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When it comes to her hair routine, Patia Braithwaite, health editor at Refinery29, likes to keep things simple: She'll sweep her thick natural curls into a high bun and then continue on with her day. But for the first time in a really long time, Braithwaite wants to try something different with a protective style... and not just with your typical 1b plaits. "I’ve wanted to have different colored hair before, [but] I lived in D.C., which was a little bit more conservative than New York. [Now] I don’t feel like I have to explain myself," she says.
To make a statement, Braithwaite opted for gray ombré Casamance braids (named after a city in Senegal) at Khamit Kimks in Brooklyn, New York. The stylists there say the braids are less painful, which makes them a popular choice for clients like Braithwaite. "The reason I stopped getting my hair braided in high school is because it hurt. I'd be in pain for three days," she says. "It just wasn't worth it."
Without protective styles to fall back on, there was no happy medium: Braithwaite's mom wouldn't let her get a perm until the age of 16, and there was plenty of fighting between them in those early days. Even after a relaxer, Braithwaite still struggled with the usual breakage, loss, and thinning. So, she caved in to her mother's original stance and went natural.
"I watched a lot of YouTube videos about transitioning and styling," she says. "I thought going natural was going to be super hard. I got a haircut and loved how my face looked." Although her curls are hidden in her braids (for now), she still holds on to that same confidence — which helped her choose this bold summer style. "My hair is pretty and feral. When I was younger, I really wanted to fit in with a relaxer," she says. "Now, I want to stand out. I love myself just the way I am – big, complicated hair and all."
See Braithwaite's transformation — and hear her hair story — above.