Living life as a natural can be a difficult task. Besides combing out kinks and trying to stuff an oversized afro into your favorite beanie hat, it can be hard to decipher which products to use to moisturize, how to keep those curls poppin’, and what methods are best when trying to tame that mane on its unruly days. That’s why it’s essential for us naturalistas to communicate and swap hair tips, hints and tricks.
So, in my very first edition of Curl Talk, I chopped it up with natural hair guru Janae Raquel to get some insight on this rising vlogger’s favorite products, healthy hair routine, and loads of other juicy tidbits for all you current (and aspiring) natural hair divas.
Miss CM: You’re pretty popular in the community of kinks and curls. When did you start your natural hair journey and how did you transition?
When I went natural, I transitioned without knowing it was called ‘transitioning.’ This was in 2008. I was over the straight hair that I religiously spent 25 bucks on every other week. I literally just trained and waited for my hair to grow out as I trimmed it. THEN, I big-chopped in 2013 just because—every girl gets a little rebellious.
Was it tough for you to adjust to life as a natural?
It wasn’t tough transitioning. There wasn’t any hype about hair volume, or what products you used, or judgment based on how curly your hair was. When I went natural, it wasn’t even called that [laughs]. There was no classification, no validation. You just either got perms or you didn’t. I didn’t have any trouble because I didn’t know my hair’s potential or what I was running against—because at this point, maximum volume, health, and length are part of an unspoken competition. No one will admit it though.
What is your daily hair regimen?
I have two daily regimens. When my hair is curly, depending on how many days in, I apply a curl refresher or water, plus a conditioner combo to touch up the limp places. When I wear my hair straight, I unwrap my hair and just go—the easiest style ever. Wrapping your hair makes life so much easier. I don’t worry about any pin indents, or any imperfections all because of my satin scarf. She literally saves lives.
However, my natural hair regimen on a weekly basis is as follows: Once a month: shampoo; once a week: deep condition; once a week: *co-wash; in between those days: refresh my curls with water and oil for moisture.
What are your favorite products?
My favorite products? This may get me into some trouble [laughs], but there are so many products in a box in my apartment that just don’t work for me anymore. Loved them at one point, but have no choice but to feel the way I feel. My top three products for my wash n’ go’s are three cocktails. One, Cantu [Shea Butter Moisturizing] Curl Activator Cream and [Cantu Shea Butter] Define and Shine Custard; two, Shea Moisture [Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Style] Milk, [Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curling Gel] Souffle and [Shea Moisture] Curl Enhancing Smoothie; three, Carol’s Daughter Cupuacu [Anti Frizz] Conditioner and Eco Styler Gel.
Those fill the wash n’ go slots. As far as shampoo, conditioner, and deep conditioner? I am currently LOVING the Dark & Lovely LOC line and Crème of Nature’s Argan Oil Line—specifically the shampoo and leave-in; smells amazing, leaves my hair soft and protects my hair color. And lastly, Carol’s Daughter Lisa’s Hair Elixir—my scalp needs that fix every so often.
Your hair looks super healthy. What’s your secret to keeping it that way?
There are few things I have to stay aware of and away from. The key to healthy hair is knowing what it wants and needs. Although co-washing is way better than shampooing, it can cause a lot of shedding. So, for some time now, I have been doing braid outs, twist outs, or simply just allowing my curls to be stretched / combed out for a longer lasting style rather than needing ‘perfect curls.’ Excessive co-washing—due to the conditioner on the scalp—will cause a looser hair follicle and in turn cause more hair loss than when you detangle on a regular day.
During these winter months, I have now learned that I will stick to products that have a long-term life span. Many products are only one to two day products, where as the ones listed above last a good four to five days. I listen to my hair and do as it says no matter how lazy or long I may want a style, some days we must rinse and restart. I have healthy hair because I don’t try everything I see, I pay attention to what my hair likes, I have created a regimen that works for me, and I take notes—old school, but I write it down in a journal. My hair is my person.
Do you have any special natural oils or butters that you use as moisturizers? If so, what do you like about them?
One of my favorite oils to seal my hair with African Pride Olive Miracle Growth Oil. It smells amazing, its lightweight, and locks in all the moisture I need.
How often do you trim?
I trim as needed. I actually went an entire year without trimming—my entire head. I know…HOW? Because I took extremely good care of my ends. Many don’t know, conditioner is predominantly for your ends. So I literally babied my hair and still do. I will trim here and there, but over-trimming is why many people think their hair doesn’t grow.
So would you say that is the most common misstep Black women perform that keeps them from growing long, healthy tresses?
Yes, TRIMMING [too often]! They are cutting the new growth, which makes it impossible to see any progress.
What would you say is the quickest and easiest style for a bad hair day?
The quickest style on a bad hair day is a sleek and chic bun—high or low.
Flexi rods or Bantu knot out?
Flexi rods for sure. It’s a guaranteed curl. I’ve mastered them honestly, and bantu knots are just a win or lose situation. Nobody likes losing [laughs].
You play around with a lot of different colors and styles. Which color do you think suits you best?
I’m suited best in dark hair. I am currently LOVING my dark hair! It’s always been my favorite, but I change my hair due to boredom. There’s always one favorite, dark is mine.
What would you say is your favorite look/hairstyle thus far?
As far styles go, I really like a good volumized, weightless wash-n-go or bone straight hair.
Being a prominent figure in the natural hair world can be quite lucrative nowadays. In what ways have you been able to make money off your natural hair chops?
I literally get paid to do the things you see on janaeraquel.com, plus youtube.com/janaeraquel, and I refuse to leave until I can do the same thing elsewhere. You can just say, ‘I’m thankful’ [laughs].
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to go natural, but is afraid to take that step?
Go natural on your watch, nobody else’s. Listen to your strands and your gut. Whatever stage your hair is healthiest in, stick with it. When stepping into the natural jungle, you want to make time, because natural hair is on its on schedule. It takes time, effort, and confidence. Another major tip is to subscribe to a [YouTube] channel and a blog that shares tips for textures similar to yours.
You seem to host and attend a lot of natural hair events. Why is it important for naturals to support these affairs? And how can naturalistas learn more about upcoming events that you may be hosting in the future?
Attending natural hair events is VERY important. I was just talking about this on my blog. My top reasons are: Collaborating /networking with other naturals, product placement on your blog—if you have one—features via social media, Instagram and blog exposure, and paid business opportunities.
Stay up to speed [with my upcoming events] by subscribing to the #TeasAndTangles brunch series here.
*co-washing is the abbreviated term for “conditioner washing,” which is the process of cleansing your hair with conditioner opposed to traditional shampoo