LaShon: Hi Darlene, thank you for joining us on this interview to give impressions and answers about natural hair. So, first question is you introduce yourself and tell us how long you’ve been natural.

Darlene: Hello, I’m Darlene and I’ve been natural for a year now; actually, a year and four months.

LaShon: Okay, and what influenced your decision to go natural?

Darlene: Well actually, I used to wear a lot of weaves and fake ponytails. But, I noticed that going natural was much cheaper, and all the beauticians now are getting expensive. So I looked at the natural products and said “hmm, lemme just try it.”

LaShon: And so how do you feel since you’ve gone natural. What do you like about it?

Darlene: I feel I love the attention I get from it. I love the whole, you know, I feel more light, I feel like I can get up and go. I’m not wasting too much time in the morning doing hair. Uh, I’m actually trying to grow more with it, with my hair.

LaShon: Oh, okay. So how did you feel about your hair growing out? Is it something you liked, something you didn’t want to deal with? How did you feel about your hair?

Darlene: Well, my hair, I didn’t like my hair growing. My hair is curly, but I always wanted straight hair. And I would try to do anything to get it straight. But I would go to the beauty shop, straighten it, pay all this money and it would only last for two days.

LaShon: Oh okay. Yeah that’s definitely a bummer. So you knew your hair was curly, but it just didn’t work for you?

Darlene: Right, I didn’t like curly hair.

LaShon: Ok (laugh) So did you ever have a perm?

Darlene: No, I’ve never had a perm.

LaShon: So was it hard getting out of weaves since you had been in them a long time?

Darlene: Actually it was, at first. But then I noticed since I’m not paying $150 in buying product, I’d say my products were like $50; which really, it wasn’t that hard after the fact.

Darlene: And then lastly, my husband loves the natural hair, and I never knew that; I thought he liked the straight blown weave.

LaShon: Uh huh, well that’s something nice to find out.

Darlene :(laugh)

LaShon: And tell our listeners, what is your routine now that you’ve gone natural?

Darlene: Well now my routine is that I use the Kinky Curly Knot Today. So I wear my hair natural on a regular basis every day. And sometimes, I don’t even have to use the product every day, I put the product in like every other day; and since I do that, my hair has grown two inches already.

LaShon: Oh wow.

Darlene: I realized if I had gone natural a long time ago, I would probably have much longer natural hair.

LaShon: So, do you have any hair goals? Do you want to grow it long, cut it short? What do you want to do with it?

Darlene: Yeah, actually I would like for my hair to be long, but one length. I wanna make sure, I’m trying to keep my ends clipped; and, I would like it to grow three inches more.

LaShon: okay. So what have you learned about yourself and your hair since you’ve gone natural?

Darlene: Really, that I should have listened to my mother and grandmother years ago who also have naturally curly hair; that I should have listened to them a long time ago and shouldn’t have fought back. It’s thicker, it looks good, and it feels good. So, I wish I would have listened to them a long time ago.

LaShon: Ok, Ok. What advice would you give to anyone that is considering going natural?

Darlene: Not to give up on the first product you use. It may take a while to find a certain product that your hair will get used to. You may have to use Shea butter, maybe your hair is more about gel, but I wouldn’t give up on it.

LaShon: And would you encourage others to go natural?

Darlene: Yes, definitely; most definitely I would encourage all to go natural. Especially women of color, I really feel that we should go natural.

LaShon: Okay, well I agree and I’m sure our listeners agree. So we want to thank you Darlene for giving us your tips, and we look forward to talking to you again!

Darlene: Thank you!

Our textured hair is so unique that no two curlies are the alike, just like a snowflake. Instead of frying, dying, burning and perming our hair into submission we should love our hair! And Joey Mazzarino, a Sesame Street Muppeteer, felt so strongly that he wrote a song about it.

Joey wrote the song in dedication to his 5-year-old adopted Ethopian daughter, Segi. Mazzarino says he wrote the song after noticing his daughter playing with dolls. "She wanted to have long blond hair and straight hair, and she wanted to be able to bounce it around," he says.

Mazzarino says he began to get worried, but he thought it was only a problem that white parents of African-American children have. Then he realized the problem was much larger.

In writing the song, he wanted to say in song what he says to his daughter: "Your hair is great. You can put it in ponytails. You can put it in cornrows. I wish I had hair like you."

How do you feel? Do you love your hair?

I have been relaxed since about the age of 10. I've always had thick hair so the powers that be thought the easiest way to manage my hair was to perm it. Even though I was relaxed I had a good beautician who didn't follow the 4-6 week retouch rule so I never had any real problems from having a perm. I usually only relaxed twice a year because in the summer I would get braids.

I never considered life without a perm until I saw the movie Good Hair. I had never thought about the damage perms could do to someone's hair until I saw how the perm solution ate through the Coke can. Because I try to be a healthy person, it was no longer acceptable to put this on my head. If a relaxer could eat through aluminum what was it doing to my hair, brain and body??? Good Hair was released in October 2009 and I had my last perm in February 2010.

Transitioning was not always easy because in the months that followed there were days I wanted to run back to the creamy crack aka perm. At that time I felt my hair was much easier to manage with a perm and the only thing I knew about styling was how to put my hair in a bun. Thankfully all was not lost because someone turned me on to YouTube...

YouTube was the answer I was looking for. My journey to healthy hair started with YouTuber, Kimmaytube and I haven't looked back since. Through YouTube I was amazed to see how with care and maintenance women were able to grow their hair from neck, to shoulder, to mid back, to waist to hip length. Not only did they grow their hair but they successfully styled and cared for their own hair without a perm or a hair stylist.

I was so excited about YouTube that in the first few weeks all I did was watch videos. I'd be up to 1-2 o'clock in the morning watching videos. My husband thought I was crazy. lol

Part 2 - How I Transitioned coming soon

Progress through transition

One of my favorite Youtubers,  rocks an awesome flex-rod set with 76 flexi-rods! I have yet to try flexi-rods but she is definitely giving me hair envy. As soon as I get 76 flexi-rods and a hooded dryer I'm all over this. lol

I couldn't embed the video but you can click here to view.

When braids are done right they are a great protective style. Braids can help you retain length and give you a break from daily or weekly styling but then comes the dreaded braid itch. 

I've only used synthetic hair for braids but I've heard it is the same with human hair, your scalp starts to constantly itch! I have tried several braid sprays that are supposed to stop the itch but nothing has helped until... I tried water. Good ole h2o has been a lifesaver! 

On day one of getting my Senegalese twists  I rinsed my scalp with a coconut vinegar (apple cider vinegar is good also) and water mix to cleanse my scalp of any of the chemicals that are in the braid hair. Then I used my spray bottle filled with water and oils of choice to spray my scalp and continued to spray my scalp anytime it itched. 

Due to this routine the itching was minimal and by day 3 I was itch free! To keep any residual itching at bay I spray my scalp every day with water and I have no problems.

How do you do to stop braid itch?

When I purchased Signature Texture Sebum Protection at the Natural Hair Show I read the ingredients but I failed to notice the sticker near the bottom of the jar that listed the products inactive ingredients. Well, I was alarmed to find sodium hydroxide aka lye or caustic soda listed among the ingredients so once again I turned to my favorite Cosmetic Chemist, Nicole Harmon for an explanation. Her answer put me at ease:

Sodium hydroxide is basic meaning that its natural pH is above 7.  Sometimes when the manufacturer mixes all the active ingredients together the pH of the mix is too low, pH 3 for example.  They would then add "a dash" of sodium hydroxide to increase the pH just a little bit.  pH balanced hair products are in the range of 4.5 to 6.5.  It usually takes a combination of citric acid and sodium hydroxide to get the product to the right value. 

I was happy to realize that I have nothing to worry about and I didn't waste $20 so I will be trying the product at the end of braid season aka summer and I will let you all know what I think.
How to explain your natural hair to your grandmother

I LOVE this video! It humorously shows how some old school grandmothers feel about natural hair. The natural in the video says she's not going to use chemicals anymore and her grandmother responds by telling her, "a comb is not a chemical." Lol

I for one thought my grandmother would love my new found curls because Grandma Tucker loves everything her firstborn granddaughter does but I was in for a shock. First of all, Grandma Tucker says absolutely nothing when she sees my head full of curls and then when asked what she thought about my hair she says, "what happened to your hair?" Next she proceeds to say, "Damon (my husband) likes it straight" with a laugh but she never once said she liked my hair.

