It’s been just over a year and a half since I made the epic decision to shave off my chemically straightened hair in a bid to restart the journey of growing and falling back in love with my natural, thick, type 4b/4c Afro hair. As a child, I had incredibly thick, coily tresses that would be fashioned into an array of different styles that would pay homage to my West African background. From intricate cornrows to having my hair wrapped and bound in black thread as an homage to my Ashanti background, my Afro hair was my crown and joy.
In my early twenties however, I decided to chemically straighten my hair as I found the maintenance too much to handle, especially during the weekdays when I’d need to be up for work early. Any naturalista will know that – without the proper knowledge – styling Afro hair can take an age if you aren’t sure about what products to use, and the order in which to use them.
Straightening my hair felt like a temporary sigh of relief. Never again did I have to go through the struggle of having combs break in my hair, or having to spray my hair with water every two hours to keep the moisture. With my newly straightened hair, I could just put it up in a ponytail and be on my way. There was a price to pay for this – as we all know – as hair breakage became a problem.
Hair breakage occurs when constant over-processing of Afro hair results in the protein bonds of the hair follicles being constantly exposed to protein and not enough moisture. Aside from that, I also began to miss my natural hair and it prompted me to ask myself difficult questions about why I straightened my hair in the first place.
Yes, straighter hair was so much easier to maintain, but working in the corporate field at the time also made me feel incredibly insecure about my Afro and how my all-white colleagues would view it as ‘unkempt’, ‘wild’ and ‘unprofessional’. And the touching, let’s not forget the unsolicited touching!
And so at the start of the pandemic, I made it my mission to start from scratch, and to learn how to care for my natural coils and to give it the proper care, attention, and love it deserves. I learned to once again see my hair as my crown, and would giggle with excitement as I witnessed the first few coils of hair begin to form days after shaving everything off.
For me, one of the main products that I’ve come to depend on daily are leave-in conditioners. From wavy to curly, to tightly coiled hair, leave-in conditioners are an absolute must-have for any regimen as its main job is to provide moisture for your hair from the inside out, and to help make styling and detangling curls easier. Not only do they define my curls and keep them looking bouncy and shiny, but on the days where I want to just pop my wig on and go about my day, I know that my natural hair underneath is keeping hydrated and well moisturised underneath.
During my natural hair journey over the last 18 months, I have tried at least 30 different types of leave-in conditioners, ranging from spritzes to heavy creams. Here are my top picks that work for those with curly hair spanning from wavy and thin, to kinky and thick: