I hope you had a relaxed/enjoyable weekend. This week on #chocolatynaturals I’m thrilled to share this super insightful chat with a pretty Ms.Penny who was so kind to spill her natural hair secrets…
Naturalista: Peninah Rutebemberwa
Dream Job: Self-employed
Fave spots In Kampala: La Fontaine, Endiiro Café, Legends
Passionate about: Dance, Music and natural, organic cosmetics
Currently listening to: Can’t Feel My Face – The Weekend
Where It All begun…
I chose to go natural because my scalp and hair, especially my scalp, couldn’t take the damage and torture from chemical relaxers anymore. See, my natural hair is coarse while my scalp is uber sensitive. Each and every time I went for a touch up, no matter what I used, from the kiddies’ set, to the most high-end relaxer kits like Kera-Care and L’Oreal, to no-lye relaxer kits, my scalp was always left with fresh wounds, and sadly, with hair strands that were never fully straightened in the process. The horror!! I’d have wounds and scabs for as long as 2-3 weeks and during that time, I couldn’t do any treatments. Needless to say, my hair strands suffered the consequences and looked thin, dull and lifeless.
After browsing through all things natural on the internet for several months, I got the big chop done in May 2012. I had managed to save up during this time to purchase an entire AsIAm Naturally kit. Few months down the road, I couldn’t keep up with the price tags, so I swapped to off-the-shelf shampoos and conditioners…worst decision EVER!!! Most of these are saturated with sulfates, parabens and phthalatates, which I had already learned weren’t friendly towards kinky hair, but at the time I thought, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Well, my hair was constantly dry and breaking for the months that followed during which I was using these products. Mid-2013 is when I disciplined myself and worked around using the recommended natural oils like Shea butter, coconut oil, which were relatively cheap, and my hair was salvaged and restored to its healthy moisturised state.
Falling In love With Her Natural Hair Texture….
My hair is what I jokingly describe as 4c-borderline-4z texture, the famous (or infamous) “kaweeke”. It’s very coarse, dry, matted and unmanageable. Or at least that’s what I believed growing up, when it was always being cut, and all through my university days when I had it chemically relaxed. The true description is that it’s PRONE to becoming coarse, dry and matted, and because of that, may require a little extra attention and effort to keep it soft and manageable.
When I got exposed to the cyber world of natural hair, my first love was Kriss of NaturalMe4C. She was my hair twin and my holy grail of natural hair information. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that there was a way…scratch that, there were several ways to look after my hair and keep it manageable and stylish, without having to alter its texture. And that was when I fell in love.
Her hair regime and How she keeps it healthy…
My 2 cardinal rules of thumb are: going to bed in plaits and my satin hair bonnet/pillowcases. Daily moisturizing would be such a waste for the following day if I did not obey these two rules. It’s been hectic, but the longer my hair has grown, the faster and easier it has become. I can have about 8 neat twists done in less than 10 minutes.
My daily regimen consists of a spritz mixture of rose water and glycerine, followed by The Moisture Well’s hair strengthening elixir to seal.
Wash day is every two weeks. My shampoos and conditioners range from Nissi’s, Tresemme Naturals, AsIAm Naturally, to what I’m currently using which is Avalon Organics. I look out for the types that are as sulphate-free, phthalate-free and paraben-free as possible. Wash day does not go without a deep conditioning session, moisture infusing and protein building treatments, interchangeably.
My favourite store-bought conditioners are ORS Hair Mayonnaise and Replenishing conditioners for protein and moisture respectively. I use The Moisture Well’s elixir for my hot oil treatments. I also do (henna with hibiscus) treatments.
Prior to using heat to dry or straighten my hair, I always administer an intensive protein deep conditioner, and I use a heat protectant during the blow out or flat iron. Crème of Nature’s Argan oil serum is my staple.
Her Top 5 favourite things about natural hair…
- It’s been a major confidence booster, in terms of image and appearance. Not that I ever had low esteem, but natural hair has catapulted mine a notch higher.
- Second, it has given me inspiration and courage to pursue things I never thought I could do, like starting my own business, a natural cosmetics line called The Moisture Well.
- I have become more self-reliant. Going natural needed me to be more hands-on with my hair; this has spilled over to doing my own nails, shaping my own eyebrows, doing my own facials. I still go to salons and spas but it’s not as mandatory, or as frequent, as before.
- Water is this girl’s best friend! Relaxed hair used to limit me from participating in certain water-related activities like gyming, dancing (because of the sweat), swimming, showering (don’t get me wrong, I bathed everyday but just not under a showerhead). I love the freedom natural hair has given me.
- Of course the versatile and multitudes of hairstyles I can pull off with natural hair! I can have a different hairstyle for every day!!Now, ain’t that cool!!!
Her Top 5 frustrations about natural hair…
- Because my particular hair type is so prone to dryness, coarseness, and breakage, more care and attention has to be given to the manner in which I take care of it. Think of it like acne-prone skin…you need to be extra mindful of your habits in order to keep it healthy. One slip-up and you’re faced with having to take care of the damage.
- This is something I’ve managed to overcome: how I used to defend my decision to go natural with everyone that wasn’t in agreement with it. There was no convincing a lot of them. After a while I realised that the only way was to just be silent, keep doing me and once they saw the persistence and results that came along with it, they’d come to terms with it. Some have, others, not so much!
- Contrary to what a lot of people think, natural hair is relatively expensive!! The most celebrated natural hair products are not exactly pocket-friendly, especially here in Uganda. The AsIAm, Shea Moisture,Kera Care, Cantu, Carol’s Daughter, Miss Jessie brands, which have received rave reviews for their positive effects on natural coarse and kinky hair, can put a dent in your finances. One of the reasons I started The Moisture Well was to make available equally-effective products for skin and hair, which are easy on the wallet. As it turned out, the majority of the active ingredients in these foreign brands are home-grown!!!
- Shrinkage and frizz have become the enemies I cannot live without. Over time, I’ve had to learn to embrace and work with them. I like how my hairstyles look edgier with frizz, while shrinkage is just a sign of moisture in my hair, and that’s a really good thing!
- I did not like how time-consuming tending to my hair had become. At the beginning, wash day was literally 24 hours of prepping, washing, detangling, deep conditioning, while my daily styling would last almost an hour!!I’m glad I’ve found ways to shorten the amount of time I attend to my hair. I’m down to about 2 hours for wash “day”, and 10 minutes for my daily routine.
Her perception of natural hair in Uganda
The common misguided notion is that looser curls, or “munyerere” is the good hair, while tight curls with lots of kinks is bad hair. It’s understandable where this mentality stems from, because munyerere is more manageable than kaweke, and so relaxing and texturizing always seem like the best options.
Since I went natural 3 years ago, there’s been an avalanche of shifting from relaxers to natural and I’m glad that there are more people in my backyard with whom I can relate and learn from.
On whether she considered treating it or adding chemicals…
Most definitely at the start when I hadn’t learnt how to manage my time with hair routines. But since I’ve learnt to carve out and manage my time, just like I do for exercise, meals, work, domestic house chores, treating my hair hasn’t crossed my mind.
Her Go- to styles…
I love afros, fro-hawks and roll-tuck-and-pin hairstyles. Bantu knot outs are also another fave.