It’s a big thing for women of color – our hair. Long, short, kinky, curly, wavy, straight, fried, died, laid to the side? Yes! It matters! Here, we can discuss our hair and how it affects our day to day lives!
I get lots of questions about my hair. I’ve been natural since 2009 and, when stretched, my hair reaches down past my waist. If I were to straighten it at this point, I’m convinced it would take me two days to get through it. Jeez.
But I am constantly fielding questions about my hair, and I don’t mind! I realize that, when I wear my hair out, it’s essentially me broadcasting myself as a pro-natural, an ambassador for kinks and coils, of sorts. If nothing else, I’ve got a good grasp of what it means to grow thick and healthy hair.
Don’t ask me how I style it, though. I’m Team #LazyNaturals. And I for damn sure am not sleeping in bantu knots just to get a curly fro in the morning. I need my sleep more than I need that cute curl.
I wanted to compile a blog post with answers to the most common questions I get about my hair, so that I would have one clear place to direct people who want to know about my fro. Nothing fancy, nothing spectacular, just all the insight I have to share about healthy hair, in hopes that yours can be poppin’, too!
(One day, I’ll get Ed to take a fancy pants photo of me to put in this blog post, so that I can have something other than selfies to share!)
1) What are you doing to that hair?
Honestly, it’s more about what I’m not doing to it. I never style my hair when it’s dry. I mean, never. I also don’t straighten it or use a blow dryer on it, instead opting for towel drying it when necessary. My hair is not very porous and most of the water literally just sits on the outside of my strands, so a few swipes of the towel and I’m good. I am careful and strategic with detangling—first doing it with my fingers, then with my paddle brush. I have no use for a comb and haven’t used one on myself in years, opting to part my hair with my fingers instead.
These two options right here, reducing heat and careful detangling and combing, are enough to stop a good third of all breakage. I rarely have split ends, though I do get a bit of knotting at my ends, but a trim once or twice a year takes care of that for me.
2) How often do you wash it?
I usually rinse my hair at least 3 times a week, just about every other day, and I towel dry when I do. When I’m not holed up at home with the little one, it can go up to as much as five times a week, and that’s really ideal for me—I have hair that isn’t very porous at all, so regular rinses are good for me. I shampoo maybe 3-5 times a month, though—I don’t use a lot of products in my hair, and I keep the random styling to a minimum, so there’s little point in using a gang of shampoo so often. What’s more, shampoos often just wind up caking more mess onto my hair that I really don’t need. No thanks.
Also, I mix an empty spray bottle with 3 parts water to one part apple cider vinegar and spray my hair with it to remove any caked up stuff. It works as a natural clarifying mixture, and my hair not only feels soft but is more able to absorb moisture afterwards to help it stay soft. I do that once every couple of months or so, or whenever my hair starts looking dry even after it as properly moisturized. That’s a pretty good sign than I’ve got residue from all the moisturizing stuff, so the vinegar helps to rinse it all off.
A photo posted by Erika Nicole Kendall (@bgg2wl) on
3) What are you using in it?
When I’m at the gym, I’m using Kiehl’s Coconut Oil shampoo and Formula 109 conditioner. That’s the stuff my gym offers, and it’s free.
Remember, I’m cheap. Also? It’s damned good stuff.
When I’m at home, I use the Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus shampoo that I copped from Walgreens when it was buy one get one free. I also use their Castor Oil leave in conditioner to style my hair after I rinse it.
I also have a homemade hair “grease” that’s fairly similar to Carol’s Daughter’s Mimosa Hair Honey that I use for my scalp and ends whenever I twist or braid it. And, when I’m out of that because everyone in my household has natural hair (or a huge beard that uses about as much of my stuff as I do), I just go with regular ol’ coconut oil.
When it comes to keeping my hair moisturized, I generally stick to one rule: Rinse with a liquid, douse with conditioner, complete with a bit of oil. Regardless of the brand, if I stick to that system, I tend to do alright.
