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Why I Stopped Shaving My Head And Learned To Love My Natural Hair

Writer Gina Conteh tells us why she embraces her natural hair

There are absolutely no traces of my natural hair in photos or home videos during my childhood years. I had a chemical relaxer for as long as I could remember and started wearing weaves as early as middle school. Growing up in a small, predominantly white, New England town, my biggest fear was standing out. I was constantly afraid of wearing hair styles that would make me feel different or garner extra attention. This meant no kinks and no curls, because straight hair was all I ever knew. At that point in my life, I wasn’t even aware of what a hair type or curl pattern was. I was blissfully unaware of the natural hair world.

By the time I graduated high school in 2014, the natural hair movement and the societal embrace of Black girl magic was on the rise. I was ready for a change and to be someone completely different than the person that I was keeping in a box. To get away from the beauty standards I felt trapped by, I applied to historically Black colleges and universities and Hampton University in Virginia was my first choice. In my mind, moving to Virginia for college meant I could finally begin my natural hair journey.


The Big Chop

My first experience with the big chop was before I left for college. I did this in order to transition my hair into a natural state. I truly thought that as soon as I chopped off all of my relaxed hair, a beautiful, larger than life afro would emerge on top of my head. Leaving the constant maintenance of relaxers and weaves behind, I assumed there would be a natural sense of freedom when my natural kinks and coils finally got to see the light of day. That was not the case.

Being in a completely new environment, I was still insecure after my big chop. It wasn’t as if I missed my relaxed hair or constantly wearing weaves. I just truly could not fathom waking up every morning with no hair to push behind my ear or to frame my face; no hair to hide from the world like I was previously accustomed to. My head was quite literally naked and on display for the whole world to see. 

Despite attending an HBCU, my freshmen year, I was still too afraid—and quite frankly ignorant of natural hair care—to even show it off. It was as if I was still afraid to stand out even though I was in a completely different environment. I saw so many beautiful, Black women flaunting their natural hair styles and embracing their variety of textures. They looked so free, and that’s all I ever wanted. But as a young, broke, college student, I truly didn’t realize the time, money, and effort that went into maintaining natural hair.  Every time my hair required even a little bit of TLC, I would just cut it all off.

Moving to New York City my sophomore year made it even easier to continuously embrace shaving my head with a barbershop on every block in Brooklyn. From tapered cuts to buzz cuts, I did it all. I colored my short tapered cuts, tried new designs, and my bald head became a part of my personal style. My bald head became my freedom. I was always questioned by my family: “Why don’t you grow your hair out? Why do you keep shaving your head?” It felt as though having a short, clean cut became a part of who I was. But I still wanted to fulfill my dreams of having a big afro to style and flaunt for the world.

Finally Embracing My Natural Texture

2020 was truly a year of rediscovery and reflection for me, especially when it came to my hair. I realized that the same fear I had of standing out was keeping me from embracing a natural hair care routine. I didn’t want to deal with the awkward phase or getting to know my natural hair at all. It was still that same insecurity. But, I realized that this was all just a part of my personal natural hair journey and I had to accept every part of it. I sampled so many routines and hair care lines—it was exhausting. I was never sure if I was washing my hair too little or too often. Was I supposed to co-wash or was I supposed to use a shampoo and conditioner every single time? On wash day, my hair always felt too brittle or too dry. I had so much breakage that I wasn’t even worried about growth anymore. But my new goal this year was to maintain healthy, natural hair no matter what. I had to stick to it.

After asking other women with natural hair about their routines and doing more research online, I felt more comfortable embracing my natural crown, even at the awkward stages. I finally had enough knowledge and resources to actually take care of my natural hair. I knew I had type 4 hair when I first transitioned but I learned that I also have low porosity hair. That meant finally dedicating my hair care routine to all things moisture.

My hair care routine is what’s truly made my natural hair come to life. The L.O.C. method of using a leave-in conditioner, oil, and a cream-based moisturizer has changed everything for me. Using the oil and the cream-based moisturizer to seal in the moisture from the leave-in conditioner is the perfect remedy for my low porosity hair. After two months, I have no breakage and I finally feel relief. One of my favorite products is the Mizani 25 Miracle Milk, which helps me seal in moisture, reduce breakage, and retain length. My hair is finally growing thicker, happier, and healthier right before my eyes. When it comes to natural hair styles, I’m still a novice, but I love a good twist out, braid out, or some Bantu knots. I no longer fear that I will stand out and have embraced my individuality. I’ve gotten to know my natural, curly hair, and that’s the most important aspect of being a natural girl!

Interested in more tips and product recommendations to help embrace your natural texture? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you. 

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