I kind of wish i had kept a hair journal from the beginning of this journey but never mind, better late than never. I think i have finally worked out a routine that works for me with much trial and error along the way, not to mention the fortune i have spent on products. Since this is my first post, I’ll try to start at the beginning and share how far i have come. Although it has been exciting it has also at times been hugely frustrating; i want to do my natural hair journey and its struggles justice.
Growing up i always had this full mane of curls that my mum had no idea how to take care of. She oiled and brushed (I have shed many tears during the brushing process) my crazy curls to submission the best she could. In every childhood picture my virgin hair is a frizz galore puff, but still even in that state it was shiny and thick with lots of potential.
As i got older and became a teenager i remember how much i hated my hair. I used tons of gel to slick it back into a ponytail. The majority of pictures from my teenage years show my hair slicked back to perfection with the curls contained as much as possible with hair ties. I envied every straight haired girl around me. My best friend at the time had beautiful thick lustrous straight hair that never looked out of place with minimal effort to my dismay.
So i guess it makes sense considering my battle up until that point that as soon as i found a way out of the crazy curly bad hair days i embraced it with both hands, arms and legs haha. I think i was about 18 when i discovered blow outs and straighteners, i was in LOVE! From that point my hair was hardly ever seen in its natural state. I loved my hair straight and eventually invested in my own GHD straightener. I loved the fact that every couple of days i could spend about 2 hours stretching and straightening the life out of my hair and then that was it, i didn’t have to touch it until the next dreaded wash day. It was no doubt a dream come true to my young self!
However now at the age of 31, having killed my hair for the last 12 years i truly wish i had embraced my natural hair back then. Over those years i almost completely lost my curl from all the damage straighteners done to my hair. If i hated my hair before, i sure as hell hated it more once i started straightening because the frizz was insane in its natural state. It also thinned out a lot and was no longer thick; thank god i had a lot to start with or i would probably having nothing left now.
In April 2017 my hair was at its worst! It had had enough and was fighting back. My hair started becoming frizzy even when i straightened it. It looked dry and had almost completely lost its natural shine. However, I think the thing that changed everything was how much hair i was losing! My scalp was dry, extremely itchy and would visibly flake even when i had just washed it. I knew i had to make a change or would end up regretting it massively.
So in May 2017 my journey back to my natural roots began. I started doing lots of research on curly hair and how to take care of it. I remember the first thing that caught my attention was sulphates and how bad they are for curly hair. At this point it was my scalp that i was most concerned about so i decided to try a sulphate free shampoo. This was the beginning of a very frustrating process and i soon realised how expensive my journey would be as i went from product to product with no real benefits to my scalp. If anything my shedding got worse and at one point that comes to my mind now it really scared me badly. I remember that day i actually cried in the shower as clumps of my hair fell out. Every stroke through my hair with my hands would result with my palm being full of hair, it just wouldn’t stop coming out. I will always remember that day because it was definitely the lowest point during the last nine months.
The strange thing is that when i eventually went back to sulphates after about three months of trial and error using sulphate free, the shedding slowed down. I was pretty confused but very aware that I had lost a large amount of hair and it had never felt or looked so thin. I was back at square one and ready to give up and just accept the fact that i would never have nice hair and i couldn’t style it straight anymore so would just have to accept bad hair for the rest of my life (sounds dramatic but the struggle was real).
I kept on doing my research and started learning about silicones and build up issues and realised this could be it! I started researching my current products and found to my horror that almost all the products i used included the worst types of silicones and drying alcohols. I knew from past experience that my scalp was super sensitive to gels and styling creams and almost always ended up driving me crazy itching. So i thought id jump in at the deep end and stick to sulphate shampoo, silicone free conditioner and an all natural gel. This is where i discovered a DIY flaxseed gel tutorial on YouTube. When i finally got everything i needed and made it at home my hair absolutely loved it! However i am not the most patient of people and found the process of making it a total nightmare mainly because i just could not get it to be the right consistency. It also flaked in my hair which was annoying and it smelled a bit weird. But my hair definitely started getting softer and my scalp was less itchy. My hair was still shedding quite a lot but it was starting to get better slowly.
