Me last winter on one of my wilder hair days, lol

As I’m nearing two years with natural hair (don’t ask me the exact date, I don’t have a clue, lol), it has occured to me that I’ve not chatted a whole lot about my natural hair experiences on this blog. Sure, I’ve shared product recommendations and reviews, but I’ve never talked about my “journey”, so to speak. But now that we’ve got a moment, allow me to share with you the 5 things I’ve learned about natural hair over the last two years. Read on!

1.) This ish ain’t easy. The first time I went natural (more on this in a moment) I thought it would be a piece of cake. I was sick of dealing with and paying for relaxers, and I figured going natural would eliminate hours in the salon chair. Well, instead of spending hours sitting under the dryer or flat ironing my hair, I now spent hours detangling and two-strand twisting.

I don’t say this to make natural hair sound difficult, but rather to make the point that ALL hair requires a certain degree of work in order for it to look it’s best. Any woman of any race or hair texture will tell you that when it comes to her hair, she puts in some work. Natural hair is no exception.

2.) You must be ready to go natural. As I mentioned above, this isn’t my first time going natural. The first time, back in ’09, I big chopped but ended up relaxing my hair again in less than a year. Not only was I not prepared to do the work my hair required as it grew out (the grow-out phase sucks no matter what your hair is like), but I hadn’t anticipated the learning curve I’d experience caring for my new hair. Basically, I’d underestimated the whole experience, so I went back to what was familiar.

The second time I big chopped in 2010, I was much more prepared. I’d done my research about products and techniques and was completely looking forward to it. In fact, I grabbed a pair of scissors and big chopped myself in my bathroom mirror. That’s how ready I was. For some, going natural is a piece of cake. For others, seeing and embracing a hair texture you haven’t seen in decades can be a bit of a shock. The lesson? Do things at your own pace and in your own time. As with most things in life, you’ll enjoy the experience more when you’re comfortable and confident in your decision.

3.) Don’t take all natural hair advice as gospel. With more and more women going natural everyday, it seems that every natural hair blog, YouTube channel, hairstylist and woman on the street has THE best tip/trick/product/advice to achieving the “perfect” curl. Don’t get me wrong, the natural hair community is a great resource for learning to care for your hair. Many a new natural (myself included) would have been lost without it! But at some point, you must begin to be selective about what advice you choose to put into practice.

Over time you will become familiar with YOUR hair and will learn what works and doesn’t work for YOU. Just because a product or technique works miracles for one girl, doesn’t automatically mean that it will work the same magic for you. By all means, experiment. Try new things. If something works, add it to your arsenal. If it doesn’t, keep it moving. Your curls, kinks and coils are unique to you and over time you’ll be your own expert!

Me, a week or so after big chopping for the second time in 2010.

4.) You don’t need every natural hair care product in the world, and expensive and all-natural products aren’t automatically better. While I’ve always been an equal opportunity product junkie, I must admit that high-end products have always given me an extra thrill. Even as a teenager I enjoyed saving my pennies to splurge on the beauty products at Saks or Nordstrom. But don’t get it twisted, I’m no beauty snob. I have no problem hitting up the beauty aisle at Walgreen’s and whipping out a coupon to save a few extra bucks. But when you first go natural, it’s easy to be sucked in by all of the glossy ads promising curl definition, 2nd day hair, deep moisture and easy detangling.

But all those pretty ads and slick websites cost money, and the products they’re selling don’t come cheap. Before you know it, you can easily drop $20 here and $30 there, and all of that can add up. Fast. My advice? Assess what you already have. Your old staples like shampoo, conditioner and daily moisturizers can often be used on your natural hair, too. Also, it isn’t always necessary to buy everysingleproduct a brand makes. Although some of the products that have worked well for my hair may be on the pricier side, I also use products from the drugstore, neighborhood beauty supply and health food store with success, too.

Same goes for all-natural products. There’s no denying the benefits of natural oils and butters on natural hair. Some women are personally oppossed to synthetic ingredients like mineral oil or silicones in all areas of their lives, or have found that their hair doesn’t respond well to them. But if you really don’t care either way and your hair doesn’t seem to either, don’t automatically count “bad” products out of the equation. That product just may give you the results you desire and will save you some cash in the process.

5.) Define natural hair for yourself. The world is run-over with Natural Hair Police, telling people what they should and shouldn’t do with their natural hair, and what is and isn’t natural. Puh-leaze. I used to get really annoyed whenever I would read or hear someone say a person is no longer natural if they get a blow out, rock a weave, get hair color/dye, grow locs, get braids, use heat tools, wear polka dots on Thursdays or whatever other foolishness they’ve mandated to be the benchmark for natural hair.

Back then my initial reaction was to tell these people to have two seats (one for themselves and one for their natural hair sheriff badge), but now I just smile politely and hope that they’ll find a hobby or something else more important to do in life than worry about what other grown folks are doing with their hair. To each her own, I say! I firmly believe that part of the beauty of natural hair is it’s chameleon-like ability to be styled to suit whatever mood a woman chooses. So, do you!

There you have it, the top 5 things I’ve learned about having natural hair. Share your thoughts or lessons you’ve learned in the comments!