For many women, hair is a big part of their identity. For black women, that could not be more true. India Arie once said "I am not my hair," and we felt that, but sadly it did little to lessen the pressure we feel to straighten, relaxin, perm, and weave to fit in with Eurocentric ideals of beauty. The conversation surrounding black women and hair is a pretty big one. I mean, let's be real, how many times has someone asked if they can touch your hair? So I wore my hair naturally curly for a week to see exactly what it would feel like, and the results were not at all what I expected.
My hair journey has been pretty strange. I have straightened my hair literally every day of my life since the age of 11. So when I say that, before going into this, I had no idea what it looked like curly other than during the brief interlude between shower to blow dry to straightening, I am being totally honest. So it was pretty daunting to let my natural curls loose. But this was something that was long overdue, and something I definitely needed to do for my own self acceptance.
The first day was definitely the hardest as I realised I was pretty out of my depth with knowing how to style my hair curly. I watched a couple of videos on YouTube and adopted a "wash and go" technique, which worked pretty well for me. I woke up, had a shower, got my curls wet (so not necessarily a full wash with shampoo etc.), combed hair in the shower, then I saturated my hair in either the amika Curl Defining Cream or Curl Enhancing Gel and let it dry. I alternated between the cream and the gel each day. These products, along with amika Nice Cream Cleansing Conditioner, definitely helped.
According to my mum, these new curls aren't what they were when I was young, but years of heat damage will do that to your hair. Despite this, the amika products really managed to rejuvenate the curls and, even though there's still a long way to go, I feel that they're already bring my bounce back. I found the Curl Defining Cream to be particularly helpful and it's without a doubt my favourite product. It injected so much hydration into my dry coils and even in the peak of the British heatwave, my hair didn't dry out or go too frizzy, thanks in large part to this product. And the Curl Enhancing Gel was also great. Gels can be pretty drying as a result of maintaining a specific shape but the curl enhancing gel was not at all. It provided moisture and my hair was as soft as ever with no gel residue.
One of the reasons I've never worn my hair naturally is the fear that comes from years of having a different hair type to all my friends and longing for straight hair. Leaving the house for the first time after leaving it natural was pretty scary and the pang of anxiety in my tummy made me question whether or not I even wanted to go on through with the experiment. I felt really vulnerable and was overly aware of my hair and what people would think of it.
After the first day, however, it quickly became my new normal and I was pretty comfortable with this new change. Partly due to the compliments but, honestly, mainly due to how confident it made me feel. Going au natural was really empowering. It's sad that I had repressed this part of myself for so long, but I could not be prouder that I finally took the leap to go natural.
For some time, I thought you'd have to prise the GHD's from my cold, dead hand, before I'd ever give them up. But I'm really enjoying the curly life so the verdict is in and I think I'll keep the curls for a bit.