Nigerian born U.S based trained Nurse and Model, Mrs. Emem Ikpatt who rocks hair natural hair and has been growing it for about 8 years now, discloses what motivated her to go the natural way, challenges, the special hair products she has used, plus care routine on Hypestation’s #Naturalista series.
Why natural hair?
I decided to go natural in 2009/2010 after I had a terrible relaxer burn. My scalp was completely burnt from using relaxer (think it was fake). After years of enduring relaxers and the pains from my scalp burning, I decided to just stop relaxing my hair. Then I went online and looked up how to maintain natural hair. I really didn’t know anything about going natural, I was just looking for an alternative to relaxing my hair, but that search was the beginning of my natural hair journey. So sometime in 2010 after months of not relaxing my hair, I cut off all my relaxed hair and my natural hair journey began.
Looking at how long and hard it is to maintain natural hair, what motivates you to keep going with the decision?
Well it’s between relaxing my hair and leaving it natural. I have no plan of relaxing my hair in the nearest future, because I can do so much with my natural hair now than when it was relaxed. I can straighten it, do twists, braids, updo’s, roller setting and loads of other styles.
What is your natural hair care routine like?
I have gotten lazy over the years, but since I have come to understand my hair better, it’s easy to style and manipulate it now than before. My basic routine is water, Shea butter and leave in hair conditioner. I also use oils as a sealant aka seal in the moisture. I also try to keep my hair in protective styles (braids, twists, weaves, etc). I try to wash my hair twice a month, but I moisturize everyday with water and oil. I tell people with natural hair that complain about it being too dry. “Do not comb or style your natural hair in its dry state unless it is fully stretched out” I have 4c hair, it’s very dry and coarse. (I think I have a toughest hair I know) so immediately after washing I put it in big twists or braids till I figure out what style I want, but if I know what style I want, I go ahead and style it while it’s still damp. So don’t let your hair dry out before you style it. It is very frustrating, at least for me. Try to keep it stretched out with braids or twists.
Are there any special products for natural hair? If yes what are they?
There are many products for natural hair, you have to figure out which one works best for you. I use Shea moisture products, raw Shea butter, coconut oil and water. YouTube is a good resource to find out about natural hair products.
Would you advice a friend to go natural? And what would be your reasons?
I have never told anyone to go natural but I have influenced people’s decision to go natural just from being natural. I think going natural is a journey you have to embark on from your own conviction. It’s should be a personal thing, not a trend or current fashion. I was natural before it became a trend and I plan to remain natural for a long time. I decided to go natural on my own and this helped me to deal with negative comments I got initially when I first went natural in 2009/10. Those comments didn’t affect or bother me because I did it for me and my scalp.
How does natural hair influence your personality?
It changes you. I have learned to accept myself more. Going natural has taught me to love and accept everything about me. My hair, my body and my skin. These things make me unique and are all blessings from God. I am more careful about what I put on my hair and my body.
How long have you been keeping it?
I have been natural for 7 years and have had three big chops in between. Hopefully I don’t cut it anymore. I seem to like my natural hair in its short and medium stages so once it starts getting longer, I cut it. But I have decided to keep it longer this time.
Are there any health or hygiene hazards involved in growing natural hair?
I don’t know of any health or hygiene hazards involved in growing natural hair. With that said, some people can be allergic to certain natural hair products, others complain about certain natural oils (example olive or coconut oil) not working well with their hair.
What is the biggest challenge when it comes to natural hair?
Growing natural hair can be challenging because it’s something new and different from what you know. My biggest challenge is styling my hair and the end result is a hot mess. It’s gets frustrating at times and most people give up and relax their hair, which is still ok. I did a roller set on my hair one night and woke up to take them out. Most of them were still wet. I had to just braid it down and wear my wig (Thank God for wigs and I make most of my wigs myself)
Your advice to people out there growing their natural hair
Keep practicing and experimenting, you will figure out what your hair likes and what you should not try on your hair (for me wash and go is a no no). Moisturizing your hair is very important. I mean daily. Don’t style your hair dry unless it is stretched out, have a good leave in conditioner (I use Shea moisture) and most importantly be patient, don’t style your hair when you are tired. But just try and be patient.