It depends on the workout. If I’m practicing yoga, I wear it in two braids on the sides of my head (like pictured above), or in twists that I pin to my scalp to keep it out of the way. I don’t want buns or knots to interfere with me being able to focus 100% on any part of my practice or cause pain while I’m in the middle of something.
A photo posted by Erika Nicole Kendall (@bgg2wl) on
If I’m running, I’m all about the topknot. I’m lazy, and I’m likely going to be washing it shortly after that, so I just put it in a sloppy knot with a headband wrapped around my edges with a little bit of coconut or castor oil.
If I’m lifting, I just make sure it’s up on top of my head and out of the way.
The overall point here, is to ensure that there’s no interference with my workout. The more out of the way I can put my hair, the better.
5) Do you protective style?
I guess it depends on how you define “protective style.” Do I wear weaves or wigs? No. I don’t have the patience to sit to get them done, nor do I have the patience to deal with hair that high maintenance. Do I wear braids with fake hair? No. Again, patience. I considered getting boxed braids with silver tips when I was pregnant, but then I remembered that’d be more high maintenance than I already am, and decided against it.
I do wear my top bun, but I’m likely to stop doing that now because Baby Sprout has this uncanny habit of rubbing my forehead and hairline, and it’s screwing with my edges. I can’t have that. It’s bad enough that my eyebrows are so messed up from overtweezing in my 20s. I can’t be out here with wild eyebrows and edgeless.
I wouldn’t wear any style that would prevent me from washing my hair often. I also wouldn’t wear a hairstyle that resulted in constant and consistent pulling and tugging on my hair. I absolutely wouldn’t wear any hairstyle that did both.
Everything I do my hair is designed to be able to be undone in 10 minutes or less, preferably in the shower because—remember?—I don’t mess with my hair when it’s dry.
6) What is your secret?
Collard greens and avocado and water. No, seriously.
I know that lots of women swear by supplements and special sulfur compounds and eye of newt and chicken blood to make their hair grow, but here’s the thing: all of the things your body needs to produce healthy hair (and, healthy skin and nails, too) are found in collard greens, which are quite possibly nature’s most nourishing food. (So, the next time y’all throw shade at your Meemaw’s pot of collard greens and hamhock, remember: in that pot is everything you’ve ever needed to thrive.)
I talked about this in my blog post about loose skin, but the vitamins that contribute to healthy blood flow and healthy hair, skin, and nail growth—vitamins A, E, and K—are available in abundance in dark and leafy green vegetables like greens (collard, mustard, turnip, and beet greens), broccoli, kale, and spinach. Those vitamins are best absorbed when consumed with dietary fat, so adding different fat sources like avocado, peanut butter or any kind of oil like peanut, sesame, or olive is your best bet.
Why is water important? Nutrients are likely not getting through your body the way they should if you’re not drinking enough water. I know it’s important for numerous reasons outside of merely hair, but if your goal is to grow your hair out healthily and reduce damage, hydration counts.
There are women who’ve experienced great rewards from taking supplements, but there aren’t any supplements that will offer the kind and quality of nutrients that a proper diet can. Real talk.
7) Did you experience any shedding after you stopped taking your pre-natal vitamins?
Yes, but it was minor. Often, what happens is the sudden drop off of nutrients in the body results in mass breakage and shedding, so finding other ways to get those nutrients and keep them in your daily diet makes a positive difference. I slowly reduced the number of pills I took each day—my particular pre-natal pill was a 3-times-a-day one—and increased the amount of dark and leafy greens I ate each time. Because I make sure to incorporate greens in every day, this was pretty easy for me.
The things that make the largest difference to my hair growth?
- drink lots of water regularly
- dark-and-leafy greens
- lots of guacamole—okay, maybe not guac, but healthy dietary fats
- rinse hair thoroughly often
- keep hair moisturized often
- skip as many tightly-pulling hair styles as possible
- paddle brush and finger-combing
- careful detangling
- don’t mess with it when it’s dry
- don’t really mess with it at all
Eat your veggies and leave your hair alone, and watch—it’ll grow like roses!
Ask me questions! If I missed anything, let me know and I’ll include it!