Darlene Jackson (a.k.a. Lady D), deejay/producer for D'Lectable Records

Darlene Jackson (a.k.a. Lady D), deejay/producer for D'Lectable Records, who has worn her hair naturally for about 17 years. (Aza Photography / September 19, 2011)

How long have you been wearing your hair in its natural state and what inspired you to do it?

Gina B., co-founder of Six Brown Chicks: I’ve been natural for over 10 years. I was inspired by a friend who had gone natural some years earlier and explained that my hair would be much healthier if I eliminated the chemicals.

Darlene Jackson (a.k.a. Lady D), deejay/producer for D’Lectable Records: I've been wearing my hair naturally for about 17 years to 18 years. I went natural because I had bad experiences with relaxers and didn't want to put myself through that process again.

Erika Jones Pervis, founder of A Social Life: I have been natural since my sophomore or junior year in high school and that was back in the 1990s. I started wearing braids and then transitioned from there. I (dred)locked my hair 15 years ago.  

Patrice Grell Yursik, creator of Afrobella/contributing editor to Glam.com:

I went natural right around the time of my wedding, so it’s been 11 years. I was inspired to do it because I hated maintaining my relaxed hair. It looked broken, dry and fried, and yet I still kept using the same chemicals hoping to get a different result. I was using relaxers to “tame” my hair, but in fact, I had no idea how beautiful and special my own natural hair could be.

Do you find it easier to maintain natural hair over relaxed, pressed, etc. hair?

Gina: Going natural was challenging in the beginning. I was accustomed to getting my hair done and not dealing with it again until it was time to revisit the salon. Natural hair requires more maintenance, and it took awhile to re-learn the properties of my hair and determine which products best suited my texture. 

Darlene: I find my hair is much easier to maintain in its natural state than it ever was pressed or relaxed. It is truly freeing to just style it and go.  

Erika: I would rather put in the work to maintain my natural hair. It is more work actually than permed hair, but to not have to worry about chemicals in my hair brings me peace.

What's your daily routine? What products do you use? Where do you get them?

Gina: If I’m wearing my hair loose and curly, I wet it every day. I only comb it in the shower after I’ve applied conditioner. I have about 30 bottles of products in my bathroom that I rotate between. These days, I really like the Shea Moisture and Cantu lines of products. You can’t really go wrong with any of them. I also like the DevaCurl products, especially the leave-in conditioner. Leave-in conditioner is essential to natural hair. Curly hair is usually on the cusp of being dry, so anything to infuse moisture is critical. 

Darlene: On a daily basis I apply a creme product treatment called Curls Unleashed. It locks in moisture really well for my hair type. I brush my hair thoroughly, then style it according to how I'm feeling. Seventy five percent of the time it's a variation on the ponytail. Sometimes I wear it down with a cloth or cloth-covered headband. I wash and condition weekly. I do these things to minimize breakage, and I buy my products at Target, which really has a nice selection of multicultural hair products.

Erika: I put jojoba oil or oil sheen on my scalp and go! I use a lot of ORS products, which can be purchased at Walgreens, Target, Sally's and other beauty supply stores. I love their uplifting shampoo and hair mayonnaise. It is perfect for dry hair. 

Patrice: I am a wash-and-go girl, and I don’t have too much of a daily routine. I deep condition my hair once a week, and detangle thoroughly, then and also as needed, throughout the week I will co-wash and detangle to keep the curls coily. I use different products depending on the weather. Because of what I do, I am sent a lot of hair products to review, but I also go to stores like Target or Sally Beauty Supply to get what I need when I need it. Many natural hair brands are sold online, for ladies who are looking for even more options.

When you have natural hair, do you still have to go to the beauty salon as often? If yes, how do you keep your hair healthy?

Gina: I still go to the salon every two weeks, because I like having it blown out periodically. I had to learn to carefully choose my stylists. Some of them will want to achieve straight hair by any means necessary, even if it means using too much heat and damaging your hair. My advice would be to choose a stylist who specializes in and has appreciation for natural hair. 

Darlene: I do get my hair colored professionally, which is one way I keep my hair healthy; no at home/box dyes! I have a great colorist, Gro of Gro Salon in Bucktown. I go to the salon every eight weeks or so for color and a deep conditioning.

Erika: Since I have locks I can maintain them myself for the most part. I do have a stylist that I go to for serious maintenance and a cut. I also drink a lot of water for hydration. This keeps your hair looking good.

Patrice: Some of my natural friends still frequent the beauty salon, but my regimen is at home and it’s personal. I go to a salon maybe three times a year at the most. I do regular deep conditioning and steam treatments at home. That’s all I need. When I go to a professional, it’s for color and cut.

Because African-American women have hair of different textures is it recommended that they use different products?

Gina: YES! Every product does not work for everyone, and the products tend to be expensive. I recommend finding a group of friends who have natural hair and sharing products for trial. 

Darlene: Absolutely. Each product is different. I choose my products based on ingredients. The ones I use are paraben free and alcohol free—two things that tend to strip natural hair of its moisture. 

Erika: I say find a product that works for you and stay with it. 

What recommendations do you have for someone who's transitioning to natural hair?

Gina: Be patient with your hair. It’s a journey. If you notice breakage at the point of texture change, consider a radical cut. 

Darlene: I would tell anyone transitioning to natural hair to just be patient and enjoy the discovery that will unfold before their eyes. They will learn to love each and every curl on their head if they give it time.

Erika: Start out with braids first. If you are adventurous, then do the big chop and fall in love with your natural hair as it grows. 

Patrice: If you’re ready and patient and are embracing these changes with love instead of dread or annoyance, then your transition will be wonderful. There are so many resources for you online and now in stores as well. This is the best time to do it!