We moved to Bangkok, Thailand approximately four years ago which prompted me to begin my natural hair journey. I discovered that my happily relaxed hair quickly reverted to a frizzy mess in the suffocatingly high humidity. On top of this unsightly bird’s nest called my “hair”, was the sobering reality that Bangkok was not raining with salons that did relaxers.
Enter my natural hair journey to grow out my relaxer and embrace my natural hair. Which sadly I had zero memory of what that even looked like. YouTube became my tutor in which I became a most reliable student. I began following these hair wizards as they effortlessly combed through their wet natural tresses with ease. I was in awe. Washing my hair was easy at first, then my new growth became the majority. I found myself in the shower desperately clutching my conditioner in one hand and my wide tooth comb in the other. What was this SORCERY?! Nothing seemed to work, and I literally was in tears as I struggled to detangle. How did these YouTube women make it look so easy?!
Realzing I had to embrace the fact that it was time to do, “The Big Chop”. I stood there naked, with a wet head, staring blankly at my scissors and my hair. Half in coils and the lower half, sad and lifeless. It had to go. I’ve only trimmed my hair, never have I attempted to cut – but here goes nothing. I hacked away at it with a “fuck it”, attitude. The results were not optimal, okay it was a bad cut..but I didn’t care. It was liberating. I played around with my coils and embedded my hands in my new Afro. Nice!
Over the next few months I YouTube’d my way through various styles, headbands, and products. I was shipped product from PWB, the most helpful being Back to your Roots by Shaz & Kiks and No. 1 by Mflorens. They were life changing! Back to your roots really softened my hair making the detangling process a breeze. No.1 by Mflorens helped my hair grow faster than I thought humanly possible. I embraced my big hair, I had succeeded! I had mastered my natural hair..or so I thought.
Fast forward to my family moving to Los Angeles, California. New climate, new hair situation. Dammit! My easily hydrated hair from the humidity of Thailand suddenly was dry as a desert in California. I simply could NOT keep the moisture in. My hair seemed to laugh at every oil, grease and conditioner. I felt like I was back to square one! Through my YouTube education I learned that applying liquid, oil, then cream AKA “LOC method” was the code to my natural hair. What the hell?!
Gradually I learned that I now needed to change my application of products to, “liquid, cream then oil” to seal in more moisture. WOW, this shit isn’t easy. I felt as though I needed a break. I had taken hair breaks before and worn cornrows as a protective style. I wasn’t really in the mood for that, I really wanted something different this time.
My sister, who also went natural years ago, wears her hair straight. She is a regular patron of The Lounge on Wilshire here in LA. They only do what is called, “The New Natural”. They whip up these custom-made smoothies depending on what they feel your hair needs. Following the smoothie, they then put you under the steamer, this is followed by a deep conditioner and more steam. Finally, they roller set you. She then runs a hot comb on your roots for barely a second. You can choose how to be sent on your way. Either with your hair wrapped, curly or in Bantu knots. The next day when you take your hair down it is simply MAGIC!
I was hesitant to try this salon because all my life I had heard that hot combs were bad and I believed that I would be turning my back on my Afro, an utter betrayal. I decided to go for it. The results were nothing short of jaw dropping. My hair had grown beyond belief to my bra strap thanks to my products from PWB. It was shiny and felt like silk, not an exaggeration. The smoothie that they made for me consisted of pineapple, kimchi, and onion juice. It smells as badly as it sounds..worse. Totally worth it.
My hair maintenance now is simple. I apply a light oil, the hair serum by Nuele to my hair at night and do one top knot. I tie it up and the next day it’s gorgeous. So, this is my look for now. I will return to my curly self one day. I do feel as though I turned my back on my natural hair women, wearing their hair big and proud.
I am proud, and I must constantly remind myself that my hair IS still natural. A new natural. I have no chemicals; I am still a curly girl at heart. I’m simply on hiatus – and that is okay.
By Tene Closson-Prager