(Me about three days ago after using the Kokos styling milk and gel..the camera isnt the best but the curls are more defined)
Before coming to Croatia, or abiding in any country that doesn’t have a good number of diversely textured hair to cater to, it is important to come prepared. I personally had already been natural for two years before coming to Europe so it was not a big transition for me. But if you come with permed hair be prepared to start growing your hair out naturally, unless you want to import relaxer products or use wigs or extensions.
I am living in Zagreb, which is the most diverse part of Croatia and there is no hair salon that I have heard of that caters to textured hair. We won’t even get into the language barrier of just regular shops. I have however gone to places to get my eyebrows done and edges trimmed (in the kitchen area), but even some of those times were hit and miss.
If you find someone who understands what you want then take the time out to go back to that individual. You can imagine the turmoil of asking for an edge up and then you turn around and see long strands of hair on the ground where none should be. You can’t just ask for the manager or make a complaint, as it will probably go nowhere.
I have turned to youtube posters who have opened up a large array of DIY products for my natural hair. In less than a month I have learned how to more properly care for my natural hair better than I have in all of my past times going from natural to permed hair. Here are a few things that I remembered from my youth that still reigns true for beautiful growing natural hair:
(Me in 2014 while in Washington..hair pinned up with bobbie pins)
1)clip the ends-Duh!!
2) plat your hair at night (and use a scarf)
3)deep condition to moisturize scalp
4)keep moisture in hair (grease will not do)
I know that some people may think that this is second nature to all black women, but unfortunately it isn’t. I grew up in a household where beauty secrets were just that. My mom did not wear makeup or have a decent curlng iron (she bought the ones from Wal-Mart that didn’t get hot enough). So I learned most of my beauty tips in college and later. This is when I started experimenting with eyeshadows and even foundation and the works, but my skin is really sensitive and I didn’t like my face itching. I tried it for a while but a large majority of men complimented me on my natural beauty, so I pulled in that direction.
Of course I do enjoy the occasional eye shadow and I try to put on lipstick when I remember, but the point is that not every woman has grown up with beauty magazines fully stocked or makeup kits. To this day at 62 my mother still does not wear makeup. And that is okay.
I cherish the simple life that I had, not looking for other ways except inwardly to make myself feel beautiful. I thank her for that. She has however started going to beauty supply stores for curling irons. I would like to believe thanks to me, although she has gone natural(along with other relatives) in old age (giggles).
My first time going natural was in undergrad and I loved my ‘new’ look, although I did get negative feedback via some church members and also family. The latter surprised me most. Being a black woman what is more beautiful than embracing your hair for what it is. Clearly not everyone thought this was a good thing. I remember my mom telling me that certain relatives were talking bad about it and one uncle in particular saying I needed to get my hair done and what was wrong with me. I mean really?
I didn’t think that there was something wrong with not wanting to process hair to the point of breakage. But good thing I don’t allow others unsolicited opinions to deter me. I continued on with my hair journey and used twists to help it grow. Not the double strand but the gel and twisting it with the comb. I went to a hair salon to get this done and my hair grew fine. At this time I didn’t know the ins and outs of taking care of unpermed hair because my hair had been permed since middle school, and before then my mom cared for it. So I had no experience with it, but I loved it nonetheless.
After a while it became too hot (especially during Alabama summers) so I again permed. I continued this cycle from 2002 until 2013. I had never transitioned with my hair. I always loved short hair styles while being permed because my longer hair was always so brittle and dry. Again I can chalk this up to improper care. I think I went natural maybe 4 times in between these years with the last being in 2013 when my car broke down and I couldn’t get to my hair stylist. So I went to a barber and got it chopped off.
I have been growing it natural ever since. I think this is the longest time I have continued nonstop of growing it, and I have taken care of it a little differently this time. I did do curl twists once or twice at the salon. I started off (alone) using gel when it was short enough to just curl tightly to my head. Then I pulled it back when it became long enough, and eventually started pinning it up until it became too high. Now in Croatia I am beginning to explore more possibilities with it because I can’t just go to a salon and get a perm again.
This is what prompted me to google and eventually come across you tube vloggers. I didn’t have this luxury back in the day. But I am truly grateful for all the women who take their time to go step by step and show people like me how to do something that seems so trivial to others.
