Considering going natural but need guidance? Embracing your natural texture has never been easier, thanks to an influx of info and products. We've consulted the experts and tested the latest launches to give you 10 tips that will help you start your journey.
1. Getting Started
Kick chemicals to the curb, but first take inventory of what you want to achieve. "Going natural is an emotional journey and can sometimes be a lengthy process," says Curly Texture Expert & Carol's Daughter Brand Stylist Diane Da Costa. "If the scalp has been compromised by chemical relaxers, it may affect the way the hair initially grows back." Start gently with Carol's Daughter's Transitioning 1-2-3 Kit, which helps reduce product buildup, soothes a scarred scalp and minimizes breakage. Carol's Daughter Transitioning 1-2-3 Kit ($40; carolsdaughter.com)
2. Nourish from Within
Don't overlook the importance of your diet. "One key tip every natural girl should know: Internal moisture is just as important as external moisture," says Patrice Grell Yursik, creator of Afrobella.com. "If you eat healthy foods, drink water and take good care of yourself, you'll see results in your hair, skin and nails."
3. Build a Tool Arsenal
"When your fingers can't stand up to the job, your wide-tooth comb should be your weapon of choice," says Nicole Walton, creator of CurlyNikki.com. To prevent breakage, detangle hair after using a leave-in treatment or spray. Use shower caps to protect twist outs or during deep-conditioning treatments. We also love blow-dryers with diffuser attachments as an occasional alternative to air-drying.
4. All About Oils
"Natural hair tends to be drier due to the curl pattern," says Mezei Jefferson, senior manager of education for SoftSheen-Carson. "Hot oil treatments once a week with a steamer will give hair softness and shine while locking in moisture." Myleik Teele, founder and CEO of curlBOX, suggests finding your hair's favorite oil, one that is easily absorbed and moisturizes without feeling heavy or greasy. "My [hair] happens to love coconut oil, and [certain] oils-olive, apricot, grapeseed-will help during the styling and conditioning process," she says.
5. Experiment with Extensions
Longing for length? Try extensions as a protective style while rocking different looks, from oversized 'fros to cascading locs. "We created Khinky.com to provide high-quality hair for women with diverse textures," says Khinky Chic Hair Founder Tamara Dumay-Murad. "Our options embrace all textures, from our patented lightweight dreadlock extensions to curly virgin textures."
6. Enhance Your Texture
"I like curl-enhancing foams, mousses and creams to add shine and definition," says Oscar James, celebrity stylist for Clear Ultra Shea. Start by dampening hair with a leave-in conditioner, followed by a curl activator, making sure your hair is evenly covered. For a uniform look, try two-strand twists, Bantu knots or rods left overnight.
7. Become a Loc Star
Afros and two-strand twists are not your only styling options once you go natural. Braids, locs and Sisterlocks (shown on model) are also fabulous alternatives. "Sisterlocks are about half the size of traditional locs and give you more styling options without the heaviness associated with traditional [ones]," shares Wariesi Flores, owner of Sumptous Locks. To start the process, Flores recommends having at least three inches of natural hair.
8. Avoid the Suds
Changing your hair requires changing your mindset, especially when it comes to shampooing your locks. "Traditional shampoos are the prime culprits and obstacles to [preventing] naturally drier textures from having great results," shares Anthony Dickey, owner of Hair Rules Salon in NYC. Stick to sulfate-free shampoos and cleansing conditioners that don't produce suds. "These are better suited for natural hair and should be the primary shampooing method for kinky textures," says Dickey.
9. Condition with Care
Carve out a day each week to create a ritual of deep conditioning your thirsty strands. "Properly conditioned hair allows for easy combing and styling," says Ursula Stephen, Motions global ambassador. "It prevents ripping while combing and increases the overall health of the hair."
10. Get Your Beauty Sleep
"Before you go to bed, you must put a silk scarf on your head to protect the hair from potential split ends that can occur from cotton pillows," says Chris-Tia Donaldson, owner of Thank God I'm Natural hair care products. "If you don't like sleeping with a satin bonnet, then a satin pillowcase is an absolute must-have." For added strength, try an overnight treatment to penetrate stressed-out strands while you slumber.