hair and Wallets Be

I found pretty decent products for my hair a long time ago, but when I look in the cabinet in my bathroom, it’s filled with waxes, sprays, curly puddings and more that I shelled a pretty penny out for but don’t use anymore. In all honesty, the products that work best for me were ones I received for free or they don’t have all the pretty smells and colors.

You truly don’t need a cupboard full of s**t (unless you mix and make your own products), and the cost of these people’s products is a rip off. I recommend hitting up a Sephora for some of your products because while they might not be the cheapest, you can bring them back if they don’t work out for you. Otherwise, hit up the beauty supply stores with the random names (Jenny’s Beauty Supply or just…Beauty Supply) and experiment for the low low. I wouldn’t recommend buying the most expensive stuff just because it worked for your friend. As you quickly realize, your hair is very different from somebody else’s, so get two or three things that work for you and save your money.

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