Hello again!! As promised, here is a double feature of the Kamau sisters. I had an absolute blast catching up and working with my cousins as they shared some of what it’s like to be a natural in Kenya, from sourcing products to daily regimens. They may be sisters but their methods couldn’t be more different when it comes to looking after their fro, highlighting the fact that there’s no one given way to maintain healthy natural hair; it’s simply down to the individual and what works best for them. I hope you enjoy it!!
With Luv xx
Hi! we are Joyce and Pauline, also known as, the Kamau sisters. We live in Kenya and life at our family home is interesting with over 500 birds and 12 animals, 10 of them being dogs. I, Joyce, have a favourite dog called Stuffy. I spend most of my weekends grooming and walking them.
Q1. What’s your natural hair journey been like so far?
Joyce: I have been natural for the last 11 months. I only used to relax the front part of my hair because of styling my hair using weaves with leave outs. My move to keep my hair natural was motivated by the fact that my hair used to frizz and tangle a lot due to the cold weather. My hair was also weak and would often break while combing. I felt guilty for letting my hair get so weak, so I made the transition from relaxers to natural.
Pauline: I have been growing my natural hair for four years now. I had permed my hair when I was 16 however, some years later I eventually realised that the chemicals had been doing more harm than good to my hair, causing stunted growth and excessive shedding. In 2013 I decided to stop using chemicals in my hair; I would alternatively always have it in braids. I ended up transitioning without even realising it. In 2016 I became aware of the natural hair community and I was interested in how they maintain their hair. I joined many groups on Facebook and started practising ways to get and maintain healthy natural hair. From this exposure, my hair care routine essentially changed into incorporating using less heat, avoiding sulphate shampoos, moisturising my hair and doing protective styles
Q2. What do you enjoy most about being natural?
Joyce: I love my new look; I’m glad I now feel that I have stronger healthier hair.
Pauline: I like that I can style my natural hair without having to use heat. Most times in the past, before I would plait my hair, I had to blow-dry it to make it more ‘manageable’ and the experience was always very painful from the pulling and tagging by hair-dressers using a lot of heat. Now I’m able to manage my hair both heat and pain-free.
Q3. What’s been the most challenging thing about your hair journey so far?
Joyce: The most challenging part about my natural hair so far has been the detangling process. My hair tends to tangle a lot even after a twist out or protective styles, I’m yet to find the best hair detangling product out here in Kenya that’ll do the job for me. However, I normally try to be as gentle as possible while detangling my hair.
Pauline: Trying to understand my hair and learning what really works well for me has been the most challenging thing about my hair journey so far. I’ve had to learn to have a lot of patience while researching the products that are right for my hair. Another huge challenge has been trying to find a hairdresser willing to work with my natural hair without using heat on it before doing plaits.
Q4. What does your hair care regimen consist of?
Joyce: I’m currently doing a lot of protective styling at least once a month due to the ease of maintaining my hair while working. I love doing crotchet braids, however, when my hair grows longer I would like to experiment more with twists. I wash and deep condition my hair once a month after taking out my protective style or at times, once a week if I’m simply styling my hair.
Pauline: I’m always in a protective style: crotchet braids, Bandika lines and braids. After undoing my protective style of 4-5 weeks I first pre-poo, then shampoo with African black soap. I then condition my hair with Lory’s conditioner, and apply a protein treatment(ORS Hair Mayonnaise) or do a henna treatment. I like to follow this up with a deep moisturising treatment and finally, an ‘ACV rinse’ to get rid of excessive product build up and finish off with Tea rinse to minimise shedding. I do the LOC method twice a day: in the morning and evening to help retain moisture. I am currently making use of wigs as a protective style so that I can be able to do a deep moisturising treatment weekly and do hot oil treatments more regularly. The reason I have such an extensive regimen is because of trying to replace moisture my hair has lost over the 4-5 weeks of protective styling whilst cleansing my hair and scalp of build up.
Q5. What’s been your experience of using heat on your hair?
Joyce: I never used to know the effects of heat on hair before I decided to go natural. I used to blow dry my hair once every fortnight. As a result, my hair became very weak and damaged with reduced volume due to breakage. Since I went natural, however, I have not used heat on my hair in any way, though I do plan on doing so at the end of the year. I’m currently looking into getting a good heat protector before straightening my hair.
Pauline: Since knowing about how to maintain healthy hair, I have blow-dried my hair three times in a year, but now I’m doing the ‘6-month heat free challenge’, I’m presently on my fourth month. I have experienced heat damage from blow drying in the past. I got rid of the heat damaged parts of my hair simply by cutting them off. I don’t have any go-to products for straightening my hair. I prefer going heat free. For my natural hair journey at the minute, heat free equates to healthier, longer hair.
Q6. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced being natural in Kenya?
Joyce: The biggest challenge of having natural hair in Kenya for me has been the acceptance of natural hair in the workplace. Most work environments in Kenya consider natural hair as an unprofessional look. Only a few organisations allow their employees to keep their hair in its natural state and would instead be more receptive towards relaxed, weaved or hair in a protective style.
Pauline: The challenges I experience being a natural in Kenya are that most natural hair products are a bit expensive and not easy to find therefore I end up doing DIY’s such as the Avocado deep conditioning treatment which I think is better since I’m sure of the ingredients I’m using. Like my sister, I’ve also been apprehensive of how my colleagues at my workplace will perceive me when they see me with my natural hair. We should embrace the beauty of natural hair and accept that curly natural hair is also beautiful. I don’t believe that one has to have straightened hair to feel and look pretty.
Q7. What’s your go-to hairstyle and how do you achieve it?
Joyce: My go to hair style is the high puff. I achieve this look by using a band to push back my hair and then sleek my edges using a scarf after applying my favourite coconut oil. I choose to do my own hair rather than go to the salon; I even do the crotchet braids myself.
Pauline: My go to hair style is the wash and go. I just wash my hair; add a leave in, then some coconut oil and Shea butter. At times I use the olive Ecostyler gel on my wash and go. I also do my own hair; this helps me perfect styling my own hair and avoid having anyone pulling on my hair.
Q8. Have you currently got any favourite natural hair products?
Joyce: My favourite natural products include Coconut oil, Olive oil, Black Jamaican Castor Oil. Coconut and olive oil have helped my hair grow by retaining moisture in it especially after doing the LOC method every day. Castor oil has really helped my edges grow.
Pauline: I love Cantu leave-in as it softens my hair and a little goes a long way. I also love the African black soap that I use to shampoo and clarify my hair. Another favourite is Shea butter, but after realising I have low porosity hair I’m working on cutting back on how much of it I use and how often. I have been buying my products from Perida center along Dubois road and shea butter from a vendor located at Imenti house along Tom mboya, for local Kenyan folks.
Q9. Have you got a natural hair #TIP or #TRICK?
Joyce: My helpful tip is utilising the greenhouse effect method. I usually do the LOC method before I go to sleep and put on a plastic cap to help replace the moisture lost during the day. While this method may not work for everyone it’s really helped me with keeping my hair moisturised in this dry Kenyan climate; I can definitely attribute my length retention so far to this method.
Pauline: I have been using a silk scarf to cover my hair when I go to sleep and this has really helped with maintaining moisture and laying down my edges. Finger detangling has turned out to be great for my natural hair since it has helped me with length retention and having painless detangling.
Thanks for checking out our feature!!
Photography by Seth W Thuita.