I didn't take it personally because I love Grandma Tucker but I did realize not everyone is going to be a fan of natural hair so you some days you gotta just keep it pushing.

How did your grandmother react to your natural hair? Your family?
My mom always told me that hair and nails grow faster in the summer and I've always noticed a difference. I'd braid my hair up in the summer and by the time winter came I'd be long hair don't care (lol). Unfortunately, I was rarely ever able to keep this growth due to a scissor happy stylist but at the time I was not overly concerned about length so I didn't notice.

I decided to investigate whether this faster hair growth was a fact or myth and according to my research it is indeed a fact! According to eHow:

During the warm summer months, the human body has to work faster to perform some common activities and maintain homeostasis. It also has to work faster and harder to help the body cool down. This leads to faster cell division due to more efficient blood circulation throughout the body, which, among other things, causes hair to grow faster. Hair cells at the root divide much more quickly in the summer than during winter months and push the hair down more rapidly. As a result, hair grows faster by about 10 percent.

I am happy to find out that hair does grow faster in the summer and I plan on doing all I can to retain this extra length but this will probably be the last summer I get braids. While I love braids, my hair grows too fast to pay over $100. 

The pictures below show my growth after only two weeks of braids. I had planned to keep them in the whole summer with just a few retouches but I think a better idea is just to get my own hair professionally twisted so I don't have to worry about edges and new growth.

So how do you plan on maximizing your summer growth?

Satin bonnets @ local beauty supply

I hate to report ladies but the satin bonnets you are buying for $3 in the store (like the ones pictured above) are NOT real satin bonnets but nylon. In the back of my mind I knew something was up because the price was just too low. Whenever I misplaced my "satin bonnet" or if it tore I just picked up another one. I thought I was on top of my natural hair game only to find out I had been lied too!

Real satin bonnets or pillowcases have many benefits:

- Cancer and hair loss treatments 
- Control fly-aways 
- Helps prevent skin from aging 
- Reduces split ends 
- Can prevent bedhead hair 
- Stops curlies from loosing natural hair oils while they sleep 

As the video below demonstrates real satin bonnets work to protect the hair while nylon does not so you may have to spend a little more than $3 for a quality satin bonnet but it is worth it in the end.

I love my Cantu Shea Butter Grow Strong Strengthening Treatment so I was kinda concerned when I read the label and it warned to "keep away from flame or high heat." Now I'm thinking I have to choose between beauty and going up in flames. 

Well, who do you ask when you have a product question? Of course Curly Nikki resident Chemist, Nicole Harmon!


"Some hair products I've bought such as, Cantu Shea Butter Grow Strong warn you to keep away from flame or high heat. Is this normal? Does your hair stay flammable as long as you have the product in your hair? What makes the product flammable and should I avoid such products?"


"It is normal for hair products to warn you to keep away from flames because hair is naturally flammable.  Even if you didn't have any products in, your hair would still catch on fire if it got too close to a flame.  Technically, products can make your hair burn faster than it normally would because of the oils and polymers in them.  I know it sounds kind of scary, but you don't need to worry about avoiding those hair products because the same warnings would apply to clothes, wood furniture, etc.  Just don't whip your hair near an open flame :) I hope that helps!"

Thanks to Nicole I was happy to hear that I wasn't going to randomly catch on fire and that I could continue using my hair product. Woot woot!

Hi Nicole, thank you for taking time for this interview. Congratulations on your new ebook Coils and Curls: The Hair Product Handbook. I can not wait to thoroughly read it. I always enjoy your articles and I am an avid reader of your website

For those who are not familiar with your work please introduce yourself to our readers:

Thank you, LaShon! I appreciate you reading the articles on Hair Liberty. I always put a lot of work into them.  I’m Nicole Harmon, a hair-obsessed Cosmetic Chemist and an African American women who has been through every hair style you can think of natural, relaxed, texlaxed, weaved, braided…all of it!

What was behind your decision to become a Cosmetic Chemist?

I spent a decade of my career looking at chemistry as it relates to pharmaceuticals. I was indoctrinated into the world of science after I went to work for Pfizer after college. Before that, when I was younger, I thought I might be a journalist or something like that.  Anyway, pharmaceuticals are similar to hair products.  The principles are the same… active ingredients, concentration, mechanism of action, etc.  The difference is that cosmetic chemistry is way more fun!  When I realized that there was a scientific discipline dedicated to beauty, I was instantly fascinated.

