A: I go by April Kae and my creative project is called Imani Gold. I’m originally from Austin, Texas and just moved to Harlem from Portland, Oregon.
Did you transition or big chop? Share your natural hair journey with us!
A: Some of my earliest memories are of my mother perming my hair over the kitchen sink. But as soon as I was old enough to get her to stop, I got her to stop and haven’t looked back. When I was 13, I was really into dying it, almost every summer I would color my ends pink and purple. I’d also regularly straighten my hair with a flat iron.
Fast-forward a few years. Around 16, I was trimming my ends in the bathroom, and then just kept cutting until all of the damaged bits were gone. This was in 2006 when there were not nearly as many resources and products for natural hair, so styling and care involved a lot of trial and error.
Ten years later and I’m still figuring it out. Now there are so many more options for people with natural hair, and so many more people rocking the look. I love this community we have, and look forward to seeing it grow even more.
How would you describe your texture?
A: 4a and extremely thick. I break rubber bands regularly. Some strands are more fine, some are quite coarse.
Describe your styling regimen over the course of the month, and the rationale behind your various styling decisions.
A: I’m really into braidouts. The end of my wash-day routine almost always involves a braidout. I adore Bright N’ Boldly’s “Natural Hair | Defined & Heatless Curls (Braidout)” tutorial on YouTube. Before I braid it up, I always put on Cantu Shea Butter Leave In Conditioner. Sometimes I seal it with coconut oil. Sometimes I use Eco Styler Olive Oil Styling Gel. I’m not great and doing cornrows, so if I don’t have time and energy for Bright N’ Boldly’s style, I’ll just braid it into 10 braids and sleep on that. My hair takes a long time to dry. When it’s not dry by morning, I’ll put the braids into a bun, and sleep with the braids in again for a second night. In the morning I take out the braids, fluff it up a bit, and head out.
Most nights following, I sleep with it in eight braids. I try to remember to cover it with a silk cap. Sometimes I put on Cantu at night, sometimes I don’t. If I’m exhausted at night, I’ll sleep with it in a topknot. I work in an office, so Monday thru Friday, I try to keep the frizz to a minimum. Topknot everyday. I’ll put on some Eco gel in the morning, and if I have time, I put some Curls Passion Fruit Paste over the frizzier bits. When I’m rocking big hair, I’ll usually spray it with some water, and put some Curls Passion Fruit Paste over the frizzier bits. Sometimes I put oil on the ends if they look thirsty. I wash my hair every one to two weeks, really, I go more on how dry it feels. There are some styles I like that look great with dry hair, so I push the limit and don’t wash until it feels brittle.
What does wash day look like for you?
A: 1) Con-wash with pretty much any conditioner, and lightly detangle with my fingers. I like the Cantu Moisturizing Conditioner and Pantene Pro‑V Women of Color Conditioner. I mix it up a lot though.
2) Occasionally (and admittedly, not recently) I’ll do a protein treatment. Think of this step as optional. There’s this stuff called Jamaican Black Castor Oil Protein Hair Conditioner that is incredible. It smells horrible, but it’s well worth the way it makes my hair look and feel. Before applying it I towel dry my hair (while still in the shower) and cover my hair with the treatment. I’ll usually just put it up in a bun, put on a shower cap, and then a bandana over it to secure it. Since it smells so bad, I do this before I go to bed and sleep with it in.
3) Every time I wash, I deep condition. I’ve tried many products over the years, and nothing beats Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil Replenishing Conditioner. If I protein treated, I’ll of course rinse out the treatment. I’ll also co-wash again after rinsing out the protein treatment, to deal with the smell. I like mixing the leave in conditioner 2:1 with coconut oil. I usually keep the conditioner in all day, so I’ll dry my hair before putting on the deep conditioner and then comb it out and put it in 3–8 braids with the conditioner still in. To keep it moist, I’ll put it under a shower cap and put a hat on over it so I can go about my day.
4) At night, I’ll rinse out the leave in conditioner, and then towel dry my hair. After that I’ll style my hair into a stretching style (twist out, braid out, bantu knots – the possibilities are endless). Instead of covering up with a silk cap, I sleep on a towel. My hair is so thick that it refuses to dry if it isn’t out in the open.
Describe your favorite go-to hairstyle for days when you don’t have a lot of time to style.
A: Sloppy topknots are my jam! Because that’s my default style, my hair is usually stretched, so if I sleep with a top knot in, I can just take it out in the morning, maybe spray it with some water, tug on it for a little bit, fluff it out, stick in my favorite black power afro pick, and I’m out in less than 5 minutes.
What are some of your problem areas (if any) that require extra care and attention?
A: My ends. Because my hair is so long, the moisture from my scalp doesn’t get all the way there. I also make sure to put leave in conditioner on them, and trim them with nice shears when I have the time.
What are 2 do’s for your texture?
A: Do: not give a care most of the time. My hair is part of who I am, and I love it, but the time I’ve spent doing this interview is more time than I usually spend on my hair in week. It looks effortless because it is.
Do: Have a green smoothie everyday for breakfast. Take flaxseed oil pills. Drink water. Healthy body, healthy hair.
What are 2 don’ts for your texture?
A: Don’t: My hair is very particular when it comes to oil and conditioner. Too much and it becomes greasy, too little and it’s like I didn’t use a product at all. Most products for mixed race women don’t work for me, because there’s not enough moisture in them. Most of the old school oils and pomades don’t work either, because they’re too greasy.
Don’t: Sleep without braiding it or putting it in a topknot. It will tangle. There’s this thing I call the uni-dread that happens. It’s not fun to detangle.