Maintaining natural hair

Ten months have passed since my last blog post about hair, following my decision to “go natural”. If you’re expecting an inspiring update I may disappoint: Exhibit A shows how I’m wearing my hair these days (maintaining natural hair is no joke!).

jummy_protective hair style

My hair is hidden away so that I’m not tempted to return to my relaxed hair ways.

The excitement of “going natural” has given way to the reality of maintaining natural hair, the part of the “relaxer-free” lifestyle which doesn’t get quite as much hype because it’s the more tedious part of the journey. For me, styling my hair, even when it was relaxed, always felt more like punishment than a fun activity—it’s up there with other things I don’t enjoy doing (mopping floors and adding blogs that are full of cut-and-paste posts to the Nigerian Blog Awards website). When I dream about winning the lottery, the one that I never play, weekly hair salon trips are always one of the first things I’d indulge in.

Before “going natural”, I romanticized the whole thing: I had visions of effortless twist outs and quick hair styles. I thought I’d feel more like myself than ever before with natural hair and have some Aha! moments about who I really am. Instead I realized that raising my hands above my hair for long periods of time, especially when the result is amateurish work that I cover up with a scarf, is not my idea of a good time. My feelings of exasperation with my hair may change (I hope they do) but in these past ten months if it wasn’t for head ties, scarves, and my blessing of a mother (who took on the task of cornrowing my hair so that the time maintaining my natural hair was minimal and I could live in low-maintenance land for one to two weeks at a time), I may have relaxed my hair months ago.

I recently got to meet a blogger friend who was rocking her natural hair in two-strand twists. I was interested in her hair because the two-strand twist is how I see myself wearing my hair once it’s 100% natural because I like its versatility. As I watched my natural-haired friend retwist most of her hair one evening, I realized that no-maintenance natural hair is fiction—everything requires maintenance, even bald heads (one has to maintain that lovely shine, right?).

If I want natural hair that’s full and longish (anywhere between cheekbone and shoulder-length would be divine!), then I have to partner with a natural hair stylist or unearth my inner natural hair stylist soon.

In the meantime I’m thankful for this protective style, which has made life easier and which will hopefully carry me for a few more weeks. Being able to leave the house without giving a thought to my hair is a blessing. I’m also glad that I can give my mom a break from having to help me with my hair (#blessed #spoiled). This wasn’t what I envisioned when I thought about my hair after “going natural”, but that’s ok. It makes sense I suppose that the naturalistas with Instagram followings and YouTube channels are the ones who are passionate about their hair, the ones who dream of and think about how they can make their crowning glory exactly that. My respect for these women was already high but it’s only grown these past few months as I realized what maintaining natural hair really takes.

What’s your biggest hair-related challenge right now?

15 thoughts on “Maintaining natural hair

  1. Hence why I’m still wearing the 500 naira Two strand Twists that I did in Nigeria 6 weeks ago!
    Funny thing is I never struggled with my natural hair. my relaxed hair was another story. I had to deal with the two textures every time my hair was out. So I kept it in braids most times. The only style I knew how to do back then was plaits.

    • Oh! I’ve seen those twists and they look great—I thought you did them yourself, actually, because I know you can do twists.

      I hear you on the woes of having two different textures: I always hated that about relaxed hair. Becoming at ease with my natural hair will need more time and attention.

  2. You are absolutely right about how tedious it really is to maintain natural hair! Reason why I decided to just make the barber my best friend 😃.

    God bless mama! Only a mama’s love would get me to do cornrows on the regular for another human being… Either that or I’m trying to stay out of the soup kitchen 🙈

    • Yes—so smart of you to rock a low cut and rock it well! I may join you one of these days (though I feel that a low cut demands a slim physique ;)).

      Amen o: may God bless mama forever and ever! She is too giving and I am so thankful for her. Lol “stay out of the soup kitchen”! You? Never!

