The Truth About Going Natural

If you thought that straightening treatments and perms are high maintenance, wait until you go natural. If you have 1A to 3C hair (you can check your own hair type, here), a natural hair transition may be a walk in the park for you, but women with 3B to 4C hair have their work cut out.

This has truly been one of the most difficult challenges that I’ve ever faced with my appearance. I’ve written about my natural hair complex, growing up with the perception that only straight hair can be beautiful (read about it here). But now that I’m finally comfortable stepping out with an afro, I’m more myself than ever. I feel as if there’s been so much unnecessary time and money wasted to present myself in a way that was not meant to be in the first place. I mean, I like the sleek haired look, but I love big hair even more now.

My transitioning hair – curly roots and straight ends.

It’s been over a year since my last Keratin straightening treatment; I last blow-dried my hair two months ago for a length check and I’ve been wearing Havana twist braids for about four weeks now. Once these braids come out, it’s back to the drawing board with managing my own hair. It’s been a very liberating process, which is what every other natural hair transitioning woman will tell you. I’m loving the growth process and finding comfort with the hair that I was born with. And I’m not even all natural yet – my ends are chemically treated, and I haven’t cut it away because I am attached to my length. Brazilian (Keratin) treatments gradually wash out, so I am hoping that I won’t have to chop much off and simply get regular trims.

I’ve researched other people’s natural hair journeys before embarking on my own. Most women talk about how liberating the process is but they rarely go into depth about how much hard work it can be. So I thought that I would shed some light on things you’d need to consider before going natural:

Are you doing it for the right reasons?
The natural hair journey is trending in the Western World, while most African women are still hiding behind weaves and braids. I say hiding, not because we’re ashamed of our hair, but because braids and weaves just seem like the neater, more presentable alternative. Afros are quite eye catching and it always seems as if the woman wearing one is trying make a statement, or that she is a bit of a diva. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had my hair straightened. I’d reached the point where I thought, “I already know what I look like with straight hair, why not see if my natural hair would suit me.” I’d revert to straightening my hair if I didn’t like the way it looks. Thus far, I’m not giving up on my hair texture, and neither are my friends and family. They’re all supportive.

Know your hair type
This is really important. Before going natural I didn’t know anything about hair types and co-washing, which is washing without shampoo. I assumed that my hair would turn out like one of the other girls’ in those YouTube videos but it isn’t. From what I can tell, I have type 4 hair. There are different ways to manage different hair types for instance, type 4 hair is the driest of all hair textures due to the coils being so tight. The moisture from your roots don’t gets to the ends fast enough to hydrate it, so it’s important to moisturise all the time, twice a day if need be. Women with 3A hair which looks like soft curls, may not need such intense moisture treatments.

Don’t become a product junkie
In the first two months of my hair transition, I bought different hair products at least once a week – anything that looked like it would be curl enhancing, sulphate free, hydrating and had a good holding duration. I’d spent so much money on products that I don’t think I’ll ever use again. There was one product called the Curl Enhancing Smoothie by Shea Moisture that I really liked, which I bought in the UK, and just my luck, it’s not readily available here in Cape Town. I’m looking into buying it online, otherwise I mostly inexpensive DIY products like Flaxseed gel, coconut oil treatments, and honey hydrating masks. They’re amazing! If you’d like me to share my DIY recipes, please leave a comment below.

The wash-and-go isn’t really wash-and-go
There are hundreds of YouTube tutorials on how to perfect a wash-and-go. And what all of them have in common is that it takes at least 20 minutes to an hour to get the right look. Natural hair must be washed, rinsed, detangled carefully, rinsed again, hydrated, styled with a gel, and then air-dried or blow-dried with a diffuser nozzle. One does not simply wet your hair and go. If you want to go natural because you love the wash-and-go look, know that it’s not going to take you five minutes if you do it properly.

Natural, Donna Lee De Kock and I (transitioning) at a birthday party.
Natural, Donna Lee De Kock and I at a birthday party.

Since I still have chemically treated ends, I use the Bantu Knot method to give me that wash-and-go look. I follow the same process that I mentioned above, and then simply separate my hair into small sections to form tiny knots. Once my hair is dry, I untie the knots, and carefully tease/pick at my roots. The Bantu knot method ensures that my straight ends look curly and that my hair looks like it’s one hair type. Watch this video by Alyssa Forever, on how to do Bantu knots, here. If you’d like me to post a step-by-step video tutorial of my own wash-and-go process, please feel free to post a comment in the space below.

Research protective styles
My go-to hairstyle is chunky Havana twist braids – in box shapes. Once you step into transitioning hair life, you’ll learn about easy style tips like Bantu knots, flat twists, wigs, braids and sleeping on silk pillows to protect your hair. I’m not really into wigs and I don’t sleep on a silk pillow but I take special care when washing and drying my hair. I don’t use a towel anymore – I use a cotton t-shirt that causes less friction and damage to my hair.

Chunky Havana twist braids. Photo/ Ashley Craig Brandt
Chunky Havana twist braids. Photo/ Ashley Craig Brandt

Do you have any questions or comments related to my natural hair journey? I’d love to hear from you. Please post a comment in the section below.

