E: Hello, sisters! My name is Ev’Yan Whitney. I’m originally from a small desert-town in Southern California (Victorville, if you must know), but I consider Portland, Oregon to be my home, which is where I’m living now.
Why did you make the decision to go natural?
E: My parents slapped a texturizer on my hair when I was just three-years-old, then kept me religiously relaxed from there. My relationship with sodium hydroxide (and just straightening my hair in general) was always very tumultuous, and I struggled with breakage, severe scalp burns, and brittle hair for as long as I can remember. And even though I did get to a point where I had “healthy hair” when it was straight, I didn’t like that when I questioned why it was I continued to relax my hair. Even as a consenting, well-informed adult, I didn’t have any better of an answer than, “Well… because I always have.”
One evening, after my man had freshly applied relaxer to my roots, it dawned on me that I had actually never seen my natural born hair texture. This realization angered and deeply saddened me; so much so that it kept me up all night and the next morning I shaved my head. (Not without having an intense conversation with my man first to get me psyched out!) It was an equally impulsive and well thought out decision, one that remains to be the most liberating and spiritual things I have ever done. That was over three years ago. I feel beckoned to add here that for me it wasn’t as simple as buzzing off the relaxer and beginning to embrace my natural texture. It has taken so much bloody work to get to where I am with my hair, which is a place of acceptance, of surrender, of ease. As Mr. Garvey said “Take the kinks out of your mind, not your hair,” and my goodness, I had A LOT of kinks and social conditioning to undo. Doing the work and coming to love myself unabashedly has been the most rewarding thing about this journey for me.
How would you describe your texture?
E: Hair typing puzzles me, so I’m not 100% sure, but I’ve always thought my hair to be 4a with 3b/c tendencies. What I’m absolutely certain of is that my strands are definitely fine with proneness to tangle really, really easily because of how coily/curly they are. I’d say my hair is normal density—not thin, but definitely not thick either. I also have mad shrinkage, which has been the bane of my natural haired existence.
Describe your styling regimen over the course of the month.
E: 80% of the time, my hair is in a protective style, usually taking the form of two strand twists. I discovered rather late in the game (like, 1.5 years late) that wearing my hair out and free (i.e., wash ‘n gos) are a big no-no for me unless I want to be detangling for 3 hours and dealing with snapping strands. Since I’ve made that discovery I’ve been very diligent about keeping my hair twisted at all times, almost to the point of babying it. I usually keep my twists in for 1–2 weeks at a time, spritzing with my water/aloe/glycerin mix and squeezing in some coconut oil to keep the twists moisturized. When my twists begin to look raggedy, I’ll either wear a twist out or go directly to washing. Because I wear my hair in stretched styles, the Pacific Northwest’s moisture destroys my final twisted look. Only recently have I been trying to embrace the shrinkage that happens with the humidity here. It’s been a process for me. As for products, Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa Conditioner is the one conditioner I’ve used ever since I went natural. For washing, I use whatever’s in the shower at the time, usually Dr. Bronner’s soap. I alternate between using Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie, Deep Conditioning Masque, and the Restorative Conditioner/Leave-in for moisturizers and twisting. For deep conditioning I use Aubrey Organic’s GPB Conditioner—my hair loves protein! And of course coconut oil to seal my strands and shea butter to seal my ends.
What does wash day look like for you?
E: I have two different kinds of wash days: one for a simple cleanse/co-wash (which I do in between twists/twist outs) and one for when I get my hair colored. For the simple co-wash, I begin by pre-pooing my hair in medium sections with warmed coconut and olive oil, which I apply to my dampened hair. I cover it with a shower cap and plastic bag and let that sit for no more than an hour, then rinse in the shower. I work section by section, co-washing twice with Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa Conditioner (and detangling as I go along), applying a leave-in (either the Shea Moisture Deep Conditioning Masque or the Restorative Conditioner), then sealing with some of the extra coconut/olive oil mixture. Then, I two-strand twist the section, bantu knot it, and move onto the next sections. I let my hair air dry in the knots during the day and before bed I take down the knots and pin the twists to my hair, stretching them gently.
I put on a scarf and go to bed with my hair still a bit damp. I got this method of section washing and bantu knotting from Naptural85, accept that in the morning I don’t untwist and wear a twist out, but untwist and retwist into smaller twists. For when my hair is getting colored, I basically do the same things except that I don’t pre-poo, I don’t section wash, and I use a shampoo to make sure all of the color is rinsed out. I do deep condition with GPB Conditioner to repair the damage that’s been done with the coloring. Regardless of which kind of wash day it is, after my hair has been stretched, I always retwist into smaller sections the next day. My twisting method is: spritz with water/aloe/glycerin, apply moisturizer, seal with coconut oil, twist, then seal ends with shea butter. I try to wear my hair in twists for as long as I can and either take them down and wear a twist out, or rewash them and start all over again.
Describe your favorite go-to hairstyle for days when you don’t have a lot of time to style.
E: I like to do the Gibson Tuck when my hair is in twists. It’s quick and easy, looks very elegant, and keeps my ends tucked away and unexposed. I like to wear scarves too. I wish I could do a nice high bun, but I haven’t found the perfect method (or tools) for that just yet. (And any advice you all might have on that would be much appreciated!)
How do you combat shrinkage?
E: Stretching my hair using the pinning method helps me. But these days, I’m just trying to embrace whatever my hair does, even if that means it shrinks up and the humidity destroys my twist out. Again, that’s a process.
Tell us about your hair color?
E: My hair color is a honey blondish, golden‑y, caramel‑y 7G (and it’s achieved by using a 20v developer, not wretched bleach). It’s pretty close to Dark ‘n Lovely’s Golden Bronze, and I actually used that for over a year before switching to a more professional product. I do the color myself (I have a license in cosmetology). I’ve been blonder, but I didn’t like how unnatural it looked on me, so I went just a little darker. I absolutely adore my color. I love the way it complements my skin tone. My curls never changed until I went to a salon last winter to go blonder, and then I saw my coils loosen. But they sprung back when properly moisturized. I just make sure to treat my hair with care and am very gentle when I handle it. Deep conditioning is a must!
What are some of your problem areas (if any) that require special care and attention?
E: My ends are tired, y’all. They really need to be snipped, and I’ve been dusting weekly rather than doing the big chop on them. I’m just so attached to my length (and I’m not ashamed to admit it)! The sides of my hair are the most fragile and fine, and actually when I went super blonde, that was the section that I think sustained the most damage. I make sure to go extra gentle in those areas and keep those strands especially moisturized.
What are 2 do’s for your texture?
E: For my hair, sectioning washing/detangling and protein (coconut oil) are musts.
What are 2 don’ts for your texture?
E: Free-flying ‘fros and sleeping with my hair unprotected.