Natural hair in various styles and colour is trending right now. A number of women, particularly women of colour, are opting to wear their hair natural instead of using hair straighteners or weaves. Naturally, celebrities, artists and influencers are at the forefront of this revolution, showing us just how we can push natural hair boundaries with as little effort as possible. American singer Solange Knowles album titled “A Seat At The Table” released in September this year has become a “Bible” for those who are pushing the “Don’t touch my hair” narrative. The album talks about black survival, black pride, self love and it also encourages women to embrace their hair in it’s natural state.
South African beauty blogger, Eleanor J'adore has been wearing her hair in it’s naturally curly state for most of her life, alternating between relaxers, blow-drying and flat-ironing every so often.
“I still remember begging my mother to relax my hair when I was 12 year- old and how she reluctantly gave in to my persistent requests. Ever since then it was a see-saw ride of wearing my hair curly and straight” she says.
“When I was 20 I dyed my hair a very obnoxious blonde and wore it curly most of the time but my hair soon dried out and became very straw-like. I didn't know a thing about caring for coloured hair then and this is when I decided to chop it all off.
“I just didn't want to be walking around with my awful blonde curls anymore. Even though I loved the emerging dark curls, I soon relaxed it again,” J'adore explains.
“Every few months I would just trim off some of the heat damaged hair...my hair has been thriving ever since,” J'adore explains.
“I think women are simply tired of conforming to the expectation that straight hair is better when they don't actually have straight hair. Most women want to set a positive example for their children. So often we hear children say, ‘I want my hair straight and pretty like the girl's hair at school.
“That combined with seeing their mothers straightening their hair when they themselves have curly coils sends an indirect message that their natural hair isn't beautiful. When children see their mothers wearing their hair natural and proud, this in turn influences them to wear their hair proudly.”
She adds that for a long time mainstream media mostly featured women with straight hair, which was seen as the ideal standard of beauty. “This has to an extent had a very negative impact on women who don't have naturally straight hair.”
The term "naturalista" refers to someone who wears their hair in the texture it grows from their scalp, ie, curly, coily, kinky or wavy, so without the use of chemical relaxers, perms or straighteners, explains J'adore.
J'adore further explains that transitioning from chemically straightened and damaged hair is a scary and often traumatic process. And that many opt to bravely cut off the damaged hair, referred to as the ‘big chop’, and start afresh. This can be quite emotional for some and that doing “you” and not following hair fads or trends because at some point you will have to deal with naysayers.
“There are many people out there who are still rather ignorant about this topic and they will either make fun of you or try to dissuade you from carrying on your natural hair journey. It’s important to surround yourself with people who support your decision and who understand why you’re embarking on this journey,” she says.
She encourages ladies to join online groups and following natural hair bloggers, where members provide support as well as actual advice, tips and tricks on how to make the journey easier with practical hair advice.
For those who feel that chopping all their hair off is too dramatic, you could transition for as long as you like. This means you stop using all relaxers and straighteners on your hair, and just let it grow out. Over time you gradually cut off the straight and damaged hair until you eventually are left with your natural texture, J'adore advises.
Wearing your naturally doesn’t mean you can just wash, condition and go. Taking care of your hair is extremely important to maintain healthy curls and coils. J'adore shares her simple routine which keeps her hair in the great condition
1. I wash my hair once or twice a week with a sulphate free shampoo. Occasionally I'll wash it with a cleansing conditioner as it's more gentle on the hair.
2. I deep condition my hair with every wash, even if it's just for five minutes, but generally I like to leave it on for half an hour. Once I step out of the shower, I liberally apply leave-in conditioner, followed by a hair butter which usually has Shea butter as its base.
3. Following this I'll seal in the moisture with my favourite oil, which is coconut oil.
4. Then I'll let my hair air-dry, but if I really want my curls to pop, I'll use my diffuser on cool to warm air and dry my hair until it's 90 - 95% dry.
5. Thereafter I'll use my afro pick to lift my roots which creates a lot of volume. That's how you get the big hair, that so many naturalistas love.
On the days I don't wash my hair I'll just moisturise it by spraying it with a bit of water and I'll apply some more leave-in conditioner.