From this point things started going upwards. I have been through tons of products and have really educated myself on good and bad ingredients. I am much more aware of what i put in my hair and am able to spot ‘baddies’ on the ingredients label. I have done huge amounts of research on the CURLY GIRL method which was first created by the curly hair guru Lorraine Massey who encouraged curlies to be ingredient savvy and practice co-washing (conditioner only washing). Although i am not technically using the CG method because i still use shampoo i have still benefited hugely from learning about it, i whole heartedly recommend everyone to look into it.
A research platform that has really helped me is YouTube curly hair Vlogs/tutorials (My favourites: UK Curly Girl, Lana Summer, Leximarcellaa, Naptural85) which are full of information, product reviews and DIY treatments which i have grown to love! More recently i also discovered Facebook curly hair community groups (Curly Girls UK, Curly Girl UK Support Group) which feels more like a sisterhood of curlies all sharing their journey, product recommendations, tips and tricks. I am hooked and love the feeling that i am not alone, there is no judgement and we are all learning from each other and encouraging one another to embrace our natural beauty!
In conclusion, in the last nine months i have learnt and I’m sure will continue to learn what my curls and scalp love/hate for the first time. Here is what i know so far:
- Silicones even PEG modified ones which are more soluble in water. This makes sense as my scalp builds up super fast hence resulting in it becomes itchy and aggravated.
- Wax and petroleum which also causes build-up.
- Castor Oil which took me a while to realise as my hair generally loves oils. This oil just seems to make my scalp itchy even though it is brilliant for growth.
- I would say Honey is a dislike rather than a hate, unfortunately it makes my hair frizzy.
- HARD WATER which is the bane of my life because i live in London which has notoriously hard water. I currently tackle this by doing a final wash with Evian bottled water (when i remember). This problem still needs some consideration as i hate the thought of all that plastic waste not to mention it can get kind of pricey over time.
- LOVE LOVE LOVE Deep conditioning. My hair absolutely adores a good deep condition whether it is warm oil pre-poo (pre-shampoo) or my favourite conditioner (Garnier Ultimate Blends Rice oats) generously applied with added Aloe Vera under a plastic cap for an hour or two. I also really want to try the flaxseed gel as a deep conditioning mask. I currently deep condition around twice a week religiously and it has made a huge difference to my hair.
- Aloe Vera gel which i extract from the actual leaf, blend and turn into ice cubes for me to reach for whenever i need it (There are great YouTube tutorials on how to do this). My scalp especially loves this as it soothes itching and is great for hair loss.
- Apple Cider Vinegar rinse which is just amazing on my scalp, really helps with any build up or scalp issues. Have found it a bit drying on my actual hair though so just focus it on my scalp and oil the ends for protection before i do it.
- CANTU products especially the Moisturising Curl Activator which makes my curls pop like they never have before. I also like the Define and Shine Custard.
- Oils is a love and hate because my scalp hates it but my hair adores and really benefits from it. I have found an amazing all natural blend that i am able to buy over the counter and is cheap and cheerful called Africa’s Best Herbal Oil. I have been raving about this to anyone that will listen because i feel it has made a really big difference to my hair health. I’ve also been digging for all natural specific oils. My hair loves olive oil and sweet almond oil. I have only yesterday bought Avocado oil to add to my collection which i am excited to try.
My next step now that i have eliminated my routine of silicones and incorporated more of what my hair loves is eliminating my initial target… Sulphates. So i have purchased Schwarzkopf Children’s shampoo which is sulphate free and was recommended to me on the Curly Girls UK Facebook group. It seems that many have had a good experience with this shampoo and it is very cheap and cheerful which is always good in my books. I have so far used it once and it wasn’t a terrible experience except my hair did shed more than usual which always happens when i remove sulphates. I have kept my hair product free today so i am able to watch this space without any other contributors. I have my fingers crossed for this product as it will be my last additive to my curly girl routine.
If you have reached the end then thank you so much for reading and i really hope you enjoyed it and maybe even learnt something. Please do check out my recommendations and if you are a curly girl/guy then please don’t hesitate to comment below with your favourite products, your routine experience or anything else you’d like to share 🙂
Until next time xxx