*Prepared for BGLH by Meosha Tall of 1MeNaturally
A: My name is Ashley and I’m an aspiring physician born to Jamaican parents raised on the Jersey Shore. I am currently a Junior, Chemistry major at Howard University in Washington DC.
Why did you make the decision to go natural?
A: When I came to college in 2009, I had straight relaxed hair past bra strap length. When I was at home I went to my Dominican hair stylist regularly and didn’t really know how to do my hair. For some reason, I was lucky that my hair was strong enough to still grow despite the harsh relaxing process and all of the heat from the styling process. However, when I came to school I was left with the task of doing my hair myself. Slowly but surely my hair started to break off.
By the end of my freshman year in May 2010 my hair that was once long and flowy was only at my shoulders. I think it was a combination of stress, not eating right, not sleeping regularly, the hard water in DC, and my lack of knowledge on how to care for hair that caused it to break off. I didn’t trust anyone in DC to relax my hair so I went for extended periods of time without a relaxer. On top of all of that, I was flat ironing my hair too much without conditioning it enough. I got my last relaxer in March 2010. When I went home for the summer, I put my hair into braids. By the beginning of my sophomore year, I had gone so long without a relaxer that I just decided not to get another one. The environment at HU made that decision much easier. There are tons of girls here who are natural, transitioning, or considering it so it was easy for me to embrace the idea of my hair being natural.
When and how did you transition into natural hair?
A: I began my transition the summer after my freshman year. I put my hair into braids and when I went back to school, I just wore curly styles like twist outs and braid outs and occasionally flat ironed it to blend my roots. Ponytails and buns were my best friend. It wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but I did what I had to do to pass the time. After about a year, one day in February 2011 I was standing in front of my mirror about to flat iron my half-straight half-natural hair and I was just fed up. I didn’t want to have to press my natural hair anymore and risk ruining my natural hair pattern. So I just took out my hair scissors, stood in front of my mirror, and cut the relaxed hair off.
In what ways (if any) has going natural affected you?
A: Going natural has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. As black women, society places such an emphasis on how our hair looks and when I cut my straight hair off, I felt like I was letting all of that go. There is nothing like walking outside when it’s raining and not having to worry about your $80 hairstyle getting ruined. I’ve fallen in love with my hair and learned how to take care of it myself. I’m no longer a slave to the beauty salon and haven’t been to one in over a year. Lets not even go into how much I do not miss getting relaxers. I used to get burned so bad that I would cry every time. I’m so thankful that those memories are in the past. Of course there are people who look at me and stare like it’s the craziest thing they’ve ever seen, but I get more complements on my hair now than I did when it was long, flowy and straight. This is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
How would you describe your hair?
A: I have veryyyyy thick hair. That’s why my mother put a relaxer in it in the first place. She used to say that I have two full heads of hair in one. I’m not really into the hair-typing thing, but I guess I’m more around 3c-4a for descriptions sake. For the most part it’s not too difficult to detangle, it just takes so long because there’s so much of it. If I do a style that stretches my hair like two strand twists or something, it encourages my hair to smooth out and my curls to show more.
What is your regimen?
A: I used to wash my hair every week, but my school schedule has gotten so busy that I only wash it every other week now. I detangle it wet with conditioner and put it in plaits first. Then I wash once with Giovanni Tea Tree Shampoo and co-wash two other times with some random cheap conditioner. I use apple cider vinegar to help seal my hair follicle and maintain the pH balance. Then I wash it out and deep condition with homemade conditioner. I make it with mayo, one egg, and honey.
I use Jane Carter Revitalizing Leave-In Conditioner and style my hair in twists with Shea Moisture’s Curl Enhancing Smoothie. Coconut is my favorite oil to use on my hair and I normally apply it after I’ve sprayed my hair with leave-in. On a day-to-day basis, every morning in the shower I let the steam hit my hair so that it fluffs back up. Then I spray Oyin Handmade Juice and Berries and seal it in with their Burnt Sugar Humectant.
How do you retain length and moisture in your hair?
A: I try not to do too much to my hair. I only comb it when I’m detangling and it’s wet with conditioner. I rarely use heat on my hair. I haven’t flat ironed it in over a year. Water is hair’s best friend so I spray it with water or let it steam in the shower each day to keep it moisturized.
What mistakes have you made with your hair that you’ve learned from?
A: I’ve learned that tools that work on other people’s hair won’t always work on mine. I used a Tangle Teezer for a while and yes it made detangling easier and faster, but it damaged my ends. Now, despite my busy life, I take the time and patience to detangle with my fingers and a wide-tooth comb.
What’s the best/most effective thing you do for your hair?
A: My homemade conditioner is amazing! It leaves my hair so moisturized and my curls so happy. Also, sealing in moisture with coconut oil keeps my hair happy for days.
Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?
A: I have a tumblr like everyone else. Trustmeimpremed.tumblr.com
Anything else you want to add?
A: People always try to speed up the process of growing out their hair, but patience is the most important thing to have when working with natural hair. Good things come to those who wait. I also implore those looking to go natural to take the time to learn what their hair likes and how to take care of it. It is so important to be self-sufficient and to know how to do your own hair. That way you take control of your time and your appearance and don’t leave it up to someone else. You will be surprised with how much better you get at doing it and how fun and rewarding it will be.