Racheal Young, the campus director at the Ogle School of Cosmetology and Beauty in North Dallas, knows a lot about natural hair. She's been in the beauty industry for 22 years and is a loyal member of natural hair club. While teaching classes, training instructors, and dealing with hair problems every day, Young has become an expert at answering those nappy hair questions.
Q: What does it mean to have natural hair?
A: Having natural hair means you embrace who you are and forgo heat and chemical relaxers.
Q: What are the different types of hair textures?
A: I break it down like this:
- Type 4: Kinky Coily: Tightly curled coils with a distinct curl pattern and high shrinkage. Celebs like Solange Knowles, Lauryn Hill, Eryka Badu, and Esperanza Spalding are all Type 4s.
- Type 3: Curly Kinky: Well defined, springy curls often with a 'S' shape. This is the most common type. Celebs like Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, and Keri Russell are all Type 3s.
- Type 2: Wavy Curly: Big, looser curls with the same 'S' shape but larger. Celebs like Drew Barrymore, Cate Blanchett, and Scarlett Johansson are all Type 2s.
- Type 1: Naturally straight hair.
Q: What is the difference between relaxed hair and natural hair?
A: Relaxers chemically straighten your hair. Natural hair is chemical-free. With relaxers there can be hair loss, dead ends, and irreversible damage. Relaxers remove amino acids and keratin from your hair—things that hair needs. Embracing your natural pattern is healthier.
Q: What is the Big Chop?
A: It is cutting your processed hair off and starting over with untreated hair. I cut off about six inches of my own hair that had been chemically straightened. It's alarming at first, but when you get to see the curls really spring, it's not that bad. If you aren't willing to go for the big chop, I suggest you cut an inch at every 2 week visit. I know, it seems like a lot but you're gaining so much more than you're losing by being natural.
Q: How do I keep my hair healthy?
A: There are a lot of different ways to keep it healthy, but the most important comes from patience and commitment. Without those, you'll revert back to relaxers because that might seem easier. Try these tips:
- What you put inside you is what you're going to get on the outside. So drink that water.
- Don't pack your hair with heavy products. Really get to know your texture and type and what works for you.
- Visit your technician every two weeks. And if you're going to wash your hair between visits, make sure you are using natural shampoos that are sulfate- and paraben-free. I recommend you co-washing between two-week visits.
- Throw away your brushes, especially those without natural bristles. Something like a Boar's brush is OK, but you should really be finger combing to detangle and style.
- Let your hair air dry so it can retain as much moisture as possible. Avoid using a towel. If you must, use a paper towel after ringing out your hair.
- Every six weeks, use a reconstructing conditioner. It will help to repair damage and keep it healthy.
- Shampoo with hot water to open the cortex layer of the hair and rinse conditioner with cold water to lock moisture in to the cuticle layer.
- Keep the follicle clean.
- Adopt a daily treatment of oils to use on day-old styles.
- Braid your hair up at night in something like bantu knots or two-strand twists.
- Invest in a silk wrap or scarf to protect your hair while you sleep.
Q: What are some essential products?
A: There are a few products that I always recommend, but it definitely depends on the type of hair. Some types—like type 4—need more moisture than say, type 2. Type 4 hair is going to need something heavier like Shea butter. Argan oil is great for Type 3 hair, to repair broken ends, but it can also be useful for types 1 and 2. The same goes for Moroccan oil, because it hydrates and controls frizz. A custard or soufflé is light and can be used for Type 2 hair to maintain the wave pattern. I use a combination of distilled water, aloe vera, and tea tree oil mixed in a spray bottle. You can keep the bottle in your purse for a spritz that will freshen up your style and bring the curl pattern back.