I ditched my braids and embraced my natural hair for lockdown

My ‘mantra’, if that’s the best way to describe it, has generally been, whatever requires the least effort and maintenance is what I want. Which is why for my entire life I’ve worn braids. I’ve never really taken breaks in between getting braids.

They’ll usually be undone one evening, hair washed and conditioned then braided the next morning. My hair has always been good to me in that it’s just grown and grown no matter what I’ve done to it. I’ve had friends who’ve been natural for years, or who let their hair breathe between getting it braided, or who take time to get professional haircuts for their hair, but my hair has generally adhered to a, if-you-leave-me-alone-I-won’t-give-you-any-issues agreement.

My hair has never been a nemesis for me. I have had times when I’ve seen women on Instagram with looser, shinier curls than me and I’ve wondered why my hair isn’t like theirs, or if their hair is easier to maintain than mine, but I’ve also grown up with a mother, and aunts and friends who have hair exactly like mine, who wear it beautifully, some naturally, others permed, or in braids – hair that I’ve admired, so I’ve never spent a long time sitting and wishing I had hair like anyone else. I know how beautifully versatile and soft and thick and long my hair is, and that I’m incredibly blessed to have it. But I can also be a little lazy, and prefer to spend a long time on my makeup in the mornings, and not on my hair.

So the lockdown posed a few issues – the first being that I’d never dealt with my natural hair for more than a few hours, second, I didn’t have any products or special brushes that would comb it properly and, quite frankly, I didn’t know how to properly maintain it. I had braids in at the beginning of this lockdown, but about three weeks ago I had to take them out.

The following may horrify some hairdressers, but I normally leave my braids in for about two months and then take them out. All I can say for the current situation is, thank God for YouTube and Instagram. I know we’re all in a constant battle with social media and weighing up its merits vs its evils, but without it I think I’d have become friendly with my dad’s clippers.

I spent a lot of time – and an amount of money that was reasonable but still a lot for someone who never does anything to their hair – on watching tutorials and looking up products, figuring out what type of curl pattern my hair is (a controversial and much-discussed topic – one YouTuber I watched said that there isn’t really such a thing as hair types like 4c etc, that it’s simply a marketing ploy that brands use to get you to buy their products by getting you to align your hair type with their products, which to be honest, sounds about right).

After a little trial and error, I discovered that there was still generally a way to do very little with my hair (twist outs, whereby you twist medium-sized sections of your hair fairly tightly, let them set overnight, then undo them in the morning to reveal nice soft curls that, if maintained properly, will stay in for up to five days), I only really needed to wash it once every ten days, I shouldn’t comb or brush my hair when it was dry, and that apparently the rice-water method is a great way to grow your hair quickly.

It’s been interesting trying out different styles with my hair and seeing what works. I’ve also had a lot of tips from friends with either the same hair as me or who also just have curly hair, many of whom have told me to use heat on my hair as little as possible (and preferably not at all) and to try and let it air dry when I can, because heat damage can ruin your hair for years.

I have a lot of extra time on my hands now that means I can experiment with my hair, but – and it’s a question my mother has asked a lot – it doesn’t mean that when I get back out and I’m going to the office every day, that I’ll have time to twist and wet and brush and style my hair the way I do now.

I’ve enjoyed doing my hair and taking countless photos to send to my friends and say “hey, look what I can do with it”, and my colleagues have been enthralled by the different hairstyles I have each week during our catch-ups. But my mantra remains the same, I just love my hair a little more.

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