It’s so funny because after reading one of your articles a couple of months ago I was thinking, “Nicole should write a book” and now here we are. What made you decide to publish an ebook?

Thank you for sending encouraging vibes my way!   I absolutely love science and I apply it to a lot of the basic tasks in my life. You want the bomb chicken pot pie? Come to my place! Lol.  I use the food-science based recipes from America’s Test Kitchen to cook, I make household purchases based on the recommendations from Consumer Reports, the list goes on.…it’s actually kind of annoying for the people around me!  But, I love having good information and I always want to share it.  If a company is willing to be objective and dedicate itself to finding the best, I want to know what they’re coming up with.  There was clearly nothing like that available for our hair. I knew I had the unique ability to write a book that would help the women in our community make better hair care decisions and save money.  Knowledge is freedom!

What do you hope your readers will gain from the ebook?

I want readers to realize that they can get great products at their local store no matter where they live or how much longer they have until pay day.  I want African American women to see their hair as part of their inherent beauty, not a burden or a money drain.  I also think that as a whole, we need to wash our hair more often, and I hope the book helps more women develop a routine that allows them to do that.

My mom swears by your Nuance Salma Hayek Blackcurrant Intense Hydration Hair Mask recommendation. How did you develop your product recommendations?

Ooh, thanks for letting me know!  One of the most interesting things about cosmetic chemistry is that some ingredients are really effective, but companies don’t always use them.  Cost and marketability are always factors and each company has a different idea about what customers want.  The product recommendations in Coils & Curls cover the basics, but they also offer extras like shine enhancement, hold, and softness.  Those things aren’t really part of hair health, but they make a difference in how your final style turns out.  I wanted to recommend products that would deliver fast and noticeable results.

Some people do not want to go natural because they think it is expensive. Is this always so?

It really depends on how you want your hair to look.  Right now, my hair is natural and a liter of conditioner only lasts me 2 weeks. But, when my hair was texlaxed, I used so much less product.  Relaxers align the cuticle which really makes a difference in how much conditioner or styler it takes to saturate your strands.  Our hair has a natural tendency to be big and frizzy, that’s not a negative thing…it was born that way!  But, if that’s not the look you want to rock, it may take a lot of product to keep the volume under control.  It’s true that you could end up spending more on a monthly basis than you would if your hair was relaxed or in a protective style.  

I know your readers appreciate the wealth of information you provide. What are some of the most memorable comments / compliments?

So far, the best was when a frustrated mom emailed me after a painful detangling session with her daughter.  She called after using my product recommendations on wash day and she was ecstatic. Her six-year old daughter got on the phone and said, “Tank you Miss Nicole!”.  I’ll never forget that.

Thank you, Nicole for taking the time to interview with For the Love of Curls. We can  definitely feel your passion for your work.

Pick up your copy of Nicole's new ebook Coils and Curls: The Hair Product Handbook today!

Nicole Harmon, Cosmetic Chemist & Author

Coils & Curls: The Hair Product Handbook

Tumbleweed in Pool
Photo by Funkblast

This blog was inspired by the K is for Kinky post "how should i respond to people who tell me my hair is nappy and not curly

Whenever I heard the word Nappy growing up it was not in a good way and no one wanted their hair described as such. As Kurly Bella stated in her response, hearing the word nappy was always to describe hair that was too bad to manage and no one wanted hair like that! Nappy hair was hair that "needed" a perm.

During this curly revolution many naturals have taken to using the word nappy as a way to take away the negative contentions associated with it. They reason if you use it enough it can no longer be hurtful. While I appreciate and respect their stand, I personally will not be using the word nappy to describe anyone's hair. I prefer kinky, coiled or curly. My desire is to inspire Black women to think positively about their hair because we have spent too many years trying to relax kinks that just need to be set free!

Now a little history lesson on the origin of the word nappy thanks to J May 26, 2012 at 5:24 am:

Nap is a fuzzy surface layer on yarn or cloth. Nap is teased up or raised higher by brushing the cloth against a rough surface. Our common weed teasel is named because it was used long ago to tease up the nap on cloth. Nap on wool was often shaved off and used to fill pillows. 

