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6 Women on Wearing Their Hair Natural
kinky hair man repeller

In recent years, the term “going natural” — as it pertains to black women’s hair — feels like it’s finally cemented itself in the mainstream cultural lexicon. In 2016 alone, Shea Moisture redefined the ethnic beauty aisle with its #BreakTheWalls campaign, Solange released “A Seat at The Table” (and the anthem “Don’t Touch My Hair”) and most recently, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show featured models with natural hair.

It was overdue to say the least. But still, the decision to go natural and the process of caring for said natural hair is more nuanced than you’d think. There’s usually a bit of struggle or, at the very least, a generous awkward stage. In an effort to shed some light on this complexity, I spoke to six women about their natural hair journeys. Scroll down to read what they told me.


Julee Wilson
Fashion & Beauty Director at ESSENCE Magazine

“I didn’t choose natural hair. Natural hair chose me. After using relaxer from the ages of 12 and 14, it became abundantly clear — thanks to my hair breaking off left and right — that straightening with chemicals wasn’t a smart move.

My hair is a combination of tight coils and kinky curls. If you want to get technical, it would fall in the 4C texture category. It’s fascinating. One day I have a sky-high Afro and the next it’s straight as a board. I most definitely have a love/hate relationship with it. For a long time, I sadly equated curls to a look that wasn’t polished or professional. I’ve since realized that nothing can be further from the truth (#staywoke). I now know that my natural hair is absolutely stunning — I just need to make sure I commit the time and effort it takes to keep it healthy and thriving.

My curls thrive on a combination of products, which include Vernon Francois Co-Wash Shampoo, Hair Rules Curly Whip, Kérastase Créme Chronologiste Hair Masque, Carol’s Daughter, Janomi Scalp Oil and Cori Rene Pure Hydration Butta. I’ve found that these products work best for my hair’s texture and temperament. When I decide to heat-straighten my hair (I love a “lazy blowout”), I use Briogeo’s Rosarco Blow Dry Perfection Heat Protectant Créme or KeraCare Thermal Wonder products. It also helps that I have an incredible hairstylist, Anthony Dickey of Hair Rules Salon, that makes sure I’m getting regular trims.”


Herieth Paul
Model and Maybelline New York Brand Ambassador

“It wasn’t my choice to cut it at first. I had to do it for a job! But after I did it, I fell in love with my hair all over again. I would encourage everyone to shave all of their hair off at least once in their lifetime. There’s a freedom that comes with it and an acceptance.

My hair is kinky-curly and water thirsty. Over the past five years, I have have gone through relaxers, texturizers and a lot of protein treatments. My biggest concern is dry, brittle hair after a photoshoot. [I frequently] have to go home and coax it back to its natural texture. I use Alba Botanica Natural Hawaiian Shampoo with Coconut Milk, Shea Moisture Sea Kelp & Pearl Protein Conditioner and argan oil. Then I use coconut oil or grapeseed oil to keep the shine and lock in moisture.”


Alex Belle
Artist and musician behind St.Beauty Band (alongside Isis Valentino)

A photo posted by St.Beauty (@stbeautyband) on

“I went natural in 2012 while I was in college. I decided to just try it out and it worked for me; my hair is soft and easy to style. My biggest issues have to do with breakage and my edges. I get a lot of breakage every time I comb my hair. I have to make sure I keep my scalp moisturized because my edges grow thin when my scalp is really dry.

I’ve found the most success with bantu knots. I deep moisturize with castor oil when I do my knots and my hair comes out nice and lengthy after taking them out. There is always something that will work for you!”


Isis Valentino
Artist and musician behind St.Beauty Band (alongside Alex Belle)

A photo posted by St.Beauty (@stbeautyband) on

“I decided to go natural because it was becoming expensive to get my hair done at the salon at the time. My hair is really thick, but still manageable. I used to use tons of heat on my hair and I’ve dyed it a couple of times. It broke off tremendously. I have trouble keeping length, so I have been in repair mode lately. Keeping it moisturized while trying to maintain my signature curly fro is my goal right now.

Bantu knots give me the best results. I wet my hair and add a thick, moisturizing leave-in before putting in the bantu knots. Your hair is your hair, what works for me may not work for you. Find what works for you and don’t compare! But keep it moisturized.”


Tamu McPherson
Photographer and Editor-in-Chief of All the Pretty Birds

“I went natural two years ago after I experienced a serious burn due to a relaxer I had done in Italy. After my scalp healed, I asked my dermatologist if I could relax my hair again and he suggested that I avoid relaxers considering that my burn was pretty bad. When I told my longtime hairstylist (who is based in NY) about my ordeal, she revealed that she had been dying for me to go natural and was psyched about cutting my hair! I would totally encourage others to go natural.

I would describe my hair as kinky. My only issue with it is when it approaches that awkward length where it sticks out around my ears or grows out at different lengths. I love a really tapered TWA (teeny-weeny afro). I don’t actually have a high-top fade (wink). Other than that, my hair routine is low-maintenance, which I prefer. I have very limited time, so my cut has to be simple and easy to style.

I love going natural. I would never have believed that I would feel this way when I was a little girl. I couldn’t wait to relax my hair; it didn’t help that my mother made me wait until I was 16 to [do it]. The truth is, I shed so much hair during that first relaxer that I should have listened to her. I once read that relaxers damage up to 70% of your hair. [Now] I try to use as many natural products as possible: organic coconut oil, jojoba oil, castor oil. I also use products by Cantu.”


Shayla Cox Milan
Creator and artist behind ShaylaMilan.com

“My natural journey began in 2009. There were a lot of things happening at the time, but ‘reset’ is the word that comes to mind. In a sense, I needed a fresh start. Other than that, there was a genuine interest in my hair, as relaxers had been a part of my life since I was four years old. I really just wanted to know what my hair looked like. As cliche as it sounds, it is definitely a journey. I had to redefine what was beautiful in my mind. Thankfully, in recent years we have been able to share our stories and define beauty for ourselves on our own terms.

I would describe my hair type as “grown,” ha! It does what it wants. The texture is a mixed bag. Loose waves in the back, medium zig-zag curls around the perimeter and coarse at the crown. Generally, I just try to let it be. Other than that, the right cut is sooo important and I have struggled to maintain that. When I was pregnant it didn’t shed at all, so it was super long and thick. But after the birth of my son and breastfeeding, it has felt a little thin and airy, so the adjustment has been finding products that can define my hair without making it look fine and stringy. On top of that, I got the itch to be blond and bleached my hair myself! It actually turned out okay, but I felt so crazy with blond hair. I locked myself indoors until I found a salon to get the color corrected.

I love Eden Body Works in general for when I’m wearing my hair curly. The shampoo and conditioner leave the texture in such a good place and it’s so easy to comb through in the shower. But the saving grace has been their leave-in conditioner. It’s basically my new best friend.

‘It’s just hair, it’ll grow back,’ has always been comforting to me!”

Janell M. Hickman is a beauty writer whose work has appeared in Glamour, Teen Vogue, WWD, Essence and Ebony. Follow her on Twitter @jmargaretbeauty and on Instagram, too!

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  • Suzan

    I love all these looks and the women look simply amazing with them! I especially find the short hair looks so very powerful, but also the longer version are to die for. The loose curls of Isis… gorgeous!
    I have never understood why natural black hair was deemed unprofessional – I think it has so much personality which I would think is a definite plus in a professional setting. Society an its norms I guess… Glad that is not set in stone and shifting!!

    Always love articles about hair, since it’s so closely tied to identity there can be so much said about it!

  • First of all, you made me google curly hair types 🙂 as I had wanted to find out about them for quite some time and finally did (click for some interesting information) … and then … so much beauty here.

  • Great article! I’ve only truly embraced my natural hair over the past 2 years and I get told that I’ve been blessed with ‘good hair’. This article highlights just how amazing ALL kinky and coily types are.

  • Jill

    “I have never understood why natural black hair was deemed unprofessional – I think it has so much personality which I would think is a definite plus in a professional setting. Society an its norms I guess… Glad that is not set in stone and shifting!!” AGREED. I think natural black hair is gorgeous and it fascinates me, as a white woman with some of the thinnest hair on the planet. I’d love to have even a fraction of that thickness and volume. These women all look amazing.

    • Aydan

      They look like WOMEN!!! All so beautiful!!

  • I love this! As a natural hair wearer since the early days of the movement, aka the 90s, I love seeing natural hair being lauded and talked about in the media more and more. I’m just sad it took so long for us to get here. All of these women’s hair is beautiful and I find it so interesting how we all have such different textures on tones on each of our heads lol.

    Keep up the good work, guys! It’s so nice to see people like me when I open one of your emails.

  • Meg S

    I think natural hair is beautiful and if anyone wants to rock their natural hair, they should. I think people should be more offended by my super straight, super fine hair that I can’t improve upon very much. No one thinks I’m unprofessional because I wear my hair the way it naturally is when I don’t feel like dealing with it after I do something with my bangs.

  • itsallabouttheg

    I thought going natural was my best beauty decision until I had it cut into a short, tapered fro. Prior to that, I had a shit-ton of tightly coiled (I thought air-drying was a myth) hair that took me hours to de-tangle (thanks, carpal tunnel!). I’m so thankful for the internet to inspire and encourage me as I stopped relaxers (2010), stopped the hot-comb (2011) and entered the wash ‘n go life (2016).

    • Ché Hot Chocolate

      I had a big-ish kinky Afro that I’d been growing for four years but I cut it a few weeks ago into a tapered style and honestly, I want to go shorter. I truly miss the wash and go life. Best phase. I had so much fun with my hair and I’d never been confronted with my face in such a way. ❤️

      • itsallabouttheg

        OMG! The face thing is so true! Even though I almost always wore my hair up, I notice my features more. I’m seeing things that I need to “fix” less & less.

  • b.e.g.

    I have curly, kinky hair. Over the decades of struggling with it I finally realized that people paid money to have hair like me. I could never understand why. People always commented how nice it would be to wake up and have my hair. What??? No! My hair was so much work. High maintenance hair… to avoid the frizzies, the half pulled straight bits, the uneven side that looked 3 inches longer than the other side because I slept “wrong” on it. Whatever, my beautiful curly hair was work. But after many years of straightening it to death, I discovered a very simple rule. To wear your hair natural, you need a good haircut. One that suits your hair type, and suits your lifestyle. And the right products. And don’t wash your hair more than once a week (at least for me this works). Because otherwise curly, kinky hair is high maintenance.

  • Sylver Busari

    I like your article, but as a german reader googling the term ,,kinky” I realized that it may has a bad connotation too, made me wonder why people would call African hair ,,kinky”

  • TheOracle

    Don’t forget about the locs!! Everyone forgets about locs when it comes to black/AA hair. I notice that when the topic of natural hair comes up it is always about fros or TWAs! I notice more than ever, now that I’ve transitioned to locs. They are just as versatile, and require no chemicals!! Show us some love too <3

  • Sarah Mehmood

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