J: My name is Jessica, and I’m from Chicago where I currently reside.
Why did you make the decision to go natural?
J: I’ve been natural for most of my life. As a young girl, my mom sometimes pressed my hair with a hot comb, and on the days when it wasn’t pressed, I’d rock a frizzy, messy bun (I had always been a tomboy and wasn’t very conscious of my looks). At about ten years of age, I began to notice how poofy and curly my hair texture was in comparison to my mother’s. When I asked why her hair stayed straight after washing it, she told me: “I have a relaxer…and you can get one too one day, if you want.” Some time after that, I was at the hairdresser’s house getting the first layer of creamy crack applied to my scalp. In hindsight, that moment felt like somewhat of a rite of passage into womanhood for me. Most of the Black women around me wore their hair straight, so I thought that was what I was supposed to do.
To be honest, there was no epiphany or profound realization involved with my decision to stop relaxing about thirteen years ago. In fact, I didn’t even realize what I was doing at the time, as there wasn’t much education on the subject back then. During my freshman year of high school—after getting relaxers a few times a year for a period of about 3–4 years—I discovered the flat iron. I realized that I could alternate between wearing my hair curly and bone straight without ever getting a relaxer, so I stopped getting them, and began to gradually grow out my locks. I flat ironed my hair a lot during high school, and it wasn’t until college that I started to regularly wear it curly. Nowadays—six years after undergrad—I seldom straighten my hair.
How would you describe your texture?
J: I have a few different hair textures, but I’d describe them as predominately 3c, with dense, coarse strands. The curls in the front and back of my hair are much looser, borderline wavy. The hair in parts of the center of my scalp and above my ears is much more coarse, prone to frizziness, and perhaps, the most problematic.
Describe your styling regimen over the course of the month.
J: I generally opt for low maintenance styles. Depending upon the season, I wash my hair about once a week and apply the oils, conditioner, and gels listed below. I either allow my hair to air dry, or diffuse it with a blow dryer, then rock a curly fro. If the weather is warmer, I wash and/or wet it more often when it needs some ‘sprucing up’. Every now and then I attempt a twist out; however those don’t seem to work out too well for me, and I generally prefer the look and feel of my natural coils. At night I apply more coconut oil to my hair, pull it into a high ponytail, and sleep with a scarf. Sometimes I just go to bed without wrapping it up at all, which has worked well for me too.
What does wash day look like for you?
J: I almost always do some sort of pre-treatment prior to washing. This involves applying various natural oils (including pure coconut oil and olive oil), mixed with avocado and/or an egg. I’ve found that this approach works wonders for my hair, helps it to be much softer, and allows for easier detangling after washing. After letting the concoction sit for an hour or so, I typically cowash using As I Am’s Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner, their Cleansing Pudding, or any other conditioner I have lying around. After separating my clean, wet hair into sections, I apply a bit more coconut oil, a leave in conditioner, and some sort of gel for hold. Some of my favorite products are Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie and their Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Conditioner; Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Hair and Body Moisturizer and Kinky Curly Knot Today. Some of my favorite gels are As I Am’s Curling Jelly, Kinky Curly Curling Custard, and Eco Styler Olive Oil Gel.
Describe your favorite go-to hairstyle for days when you don’t have a lot of time to style.
J: My favorite go-to style is a curly fro. However, after a few days of this, my hair becomes more frizzy, at which point I opt for a bun or high ponytail if I don’t have a lot of time to spruce up my curls.
How do you combat shrinkage?
J: What a lot of people don’t know is that my hair looks like ramen noodles when it’s wet – stringy, wavy, and sort of boring. When it dries, it livens up, but it also shrinks a bit. Since I prefer to wear my hair big and bold, I either stretch it with ponytail holders, or diffuse it with a blow dryer to combat the shrinkage and help it to appear more lively.
What are some of your problem areas (if any) that require special care and attention?
J: My biggest problem areas are the small patches above my ears, which are prone to frizziness and dryness. The middle of my hair is also a lot thicker and more difficult to detangle.
What are 2 do’s for your texture?
J: I swear by pure coconut oil! It’s one of the best, healthiest things for my hair. Also, I typically only comb my hair when it’s wet and has had product applied to it.
What are 2 don’ts for your texture?
J: Limit the use of heat. Limit the use of sulfate-based shampoos (unless I’m straightening my hair afterward). Sulfate-based shampoos tend to dry my hair out more quickly.