*Prepared for BGLH by Meosha Tall of 1MeNaturally
Shanti: My name is Shanti. I am a Philly girl raised in Germantown! Currently I’m a fully devoted student in the rigorous study of motherhood to a beautiful, clever 1 and a half year old. I also blog when I find the time and energy.
Antoinette: I’m Antoinette. I live in BROOKLYN! But I was born and raised in Philadelphia and I rep Philly all day. I am a blogger, singer, an actress and I also sling plates as a side hustle at a Jazz Club in NYC to pay the rent.
Why did you make the decision to go natural?
Shanti: I have been natural my entire life although for more than two thirds of it, I had no idea how to take care of it! I began my healthy hair journey in Spring of 2009. I grew tired of always dealing with stripped crispy hair because I was a slave to the flat iron. I was tired of feeling dissatisfied with its health. I decided to begin to learn how to properly love my hair.
Antoinette: I went natural because I honestly had no idea what texture my hair was. My father did my hair as a child and his specialty was pigtail plaits. When he washed my hair he always blow dried it and never let it air dry because he was always nervous I would get sick. When I got old enough to do my own hair the “ladies at work” told my mom about “Just For Me box relaxers” so it was all over from there. In high school I was searching for myself while being influenced by just about everything around me. Luckily, I had positive people around me and was involved in a program called Freedom School that reinforced black beauty. There, you were kind of the odd ball out if your hair was relaxed. Also a girl named Beth and her holistic crew (whose hair was and still is the bomb) put me on to the natural hair game. She said something like “You’re hair is textured. You’re beautiful. You’d be more beautiful if you’d stop hiding it”. I looked up to her. So I stopped hiding it.
When and how did you transition into natural hair?
Shanti: Although I didn’t transition from permed to curly, I transitioned by relearning proper hair techniques. I researched and continuously experimented with my hair until I felt I had control and an understanding of my hair’s needs. I spent many hours in front of the computer on great sites such as this as well as many hours in the mirror trying to figure out styles, products and techniques that best suited my hair.
Antoinette: Oh God, I took a pair of child safety scissors and started to cut. I cut about 5–7 inches off that night. I decided to wait to cut the rest until my hair grew a little more. So my hair was curly at the root and straight at the end. I looked crazy. I don’t know why I thought that was a good idea. I just remember being amped to do it. It was a right of passage for me.
In what ways (if any) has going natural affected you?
Shanti: I feel victorious! When I was lost and confused about my hair I always knew with patience and understanding my hair would eventually reach its potential. And I feel that it has! I carry the lesson that persistence, consistency and loving patience can heal and overcome all obstacles I may face. It makes me want to share my story with everyone else. I want to encourage them to face their neurotic fears, their addiction to straight, weak hair and learn to love and parade the beautiful hair they possess. I hear myself sometimes and think I have become a walking infomercial, but I digress….
Antoinette: It seems odd because many think “It’s just hair”, but it really has given me a better sense of self. It matches my personality. It sets me apart from folks. It’s a salute to my Italian Mother and African American Father. It’s what they created. It’s more versatile. I feel sexier natural. I feel more confident. I can play hard without having to worry about roots and shit. There’s a freedom in it. I mean there is something to be said about a woman who is unapologetic about the way God made her. I have been attending natural meet-ups and I am always in awe of the women there. I find myself saying, “Damn, we look good.” Because we do! Imagine walking down the street and having a sea of fros, twists, braid-outs and locs, etc. be the norm?! How empowering would that be?
How would you describe your hair?
Shanti: My hair strands are medium in thickness and course, with a tendency towards dryness. My curl pattern is a mix of 3a-3c.
Antoinette: My hair is never the same any day. It’s pretty unpredictable, but I have learned to just go along with whatever it’s doing that day. I think we can set ourselves up trying to achieve the exact same look twice. I don’t even plan my styles really. I just take whatever this wig is giving me and play around with it until it does something I’m cool walking out of the house with. But mostly, my hair is thin but strong. I can manipulate its curl pattern easily. Sometimes it falls flat, sometimes it’s poppin and full of body. The curls are an ‘s’ shape. It’s prone to knots and dries out easily. But overall, it’s healthy and happy.
What is your regimen?
Shanti: I wash my hair once a week with non-sulfate shampoo. I deep condition with Earth Science’s Avocado and Olive Oil Deep Conditioner along with honey and olive oil from my home. I use Kinky Curly Knot Today or Giovanni as a leave in conditioner, and during these winter months I seal with castor oil. After my hair is moisturized (while damp) I put 5–6 flat twists throughout my head and keep them in over night or sometimes for an entire day. I take them down and style. Easy breezy.
Antoinette: I don’t really have a daily regimen. Whatever I think it needs, I give it. I wet my hair pretty much everyday. If it’s cool outside I dry it with a diffuser. If it’s dry I do a deep conditioner and sit under my hair steamer for 20 minutes. I often make my own deep conditioners from yogurt, honey, bananas, and avocado. The recipes are on the blog. I always dilute my shampoo and make my own mix. I use 1/3 Kinky Curly Come Clean Sulfate Free Shampoo, 1/3 a cheap conditioner and 2/3 water. I henna from time to time for some added strength if I start to see breakage. I sleep with it usually up in a high ponytail or in two plump twists. I detangle when it’s wet and drenched in conditioner. I ALWAYS use a daily leave-in conditioner. I switch back and forth between a lot of different ones: Giovanni Direct Leave In, Kinky Curly Leave In, Karen’s Body Beautiful Sweet Ambrosia and Mixed Chicks Leave In.
How do you retain length and moisture in your hair?
Shanti: I retain length by restricting my usage of the comb or brush. I haven’t used a comb for 3 months now and I don’t plan on using one in the future. My detangling tools are my ten phalanges! My hands are much more gentle and kind then a tough comb. I retain moisture by being aware of my hair’s needs. If it needs moisture I give it to it regardless if I moisturized the day before. I always seal with an oil and never fall asleep with an uncovered head.
Antoinette: I always use a leave in conditioner. There is a huge misconception that oil is hydrating. It’s not. It locks in moisture, it does not moisturize. So, it’s important that we use a good leave in conditioner.
What mistakes have you made with your hair that you’ve learned from?
Shanti: My hair can’t tolerate any type of heat. I just can’t do it without paying a price. I also can’t rush when detangling and styling. My hair is uber sensitive and demands TLC.
Antoinette: I bleached my hair and then dyed it almost every year. Ugh. It’s never a good idea especially for thin hair. It just can’t handle being stripped. All my hair fell out and I had to start over. No bueno.
What’s the best/most effective thing you do for your hair?
Shanti: Keep my hair moisturized. Keep manipulation low and my head covered when I sleep. Boom! Simple.
Antoinette: I listen to it and love it. I give it what it needs. Period. Our bodies aren’t fickle like us. They know what they want.
Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?
Shanti: Me and my ace boon coon Antoinette have a natural hair blog A Curl’s Bestfriend (www.acurlsbf.com) where our obsession with each other, natural hair, and the kinky, curly community is shared for all to enjoy. Twitter-@curlsbestfriend
Anything else you want to add?
Mind over matter. Change your thoughts about your hair and what beauty is and experience the freedom, confidence and pride that natural hair offers.