Just recently, I posted a picture of my natural hair, and I received many compliments! So, I’ve decided to come to you all today with all things natural hair, specifically, my natural hair journey and how I continue to maintain it.
My decision to transition to natural hair started in the summer of 2013. Ever since I was 10 years old, I had gotten perms every 6 to 8 weeks at the salon. However, during my freshman year of college, I noticed that my hair was becoming increasingly brittle and began to break more easily. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the products that I was using, if I wasn’t maintaining it as I should, or because of the hormones associated with taking my birth control, but I knew something had to be done. So, the start of my sophomore year, I began my transition.
Unlike a lot of other women out there, I decided not to do the big chop. Instead, I opted for protective styling my hair in order to transition.
In the proceeding segments, I will describe all of the protective styles that I have used since the beginning of my transition phase to now, and the pros and cons that I have experienced with each. I will also answer some FAQs that I’ve been asked over the years.
I got my first sew-in my sophomore year of college when I was beginning my transition to natural hair. I had done months of research on different hair companies and hair textures. When I had chosen the company I thought was best, I got my hair sewed in…and so the transition began.
Being away from home, I quickly found it difficult to get my sew-ins re-done while I was away at college. I would have go home every 2-3 months to get them done again if I was to maintain any sort of consistency.
Q: What kind of hair did you use for your sew-ins?
A: I have used several hair companies with hair ranging from $200+ to $800+. The first sew-in that I got, I used hair from Sassy Mitchell Hair Company. I got 3 bundles of 24″ Brazilian Natural Curl. Each bundle was approximately $220, and I also got a closure of the same texture for approximately $150. This was the most expensive hair that I have gotten.
The next hair company that I used was Hair Are Us. I decided to try a hair company that was less expensive than Sassy Mitchell. I believe that I got 4 bundles of Indian Wavy hair–1 x 22″, 1 x 24″, and 2 x 26″ bundles; I also bought a 16″ closure. In all, the cost was about $500. Because Indian hair is of a thinner texture, and I got long lengths, meaning that the wefts would be thinner, I opted for 4 bundles to achieve the volume that I wanted.
Q: Which texture do you think is the best to purchase?
A: There is no one texture that I would say is the best. It’s all about personal preference. I love a natural curl hair pattern and straight hair as well. I’m not the biggest fan of wavy hair, because I feel as if it’s not as defined of a hair style for a quick, every day style. With curly hair, I can wet it and it curl up beautifully. With straight hair, I can straighten it with ease.
Q: How many bundles should I get?
A. Again, it depends on personal preference. I would suggest 3 or 4 hair bundles depending on the weight of the hair. If you look on the website of the hair company from which you’re buying, you should be able to locate the number of ounces each hair bundle is. If the bundle is closer to 3.0 oz, I’d get 4. If it’s closer to 3.5 oz or 4.0 oz, 3 bundles should suffice. Keep in mind however, no matter the length of the hair, the weight will still be the same. To compensate for longer lengths, each bundle will be of a lesser volume, meaning the bundle will be thinner. If you love voluminous hair like I do, I suggest 4 bundles just to be on the safe side.
Q: How long did you keep your sew-in installed until you got another install?
A. I didn’t keep a single install for more than 12 weeks at a time. Anything longer than that and you run the risk of your actual hair getting matted and excessively tangled underneath.
Q: How did you maintain your transitioning hair while wearing a sew-in?
A. I went to my local Sally’s Beauty and bought several applicator bottles. In one applicator bottle, I would mix ½ shampoo and ½ water. In another applicator bottle, I would mix ½ conditioner and ½ water. In another applicator bottle, I would mix ⅓ apple cider vinegar and 2/3 water. During my transition stage, I used Ion Smooth Solutions Keratin Smoothing Shampoo and Ion Smooth Solutions Keratin Smoothing Conditioner.
While in the shower, I would wet my hair and while lifting each track, generously apply the diluted shampoo between the tracks, massaging my scalp to properly distribute the diluted shampoo, then rinse with warm water. I would repeat the same thing with the diluted conditioner. Lastly, I would use the apple cider vinegar solution as a final cleanser to remove any extra dirt or product and leave it in my hair for about 3-5 minutes, then rinse with cool water. I would allow my hair to fully hair dry. If necessary, I would use my hand held dryer or sit under my hooded dryer to ensure that my hair underneath my extensions was completely dry.
After that, I would take my Wild Growth Hair Oil and use it between my tracks.
I would repeat this process every other week.
