T: Hello! My name is Taiwo Kafilat. I am a 20 year old Nigerian (Yoruba!), born in Italy. However, I immigrated to Georgia with my family 15 years ago, and I am now currently a Psychology student in Atlanta where I have hopes of becoming a mental health professional one day!
Why did you make the decision to go natural?
T: I had my first relaxer at the age of 6, and I big chopped in December of 2011 as a way of “cleansing”—leaving the past behind, and starting anew with the liberation of my hair. Through much of my middle school and high school years, I had low self-esteem. I was also bullied heavily, and multiple peers would come up to me just to taunt me about something dealing with my African background and appearance, including my hair. I also often envied those who were considered to have “pretty hair”—those who appealed to more Eurocentric ideas of beauty. As a result, I would find myself hiding behind weaves, braids, or other types of extensions. But even when I tried to feel my “best”, I never thought that I was being my true self or ever really good enough for me. I really grew tired of how detrimental my thinking was, so in December of 2011 I made a New Year’s Resolution to truly experience the meaning of accepting myself and acknowledge that self-love is the best love. That marked the beginning of my natural hair journey.
How would you describe your texture?
T: I have lots of curls and some coils here and there, and I would say that my hair is predominately 4A, with 4B undertones located on the back sides of my head. My hair is definitely very coarse. I used to think something was wrong and wondered why my strands felt like wire, but then I realised it was just the nature of my strands. Also, my hair is pretty dense. In order to see my scalp, I would have to use a comb to do so.
Describe your styling regimen over the course of the month.
T: I try to be very resourceful with the use of hair products, so I am not only a huge DIYer for many things hair related, but I keep my regimen and the products I use simple. And since I am a working college student, I usually find myself doing protective styles, with the occasional braids outs when I have the time. Just recently I revisited twist outs, which I will do if I am feeling fancy, lol. I usually style on freshly washed, damp hair. I either do two strand twists, or 7–8 braided plaits. I typically use only my water + jojoba oil mixture, and my homemade shea butter mixture for styling. These two are staples for me! Throughout the course of the week, I will just refresh my hair with the water and jojoba oil mixture. For braid outs, the styling regimen and products I use are the same as for protective styles, and I will re-braid each night.
For the rare occasions that I do twist outs, I use Karen Body’s Beautiful Sweet Ambrosia Leave-In, and Camille Rose Naturals Almond Jai Twisting Butter. These products are fairly expensive for me, so I use them sparingly. That means that when I do twist outs, I don’t re-twist my hair each night as a result. My twist outs usually last for about 4–5 days with great definition, and I will only refresh with my water + jojoba mixture. I also use Jane Carter Solution Nourish & Shine for unbraiding, untwisting, and to lightly moisturise my hair when I wear it out. And a little goes a long way with this product. It smells amazing! It literally smells like lemon-scented shea butter. That’s pretty much it for styling!
What does wash day look like for you?
T: I’ve changed my wash day routine a bit to incorporate weekly deep conditioning. I usually begin the wash day on a Friday or Saturday evening by detangling my hair. I like to spritz my hair with my water and jojoba oil mixture first to loosen up some of the shedding and any tangles before applying conditioner. Doing this literally saves me a complete headache, and cuts down on detangling time! I then finger detangle on damp hair. I recently just started using Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner, and it really works well with my naturally dry, coarse hair. I also detangle in sections, making about 6–8 twists. After detangling all of the sections, I go back and apply coconut oil to each twist from root to tip. I do this to ensure that I retain more moisture. I then place a plastic bag over my hair for a “light conditioning” overnight to prepare for wash day.
The next day I rinse some of the coconut oil and conditioner out, and begin my favourite part of wash day process: deep conditioning! I swear it’s so therapeutic to me, especially when I’m listening to music, lol. I apply my homemade extra virgin olive oil and organic raw honey deep conditioner, which usually consists of both Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose and Yes to Carrots conditioners, as well as a variety of other oils. However, my favourite oils to use in my deep conditioner are jojoba oil and sweet almond oil because they add so much moisture to my hair. I then place a new plastic bag over my hair and cover the bag with a t‑shirt. I leave this on for about 45 minutes. After washing, I use a 100% cotton t‑shirt to squeeze the excess water out of each twist.
I clarify my scalp biweekly. That means using a teaspoon of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar plus a bit of Shea Moisture Moisture Retention Shampoo diluted in water. I use an old water bottle to make this mixture, and puncture a small hole in the bottle cap for a DIY hair applicator bottle. It works great! I also apply a hot oil treatment to my scalp biweekly overnight. This consists of Jamaican Black Castor Oil (JBCO) and rosemary oil. Every time I plan to clarify is when I do hot oil treatments beforehand.
Describe your favorite go-to hairstyle for days when you don’t have a lot of time to style.
T: Two strand twists all the way! I find that there are so many things I can do with them, and they are so simple to do. I also enjoy doing buns.
How do you combat shrinkage?
T: My shrinkage is truly unbelievable lol, but that’s the beauty of natural hair. I find that keeping it stretched definitely helps prevent tangles and knots, especially when I am washing or styling my hair. Once again, I utilise the benefits of two strand twisting, or braided plaits.
What are some of your problem areas (if any) that require special care and attention?
T: In June of 2012, I underwent my second big chop due to hair damage and improper hair care practices (Can you believe that I didn’t discover deep conditioning until the time of my second big chop? The struggle was very real). Anyway, my edges had suffered the most, due to tight updos and wearing braids—which is something that I will never do again. Taking them down was a nightmare! Though my edges have grown back, I give them extra TLC.
What are 2 do’s for your texture?
T: I would first say it’s important for me to embrace and to love my hair so that I am able to take care of it. Sometimes, it is very easy to develop “hair envy”, resulting in not appreciating the crown that grows from your own head and coveting others with hair different from yours. Each natural has a unique hair journey, so it’s important to appreciate and to embrace it for what it is. That was something I had to learn myself. I would also say to make moisture another primary focus. As stated before, my hair is very coarse and can get very dry, so I opt for more humectants for example, and I only use protein with caution.
What are 2 don’ts for your texture?
T: Don’t wait to trim those ends! I know it’s a desire to want to keep length when you may very well be in need of a trim. I always say hair health is more important than hair length, and that healthy hair is growing hair, but not all growing hair is healthy. It’s always vital to assess the health of my ends, and to make sure they are taken care of. It saves a lot of trouble down the road, and it was a huge lesson for me (resulting in my second big chop). I also did away with combs and brushes, and the like. I only finger detangle, and this has definitely helped me to retain length and prevent unnecessary breakage too.