After many years of struggling to keep up with straightened hair, Janine Jellars decided to go natural.
This was over a decade ago, when she decided to cut her relaxed hair and start growing natural hair from ground roots level.
Her journey has not been easy; Jellars found herself hating her short hair and regretting the big chop.
“Different things inspired my natural hair. First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever felt comfortable with straightened hair. I don’t think it was for me. Also, from the health perspective, I don’t think my hair was healthy, ” says Jellars.
Jellars hated her short hair but she had no other option but to wait for it to grow again.
“Probably for the first six months to a year, I was like ‘What the hell is going on?'" she says.
Fast forward to now: Jellars has a healthy head of afro hair that she loves so much that she has recently published an e-book titled The Natural Newbie Guide, where she shares her hair journey and tips on how to grow natural hair.
“I’m passionate about providing education and tools to make it easier to grow natural hair, because we’re living in a society that doesn’t have a lot of resources around it,” she says.
“The default is that you either have straight hair as a white person, or you are going to straighten your hair because we are all taught to do that.
“If you do want to embrace your natural hair, I feel that, as someone who has done this, I need to provide accommodation for those who want hair like mine,” she says.
“I’ve blogged about hair, written articles about it, but what I've found worrying is that I kept getting the same questions.
"People would send me inboxes, stop me at malls and ask, ‘please tell us the basics, how did you even get started?’
“I was then inspired to create something that people can use as a guide. Something that wasn’t necessary like being on Google all the time trying to find the answers, but just a one-stop shop where they can refer to it over and over again,” Jellars explains.
“This isn’t about pushing products, products review or ‘I use this, you must use that’. It’s a common-sense practical guideline around hair care,” she says.
Growing natural hair is not an easy process. It requires a lot of maintenance and extra careful use of products to avoid damaging your hair.
“It’s not just about saying 'I want natural hair so I am not going to relax my hair'. A lot of people find that their skin and scalp react negatively to products.
“I had an issue with mineral oil products, my scalp was always gross and disgusting, and I discovered it was actually the product I was using.
"That’s why it’s important to understand what goes into your products it’s more about making sure that what you put on your hair is as healthy and natural as possible,” she says.
Janine Jellars in her natural hair.
Another important factor when growing natural hair is how you dry it. It’s always advisable to use a towel rather than to blow-dry, Jellars says. And with that too, you have to be selective in terms of what you use to dry your hair and avoid normal towels.
“Don’t use your normal towel because the cotton that it’s made of is not really bad for your hair. It’s just that it can be very rough, and that can cause breakage and tangling,” she advises.
“A microfibre towel is actually better because it absorbs the water from your hair and it doesn’t have rough edges that your normal towel has. If you don’t have a micro fibre towel, go for an old T-shirt because it has that soft cotton and won’t be rough on your hair, causing tangling and breakage,” says Jellars.
Besides natural hair, there’s a burning issue for most black women, which is the hairline. Not having a hairline can be stressful as it's not considered a good look.
Most women lose their hairline because of the "protective styles" they wear. Protective styles are hairstyles that protect the hair from over-manipulation, chemical and environmental elements. They include braids, wigs or weaves. They also play a role in helping the hair grow more quickly but keeping them too long can do more harm than good.
“The reason for hairline loss is that people keep protective styling for too long. I also think some women are just too rough in the handling of their hair.
“When you get braids, some stylists tighten them too much, especially in the front, forgetting that the hair there is just too short.
"When you get your hair done, be it braids, cornrows or weave (depending on the installation), just make sure that it’s not super-tight. Be very cautious of what the stylist is doing,” says Jellars.
“You shouldn’t have a headache for two days after you have your braids done. It shouldn’t be too tight because it causes pulling on your hair, especially super-long braids, because your hair can break easily with those.
“When you do get these hairstyles, just make sure whoever is doing them is very gentle, especially around your hairline. Also make sure you don’t have many processes done at the same time.
“I know some women go to the salon and get their hair relaxed, dyed and braided. That is just putting unnecessary stress on your hair and once your hairline is gone, it's such a struggle to get it back,” says Jellars.
For more on how to grow and keep your natural hair healthy, get your e-book, The Natural Newbie Guide by Janine Jellars.