My name is Lal and I'm a social media content creator who blogs mostly about my natural hair but also home, fashion and lifestyle. I have been natural for almost six years and I started my page @curlygallal as a way to help others embrace their own and champion natural hair.
For me, it's never been about telling people how to wear their hair, but to give them the reassurance and tools to know that anything is possible. So here are my tips on how to embrace your natural hair, from personal experience…
Filter out and unlearn negative self-talk
For me, the first step was to recognise, and then confront, the negative beliefs that I had acquired about my natural hair, and stop the discouraging self-talk in its tracks. I'm sure you will have heard phrases like: "tame your frizz”; “your hair isn’t professional”; “it’s too big / too much”; “why don’t you just tie it up? / straighten it? / relax it?”
I grew up hearing this as a constant drone of veiled ‘constructive criticism’ - from childhood, into my teenage years and even into my adulthood. Often it came from the people closest to me, those whose opinions really mattered but hurt the most. This negativity can cause lasting damage not just for our hair, but our mental health, self-esteem and self-identity.
So it wasn't just the relaxers or heat that damaged my hair - it was as much the lack of support, representation and education that I received around caring for it. I know it can take time to build the confidence to wear your hair natural - it wasn’t until I was 21 that I took the plunge and even then it took me a couple of years to unlearn all the negative bias. However, starting on that journey was one of the best things I’ve done - it was invigorating.
Understand your own hair’s basic needs
The next step is to start understanding what your natural hair needs (it’s probably water - no joke, curly hair textures are thirsty!) And while I love that we have an ever growing collection of new products and information available to us this can make things confusing and overwhelming, especially when starting out. I like to keep it simple and stick to three key principles: cleanse, condition, protect.
I try to not be prescriptive and encourage experimentation. Try starting with a few products, preferably from the same line, and experiment with different styling techniques. Each trial and error is an opportunity to learn more about your hair, and if it doesn’t work don’t worry, every perceived ‘fail’ is an opportunity to learn something new.
A quick side note: Don’t forget to take photos! It’s so easy to get caught up in the process of understanding our hair that we can miss all the amazing progress we make. So snap lots of pictures so you can do before and after side-by-sides - you’ll thank me later!
Know that perfection is a myth
Lastly, I want to talk about expectation.
Curls, like us, have a tendency to want to do their own thing which is frustrating at times - why can’t every wash day be a carbon copy of the last!
And let’s face it, we tend to be much harder on ourselves. I know from experience that it’s easy to be self critical about our own hair whilst being oblivious to (or wilfully ignoring) the same things in other people. But having realistic expectations of your hair is key to building a lasting relationship with it so make sure you treat yourself, and your hair, with the same compassion that you extend to others.
Let go of the idea of perfection and remember that faultless, ‘frizz-free’ hair simply doesn’t exist - as much as social media may make you feel. Repeat after me - frizz is a great quality of healthy hair!
I spent my younger years trying too hard to make my hair fit inside a box that made me shrink everything about myself - I was afraid that any sort of volume would make me stand out. Then when I was older and started transitioning, I was anxious about not having the ‘right’ curls.
I found that surrounding myself with people who looked like me and embraced their natural hair, in all its forms, was incredibly helpful. For me this created a virtual support structure and I am still grateful to the people that helped give me the confidence and reassurance to go natural. Now, I embrace the frizz and love the volume that it creates and hope that I can help be a small part in other peoples journeys too.
This was originally published on Glamour UK.