After two big chops, I'm committed to learning as much as I can about growing healthy natural hair.
The last place you would expect to leave crying tears of empathy and pure joy after a masterclass in vulnerability and authenticity is a get-ready-with-me-style YouTube video. The study of vulnerability, shame, and courage is more the domain of acclaimed researchers like Brené Brown who explains that “our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” That quote from Daring Greatly, Brené’s book which I received as a birthday gift four years ago, changed my life, and admittedly, I have actively been searching for people who exhibit radical self-acceptance.
So, by the power vested in me after watching hours (more like days) of natural hair content on YouTube this year, I pronounce Kat Graham’s touching and teaching Natural Hair Beauty Routine video as the biggest natural hair moment of 2020. Here are the lessons and tips you and I can incorporate from this video at any stage of our natural hair journeys.
1. Your Natural Hair Flourishes Without Heat
Kat described her hair as healthy and she showed us how long it had grown after months of it not being straightened or exposed to heat. I am always skeptical of natural hair influencers who insist that you should never see your hair straight. Going natural is not some sort of punishment so you should be able to experiment and see your hair in as many styles as you imagine possible. However, heat damage is the usual suspect when people report having brittle, breaking, and unhealthy natural hair. Heat damage is caused by using too much heat on your hair and not applying any heat protectors when you do. I must confess that my love for straighteners and curlers was a major reason for both of my big chops. You’d think that I’d learnt my lesson after the first time.
2. Natural Hair Representation Is a Matter of Emergency
As an actress, Kat explained that afro-textured hair is not embraced in Hollywood and that she hopes to one day play a character that she actually looks like. We often celebrate diversity when we see people that look like us on the big screen. That progress should be applauded, but Kat’s words mean that there is a layer of representation that is still missing. Current racial diversity in Hollywood includes African American, African, or biracial actors while concealing their distinct features such as their hair texture. It is time for Hollywood to incorporate natural hair as an acceptable look on casting calls and auditions for African American, African, and biracial actors.
3. Harsh Protective Styling Can Be Damaging to Your Natural Hair
Related to the point on representation, Kat pointed out that as a job specification, wearing a lace front wig which needed to be glued on with cornrows and braids under it had been “hard on my hair.” Protective styling can be the key to growing natural hair and wigs are often a safe and fun way to experiment with color and other textures.
The dark side of protective styling shows up when braids and cornrows are plaited too tight or left in for too long, and wig glue and styling gel are not carefully removed. This can lead to matting and knotting of hair, breakage, and even premature receding hairlines or traction alopecia. All of these are not a good look and they are not what you want for your natural hair. The simple tip here is to be gentle and careful with your hair and place a time limit on protective styling.
4. You Don’t Have to Go on Your Natural Hair Journey Alone
The most memorable part of the video was when Kat shed a tear as she told us that her hairstylist encouraged her to nurture her own hair and left her with some conditioner just before the lockdown. She added that wearing her hair out had been therapeutic and her eyes lit up with excitement when she talked about being responsible for caring for her own hair.
I loved this moment because it reminded me of how something as simple as an affirmation from a friend about your hair can make you love and embrace it more. In a world where natural hair is not the gold standard so people feel more comfortable criticizing it than they do complimenting it, be the person who makes others feel good for wearing and caring for their natural hair.
5. Conditioning and Moisturizing Are Game-Changers
Kat listed leave-in conditioner, manuka oil, argan oil, and black rice oil as the products that showed that her hair would work with her if she didn’t give up on it. She also mentioned that curling custard defined her curls. I couldn’t agree more. Moisturized hair flourishes and all its curls and coils take center stage. After my second big chop, I swear by leave-in conditioner—it has made my hair more manageable and it gives me the confidence to show off my moisturized curls.
6. Your Hair, Your Rules!
This might be a rather puzzling lesson from someone who’s been extracting tips from a glimpse into someone else’s natural hair journey—it’s your hair so do what feels right for you. Kat said that her favorite hair concoction was one that she made herself—a mixture of mustard seed oil and Jamaican black castor oil.
As long as you are not actively doing something to derail your healthy hair journey, feel free to break the rules sometimes. Try washing your hair at a time that suits you best and mix oil combinations that you think will work for you. There are so many rules out there about what you should do to retain length, maintain lustre, and achieve your dream look. Take the helpful stuff from those lists but don’t let them turn your hair journey into some boring replica. Like Kat, take ownership of this journey and enjoy the ride to achieving your natural hair goals.
© 2020 Alundrah Sibanda