It reminded me of how important it is to clip my ends and to moisturize my hair. It is not just about having access to the products, it is about knowing what to do with them. I had to look at a few videos and google before I understood what some people were speaking of. This is what I learned:
(me in 2013 after shaving my hair and starting curling twists until my hair was long enough to pull back)
*Regular shampoo is not the best for natural hair because it dries it out. I have started using raw apple cider vinegar and water to (cowash or conditioner wash) my hair. I put it in a spray bottle since there are women who have stated it burns like hell to get in your eyes. I do this on a weekly basis or whenever I need to wash my hair. I try not to use regular shampoo..the vinegar works!
I do use a spray in conditioner to mask the smell of the vinegar. Some people say the smell may linger for a few days but the conditioner takes away the smell for me.
I also started off trying a DIY conditioning mask which was wonderful. It made my hair shiny and my scalp was conditioned well. The only drawback was that some of the ingredients made me itchy. That is because I have sensitive skin. The mask was made from all organic products-two bananas, two eggs, mayo, honey, and I used macadamia oil because that is what is available in Croatia. I said that I would try avocado the next time and forego on the eggs.
The key is let your body and hair tell you what works for it. There is no reason for me to continue itching just to use this particular mask. This is what I heard from some vloggers (I will add links at the end for anyone who may want to know who I researched).
*I also learned the importance of moisture for everyday use. I found this store called Mullers (Muellers) in Croatia that has some decent products. I had been using the moisturizers incorrectly and didn’t learn the correct way until I saw the vloggers speak about them. That is another plus with these youtubers. In Croatia the language barrier is tricky. Just because the person may be helping you out and answer you it doesn’t mean they really do understand what you are asking. So if you are like me and not sure of what the product is or does, then google beforehand and then try to find the best fit in the store. The product ingredients and directions of course are in Croatian or sometimes German, but the names of the products are sometimes in English or close enough that you can pick wisely.
(2014 pulling my hair back)
Generally at night (although I still have those nights when I just clonk out and regress) I try to put LACROA Argan Macadamia oil cream for curly and wavy hair on my hair and double strand twist it into plats. Then I tie it up at night with a thin scarf. I remember when I was younger I hated scarves on my head as I would sweat, but since it is the material is breathable (and not silk or cotton) then it works best for me.
Then in the morning I unplat it before going to shower and then fluff it out. It makes a nice wavy effect in my hair. I used to think that people whose hair was like this was a natural thing. Now I know the importance of platting hair and moisturizing.
The leave in conditioner that I spray on my hair after cleaning with the vinegar (which can be bought in any pharmacy or D&M) is Schwarzkopf Gliss KUR Hair Repair. I spray it on and rinse it out then spray it on again to leave it in before blow drying. This is to mask the vinegar smell.
( my hair grew fast from 2013 (middle pic) to 2014..I love my pull back look..I just use stretchy bands until they lose their elasticity)
The oil that I use is oleo Therapy Ulje Makadamije (which can be bought in pharmacies) and I oil my scalp and also my hair to give it a shine.
*I have also seen a vlogger who swears by coconut oil and I have purchased it but yet to try it. I got it at D& M and will probably use it the same way I do the LACROA cream. Two products that give my hair a tighter curl and more definition to the curls is Swiss O PAR Kokos styling gel and Styling milk. The gel of course helps with the definition and the styling milk smells like it is a spritz and definitely has alcohol in it. The look is more firm. I have seen multiple people say that necessary products are moisturizers and gels.
If I just want an afro look then a moisturizer would be best without platting. The gel is going to define any curls you have and since my hair is really curly when wet this is the look I get. It depends on the texture of your hair but don’t be afraid to play around with products and enjoy and learn what your hair can do. Of course if you are in another country then the products may be different but the point is the same, make sure to moisturize your hair and try to plat it at night if you are growing it out. It helps prevent breakage. I knew this growing up but it was such a hassle. Now it seems more of a privilege and an adventure to see what my nature hair can do after so long using perms. If you want a break or get tired of hairstyles like me then wigs are a must. I recently purchased my first one via rosewholesale (yes they ship to Croatia) and they have synthetic and real hair wigs. This can also help you transition if you don’t want to chop your hair off or sail to Italy to get your hair done.
(2016 three days ago…it doesn’t look like my hair has grown much since 2014..but it has)
****The vloggers that I have enjoyed watching and learning the natural hair lingo from (such as protective styles & cowashes) are:
The glam twins
*Another thing I learned while in Croatia..from another sister from the US who lives here..is that flat irons can be used to straighten natural hair* Who knew!?!?! Clearly not me..I have yet to try it but here is a tutorial just in case you need tips..
I am definitely on a growth journey woohoo!!