What I've Taken Away From Going Natural

Photo: Courtesy of Giphy.
This month marks my one-year natural hair anniversary. Meaning, it's been almost 365 days since I've cast aside relaxers, made the big chop, and embraced what my mama gave passed down to me: a head of naturally curly hair.

I'm not usually one for reflecting on milestones in my life (aside from my birthday, because duh), but some moments call for it, and I think this is one of them. Ahead, I summarize the things I've learned, experienced, and come to realize since hopping aboard the natural train.

It's important to note that they call it a natural hair journey for a reason. As my sister is quick to point out, I've only been a member of the curly gang for a year; I'm pretty much still in the initiation phase. It's a constant learning process, and I'll continue to check off lessons for a long time to come. I may not be officially sworn in yet, but I like to think that I'm well on my way.
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Photo: Courtesy of Giphy.
Patience Is A Goddamn Virtue...
And something I've learned I need to exercise a whole lot more. Pre-big chop, I'd seen the "All my life I had to detangle" memes floating around the internet, but I never truly understood them until the first time I attempted to wash my own hair. The lazy beauty person in me has come to accept — but not without a whole lot of denial first — that it's 100% the difference between a good and a bad hair day for me.

I've also learned that a wash-and-go (the style I wear pretty much exclusively) doesn't actually mean what it implies. It should be rephrased to: Wash for 10 minutes, detangle for another 20, air-dry for two to three hours, and then walk out the door. RIP, all of the social events I've had to pass up due to the fact that I underestimated the time-suck that is Wash Day.
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Photo: Courtesy of Giphy.
Shrinkage Is A Daily Struggle
Another thing I didn't fully take into account pre-BC: how long it was going to take my hair to grow. Shrinkage is a very real first-world problem that plagues those with tight curls like mine. Though my hair may still read TWA, I promise you, inches have sprouted. Again, this is where the patience portion comes into play. (Like I said, I'm working on it, y'all.)
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Photo: Via NaturallyCurly.
Quality Trumps Quantity
I have a confession to make: I've fallen victim to product-junkie syndrome. As soon as I hopped on the curly caboose, my brain instantly went to one thing and one thing only: Must. Try. All. Of. The. Things. Rewind to a couple of months ago, and here's what my situation looked like: two very large drawers in my bathroom, plus three large bags in my room — and don't even get me started on the in-case-of-emergency stash I kept at my parents' house — all full of hair products.

I eventually realized that not every curly-hair product was specifically created with my mane in mind (which, rude). Also, by rotating out products after every wash, I couldn't properly decipher what was and wasn't working for my hair.

I haven't put testing to a complete halt — that sort of comes with the beauty-editor territory, as devastating as it sounds. But weeding out some (hi, sneaky, bad-for-you ingredients) and graciously giving away others (you're welcome, anyone who's visited my apartment this spring) has allowed me to zero in on the ones I truly love.
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Photo: Courtesy of Giphy.
Comparison Does More Harm Than Good
It took me a while to wrap my mind around the fact that my hair is never going to lay, bounce, or curl the same as that of my closest friend or my favorite natural hair blogger. That's simply because not all curl types are the same. It's very easy to get pulled down the natural hair rabbit hole on social media, and the difference between curl admiration and envy is a slippery slope.

That's not to say the abundance of natural hair content online is a bad thing — quite the contrary. Many who have recently decided to go natural might not have done so if the community weren't the force it is today. Myself included. There are pockets of the internet filled to the brim with advice, inspiration, and information that have made my journey much easier — and something to be celebrated.
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Photo: Courtesy of Giphy.
Visibility Matters
Making the shift from straight to curly, I never realized how important it is to see my hair type reflected in music videos, hair commercials, and beauty aisles. Public moments like Beyoncé declaring she loves her baby's Afro remind me that simply seeing images of people who look like me (be they 4 years old or 40) is so important. Not only for pride or bragging purposes, but also to feel like I can relate, like I belong, and that I'm not alone.
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Photo: Courtesy of Giphy.
People Will Have Opinions — & Lots Of 'Em
Yes, I may have been the one to chop off my hair but, for some reason, strangers, friends, and family members still feel the need to weigh in on it constantly. Whether it's the guy at the party who condescendingly lauded me for being "brave" enough to cut my hair or the cousin who questioned why I would "do such a thing," people have and will continue to have their opinions.
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Take The Good With The Bad
I've learned to deal with them as such: Smile and politely walk away. Because for every natural hair hater, there's someone waiting around the corner with an, "I love your hair like that."

But, please, friends, love it from a distance. Because touching it will get you the side-eye and a not-so-polite reaction in return.
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Photo: Courtesy of Giphy.
It Ain't Easy
I've had to take everything I previously knew about hair (which is to say, not much) and throw it out the window. And it hasn't been easy. It still isn't easy. Tears have been shed, and lots of 'em. My hair may not always cooperate, and doesn't respect me and my life 80% of the time, but at the end of the day...
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Photo: Courtesy of Giphy.
It's Worth It
The real test comes in the form of embracing my natural hair regardless of what it's doing or not doing, or what it is or isn't. It comes with celebrating the good hair days alongside the not-so-good ones and coming to love my mane wholeheartedly — every curl, kink, tangle, and yes, maybe even shrinkage, along the way.
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Photo: Courtesy of Giphy.
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