My curly hair journey – by Parveen Devi
These days, making the decision to wear your hair natural isn’t as big of a deal as it was let’s say, 10 years ago. There’s been a huge societal shift around the notion of what ‘pretty’ looks like when it comes to natural hair, and now more and more women, and men, are transitioning their heat and chemically straightened tresses to embrace their natural beauty – come forth the era of waves, curls and coils.
The curly hair industry is booming more than ever – the options for oils, gels, leave-ins, conditioning treatments and hair accessories is growing by the minute, and best of all, many of these ‘newer’ products are free of most nasties that strip your hair of moisture, like sulphates, parabens and alcohol, so you can get the most out of your hair and products. Honestly, some of this stuff is so ‘clean’ that you could probably just eat a dollop of it with your breakfast granola – I joke, please do not.
For those looking to start their curly hair journey, the time it takes to transition damaged curls back to full health is another matter altogether. It’s worth it when you get there, but it takes time and patience and a good understanding of your hair and it’s needs.
I started taking my hair transitioning journey seriously in January 2017. I realised that I’d lost my curls a year or so before, late 2015 early 2016, when I’d try to do a wash and go, but saw that my curls had wash and left.
At this point I had no curl pattern at all, a 2a-2b wave had replaced my 3a-3b curls. The years of heat and colour had finally taken their toll and I’m pretty sure that blond bob for London Fashion Week AW/15 didn’t help either. I tried to wear it natural after that, but my Pink Oil wasn’t doing the job and I was still putting heat on it. I knew I needed to do something so looked to the internet (blessing and a curse) to get the info I needed.
I wrote this post because I learnt some things along the way that I wish I’d known from the very beginning. If you’re reading this and you’re starting, thinking of starting or are already on your transitioning journey, I hope this helps!
First things first, don’t let anyone rattle you – including yourself
When I made the decision to go natural I had a lot of ‘ugly’ hair days – just want to get that out there early doors. Not everyday braids and buns, sometimes you just need to let it down, but it’s not going to look defined and healthy in the beginning.
My only advice on that front is to accept that this is your fate for now – and get over it. On those harder days when your hair just won’t cooperate, it’s important remember why you’re doing this in the first place – to become the beautiful, natural, self-accepting curly-haired king or queen you were born to be. Amen.
Aside from my own hang-ups, I had people tell me that I’d never get my curls back, some made jokes about my hair, I think some didn’t even believe I’d ever had curls to begin with, I had the ‘I like your hair better straight’ comments, and some ‘friends’ even tried to shame me for using products that are typically used for Afro-Caribbean hair.
So there, through the bad hair days, the frustration and the haters, I stuck at it because I realised that my curls were a part of my identity, and in all honesty, when I realised they were gone, I felt I’d lost a part of myself. Stick at it.
Save your paisā (money)
This is the part about the internet being a blessing and a curse. It was information overload. So many products, do’s and don’ts, natural remedies this and folklore that. My advice is save your money. If you’ve lost your curl pattern completely and haven’t big-chopped, no manner of greasing up your head piece is going to help. I know these products look beauts, and they are, but no point in spending the money if it’s not for you – yet.
I brought so much, I was a product junkie, all of it the good stuff, sulphate, paraben, mineral oil, silicone, calorie free, everything free except the price tag. And I’ll be honest, most of it did NOTHING until about a year later of no heat no chemicals.
Figure out your hair porosity from the get-go – bearing in mind this will probably change as the condition of your hair improves. Then choose products according to your hair type. I’m presuming most will be dry, damaged, chemically damaged or transitioning – so go with those products. Choose light /heavy products according to what your hair can take/ needs and when you see improvements, change it up.
I went with Shea Moisture’s JBCO range those first few months and it gave me the kick start I needed. Talia Waajid was one of my first natural hair styling products. Stick to just a few products that work together, don’t overload or complicate your hair routine.
Essential things you need:
• A good brush / comb (I use Denman)
• A leave-in
• A gel (not talking about Eco here)
• A cream / custard / butter
• An oil
• Shampoo/ conditioner
• Microfiber towels / old t-shirt
• Silk / satin headwrap / pillowcase
• Water spray bottle
I’d also recommend weekly hair masks – I used this Shea Moisture one in the beginning and swapped between that and castor oil.
