A Natural-Haired Babe Dishes On Transitioning Her Mane

Untitled-4Photo: Courtesy of Curly Essence.
Ana Rita D' Almeida and Denise Sonnemberg — two Lisbon-based twenty-somethings behind the blog Curly Essence — know that you are not your hair. Still, there's no reason not to celebrate the natural hair movement, and now, the ladies are bringing their expertise in everything from the best leave-in conditioners to the top travel spots straight to R29.
This week, we caught up with 25-year-old Angola-resident Patricia Devezas Valente!
"I’m a crazy, fun, and spontaneous person, I believe in learning new things from each day and living life for the moment."
Tell us a little about the history of your curly hair.
"My hair and I have been through a crazy journey from relaxed to natural, dreadlocks to natural again, to natural to texturizing, until I could no longer take the smell of the chemicals, and now I am finally enjoying the curls I was given as my birth right. I'm NEVER going back to chemically changing my hair — that’s something I won’t do again."
How long did you find yourself in the transition stage — transitioning back to natural hair — and why did you make this decision?
"My hair grows really fast, which I admit is part of the reason why I play around with it more. I have been toying with being natural since 2005 — that was when I did the 'big chop.' My hair was relaxed and down to my back when I walked into a hair salon asked for what I called the 'Halle Berry' cut from the movie Cat Woman. That set the ball rolling. By the beginning of 2006 I had cut all of the remaining relaxed hair and was wearing a full afro for my final year of high school, until I did my dreadlocks in 2007. The school I was at didn’t allow dreadlocks so I waited and did them after. My family didn’t take it well so I only had dreads for one year. I must admit that sometimes I wish I had a stronger backbone and stuck with my locks (I miss them, to be honest). Then I went back to natural again and my little afro grew quickly and by 2008 my hair was back down to my shoulders again. And, by 2009 it was down my back which was when I decided to texturize it, which was the biggest mistake ever! It looked good but it didn’t last because the maintenance proved to be harder to do because of the rate my hair grows. I was having to do my roots every month in order to keep up the look (not to mention how expensive it was — and the smell wasn’t easy, either). Then on one of my trips to the hair salon it broke in the middle area, which was easy to hide — until it began growing and I was forced to have a beehive. That was the last straw — I swore off from that day. And, a month later, I went in for my last big and final chop which was actually funny because I was in the salon and no employee wanted to cut my hair. I had to do the first chop — I cut the front so there was no going back, they had to do it. That was in 2010. Since then I haven’t looked back, I've been natural and proud and learning how to deal with this crazy, fast-growing head of hair I was given."
What was the hardest part of your transition?
"Learning how to deal with the fast growth was one of the hardest parts, because it would look good one week but trying to recreate it the next week was harder because it didn’t look the same. I didn’t like it because it took longer to do each morning and always made me late for either school or work because I was figuring out what to do. But, with each chop it got easier.
"Another one of my great difficulties was finding the right shampoo for my hair. The stereotypical black hair shampoos and treatments I found never worked. From Pantene Perfect Curls to L’Oreal to TRESemmé — none seemed to work until I tried KÉRASTASE Bain OléoaCurl. That seemed to work but I noticed that my hair was getting thinner, that was when I realized what all those products had in common — ethanol. Then the hunt was on again, until I found my current Argan Sublime shampoo and oil mask. The oil mask acts as a conditioner locking in the oils my hair needs on weekly basics. It is sulfate-free, suits all hair types, and the best part — natural."
Untitled-1Photo: Courtesy of Curly Essence.
How would you describe your hair's texture?
"Can I describe my hair as crazy? Because that is the best way to describe my hair. It also has a personality of its own and at times I think it also has a mind of its own. It can be soft and bouncy one day and then the next day hard and rough which drives me crazy.
The front of the hair is obviously the part that suffers the most due to sun exposure so that part feels like hay at times. The middle knots easily, and the back is my favorite. It's where my curls are always looking beautiful and perfectly curled; I wish I could swap the front ones to the back and the back ones to the front. With my current hair products and hair-care routine, my hair still has its days, but I now have more control and I can take care and nurture my hair and all it's textures. But, one thing it does have in common all around is that my hair is dry."
Explain to us how you care for your curly hair.
"Well my care for my hair is simple — it only got this way recently, although my shampoo and conditioner has remained the same for one year now. I think only now I have finally learned to get the most out of my products all thanks to YouTube. I watch a lot of videos by other women with hair similar to mine. I take bits and I apply to my hair routine to make it more manageable.
I wash my hair every fourth day — it takes me about 25 minutes total in the shower. I wash my roots only because I read online that if we apply shampoo to our whole head we are stripping nutrients from the ends, making it more brittle. I have adapted this in the last six months and I must say it's worked out brilliantly. I apply the shampoo to my hands and wash my roots only going with the grain — this makes detangling easier too. Then I apply my oil mask (conditioner). This goes all over my hair and then I tie it up in a bun for five minutes. I divide my hair into six sections and tackle one at a time as I detangle them, always working from the bottom making my way up to the roots. (I use a brush, not a comb, only because I find the brush gives me more control and it's easier to grip.) Once I have each six parts sectioned off, I twist-braid each section to create the curl shape. Then, I take all the sections and wrap them unto a bun again while I shower, and rinse the remaining conditioner. Once I'm out of the shower, I undo each twist and I add argan oil to my hair and Babyliss Pro Curl Cream to my hands and spread onto my hair using my fingers and I retwist until the next day.
Every other week, I use a leave-in treatment with my oil mask, which means that I leave it in my hair over night covered in cling wrap, finished off with a scarf wrap. I didn’t know about how damaging it can be so sleep without a hair scarf, but now that I use one every night, I get fewer knots & split ends. Some days, depending on how much time I have or just to change up my look, I do small twist braids, keep them in for a few days, and then I undo them, wet my hair, and allow it to air dry. I find this creates more defined curls, keeping my volume and reducing the frizz — temporarily at least."
Is there a secret that you can share concerning your curly hair?
"Water. It’s our hair’s best friend! If you wake up in the morning and you find your hair is having one of it’s days, spray some water on it. Not only does it makes it easier to work with but it also adds moisture which is something out hair eats up in a blink of an eye. And, oil — our natural hair is dry and adding natural oil restores our strands. Covering your hair with a scarf is the perfect solution to a bad hair day. Wrap it up — there are so many styles in which we can protect out hair from the sun, winter, cold, and still look fashionable. No one will even think you're having a bad hair day! I also do everything to my hair myself. I have cut out salons from my life. I cut my own ends and I dye my own hair. So, mine are the only hands that change my hair. It's actually better this way too, I find we create a bond with our hair and we break that energy when we let some one else change it."

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