BY: SANTASIA CHANEL
For Amanda Maitland, rocking her natural hair is more than a lifestyle choice.
It has become an empowering way for her to embrace the simplicity and originality in her natural beauty. One way Amanda, 25, shows love to her sultry coils is through her very specific hair care routine. It’s Sunday evening and it’s time for her bi-weekly wash day.
Usually, she co-washes [using only conditioner to cleanse] her hair once every two weeks depending on how dirty her hair is, how long it has grown and how many products she has used. Co-washing has become her go-to way of cleaning her hair regularly without the damaging dryness of constant shampooing. After spending, what feels like an hour-long scalp massage co-washing her coily hair, Amanda starts moisturizing her strands using 100% pure coconut oil.
As her wet hair is coated with coconut oil, she takes two strands and neatly twists them together in small sections throughout her head. This is how Amanda has been styling her hair under her wigs, which has become her go-to protective style, especially during Toronto’s harsh winters. When she’s not rocking her favourite wigs, she’s rocking wash and go’s styling with natural-based products like Shea Moisture Curling Smoothie or, every naturalistas staple, Eco Styler gel with olive oil.
There is a rapid rise of millennial naturalistas who are reaping the benefits of making and using natural based products for their hair and skin and, more specifically, doing it themselves.
“I feel like the natural hair community in Toronto is building up, it’s a lot bigger in the States. It’s really nice to see that it’s been evolving and developing here.”
Many young people are even turning to holistic lifestyles; healthy eating and natural hair and skin care journeys. This means slowing down on consuming fast food, embracing and learning to care for their natural hair and stepping away from using commercial products, like Neutrogena and Clean & Clear. Commercial films like “Good Hair” [released in 2009] and “My Nappy Roots: A Journey Through Black Hair-ritage” [released in 2008], contributed to bringing the debate about natural hair and chemical straighteners into the public spotlight.
It’s become common knowledge that hair relaxers cause serious damage, including itching, inflammation, broken hairs, burns, and even hair loss. This influenced more women to give up the artificially-imposed mandate that hair must be straight to be beautiful. This new enthusiasm for natural hair comes at the same time as a major rise in organic and natural-based products for hair and skin.
“I think we’re realizing that we can be beautiful in our natural state.”
She refers to Toronto’s own social media influencers and popular Youtubers in the natural hair community, like Natural Niecy and Makeba “YKnot Keeb”, when speaking about big influencers who are inspiring young people to be comfortable with who they are .
“They remind us that naturally who we are is okay before anything.”
Kayla Foster, 25, began her journey in 2011 during her second year in Media Communications at Humber College. Kayla decided to do a big chop [the process in which damaged hair strands are cut off] after realizing that her addiction to that “creamy crack” [hair perms and relaxers that contain chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide] was starting to have a negative effect on the health and growth of her natural hair.
“I noticed my hair began to thin out from the wear and tear of all those monthly perm treatments,” says Foster, “Due to lack of knowledge on how to take care of my hair, it became harder to manage my hair when I decided to stretch my perm treatments from every month to every 2-3 months. Eventually the stretching led to breakage.”
Kayla is apart of a growing movement of Black women turning away from the harmful routine of applying hundreds of toxic chemicals onto their hair and scalp to make their kinky texture more “manageable” and “physically appealing”. Women have been getting perms and relaxers to straighten out the kinks in their hair or to add curls to their naturally straight texture since, what seems to be, forever. According to the article, “It Is More Than Just Hair: The Importance of The Natural Hair Movement” written by Acquelline Wanjiru [in February 2017], featured on Ghana’s Pan-African media group’s Face2Face Africa, this is a movement that is “fundamentally much bigger than hair” because Black women are “owning a narrative, normalizing the Afro-textured hair aesthetic and dismantling Eurocentric beauty standards”.
“With all the information available online, millennials have chosen to become more aware and are doing their part to educate one another,” says Foster, “Everyday there are POC [people of colour] who are becoming more comfortable with the skin they’re in and the way their hair grows – it’s texture, curl pattern and all.”
This was the beginning of a new lifestyle for Kayla.
Changing her whole outlook on how she cares for her hair and skin.
“I began to watch the ingredients in all my hair, skin care products – even food. I worried about common preservatives found within [these] products. I kept thinking why would we want to put these things in or on our bodies? Do we know how it will affect us after long term use?”
