*Prepared for BGLH by Meosha Tall of 1MeNaturally
M: My name is Melanie also known as Bella and I am from Atlanta.
Why did you make the decision to go natural?
M: I decided to go natural after a big realization. One day I saw a black woman well into her nineties with long hair and thought how amazing it would be if I could keep my hair long until I got that age. This was so rare to see that I started to become highly observant about our hair, and I discovered the natural hair community on YouTube. It was then that I became obsessed with the movement…I loved it…my heart would race every time I went on a blog and saw a collage of natural beauty from 4c to 3a…I fell in love! I loved seeing all the beautiful women with natural hair and I knew I had to be a part of such an amazing thing.
I fell in love with the versatility of natural hair and I took it on as a lifestyle change from my hair to my personal style to even the food I eat. Going natural made me want to “go natural” in every arena, and change my unhealthy habits. I believe what we put in our body determines our health and putting chemicals right on your scalp to be absorbed in your body just didn’t make sense to me anymore. I went from the girl with long relaxed hair who did the same boring style everyday to the natural girl who has a different hairstyle every day of the week. I also liked the exotic factor that natural hair gives off. I love that people are more amazed with the hair that grows right out of your scalp than they are with the hair that has been chemically altered and permanently changed from what it naturally is. I started transitioning December of 2009 and finally cut the last few relaxed ends off in 2011. So the whole process has been about 3 years. Natural hair gives me freedom, liberation and adds a lot of spice and edginess to my life.
How would you describe your texture?
M: I have actually yet to officially find out what my hair type is. I would say it has a mixture of several textures. One side of my hair is similar to 3b while the other side looks more like 3c/4a. My hair is highly temperamental to the environment/weather—It has a mind of its own and my strands are very fine.
Describe your styling regimen over the course of the month.
M: My motto is “if it aint broke don’t fix it” in regards to hair, so when I find a regimen that works, I stick to it. Every year I go from April to October with no heat all for health and length retention. During that time, I alternate between braids outs, buns, updos and loose hair—the key during this time is the less manipulation the better which is why I don’t wash my hair excessively. I wash my hair if not every week then every other week and use mainly a sulfate-free shampoo. However, I incorporate a sulfate shampoo monthly to totally cleanse my hair. I usually do my braidouts on a week where I know there will be no rain and a low amount of humidity. On that old braidout, I transition to buns and updos where I usually get really creative with the style I want for that day. Then right before I wash my hair I comb out my hair and wear it in a blow-out inspired style for maybe a day or two—Victory rolls in the front are the best for this style =). During the fall and winter months, I alternate between my straightened and natural hair. I use very moisturizing products such as coconut oil, shea butter, argan oil and olive oil. I also alternate between natural deep conditioners throughout the year — I use honey for moisture, eggs for protein, and yogurt for itchy scalp. I try to just listen to my hair and use the most appropriate treatment for that issue.
What does wash day look like for you?
M: Before washing my hair, I detangle and go through each section and oil my scalp usually with coconut oil or Africa’s Best Herbal Oil. While oiling my hair, I do a scalp massage to increase blood circulation which in return promotes hair growth. Depending on how I am wearing my hair after washing it determines the type of shampoo I use. If I am wearing my natural hair I use a sulfate-free shampoo—my favorites are Shea Moisture Curl and Shine Shampoo, Beautiful Textures Shampoo, and Curls Unleashed Shampoo. When I am about to straighten it I use a gentle sulfate shampoo. My usuals are Herbal Essences Hello Hydration and Suave Naturals Shampoo. I then deep condition usually with Organic Root Stimulator Deep Conditioner, sometimes mixing it with an oil (coconut,olive,etc.).
I usually let the conditioner sit overnight and wash it out the following morning. The product I always apply after every wash is Cantu Shea Butter Leave In Repair Conditioner for added protection. Every natural knows you always need a good system to get the best braid out, twist out or wash and go, so I follow the same process every time. I usually do 6-15 braids and keep my hair as wet as possible. After applying Cantu, I apply Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie to define my curls, I then apply Eco Styler to hold the curls, shea butter to prevent crunchiness, and cocunut oil to add moisture—this exact order of the products matters most. I let my braids air dry which usually takes 24-48 hours to completely dry. I try to avoid taking the braids out before they are dry to avoid getting any frizz.
Describe your favorite go-to hairstyle for days when you don’t have a lot of time to style.
M: BUNS! BUNS! BUNS! I absolutely love having fun with buns. Often times people look at my hair and try to figure out how in the world I came up with a style, but it’s all freeplay. I usually come up with best buns/updos when I’m in a time crunch and I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. That is in fact the most beautiful thing about natural hair; that you can take your hair from looking like a mess to a beautiful piece of art. The texture within our hair makes it beautiful without having to try too hard.
How do you combat shrinkage?
M: I must say shrinkage was the main issue that aggravated me when I first went natural. After many videos and articles, I finally came up with a method that worked for me. After my hair is braided in preparation for a braid out, I put a bobby pin on the end of each braid. One by one, I take each braid and pin it to the opposite side of my head so that it is continuously stretched as it dries. This method gives me a great amount of length in comparison to not stretching it at all.
What are some of your problem areas (if any) that require special care and attention?
M: My ends!!! I really baby my ends to ensure there will be no breakage. Also since I was a long-term transitioner my ends are the most fragile. At the beginning of my transition I was totally naïve about caring for your hair when applying heat so I made the awful mistake of straightening my hair more than needed in an effort to blend my roots with the rest of my hair—Lesson for any new transitioners! Because of that, the bottom of my hair shaft is much more thin and fragile. This area has improved due to my constant attention to this area by applying moisture and protein consistently to my hair.
What are 2 do’s for your texture?
M: Definite do is lots of products with moisture and protein! My hair can withstand putting a lot of products in it without creating any buildup. Therefore, after lots of trial and error I find that I get the best results ironically when my hair is drenched in all the staple products I love…it’s extremely hard to weigh down my hair. My hair loves to be moisturized daily!
2nd do is as I said before, the less manipulation the better. After getting to know my hair, I have learned my hair loves to be left alone…Let it be! Excessive washing, co-washing, and styling does not work for me. I noticed my hair feels amazingly soft and retains length most when my hands are not constantly in it. It loves to be braided or in my signature updos and buns. Protecting my ends is key to avoiding any unnecessary breakage from my hair rubbing up against my clothing and being exposed to the elements. When I let my hair do its own thing, it loves it and it shows!
What are 2 don’ts for your texture?
M: Styling that requires a lot of manipulation is a no no for my hair. A lot of my styles may seem like they require a lot of work, but they really are all effortless. Any style that requires me to just use my hands and a few bobby pins is a good indicator that my hair will respond well to it. When I first started transitioning, I was sooo excited that I did bantu knots, braid outs, and every other single style you can think of on a daily basis, and I soon learned it was causing a great amount of breakage on my already fragile, colored and transitioning hair at the time.
I must say although this is a very popular style for naturals, I do not like doing Wash and Go’s. My reason for this is simply because I prefer to have my hair dry before I wear it out—it just seems like wet hair is way more fragile than dry hair. Plus I haven’t found a good method to not get frizz when doing this technique. However, don’t mock my words as I learn more and more about my hair and the products that work for me this DON’T might just turn into a DO in the future…It’s been a long journey, but I know this is just the beginning. Good luck to all the newly naturals and veterans in the game. I hope my methods help you just as much the methods of other naturals helped me along the way =)
Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?
M: Yes!! Please visit me at Instagram @theefairytail
Twitter: @the fairy_TAIL08