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5 ways to maintain twist braids.

If you’ve been looking for a manageable solution to avoid heat damage, Twist braids are one of your best options.

I’ve received lots of questions about how and where I get my twist braids done. They’re low maintenance, affordable, and requires NO HEAT. Can I get an amen? Here are five easy ways to maintain twist braids:

1. Dedicing on the size of your braids:
Size matters. They say, “the bigger the hair, the closer to God.”

But two things will determine the size of your twists:

A) How long you want to keep them, and
B) The length of your hair.

Be careful not to have your braids twisted too thick as large-sized twists tend to unravel faster. The shorter your hair is, the easier it will be for fibre to slip from your hair, so ensure that you have finer twists installed to compliment the length of your hair. A good way to determine how long you can extend your braids to, would be to measure the length of your own hair, and not to extend to further than double that length. Your stylist should be able to direct you to a suitable size of braid if you’re still not sure.

2. Where to get your braids done:
Depending on your desired length, braids can cost anywhere from R300 to R1500. And there are tons of specialised salons in the country. I usually go to a salon in Claremont that doesn’t exactly have interior design appeal, but the hair stylists are top-notch. If you’d like me to recommend a stylist, feel free to post your email address in the comment section below.

I love having my Havana twist braids done professionally but it’s pretty easy to do them yourself, once you get the hang of it. Watch DIY HAVANA TWISTS for Beginners (Step-by-Step) for a quick tutorial on how you can twist your own braids.

3. Washing and drying:
I swore that I would never be one of those women tapping at her braided head because it’s itching. And thankfully I’m not.
The itching sensation usually occurs when your braids have been twisted tightly or when your scalp is dry.
I use an affordable Dreadlock shampoo and conditioning spray from Clicks which leaves my braids feeling soft, clean, and smelling fresh. I shampoo once a week and condition as much as possible. It seems like a difficult task to be washing twist braids but it’s pretty simple once you know how. I wash them while I’m in the shower, using a parting method (of four), similar to the one you’ll find in this youtube video.

Try not to use a towel when drying your hair, to avoid frizz. Use a damp cotton T-shirt instead, or sun dry at best.

4. Sleeping with twist braids:
Wear a silk scarf to bed to avoid the unravelling of your twists during the night. Clicks conveniently also sells silk scarves and pillows, but you can also use the leg of an old pair of stockings aka a swirlkous.

5. Play with different hairstyles:
Twists are pretty on their own but they can become a bit boring to wear if you’re the kind who likes to switch up hairstyles. Google is your best friend at this point – there are so many Youtube tutorials on how to style every type of braids ever created. For starters, if you go to, you’ll find 50 Exquisite Box Braids Hairstyles To Do Yourself, among other cool hairstyling tips.

For more questions, tips, or suggestions on how to maintain twist braids, please leave a comment in space below, or email me directly by clicking on the contact tab.

Cover photo by Sive Nyanda for Jeo photography.

I went out with my natural hair and nothing happened

After mustering up the balls to step outside with my hair not blow-dried or flat-ironed, I thought that I was going to feel really ugly and uncomfortable, or worse, people were going to imply that my hair is ugly and make me feel uncomfortable.

This is a really big thing for me. I felt emotional when a friend told me that she loves my sun-dried hair because I never thought anyone would. I’d been having my hair straightened since my first memories and that’s no exaggeration. At school, if you had straight hair, you were absolutely beautiful, and that’s pretty much the consensus within my family as well.

So, I’ve decided that I want to do the ‘Big Chop’ as soon as spring arrives (September 2014). It may seem a bit radical to chop my hair off but I think that I need to be smacked with the realization that my beauty doesn’t lie in my hair. And this will also be a way for me to grow the hair that was given to me.
I’m interested to know your thoughts so feel free to post a comment of whether or not you’re in support of my big chop.

Last night, friends and I went to a restaurant. A tall buff-looking guy walks in to sit at the table behind us. Not too long after, a friend leans in to whisper that this guy had been staring at me for some time while waiting to be seated. I shrugged and gave a little sigh because to my mind, who would actually find me attractive with this big hair. Our meals arrive; more friends join; we have some wine; squeeze in dessert, and then leave for some living room dancing and sing-alongs. Later that night, before going to bed, I checked my phone and saw that the same guy, who was sitting at the table behind me, had managed to find my Instagram profile and liked several of my photos. Super creepy! l was stunned, to say the least. Here I am, in the dead of winter, sporting a natural hairdo (resembling a lion’s mane), and this guy thinks I’m hot. Never mind the great lengths he went to, to show it…

This is what I look like with sleek hair:







And this is me with natural Bantu knot hair:






Major difference right? I am so ready to let go of the straight-hair-is-beautiful hype. I mean, of course straight hair is beautiful but curly and wavy hair can be just as lovely. This is a way for me to accept myself as I am, and to become who I want to be. If I decide somewhere along the line, that sleek hair suits me better, I will probably revert. I just need to be sure that my image represents my brand – the person I aspire to be, and not a copy of what is socially acceptable around me.