Lay off the heat and colour!
Listen – this was the hardest part for me. Not straightening my hair. I was literally training myself and self-counselling through the early stages of my hair journey. It was tough, but I was disciplined, and I didn’t put heat on my hair for 10 months straight. I treated myself to straight hair for my 30th birthday, but went back to natural after.
I didn’t even use a diffuser to dry my hair, I stuck with air drying or kept my hair back and deep conditioned regularly. I also stopped colouring my hair for a few months, put a balayage to brighten it up a little in June 2017 and then completely left it alone for while. No heat no colour.
The progress with no heat and no colour from January 2017-June 2017 was brilliant. As soon as I added the colour in June I saw a drop in progress and had to work hard to get it back – if you can help it, just don’t, the bleach killed my progress and I wish I hadn’t done it.
Go for the big chop
You’re best off just getting it out of the way lol! But if you can’t bring yourself to do it, trim those ends regularly, like every 2-3 months religiously, it really helps. After the balayage incident (which also coincided with me cutting my own hair) I had curly bob cut in, I let it grow a little but kept it shoulder length because the condition wasn’t good enough to justify growing it longer. It took around another year before I could justify letting it grow past the shoulders.
Don’t compare yourself to others
There’s no point fawning over the healthy, bouncing curls and juicy twist-outs on Insta. I’ve spent hours scrolling through curly hair pages, reading advice and looking at other people’s curls and wondering why mine aren’t there yet. Don’t do it to yourself. Everyone’s hair is different, everyone’s journey is different, and what works for someone else might not work for you. Read the success stories and take solace in the fact that you are doing something right for yourself and, with a little TLC and patience, your curls will come back in abundance.
Section, comb, distribute product evenly
If you have not already, start learning how to section, detangle and distribute product through your hair evenly – it makes a massive difference. Use a microfiber towel or t-shirt to scrunch hair and remove excess product – works wonders for frizz.
Research the L.O.C method and other techniques such as plopping, raking, praying hands, finger coils, twisting and scrunching to get the best out of your wash day.
Wash N ‘Go’ isn’t a thing
The term ‘wash and go’ insinuates that you will wash your hair, shake out your curls and leave the house. This isn’t the case. You won’t be going anywhere fast. I’d save wash days for weekends or days where you have plenty of time to style and dry your hair. If you look after your hair properly on wash day, your curls will go much longer between washes.
Also, start co-washing. I was late to the game with this one, and didn’t start until about a year in, but once I did I never looked back. It instantly helps with maintaining moisture and overall health of hair, whilst helping to remove product build-up – my fave co-wash at the moment is by As I Am.
You’ll have read this many times before but there’s no other way to put it. You need to give it time. I hit a wall about 2 years in, I thought that the looser 2c curl pattern I had in places was going to stay that way, I was frustrated. But then it changed again. It just keeps changing. At one point I had 4 curl patterns, try styling that!
There will come a beautiful moment when you wash and style your hair and you see that first curl coming in at the roots, or a lovely clump of curls underneath. I remember when I went for a trim and me and my hairdresser got so excited over my first curl coming in at the front – it was a special moment lol.
When it comes to that time when you’re ready to rock your natural hair regularly, get a proper curly cut by a professional. They are a little bit more expensive, but it’s worth it, especially when your hair starts to grow out – I use 3thirty, but there are loads out there to choose from. There is literally no point in doing all the hard work and then have your curls looking less than their best with a bad cut.
So that’s it, things I wish I knew from the beginning. I’m now 3 years and 4 months into my journey and I still feel I have some way to go. I’ve got 3 curl patterns – better than 4! But I actually have curls, at the beginning of this journey I had none at all. It’s amazing, and every time I get a trim I see more growth on this journey. I’ve learnt to understand what my hair needs, but it’s still changing so I have to adapt.
The best part is that I’ve regained a big part of my identity and I’m more confident than I’ve ever been. Embracing the natural is liberating and I hope anyone reading this can feel something similar for themselves. Anyway – save, share and utilise.
Take care, stay safe – and good luck!