- Less manipulation of transitioning/natural hair
- Versatility of styles with extensions
- Length of time for hair installation was relatively short
- Difficult to reach between tracks of transitioning/natural hair when it’s wash day
- Having to have hair installed and re-installed every 6 to 12 weeks, including redoing of braid pattern
- Can easily lead to matting and tangling of transitioning/natural if install left in for too long
- Shedding, matting, and tangling of extensions can occur if not properly maintained (especially with curly textures)
- Can cause traction alopecia (especially around perimeter) if being done for extended periods of time without a break between installs
*As a disclaimer, I have only had extensive experience with box braids, not twists or any other type of protective styling as such
I never saw myself with box braids, but when I saw that my sister had gotten some, I decided to give it a try, and now I love them!
I chose to get box braids simply because I got bored with weave. I wanted something different. By the time I decided to try braids, I was going into my junior year of college/first year of nursing school. At this point, I am almost all of the way natural.
Q: How are box braids installed?
A: The hair stylist uses your transitioning/natural hair and braids it into synthetic hair.
Q: How long does it take you to get your braids done?
A: It depends on the person doing your hair and the size of your braids. Typically, if you get medium-sized braids like I have gotten in the past, then I find it to take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. If you’re getting something life micro braids, then it will take several hours.
Q: How long do you get your braids?
A. I love long braids, so I always get them to the length of my butt. That’s somewhere around 26 inches for me. I’m 5’7.5″. However, box braids can be done at any length.
Q: What kind of hair do you use for your box braids?
A: I purchase 100% Kanekalon hair in the color 1 (black). This type of hair can easily be found at your local beauty supply store and runs for about $2/pack where I live.
Q: How much hair do I need to achieve a voluminous box braid look?
A: Again, it depends on the size of the braids. For me, I would use between 15 to 20 packs of hair.
Q: How long do you keep your box braids in for?
A: I never kept my box braids in for more than 8 weeks. Unlike having a sew-in, there is a lesser chance of matting and tangling. However, since your real hair is braided in with the synthetic hair, it can begin to look unkempt and “fuzzy” if you leave your braids in for too long.
Q: How did you maintain your transitioning/natural hair with having box braids?
A. I didn’t find the need to use applicator bottles as much with box braids because my hair was practically exposed already. I would just wet both my real hair and braids in the shower and would shampoo my hair as one would typically do. However, I would not suggest scratching your hair vigorously, as that would cause your hair to look more unkempt faster. Massaging your scalp will suffice. With box braids, I did not dilute my shampoo or conditioner. I did, however, keep the apple cider vinegar diluted when using it. When I was done in the shower, I would wring out my braids and allow my hair to air dry.
- Easier access to transitioning/natural hair than with a sew-in on wash day
- Uses transitioning/natural hair in combination with synthetic hair to create a more natural look
- Less concern about matting, tangling, and shedding of transitioning/natural hair
- Less concern of matting, tangling, and shedding of synthetic box braid hair
- Can be heavy on the head (depending on size and length)
- Can cause traction alopecia (especially around the perimeter) if being done for extended periods of time without a break between sessions
Never will I ever go back so a sew-in since I discovered wigs! Wigs are very popular in the protective styling world, and this has been my most recent venture. I started wearing wigs in the summer of 2015. I’m so glad that I discovered this option. It has been extremely helpful in growing out and strengthening my natural hair even more.
Q: Why did you decide to try wigs?
A: In my mind, the question was really if I wanted to go back to a sew-in. A sew-in required much more maintenance in my opinion. With a wig, I could take it off if I wasn’t going out anywhere and could tend to the care of my wig more fully. And perhaps most importantly, it was very easy to maintain my natural hair with a wig.
Q: Did you buy your wigs or did you make them?
A: I make my own wigs. Any hair that I have used since summer 2015 has been hair that I have purchased and created into a wig using my own knowledge and skill.
Q: How did you learn how to make a wig?
A: I watched lots and lots of Youtube videos. I’m a pretty fast learner, so it wasn’t very difficult.
Q: What hair did you decide to purchase for your wigs?
A: Thus far, I have made 2 wigs both using the same company. I decided to do a lot of research on Aliexpress hair. I am very particular when it comes to hair. The quality has to be exceptional or else I will not consider it. After doing lots of research, I chose to go with Peerless Virgin Hair on Aliexpress.
Q: What kinds of wigs have you made?
A: The first wig I made was a long, wavy wig. I bought 4 bundles and a closure–2 x 22″, 2 x 24″, and a 20″ closure. The second one I made was a shorter, straight wig. For that one, I bought 2 x 14″, 2 x 16″, and a 14″ closure.
Q: How do you make a wig?
A: I won’t say that it takes a lot of practice, because the first time I did it I was fairly successful, but it does take some research to ensure that your technique is good enough to make a wig that’s wearable. I’d say to watch a lot of Youtube videos like I did if you’re interested in making one yourself. As far as the materials go, all you need is a spandex dome cap, needles, black cotton thread, a wig mannequin head, a wig stand, and your hair (and closure if you choose to purchase one).
Q: How long did it take you to make a wig?
