Please introduce yourself!
My name is Jaime and I am from New Orleans, Louisiana. I currently live in Switzerland.
Tell us a little bit about your hair story Jaime. When and why did you decide to go natural?
I went natural in 2007, right before I graduated from college. I’d been relaxing my hair since 2nd or 3rd grade. I think for many African-American girls in the South, your first relaxer was a rite of passage. Everyone did it and I remember actually looking forward to it.
When I first relaxed, I remember my hair being long and down my back. But as I kept relaxing, my hair got shorter and shorter. When I was in high school, "Girlfriends" (ed: an american sitcom) was out and Joan Clayton’s (ed: played by Tracee Ellis Ross) hair became almost the center of the show. You had this woman with natural hair on TV and it was beautiful! That's when I started to wear my hair in a “natural look” because it was so textured that even with the relaxer I had a natural curl. Wearing it like that helped the health of my hair because I wasn't using as much heat as I used to. But I'd still drag myself to the salon for a touch up every 5 weeks, and it just didn’t seem normal anymore. I couldn’t believe that ALL women were doing this! It all of a sudden seemed like such a strange concept to me - the fact that I was changing my hair and basically had no idea what my texture was. Additionally, I knew I wanted to pursue a profession allowing me to travel around the world. I didn’t want to base my decision to take an opportunity on whether or not I would be able to get my hair done, so I finally made the decision to cut it. It took about three tries. I tried to do the transition but my hair started breaking off and the textural difference was just to extreme. So I finally just chopped it off and have not relaxed it since!
How important is your hair to you?
That’s a really interesting question! My hair is important to me in that it is mine and I believe it is a woman’s greatest accessory. But then again, it's just hair. I don’t take it too seriously and try not to spend a lot of time on it.
On the other hand, hair can be so political and people (in the United States) may make assumptions about my personality based on the fact that I wear my hair in its natural texture. It is assumed that I am vegan, that I only listen to neo-soul or that I am extremely militant. None of which is true, though I like vegan food and neo-soul music!
How would you describe your hair type and texture?
My hair is very dense, coarse, and dry, with very tight curls. It doesn’t grow down, it grows out and is prone to breakage. I would say it's in the 3c/4a range.
What about your hair and styling regimen?
I'm definitely a wash and go girl. I've never been able to do the two strand twists or flat-iron my own hair. I also can’t do a lot of pin ups because my curls are too tight and the hair too dense to hold in bobby pins. This was the reason I recently cut it again, because it had gotten to a point where I was only tying it up. Now that my hair is short, I usually wash with shampoo once or twice a week but condition every other day. My go-to styling product is the Ouidad Moisture Lock Define & Shine Curl Styling Gel-Cream. I like it because I don’t have to mix a bunch of products together, I can use only that and go. When my hair is feeling extra dry, I may add some jojoba oil into the conditioner but I always wash it out. I am moving away from leave-ins because they are too heavy and keep my hair from fully drying. I don’t believe in hair masques because I have yet to find a conditioner - that I have to leave in for longer than 5 minutes - that makes any noticeable difference on my hair.
Do you have a go-to hairstyle?
At this length, it's the wash and go. I am growing my hair out, so sometimes I “shape” my hair with a bobby-pin or two but now, all I do is wash or co-wash, add product and go.
What do you like the most, and the least, about your natural hair?
I love the freedom I have with my natural hair. I can travel, exercise, jump in the pool and walk in the rain without worrying about what it will do to my hair. However, what I like the least is that it is even MORE difficult to find someone who I trust to do my hair. After a little bit more travel and exposure to other countries, I realized that it wasn’t just black women who relax their hair. A lot of women, and even some men, do. But finding someone who can maintain, style and cut natural hair, especially for people of African descent, is difficult. You can never get the FULL experience in one person - someone who can color, cut, care for, and give you the full beauty experience. That’s the one thing I miss about getting relaxers: the full salon experience. I use a barber right now but as my hair gets longer, I don’t think he will be able to maintain my hair, so I don’t know where I will go!
In your opinion, how different is it to be a black natural woman in Europe vs. the US?
I think it's very different. Of course, the United States is a very big, diverse country and the prevalence of natural hair depends on the region, but in the places where I have lived in the US, natural hair is much more common than what I have seen since moving to Europe. There are a lot more weaves here. But the US natural hair industry and community is so much more developed than, at least, here in Switzerland. The products availability and salon selection is much better in the States. I can go into any drugstore there - like Walgreen’s or Target - and get the products I need, or I can easily get them online with free shipping. Here, you have to use specialty shops and the products are way more expensive. And it's quite common to hear people say they go to other cities (like London or Paris) to get their hair done. However, I haven’t fully tapped into the natural hair community here so I leave room for the possibility that there's more out there than I know about.
Thanks Jaime for answering all these questions! Last, but not least, where can we find you on the interwebs?
I blog at Primebeautymag.com. I love beauty websites and magazines but noticed that for women of color, there is a little bit of “decoding” you have to do. When you read a salon review or a product review, you have to read between the lines to see if it is appropriate for your hair or your skin concerns. So "Prime" is an attempt to collect beauty news relevant to women of color. The salons, our nude, beauty icons and more... all of it goes on the site. And it is linked to my Facebook and Instagram pages as well.