The first local natural hair blogger I ever met IRL, Odette from OhSoInspired / Confidently Insecure has made the tough decision to stop blogging, but before she goes offline I asked her to share what she’s learned over the years.
Here’s her story and some super helpful tips:
Like many people of colour, I’ve had a somewhat troubled relationship with my hair whilst growing up. In the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth, there is an obsession with the pursuit of having good hair. This often meant having pin straight hair like the men and women in hair commercials.
In high school, a classmate joked that she would only marry a man if he had good hair (her partner does have nice hair and hers remains pin straight to this day). Sadly a lot of people in our communities share her sentiment, even with the natural hair movement. You’ll often find women and men with uniform type 3 curls idolised, whereas Sarahtjie and Jannie with the fros are called rudely kroeskop and pittekop.
Hair is an obsession in our communities. On every other street, you’ll find a garage or outbuilding converted into a hair salon. And in every street, you’ll find at least one woman or man who informally does people’s hair out of his/her home.
My hair story
In primary school, my mom would straighten my hair with Sheen Strate as often as she thought I needed. Saturdays were washdays and my hair would be roller set and I’d sit under the hood dryer to dry. Constantly just grazing a few centimetres past my shoulders, my hair was never quite long. It never seemed to grow. Looking back I can attribute this to the chemical straighteners, heat without protection and constantly chewing on my ends whenever I felt nervous (which was always). The chewing habit I eventually kicked when in grade 6 or 7 I convinced my mom to let me cut my hair into a bob, because all the cool older kids had bobs and having one would make me cool as well. I wasn’t cool with my bob, what a scam, still loved the cut though).
From then on and throughout my high school years my hair’s length varied from being a bob to a few centimetres past shoulder length. Then came the freedom of being able to experiment at university came. I would dye my hair every three months a different colour. Once I got to university I tried fiery reds, plums and even once, I went blonde, yes I made this mistake twice (this joke is probably going to fall flat but I tried). With heat styling with no protection and a lack of a hair care routine, the breakage was so bad, that at the end of my first year I ended up with a mullet, with some of the shortest bits being at most 4cms long. The only recourse was to get a bob with layers to hide the breakage.
The cut came at a time when beauty gurus were gaining momentum on Youtube. I learnt about YouTubers such as Lilith Moon, Loepsie and Kayley Melissa and loved the styles they created, but as a broke university student with short hair, I couldn’t recreate any of them. That was when I discovered an online forum called the Long Hair Community, where everyone is obsessed with growing beautiful and healthy, long hair.
Looking back, it kind of felt cult-like and being a member of this forum took my obsession with long hair to another level. I used to trim my hair according to the phases and placement of the moon, stopped heat almost completely and measured my hair every other day.
On the forum, we shared protective hairstyles, which combs to use to prevent breakage, natural recipes, herbal concoctions, old wives tales and all kinds of tips and tricks. Every product I could get my hands on I would purchase to mix and brew various potions and creams. Henna was the only dye I would use. Every four or so months I would regularly trim my ends to hide the previous mullet and make the layers look less like steps. Over a couple of years, my hair grew from shoulder length to waist length. During this time I even created my very first blog, a hair care blog on Lovelyish (Xanga).
As I was used to changing my hairstyle every few months, the long hair eventually bore me. I ended up getting layers again and eventually bangs. By this time my hair was waist length. Then after a few months, boredom struck again and I made a salon appointment and had almost half my length cut off.
With my hair grazing my collarbones, I fell back into the processed lifestyle of straighteners, chemical dyes, and bleach. Despite this, I kept on growing it, but the length was damaged. It would get knotted, even when blown and flat ironed straight. And whilst running my hands through it, my hand would either get stuck or come out full of hair. At one point the damage was so bad that in order to get my hair to grow, I wore a weave for two months.
Halfway through 2017, I decided to give up chemical straighteners for good, a few months later I gave up hair dye and bleach. In January 2018 I got the chop. Not the big chop, but the shortest my hair has been in years. It was a blunt bob inspired by Selena Gomez and Lucy Hale. Most of the damaged length went and trust me when I say long hair is great, but not when it is damaged. After that chop, even though 80% of my hair was still damaged my hair felt amazing and it bounced like the hair of a model in a hair commercial.
Over the course of 2018, I had regular trims to help get rid of the damaged bits and kept the length short, mostly between chin and shoulder length. Midway through 2019 I am still growing out the damaged bits (to be honest I haven’t yet had a trim this year). I began growing out my length. In a way, I’m still “transitioning”, but to what exactly I do not know because I’m not one hundred per cent sure whether or not I can consider my hair to be natural. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and decided I’m going to embrace my curly hair. I honestly just want long healthy hair.
Honestly, I can’t recall the last time my hair felt this good. It’s soft to the touch, my hand doesn’t get stuck in it (unless I left it curly and didn’t detangle), dries easily and is overall more manageable. About a third of my length is still damaged and I’ve learnt that I have at least two (if not three) different curl patterns (excluding the damaged bits that do kind of curl). And even with the damage and multiple curl patterns, I can say, regardless of other opinions, I have good hair.
A hair-obsessed woman’s advice
To end off, through my years of being obsessed with hair, here are some tips that I’ve learnt:
- Using a swirlkous is as good as using a satin cap or pillow. It’s not as attractive but does the job when you’re in a pinch. Use the bum area over curly hair and one of the legs for when you do a blowout.
- Find out what is your hair type, how porous it is and the strand thickness. Learn as much about your hair as possible (Google is your friend). This way you’ll learn what products are more likely to work for you. For example, shea butter and most curling creams are too heavy for my fine hair.
- Learn how to braid your hair. In my opinion, it is the best way to keep your hair neat and tidy without using heat. My go-to styles are flat twists and Dutch lace braids.
- Do not wash your hair every day. I tried this for a period at university and my hair was a mess. My roots were always oily but my length was dry.
- Regularly do hair masks, deep conditioners and oil treatments. Currently, bentonite clay masks are my favourite.
- Experiment with your hair. Dye it, cut it, braid it, straighten it or bleach it. Dye it purple with an undercut if you like. The amazing thing about hair is it grows back. As someone whose hair grows slower than a sloth walks a kilometre, I’ve done it more than once.
Thank you, Eleanor, for letting me babble on your site, and to you the reader, for actually reading everything that I’ve written.