Essentia Candles and Collection is Kayla’s skin care and candle line that she is currently revamping to market as a natural spa collection. She handmakes her candles using soy wax – mixing various scents like vanilla, lemongrass and sandalwood. Her brand is expected to relaunch this summer.
“Most ingredients I use are available in the USA amongst a variety of wholesalers,” says Foster, “In Canada, only one I can say has been a trusted wholesaler whom provides high quality natural and organic ingredients at a reasonable price – New Direction Aromatics.”
New Directions Aromatics is a wholesale supplier of essential oils, soap bases, body butters, candle waxes and spa supplies located in Mississauga, Ontario.
Kayla has been making her own natural skin care and bath products for the past 3 years after stumbling across Pinterest while searching for a new hobby to partake in during her down time.
“The first DIY project that interest me was Cocoa Butter Lotion Bars – I made a few and gave my mother some to try and she loved it. So, I made more and researched other green projects which then led me to making body butters, bath bombs, soaps and my new focus, soy candles.”
Her mothers positive response motivated her to start giving out samples at family and community events and gifting her products. She received amazing feedback and was motivated by loved ones to start selling her products.
T’kehya Prentice-Cupid pursued her creative passions in the same fashion – after receiving positive responses from family and friends. T’kehya is the founder of TK Natural Hair Wigs – company that creates wigs and extensions made to resemble naturally curly and kinky hair. She has been a naturalista all her life and says she was very adamant about not using texturizer to alter her natural kinks.
“I’m grateful that I had an amazing mom that was accepting of that decision [not to perm her hair]. Around that 13-year-old mark I had that conversation, just like the birds and the bees.”
Her mother was her personal hairstylist up until middle school when she began to grow out of the childish hairstyles and started doing her hair on her own.
“To be honest, it’s [the conversation of getting a perm] only important because society makes it important,”says Prentice-Cupid, “it’s shocking that people have those kinds of conversations with their children in general because that’s not something that happens in any other culture – you should be accepting of what’s naturally yours.”
The growth in the natural hair movement inspired T’kehya to learn different variations of styles and the lack of options for affordable natural hair wigs and extensions in Canada inspired her to start her own company. She says she was also inspired by a friend who was diagnosed with a rare form of alopecia and needed a wig that mimicked her natural kinky hair.
“The challenge was making something affordable that looks as natural as possible – once I posted it online people loved it and was like, ‘Oh my God, can you make me one too?’,” says Prentice-Cupid.
On average, T’kehya has three different types of people who are interested in her company. People who are transitioning to being natural, who want to try it out to prepare themselves for the change and those with traction alopecia who want to practice low-manipulation. T’kehya says that a lot more people are turning to an organic lifestyle during their transition to growing natural hair.’
“When you’re transitioning to natural, you’re forced to put natural products in your hair so it gives you awareness of what your putting on your body.”
Toronto makeup artist, N’jeri Foskin says that becoming a naturalista is “a trend but it’s a good trend to be obsessed with.” N’jeri, 24, made the decision to go natural a year ago which resulted in a change in the way she cares for her skin and hair. She turned away from using commercial products because “you just never know” what chemicals are in them. She now resorts to making her own skincare products or buying from Unforgivingly Pur – a Toronto based natural skincare line that supplies handcrafted body butters, facial scrubs, deodorant and more.
“Its pretty easy to find natural ingredients,” says Foskin,
“These are things you can pick up at your local grocery store. Yes, it’s kind of expensive but I think it’s worth it.”
Aside from leaving your home smelling like you’ve been dipped in cocoa butter and misted with vanilla-coconut, there are many benefits to using natural products. One super ingredient is coconut oil. It is a great moisturizer for your hair and all skin types, keeps your skin hydrated all year round and helps repair your skin if applied overnight. It’s a bonus that it’s naturally antibacterial and anti-fungal.
Raw shea butter, tea tree oil, lemon, jojoba oil, avocados, bananas, egg, honey and lavender oil are just a few things you can use to create hair masks, conditioners, facial masks, scrubs and body butters. All of which are healthy, easily accessible, environmentally friendly and beneficial for all skin and hair types.This trend of becoming a naturalista leaves you feeling good about yourself physically and mentally -from the inside out – no wonder more and more millennials are turning to healthier lifestyles.
Check out one of Amanda Maitland’s latest natural hair care videos below: