Hair fashionistas and beauty product-junkies, CurlyNikki’s first book Better Than Good Hair has arrived. Already flying off the shelf since its debut, Better Than Good Hair provides cute narratives and illustrations that empower and support women and children interested in the natural hair phenomenon. The blog-queen turned author recently sat down with me to chat about hair transitioning (salute! TWA’s), the best ways to manage and style hair during the journey, and why women with any type of tress texture can and maybe should go natural.
What products can you recommend to moms trying to manage their childrens’ hair?
CurlyNikki: It’s always difficult for me to recommend products for adults – especially kids, because their skin is sensitive. Generally, you should seek out natural ingredients as much as possible, because their skin and scalp is so sensitive. I love the Shea Moisture line for my daughter. I also love Blended Beauty. I somewhat enjoy Oyin Handmade. It is a great line. They are moisturizing, but they are not too heavy. Their hair is so fine at that young age that you don’t want to do anything to suffocate the strands, or to weigh them down. In the book, I mention that you would like to employ protective styles, meaning braids and twists or cornrows to keep their hair all together to reduce frizz, and to keep it moisturized. This reduces stress on the mother because she’s not having to re-braid every day or every night. Just set aside one day of the week to wash, condition, moisturize and style your child’s hair . It’s great for the kid because she’s not going to want to sit every single day to get her hair done, and she’s going to mess it up. My daughter is two and at any given time she has spaghetti in her hair, she’s rolling around on the carpet, and rolling around in the bed. It’s never frizz free. All you can do is what you can, try to keep it moisturized. In between washing, spritz it with a little water that has some oils in it and put a little shea butter in her hair just to keep it lubricated. But the best thing for your child’s hair is light moisture and low manipulation because all the effort spent trying to make it nice and neat is lost. She’s a kid.
How can women stay emotionally motivated during the transition process?
CurlyNikki: The decision to decide whether or not to big chop is a very personal one, because there is no right or wrong way to go natural. The most popular way to go natural is to ‘transition’. It’s the one I recommend because it gives you the time to learn and work with your hair. You’re working with two different textures during your transition which is frustrating in its own right, but at least it gives you time to educate yourself on the natural hair journey to come. You’re able to get online, get educated, join natural hair forums, read about other women’s experiences. It’s very encouraging for women to get online and read a story on CurlyNikki.com about a woman who transitioned, chopped her hair, went through some self-esteem issues and came out on the other side. If they find themselves in the same situation, they know there are others that have been there and have overcome and found even more self confidence than they had when they wore their hair straight and long. The education piece and finding pictures and remembering that you hair won’t look like anyone else’s because your hair is unique to you, which is what makes it better than good. Having to learn to work with your texture rather than against it, transitioning gives you time to adapt to your new hair.
Do you think during that transition to weave or get braids while you wait?
CurlyNikki: Definitely. There are tips on CurlyNikki.com on how to manage your real hair while you use braids, extensions, weaves or wigs to grow your hair out. There are ways to do it so you really can see length. Remember, having extensions or weaves put in too tightly, or not caring for your real hair while you’re under the wig or weave, can damage your hair. A lot of women are kind of like out of sight, our of mind. You have to be mindful that you still need to care for your hair while it’s in that protective style.
Are there some women, based on texture, who should not go natural?
CurlyNikki: I wholeheartedly disagree with that statement. I think that goes to the question I get all the time, whether this natural hair thing is just a trend. I can’t foresee the day being able to wash and style your hair when and how you want will go out of style. Your texture, whatever you’re working with, is manageable. You just have to learn how to work with it and not against it. It’s not going to do things it is not intended to do. If your hair is difficult to straighten, and you’re trying to keep it straight, you’ll go insane trying to do that. You have to work with products that work with your hair. Once people can embrace what God has given them, it opens up a whole new world. It’s complete freedom, versatility and flexibility. It’s for all black women, it’s for all textured women. We’re not anti-relaxer or anti-straight hair. The book isn’t a political manifesto. I just want women to be able to feel attractive, appropriate and as professional with their hair natural as they do when it’s straightened. And when you get to that place where your whole self image isn’t tied up in straight hair, which a lot of ours is–mine was for like 20 years–when you get to that place where you feel good either way, then you can switch it up. That’s the beauty of having natural hair: you can wear it straight today, you can wear it curly tomorrow, you can put a weave in the next day.
Do you find that women become more confident when they’re natural?
CurlyNikki: I feel that a lot of women go through phases. So during the transition they might find they’re empowered and they’re joining these online communities and seeing what natural hair can do. When women initially chop, some women go straight into “I got swag, I love this haircut.” Others go through a decline in confidence initially. However, if you stick with it, on the other side of that people are more confident and have more self-esteem than they’ve ever had in their entire lives. Because wearing natural hair in our society is a very brave thing to do, especially wearing a TWA, a teeny weeny Afro, in our society you’re serving up face and that’s not something a lot of people are used to doing. We’re very comfortable wearing our hair in and around our face. But if you face that fear and you own it, your self-esteem goes through the roof.
But more and more, famous or prominent women are wearing natural hair.
CurlyNikki: I still think it’s a brave move, because it’s in an individual thing – and in our lives, although I see many more natural women on the street, oftentimes a lot of us are still the only ones at our jobs, we’re still the only ones in our families. And it’s still not as common as people would like to think that it is, and there’s still lots of negative comments or backhanded compliments that my readers share all the time. And our hair is a big part of our self-image as women, not just as black women. We’re taught from a very young age that appearance matters a lot and our hair is tied to that. As black women we have a very unique experience in that our hair is not deemed appropriate in our society and we’re having to reclaim that and make a new beauty standard and do that on an individual level. Even with the support of online communities, even with women in the media, it’s still a very brave thing to do and at times you will feel alone. Even in the city I’m in now, there aren’t a lot of minorities and people will stare at my hair. I try to project onto them that they’re thinking great things in their mind about how awesome my hair looks, but who knows what folks are thinking. One of my readers pointed out that when folks are staring at your hair, depending on where you are emotionally, you’ll assume either they’re thinking good things or they’re thinking bad things.
How do you feel about Dominican conditioners?
CurlyNikki: I love them. I went through a phase where I used two Dominican conditioners for a whole winter.
From a business perspective what kept you motivated to write about natural hair at a time when it wasn’t popular? When did it become real to you when you were on to something?
CurlyNikki: It was not a business decision, it was a passion and my hobby that I threw myself into. one, to share my troubles and my trials, the good the bad and the ugly of my experiences with natural hair.I wanted to learn what works, what doesn’t, why these ingredients are in these formulations and share that information with people because it’s valuable. You need to be able to make those educated decisions in the store aisle so you don’t waste your money on something that doesn’t work for you. That’s why I started the site. And also to provide a platform for other women to share their experiences and four years later, Curly Nikki is the most popular natural hair blog on the web. First and foremost every day I think about providing the best service I can to the readers. I provide articles, along with guest bloggers, with the content I would want to read.
What would you say to a woman who’s never been natural?
CurlyNikki: If they’ve never been natural but maybe they’re thinking about going natural, the book is a great starting point. I also think this book is applicable to women who aren’t natural and aren’t considering going natural. I’m team edges and I hate to see women who are losing their edges. I feel this book, whether you’re natural or not, will help you keep hair on your head. At the end of the day, it’s going to change the face of black American women because it’s about healthy hair. It goes beyong natural hair, it’s about helping black women achieve flexibility, versatility and healthy hair.
Get your copy now! Better Than Good Hair, by Nikki Walton and Ernessa T. Carter