Tips for healthy natural hair

A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life- Coco Chanel

Michelle Anyango did the big chop in July 2015.

“My hair had suffered a great deal of heat damage. Although it was long, the size of a bra strap, it was very thin. Sometimes it fell out while I combed and this was very frustrating. One day after undoing some braids which I had had for one month, I took one look at my shrivelled hair and went straight to the barber shop at the student centre.”

She narrates that the barber was very hesitant to cut her hair. It was long and despite Michelle’s claims that it was thin, the barber did not think so.

“We sat at that kinyozi for close to an hour while he interrogated me. He asked whether I was sure that I really wanted to cut my hair. He even proposed that I go back and think about it for some time, just to be certain. I found that hilarious, but remained adamant. He realised I was serious and so he got chopping!”

Michelle did the big chop in 2015 and has been managing short natural hair ever since. PHOTO| COURTESY

Shortly after, Michelle decided to start a blog—Nywele Chronicles-- to document her hair journey. The actuarial science graduate shares her experience and gives us tips for rocking healthy natural hair.

What inspired you to start the blog, Nywele chronicles?

In November 2015, shortly after the big chop, I felt compelled to have a hair journal to track my hair growth. Remember, the idea to shave was so that I would reclaim my dense hair; I always had thick dense hair before the heat damage occurred. Adjusting to short hair inspired me to try out different hairstyles and I also discovered head wraps.

I experimented a lot, took plenty of photos and videos then plastered them generously on social media. Being in campus at the time meant I had a lot of free time in my hands and so I was posting photos regularly.

People would react to the posts and some took to the comment section asking how I had come up with a particular hairstyle or head wrap.

In response, I always referred them to my log where I post step-by step hairstyling tutorials.

What was your greatest fear starting the blog?

I must say, my insecurities made me almost hesitant to put myself out here on the online space. I have witnessed people being cyber-bullied and I feared that that would happen to me too.

Three years down the line, I thank God that I have been spared of such cruelty. The other concern was I am naturally a very shy person.

Blogging has actually helped me overcome some of the shyness. I always laugh whenever I come across the first videos I shot while starting out.

One of Michelle's head-wrap designs. PHOTO| COURTESY

Did you have a particular audience niche in mind for your content?

Oh yes I did. You see, being a campus student meant that I was well acquainted with shoe-string budgets. I wanted people to know that they could have healthy, beautiful, natural hair without breaking their bank account. To that end, my target was people who were looking for an affordable way to rock lovely hair.

To date, I am always on the lookout for the best bargains for quality hair products and I guess this is one of the reasons Nywele Chronicles fan base keeps growing.

Before we get down to matters hair, what has been your blog’s greatest milestone so far?
I post a lot of hair tutorial videos, so I had to open a YouTube channel linked to the blog, it also goes by the name Nywele Chronicles. When it hit 1000 subscribers, I was over the moon!

For me, that was such a breakthrough, an endorsement that I was doing something right. Currently, the channel has over 3000 subscribers.

What are the top three FAQs you encounter from your followers regarding hair?

Just three? (Laughs) Well let’s see… Most people ask whether hair products actually help the hair grow longer. My answer to this is that if it reads so on the label—assuming you bought quality products not counterfeits—the product will spur your hair growth.

The only problem is most of us are not really wired for patience and may not notice the slow but steady increase of our hair inches.

The other frequently asked question is: How can I make my hair thicker? From my observations, genetics really contribute to hair thickness or thinness and so naturally, if your hair is genetically thin, there isn't much you can do to thicken it. However, hair is continuously growing and if you ensure that every new strand that grows out of your hair scalp is well maintained and protected from breakage, you might very well spot thick hair despite your genes.

I am also asked; how can I get my natural hair to be "soft"?

Moisturise and seal. Water is the best moisturiser but you can also use products that are water based and have aqua /water as the first ingredient.

Lock in the moisture (seal) using organic oils such as olive oil for better results.

Michelle Anyango runs the blog Nywele Chronicles that educates people on how to maintain healthy natural hair. PHOTO| COURTESY

Many people are out here clingy desperately to the ever elusive edges, any tips on how they can conquer this battle?

Can we stop with the tight braids please? So many people don't have edges because of the tight braids and cornrows, strenuous hairstyles that at times even give one a headache! If you already have a receding hairline caused by hair breakage, make castor oil your friend.

Applying it on the damaged are sparks growth of new hair. Then, I can’t say this enough times, stay away from hair-styles that pull the fragile hair on your hairline.

You are also into hair accessories-- a fast catching trend—any tips on the best way to accessorise in style?

My personal recommendation is gold bobby pins. I simply love how you can wear them different every day and have this whole new look; the diversity of it all does it for me.

What are your top five tips for rocking healthy natural hair?

Healthy hair is as much an inside job as it is outwardly therefore watch what you eat. Ensure you eat your proteins as part of your healthy and balanced diet. Did you know that hair is actually made up of some of the protein processed in our body?

Sleep in satin head wraps and if you prefer not wrapping your hair while sleeping, ensure your pillow is made of satin material. Other fabrics tend to absorb the hair oils as we sleep and that can make your hair dry out.

Make a habit of moisturising and sealing your hair with natural oils such as olive oil, coconut oil or even avocado oil. This will keep your hair radiant and give it a deep natural glow.

Many of us do not like to hear this, but trimming your hair at least twice a year is very good for your hair. It ensures that the hair grow evenly and rids you of weak edges.

Lastly, and we have already talked about this, steer clear of any strenuous hairstyles. I understand that those tightly woven braids look very neat, but you will not keep them forever now will you?

The day of reckoning will come upon you when you finally undo them and to your horror of horror they come off with tufts of your own hair!

Moisturising the hair with water and sealing it with organic oils keeps it radiant and healthy. PHOTO| COURTESY

You know I have to ask this…your thoughts on weaves and wigs?

I don't like weaves. I recently got my first wig and can't help but wonder why I didn't get one sooner. Wigs are life savers for the days you can't deal with your hair.

That said, women should feel free to rock their hair as they choose, as long as you love it; do you sis!