A: My name is Alicia and I’m currently living in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Seattle (tha 20sickness, holler). I spend much of my time working for a solar energy company here in the Bay Area.
Why did you go natural?
A: In a lot of ways I’ve felt that I’ve had a “natural” rebirth, or second chance. I was natural for much of my adolescent life. Besides a Jheri curl in the early 90s (before we knew any better) I had been natural for most of my life.
Circa 2003–2004, with shoulder length hair, my hairdresser was “done dealing with your thick hair”. A woman whose work I respected dearly had been trying to convince me for at least a year that it was time to get a relaxer. Against my mom’s wishes, and my own better judgment, I succumbed to getting my hair chemically straightened. For whom? For my hairdresser so that she could cut her chair time in half.
I wore a relaxer for 2 years. My hair looked good for prom, but between May of 2005 to May of 2006, the health of my hair had significantly declined. Enough was enough when my hair began falling out in handfuls in the shower.
The transition was not easy. Here is why. I was completely ready for the “big chop”, but apparently no one else was. I had to speak with two different hairdressers before I could find someone that was willing to cut my hair. One male hairdresser refused to cut my hair because he stated that he did not want to be the one responsible when I realized I had made a mistake. I’ve read that many people transition by wearing protective styles and trimming their hair as they go. I am not certain that I knew that was an option when I made my transition. I just knew that I wanted it all off.
In what ways (if any) has going natural affected you?
A: The summer of 2006 was an interesting time for me. I had just made it through my first year of college. I thought sophomore year would not be much different. When I returned to school with my short tresses, I had no idea how much other people had thought I’d changed. Through the grapevine I started hearing things like, “Is she lesbian now”? Not to mention, the “serious” boyfriend that I had been dating for a year prior to that ended the relationship just 2 months into sophomore year. Through my isolation however, I was able to form community. As my hair began to grow, it became increasingly necessary for me to find a role model to teach me how to work with my hair texture. Being raised by Caucasian parents, I immediately turned to Youtube for answers. To my utter amazement, there was a whole community of women who were also becoming familiar with their natural hair textures, post CJ Walker era.
How would you describe your hair?
A: I would say that, if you choose to use a hair scale available via a search engine, I am probably in the range of a 4B-4C hair texture. I have a small section near the nape of my neck that is closer to 3C.
What is a brief description of your regimen?
A: I wash my hair every 1–2 weeks depending on hair style, activity level, time. I have been known to use Dr. Bronner’s soap as a shampoo followed by a shea butter conditioner, or perhaps some coconut oil. I was a product junky in the past and have tried many different types of shampoo and conditioner, but am trying to bring it down to the basics. Either way, my rule of thumb at this point is to choose product based on the idea that the fewer the ingredients the better. Also, it’s important for me to be able to pronounce the ingredients that I am putting on my hair, and in my body.
How do you retain length and moisture?
A: Typically you will see me wearing 2 strand twists. In recent weeks I’ve dabbled with braid outs and sock buns. I have also experimented with making my own natural hair butters through online research. I’ve found that my hair has retained moisture as a result of this process. Whenever I handle my hair, I try to make sure that I have some product on my hands to keep down frizz but also to keep my hair quenched and keep from snagging ends. Future Goals: keep my ends tucked a bit more with all of the styles I use.
What mistakes have you made with your hair that you’ve learned from?
A: I was unnatural for about 2 years of my life (2004–2006). Also, in the past I was much less gentle with my hair. I make an attempt to finger comb for some styles to keep hair loss to a minimum.
What’s the best/most effective thing you do for your hair?
A: Moisturize. I also limit the amount of time I spend touching my hair. Once it is styled or pulled back, I leave it that way until it’s time to style again.
Anything else you want to add?
A: The photos I have included are a very rough timeline of my hair growth since my BC July 2006. It’s hard to believe that its been almost 6 years! I’m now curious to see how long I can get my hair to grow. I haven’t made a conscious effort to grow my hair until about the last year – I think that by continuing to wear protective styles and keeping my hair healthy, I will see significant growth in the next few years.