A number of words were brought to England during the 14th and 15th centuries by Dutch weavers who came to Britain to ply their trade. One of these words from Middle Dutch was noppich , ‘nappy’ an adjective referring to cloth that had a fiber-thick surface layer that could be trimmed down or teased up and cut even.

Late in the 18th century or early in the 19th century, Americans in the southern U.S. began to refer to negro slaves as nappy heads, comparing some tightly curled negroid hair to the nap on some cloth or fur. It was not a compliment. Beaver hats were said in early Victorian times to have a ‘fine, black nap.’
Transitioning from relaxed to natural can be joyous but not every day is going to be easy so in the video below YouTuber Naptural85 gives her 10 tips to make transitioning easier. Enjoy

Before I ever considered going natural every summer I would braid my hair as a way to beat the summer heat. That is one of the reasons why I never suffered any real damage from perms because I only relaxed about twice a year, and not to mention that I had a good hair stylist that did not believe in mandatory retouching every 5-6 weeks. 

This summer I chose to go with Senegalese twist braids. I've always liked them but for one reason or another I never tried them and now that I have them I'm in love. They look so pretty and feminine and I had the ends crinkled for added effect. I'll probably have the edges retouched in about a month.

One of the best transition to natural hair videos I have seen. Not only is it inspirational but the video production is off the charts!

This is actually a video from Sept 2009 when Chris Rock was on Oprah promoting his movie "Good Hair." I hope she has learned a few things about natural hair since this comment but I found it disturbing. 

At the 2:00 mark she begins to talk about how she hires braiders to come to her girl's school so that the girls do not have to deal with the "ordeal" of their hair. Now why is our hair an ordeal?! By hiring braiders she robs the girls of the opportunity to learn basic good hair care. That is one of the problems in the Black community when it comes to our hair, because we have left caring for our hair in the hands of stylist for so long many do not know the first thing about washing, products, hair care tools, perms, heat or that you do not have to straighten your hair to be beautiful. 

I am assuming Oprah is only speaking from her experience because she herself has a stylist that has been in charge of her beauty for over 20 years but the natural hair community has come a long way in the last two years so I hope Oprah has learned that our hair is not an ordeal and that hair care can be fun. Healthy hair equals a healthy body because how you treat your body will be reflected in your hair!

I had the opportunity to attend the World Natural Hair Show held in Atlanta, GA April 28-29, 2012. While falling in love with the city of Atlanta I was able to meet some of my favorite YouTubers, purchase natural hair products at a reduced price, mingle with other naturals and learn more about the world of natural hair. Hopefully I'll be able to attend again.

National Natural Hair Meetup Day sponsored by Hair Rules was held May 18, 2012. According to the website the purpose is to allow the opportunity for women across the country to meet in their own communities while networking, sharing and meeting (virtually) other women across the country participating in meetups on the same day.

I was able to attend two events that were held that weekend in support of NNHMD. The pictures above are from the Afrocilious Hair Affair hosted by Rhonda Ray. A fun time was held by all as it is always fun to get together with fellow naturals.
My definition of natural hair is hair that is completely free of relaxers or texturizers. When natural hair is not in a protective hair style (braids, weaves, wigs) then it is styled naturally by a wash 'n go, twist out, braid out, bantu knot out or any other popular natural style.
Are you ready for the journey?
According to Webster a journey is "an act or instance of traveling from one place to another."  So how is transitioning from relaxed, weaved or wigged hair to natural hair a journey? Well, during a natural hair journey you will be traveling from one mindset to another.

You may be traveling from the mindset that straight hair is the best hair, that only women with a certain hair type can go natural, going natural is too much work, natural hair isn't professional, etc. Once you decide that your belief is no longer acceptable and that it is time for a change you can then prepare to get in touch with the hair you were born with.

Like any journey it is not always easy and at times you will want to give up and revert to your old ways. To complete your journey you will need to prepare mentally by being open to change, prepare physically by having quality tools and products on hand, be willing to roll with the punches because rarely are any two natural hair days the same and if possible, finding a natural hair buddy that will transition with you.

With all of this in mind, the natural hair journey of a lifetime is right before you and do not forget to have fun learning the new you. 

Future posts will include tips and tricks to make your natural hair journey easier.
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