  3. Jummy, you’re on point about the natural hair upkeep. Good decision to go perm-free, just be patient and soon enough you’ll get used to it, and you’ll love it, and wonder why you didn’t switch over earlier.

    Looking forward to future updates on this topic.


    ** Big thanks to Sweet Mummy **

    • Thank you for your support and encouragement–I need it! I hope to share great updates in the future. :)

      Yes o: big thanks to mummy!

  4. Totally agree, and always tell people trying to go natural because they think it will be easier, that that’s the wrong idea lol. My natural hair challenge is length retention. In a year, I might gain 4 to 5 inches and then have it all cut off due to unhealthy ends. This year made a resolution to go to a professional every 3 months to get a trim. The advice they gave me is that I need to moisturize my hair with a silicone free moisturizer every day and not less than every other day especially the ends. So my advice to everyone would be that. So while your hair is in braids or protective styles, hope you have a braid spray or moisturizer that you can use or when you take down the braids the hair might be too dry or break due to lack of being conditioned. That would be what I would change if I could go back in time. Good luck and keep us posted. As you progress I have the feeling you will like updos like puffs, using banana clips, buns, French rolls. They are all low maintenance and similar to how you would rock permed hair. I am rocking one now and will post on ig :)

    • I wish you all the best with your length retention challenge neuyogi and thanks for the tip re: silicone-free moisturizer. Your hair looks super-cute!

      I always appreciate your practical advice from someone in the field. I’ll keep you posted on the journey more often.

      I’m barely moisturizing my hair while it’s in braids so I need to get on that…I’m scared of what I will have left when I take out these braids…hopefully it won’t be too bad this time.

  5. Congrats on making it to 10 months! It’s no easy feat. I believe most people can take care of the hair basics. You can practice and you’ll probably get better. My biggest hair challenge is maintaining 2 textures while transitioning. Your braids look great. I can’t install braids because the process usually sets me back.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Uzoma. I don’t often install braids and this is my first time doing so on natural hair so I’m hoping that all will be well. One thing I’ve already learned is that I need to increase the moisturizing aspect…that and I need to stop being so lazy about the upkeep!

      I actually stopped relaxing my hair in November 2014, but I hadn’t given an update in 10 months. :)

  6. Looking good! I like those braids.

    I braid just once a year though, because I can’t allow myself neglect my hair too long.

    My biggest challenge at this very second is I haven’t moisturized my hair since the weekend, or twisted it so it’s a tangled mess and I’m afraid to touch it :p

    • Ok I need to learn from skilled and seasoned naturalistas like you, Berry! My takeaways from your comment and some of the others is the danger of neglecting to moisturize your hair and to be sparing with braiding hair–it’s convenient but potentially damaging.

      I hope detangling your hair wasn’t too much of a disaster, Berry!

  7. You look good Jummy,and i like the braids.

    I am going to the barbers this week to have a professional hair cut! When I take out the weaves from my girls’ hair, I am relaxing it!

    I thought, with natural there will be little or no breakage like the perms, ALAS! it is the same, if not worst because, I condition only on weekends and they apply hair cream everyday before combing. And I have to trim off the ends everytime I loose out the braids or weaves, that I wonder, where is the growth?

    Truthfully speaking, permed hair is easier to maintain. The trick I learned is to put them under protective hairstyles always and relax when due.
    Have a lovely weekend.

    • P.s I forgot to mention that while back home, maintaining natural hair was no biggie and the kids hair grew very fast and long because it is always in cornrows or threads. I only wash it and apply hair cream, and I get good result. In fact, when I permed it, it got damaged, that I have to revert back to natural hair and I loved it. But the opposite is here, because of the climate.

      • Thank you for both of your comments, Nitty–very informative!

        The climate issue is real: my sister mentioned too that her hair grew faster in Nigeria. Now you have my concerned about what will be left underneath when I take out these braids #Godisincontrol.

        It’s a shame that with your girls you’re finding that their hair isn’t growing in natural styles, despite being good with moisturizing…quite discouraging!

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