“I love the traits that identify me as a black, African woman. I love being a nappy-headed, dark-skinned woman. When someone tells me that I look good or that my hair looks good, it’s a boon to my truest, unaltered self.” ~Hamira
**All photos are of Hamira’s real hair. None are extensions.
BGLH: where do you live?
Hamira: I’m originally from Nigeria, but currently live in Minnesota and most of the time I deal with what feels like hellish, blizzard conditions. I’ve only been in this state for two years and previous to that lived in much warmer climes (Louisiana and Florida), so my hair has had to deal with quite a bit.
BGLH: why did you make the decision to go natural?
Hamira: I went natural in December 2002 and did so because I realized it was an option. That sounds a little strange, but my hair had been permed for as long as I could remember and it never occurred to me that stopping could be an option until I came across a blog discussing natural hair. I had “healthy”, thick, relaxed hair, so damage wasn’t one of my motivators. I just wanted to become my more authentic self. I felt then, as I do now, that my natural hair was part of my identity as an African woman and I embrace and love everything that comes with that.
BGLH: how does your hair work for your life?
Hamira: It works perfectly. I am currently work in a university setting, and my hair is never mentioned unless someone is complimenting it.
BGLH: where do you get style inspiration from?
Hamira: I’ve been doing hair since I was 11, so I love coming up with new styles on my own. I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to styling in general and prefer simple elegant styles to anything too elaborate. My favorite updo is a simple French roll because it gets my ends out of the way and looks polished.
BGLH: what’s the best thing about being natural?
Hamira: I love feeling like my authentic self. I love the traits that identify me as a black, African woman. I love being a nappy-headed, dark-skinned woman. When someone tells me that I look good or that my hair looks good, it’s a boon to my truest, unaltered self. L says~That is an amazing answer if I ever heard one!
BGLH: did it take long for your hair to grow out?
Hamira: It depends on what you define as long. I mean, I’ve gone through several hair cuts for styling purposes, so keep that in mind when you’re looking at my hair. Is 4 years long? It’s taken me a couple of years to get to this point, and I think that I got to this place by practicing simple hair care techniques. I used to be a serious product junkie (I mean 23+ bottles of conditioner serious) but even through all that, my basic hair care practices never changed, just the products. Again and again the products. I don’t think my hair grows any faster than the normal rate of ¼ to ½ of an inch a month; I just retain a lot of it. When people complain about how long it takes to grow long hair, I always say that those 3–4 years are going to pass regardless of what you’re doing to your hair. Might as well come out of it with longer hair (if that’s what you want). Don’t think of it as a jail sentence
BGLH: could you describe your products and regimen?
Hamira: I select products based on maintaining the moisture balance in my hair, and my mainstay conditioner is Nexxus Humentress (the old formula with the grey top). I use it as a conditioner and as a leave-in, and it’s one of the few products that makes my hair butter soft. They’ve recently reformulated this product, much to my dismay, and I’m buying up all the bottles of the old formula that I come across. I used to be a serious product junkie, but this has been my routine conditioner for the last 2–3 years.
I also use shea butter to seal in moisture and castor oil for detangling. Every natural needs to give castor oil a try, at least once. It’s made the most notable difference for me when detangling my super shrinky hair.
As for shampoos, I’m not picky. As long as it’s not one of those cheap, laundry detergent types that will strip my hair naked, I’m okay. I avoid petroleum jelly and mineral oils. I’ve been reading up on henna (which sounds lovely) and ayurvedic hair care, but I haven’t started using any yet.
Keep in mind that my hair is almost always in micro braids (sans extension) or twists, so I don’t concern myself with combing, especially not daily. On the occasions that I do comb, I use a mixture of conditioner and castor oil and my Goody Styling Therapy brush. This happens maybe once or twice a year. I’ll part a section, brush it out, and braid or twist it. The flexible nature of the Goody brush means that my parted sections don’t have to be too small.
BGLH: anything else you want to add?
Hamira: Growing long hair isn’t hard; just leave your hair alone. I know this is easier said than done, but keeping styling to a minimum is important if you want to retain length. If you’re the type who likes to switch it up daily and doesn’t care about how long your hair gets, then disregard this as it doesn’t pertain to you. But if you are constantly twisting for that twistout, braiding for the braidout, coiling for that coilout and wondering why your hair doesn’t seem to be growing, it’s probably because you’re playing in it too much. I think that most black women are fed the line that their hair has to be “done” (as in styled) all the time, especially with natural hair, which has the extra requirement of being “tamed” and “styled”. Don’t be afraid of frizzy twists or the little poof of new growth on older braids. I’ve seen “growth aid” trends come and go and I recommended staying off of those bandwagons. I’ve seen people getting demoralized because their hair didn’t grow the 2+ inches a month that some product promised them and I think that most of these trends are destructive and undermine normal, patient hair care practices.
Another thing that comes up a lot of hair care boards is the issue of texture and shrinkage, which sometimes goes hand in hand, but can be exclusive of each other as well. Learn to love and work with the hair you have. If you can truly accept what inches out of your scalp each month, you will save yourself the trouble of trying to “fix” or hide it. This is one of those things that’s also easier said than done. It’s also something that you can’t change (without chemicals) which is why accepting it becomes crucial to your hair’s survival. A lot of times texture/shrinkage-fighting manifests itself in the constant styling mentioned in the paragraph above, so if this is you, I’m not going to be patronizing and say that “God created your hair the way it is and you should learn to love it now” (as though saying that makes detangling any easier); I will suggest however that you try to find flattering laissez-faire styles that your hair likes and wear those more often.
On a final note, don’t obsess. This sounds strange after my dissertation on growing out your hair, but seriously, don’t waste time monitoring you hair growth monthly (do you know how small ¼ of an inch actually is?) you will only drive yourself crazy. I have no idea how many inches my longest or shortest layers are and don’t care. If you make it your goal to get your hair as healthy as possible, then the rest will follow, measurements or not.
For more of Hamira, check out her fotki page: http://members.fotki.com/Delushious/about/.