A: I never completed a wig in one sitting. It would take too long and I would get too frustrated. I would complete one wig over the span of about 3 or 4 days.
Q: How long can you wear a wig for?
A: As long as you maintain the wig, you can wear the same one for years. I wore my first wig for about a year on and off. My second wig, I wore it for about a year straight. They both have held up really well.
Q: How do you maintain your hair underneath your wig?
A: Because I can completely remove the wig any time I want, it is so easy to wash my natural hair. I would use my Shea Moisture Strengthen, Grow, and Restore Shampoo and Shea Moisture Strengthen, Grow, and Restore Conditioner. I would also use my apple cider vinegar solution and oil afterwards.
- Easier access to transitioning/natural hair than with a sew-in or braids on wash day
- Can easily be removed when not in use as to cause less wear and tear on the hair
- Versatility of styles with wigs
- Can be easily manipulated (i.e. styled, cut, colored, etc.) because of its easy removal
- Less concern of traction alopecia
- Must have braid pattern redone every 4 to 8 weeks
- Must ensure that wig (if it is a full wig and not a U part wig) blends with transitioning/ natural hair, especially around the part and perimeter
So yesterday, I transitioned from one of my protective styles to my natural hair. Though my hair is in another protective style now, I will share with you what I did to achieve a wash-and-go style for the remainder of the day:
- After taking my braid pattern loose, I combed out my hair. I wanted to make sure that all of the shedded hair was out of my head and to also make sure that my natural hair was not tangled or matted in any way.
- I got into the shower and ran water throughout my hair until it was soaking wet all the way through.
- I used my Shea Moisture JBCO Strengthen, Grow, and Restore Shampoo and Conditioner to wash and condition my hair. I also used my apple cider vinegar solution to clarify my hair.
- I applied a deep conditioner to my hair. I used the Africa’s Best Organics Hair Mayonnaise. Applied generously, I left the deep conditioner on my hair for about an hour, then rinsed with warm water.
- I then combed through my hair using a detangling comb.
- To help define my curls, I used the Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie and the Eco Styler Gel with Olive Oil. First, I applied the former then followed up with the latter. To define the curls, I sectioned my hair into fourths, and “smoothed” the hair root to tip between the palms of my hands.
- After this process is done, I styled my hair. I just chose a high bun.
Just so you all know, I am by no means a natural hair care expert. I rarely wear my natural hair out, and if I do, it’s for a short period of time. It’s simply important for me to maintain healthy hair, whether it be with or without a protective style.
And there you have it. These are all of the protective styles that I have tried over the past 3 to 4 years. Below, I will answer just a few more general questions, as well as give you a few tips on natural hair care.
Q: Should I go natural?
A: I won’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. All I can say is that I’m glad that I did. With permed hair, my hair was really nice, but it felt more thin and lacked a lot of texture that my natural hair has. There has been a movement for women of color (WOC) to gravitate towards natural-izing their hair and to embrace their God-given locs. Personally, I love my naturally curly kinky hair. Yes, it can be a job maintaining and taming it, but I don’t regret doing natural.
Q: Do you suggest the big chop or gradually transitioning?
A: That’s personal preference. I just never saw myself cutting off all my hair, but if you’re comfortable with doing that, then by all means, do it. I imagine it to be less hassle than having 100 different textures of hair in your hair like I did while transitioning.
Q: I’m natural, but am looking for products to try. Where do I begin?
A: This is a loaded questions. There are thousands of products out there for natural hair. One thing I would suggest is to not use the “mainstream” products as your primary haircare products (i.e. Garnier, Loreal, etc). I’m not saying that these products aren’t good, but they to do specifically cater to hair types for WOC. If you are not able to consult a professional hair stylist on products for you, then the best things to do is go online to find reputable hair sources and read reviews on products that others have tried. I will leave some links down below of forums and sites that can be helpful for you.
For the Busy Woman…
Many women I know are always on the go and are looking for ways to look good without taking too long to do so. Here are some tips that I would like to share with those women:
- Know yourself and your schedule. If you’re not going to do a wash-and-go, then use a protective style. The purpose of a protective style is to protect. If you know that you don’t have time to deal with your natural hair and give it the proper attention that it requires, then opt for a long-lasting protective style. That is not to say that you should not take care of your natural hair underneath your protective style because you most definitely should.
- If you opt for a protective style, give your natural hair some TLC too. Just because you don’t see your natural hair does’t mean you should neglect it. Don’t neglect your natural hair. Essentially, the purpose of a protective style is to get your natural hair in better shape–whether it be getting it stronger or growing it longer. Don’t forget to wash, condition, and treat your natural hair regularly and properly.
If you’re looking for some resources on things natural hair and protective styling, I’ve linked some down below for you:
Wanna know your hair type and learn more about your texture? Click here to take the quiz!
Thank you all so much for stopping by!