S: Hi my rooted people, my name is Sheila Attah and I was born and bred in London, UK but I’m of African descent (Ghanaian to be precise).
Why did you make the decision to go natural?
S: Well I didn’t ‘go natural’ as I have always remained natural, however initially it wasn’t by choice. I was so determined to relax my hair when I was younger, as that was the only way of combatting the stigma attached to my hair and lessening the pain of feeling like an outcast. My mum didn’t even give the idea a second thought and just like that my dream of looking like Rapunzel was shattered. Being a dancer really illuminated how much I wasn’t looking after my hair. I’m actually quite embarrassed to share this, but I’m hoping no one will judge me, lol. *Covers face* There were a few occasions where I would inadvertently leave my hair for weeks on end, total neglect. Please take a moment to imagine the amount of sweat and dirt accumulated in my hair from dancing, and we all know the effects sweat has on our hair. JUDGED!!! I saw how much my lack of care was damaging to my hair, and decided to take the necessary steps to deal with ‘natural hair care’. I soon learned how to embrace and love my napturalness.
How would you describe your texture?
S: I would say my hair falls in between 3C and 4A. It is quite thick and dense. Mainly the back of my hair is 4A, as it is a lot thicker back there. I do have a few straight strands here and there, but I believe my hair is still recovering from heat damage.
Describe your styling regimen over the course of the month.
S: My main protective style is twists, yaaaay to my twisty tresses!! My hair takes forever to put in twists so I have to prepare myself mentally and physically. *Breathe Sheila* I always twist on washed hair. I start off with sectioning my hair into about 8 parts and then apply one of my three main oils (coconut oil, avocado oil and jojoba oil) or my shea butter mix, and comb out with a wide tooth comb before twisting the 8 sections. Lastly I wrap with my satin scarf overnight, ready to put in twists the next day — I would actually consider this as my stretching technique. When twisting my hair the next day I seal my ends with my homie Shea B!!! I love experimenting when my hair is in twists, to doing fancy updos, or putting it in bantu knots and curling rods just to give my twists a hint of undulation and groove. If my twists are looking a bit dated I will turn it into a twist out do. So before taking out the twists I mildly spritz my hair with my aloe vera water mix just to revive my hair, then I will apply some oil to my finger tips and gently take out the twists. This is mainly to help smooth down the frizz. Once all the twists are out I will style it to get my desired result and there we have it, Twist & Out!! If my hair is not in twists or a twist out then my hair is in the famous bun. I think I am known for always having my hair tied back in one with the ends tucked in to ensure they are protected. Sometimes if my hair doesn’t want to go in a bun then I will just leave it out, it’s so stubborn. I am also a massive fan of head wraps as it makes me feel somewhat regal until I take it off and then I’m just plain old Sheila again lol.
What does wash day look like for you?
S: I have to dedicate a whole day to this… Okay, so I start off with a deep condition. The state of my hair that month determines what sort of deep condition will be considered. So it could be a protein boost, which would be my typical egg, mayonnaise, honey and avocado oil, or I would use Rhassoul clay, or my staple conditioner Aussie. Before I put in the conditioner I spritz my hair mildly with water, not too much water otherwise it becomes very messy, but just enough to help with the detangling. Once the conditioner has been distributed evenly across my hair I cover my hair with a plastic bag (yes I said plastic bag, I’m trying to economise here) and then wrap my satin scarf on top. I will then prance up and down my house for about 45 minutes to 1 hour before rinsing out. If I’m using the egg mayo concoction then I will rinse my hair with luke warm water so that I don’t end up with scrambled egg in my hair. After rinsing out the conditioner, I will wash my hair with Crème Of Nature Argan Oil Sulfate-Free Shampoo and comb my hair with a wide tooth comb to comb out the last knotty parts of my hair. I know that a lot of naturalistas finger detangle, but I have noticed that it doesn’t really work for me and I end up getting my hands tangled up in my hair, very dignifying. Next, I use the Aussie as a leave-in conditioner (my hair is unequivocally and undeniably in love with Aussie). Lastly I section my hair into 6–8 parts and apply my homemade fluffy shea butter mix (which contains shea butter, olive oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and a drop of peppermint oil) to my hair and twist the sections before wrapping with my satin scarf. If my hair isn’t in dire need of a wash but needs reviving, then I would rinse my hair with Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) mixed with water and then co-wash with the Aussie Conditioner.
Describe your favorite go-to hairstyle for days when you don’t have a lot of time to style.
S: My quick go to hairstyle is tying my hair back in one. If I want to be a bit experimental then I will do a quiff to jazz it up a tad.
How do you combat shrinkage?
S: I used to blow-dry my hair to combat shrinkage, now I don’t use it at all and if I do it will be once a year. Now after washing my hair I put in 8 large twists and then wrap my hair overnight. To be honest I actually don’t mind shrinkage as it reminds me of the many wonders that my hair carries, such as versatility, flexibility and resilience. The beauty of shrinkage is that there is that element of surprise when I blow-dry or straighten my hair. Who would have thought that those tight curls by your ear lobes could end up half way down your back!
What are some of your problem areas (if any) that require special care and attention?
S: The front of my hair in comparison to the rest of my hair is very thin. As you’ve all learned already I have a habit of tying my hair back a lot. This can cause a lot of trauma to the front of my hair resulting in receding of the hairline. So now when I tie it back I use a Ghanaian medicinal hair balm and apply that to my edges just to take the pressure off.
What are 2 do’s for your texture?
S: I have to make sure that I use my satin scarf when going to bed otherwise I wake up with tangled hair and it’s a lot harder to deal with. It is also a must for my hair to be moisturised (especially when I’m at dance) otherwise it is prone to breakage and we can’t have that now, I’m trying to retain length.
What are 2 don’ts for your texture?
S: My main ‘don’t’ for my hair is just not to neglect it, listening to my hair, and responding accordingly is vital otherwise it spirals out of control – literally.
Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?
S: My sister and I just recently set up a Vlog on YouTube called Hair The Beat. This is our space to have fun, incorporate our love for the arts and most importantly to share our hair tips and experiences: www.youtube.com/hairthebeat. You can also find us on Twitter @hairthebeat_.
Also I’m calling out all my house lovers and dance lovers to come and join me at my weekly Afro House class where we touch base with Africa. It’s all about taking it back home, with music that will reveal your inherent groove, footwork that will navigate the way and grooves that will remind you of your roots. Class updates will be on Twitter!! Embarking on this journey has not only taught me about my hair, it has become more of a lifestyle and has permitted me to embrace myself as a whole. Lately I have been really sensitive to the ‘misconceptions’ that are considered synonymous to natural/afro hair. Many women shy away from embracing their natural hair due to a lack of information and negative connotations that surround it. The easiest option is usually to conform to the colours of society, to ensure acceptance, and to avoid the complications attached to natural/afro hair. These misconceptions will continue to exist if we feel threatened to be the very person that we are meant to be. To be honest the question is not if natural hair is for us because we were born with it, the question is whether we are willing to embrace our hair in a society that frowns upon it. Curlfriends don’t be afraid to be you, because we are all beautiful.