Curly Nikki Breaks It Down

In the world of natural hair blogs, there are everyday hair diaries, and there are bloggers who are regarded as gurus. Whose opinions are more widely respected and sought out than others. One of the most highly regarded natural hair bloggers is Nikki Walton, better known as Curly Nikki.

To say that her blog is informative, is an understatement. Nikki takes the time to offer guidance through the kinks and coils, to connect the dots between hair care and self esteem. I was lucky enough to interview her for both Afrobella and Black Voices — but you can read it here first!

How long have you worn your hair natural? What led you to natural hair?

I’ve been natural my entire life! I was blessed with parents that didn’t believe in relaxers. My dad, who has fine hair, experienced breakage after a Jehri Curl gone wrong (was there ever one ‘gone right’?!), and vowed that his children would never be exposed to such harsh chemicals.

Although my mother wore a relaxer, she told me that I’d have to wait until 18 to make that decision for myself. I didn’t appreciate it then…but wow! I was truly fortunate.

For the first 18 years of my life, I solely wore old school press and curls. My hair was long, and generally healthy since it was straightened with moderate heat (and heavy grease, lol), bi-monthly at a salon.

When I moved away for college, everything changed. The rural area I lived in was more than three hours from my home town, and unfortunately didn’t have Black stylists. I was left to fend for myself.

After two years of frizzy, poofy hair, I purchased an expensive flat iron on-line…this single act, was the beginning of the end, lol. In years past I had to attend parties, Kappa balls, and conferences with hair that wasn’t up to my standards (anything less than bone straight).

My boyfriend had witnessed (in agony) the rise and fall in my self-esteem and mood as my hair changed (from straight to poofy) throughout the month. It was sad, but true. But the flat iron provided solace, I finally had bone straight hair all the time and I felt FIERCE.

If I only then, what I know now! Flat-ironing dirty hair, repeatedly going over the same section, not deep conditioning, or properly moisturizing…these mistakes led to white dot breakage, splits, and chronic dryness.

It was at this point that I put down the flat iron and started exploring my natural/curly options. Fast forward to graduate school, and my natural ‘do was in full swing! I had found and I was becoming more and more confident in my big hair.

It was a journey (physically and mentally), but here I stand today. I haven’t straightened in 2.5 years, and I ONLY feel like me when my hair is as big as I can be!

Your blog is totally dedicated to hair and is so amazingly informational. Do you have a background in hair? Talk to me about what led you to start your blog.

No ma’am, I have no formal training whatsoever. All of my knowledge comes from the countless hours I spent on the web researching all things natural hair.

The science of it (people had led me to believe that Black hair was a totally different animal…in a way, hair is hair, it’s a material fact, not a social fact), ingredients to avoid, styling options, and nailing down a routine to foster healthy growth. It became a passion I was spending more time researching hair than I was studying!

I also became intrigued by the reaction I received from family and friends when I first stopped straightening. I was accused of “trying to fix something that wasn’t broke”, and sacrificing my future career!

All because I stopped flat ironing! I received rude comments from peers, and one family member consistently reminded me that I needed to ‘comb my hair’. It was hard enough mentally transitioning on my own, let alone dealing with the hang ups of those around me.

I became intrigued by this straight hair standard, and actually began studying it in graduate school. In 2007, I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a masters in psychology.

In my practice, I regularly counsel women through depression, low self-esteem, and image development. Hair comes up more than you think!

My mission is to provide balance between physical beauty and personal esteem in a way that defies societal norms–whether I have a client on my couch, or communicating with a reader via email.

I realized that for most newly natural women, the only safe haven and source of support is on-line in such forums as NaturallyCurly, Nappturality, and LongHairCareForum.

I frequented NaturallyCurly I loved the friendly atmosphere. The women there quickly embraced me, taught me lots, and soon came to anticipate and respect my advice! I was asked by many so start a blog, and after initial reservations, I took the plunge!

I recently moved from Miami to Chicago, and I’m about to encounter my first winter! Any advice for me re: winterizing my hair routine?

Regimen tweaks are truly something to consider as the seasons change — your curls, which are already prone to dryness, crave even more moisture the cooler and drier it gets.

It is advised that we avoid humectants in the winter. Common humectants include honey, glycerin, panthenol, hydrolized wheat protein, and propylene glycol. These ingredients are great summer staples they draw moisture from the humid air into our thirsty strands.

But during the winter, they have the opposite effect, potentially drawing out the moisture from our strands into the dryer atmosphere. For this reason, I shelf many of my favorite conditioner stylers until summer rolls back around. I recently wrote an article on Winter Routines, and recommended the following:

-Curl Junkie Rehab Moisturizing Hair Treatment
-DevaCare One Condition
-Jessicurl Aloeba Daily Conditioner
-Jessicurl Too Shea
-Jessicurl Weekly Deep Treatment
-Aubrey Organics Honey Suckle Rose
-Herbal Essence’s Hello Hydration or Totally Twisted (Walmart)
-Generic Value Paul Mitchell the Detangler (Sally’s)

-Jane Carter Solution Nutrient Replenishing Conditioner
-Curl Junkie Hibiscus and Banana
-Miss Jessies Creme de la Creme
-Oyin Honey Hemp Conditioner
-Generic Value Matrix Conditioning Balm (Sally’s)

Remember to seal in your water-based moisturizer or conditioner with shea buter, castor oil, or other emollients. This will protect your ends from the harsh winds. Weekly deep conditioning treatments won’t hurt either! During the winter months, replenishing moisture should be your top priority!

For anyone new to your blog, is there anything they should know? Any particular posts you highly recommend that people should read?

My mission in a nutshell is to educate, inspire, and motivate. I want to help people see that natural hair can be just as beautiful and just as easy to maintain as relaxed hair…it just takes some patience, and some re-learning.

CN features styling tips, inspirational stories, celeb interviews, and product reviews. I feature all hair types so that every reader has representation and can find a head that looks like theirs — for styling tips and product suggestions.

I do my best to provide information in a fun, yet thorough way. At some point, I’ve had all the same questions as my readers, so I do my best to answer in a way that would’ve satisfyied my curiousity back in the day.

I feel that I’m successful because I approach topics like a novice, gathering the when, what, whys, and hows, and then synthesizing it for everyone else. I save folks the extra foot work.

One of my favorite posts, is actually not an article, but a compilation of the compliments my readers receive about their natural hair. It’s very inspirational, and generally a feel good read.

Black hair has been big in the media this year. What do you see in the future for black hair?

It may be a lofty notion, but I see natural hair becoming the standard. Today’s natural hair will not go the way of the Fro. Mainly because natural hair today is more of a lifestyle than it is a political statement or movement of some sort.

Women are becoming educated on the dangers of relaxers, extensions, and other excessive forms of manipulation, and are consciously striving to learn to care for and maintain their natural textures.

Eventually we’ll reach a critical mass–natural hair will replace the straight hair standard in the media, in the workplace…everywhere. Our love for our various textures, will spill over into the majority, and they will have no choice but to accept it.

Natural hair today, is simply one part of a fulfilling, healthier, fabulous lifestyle! A girl can dream, right?!

What does the future hold for Curly Nikki? Any plans for the site? For yourself? Share!

Haha! The future is bright! I have plans for the website…but they’re top secret at the moment. I hope to continue to grow and become one of the primary resources for transitioning and natural women.

As far as my day job, I’m fully licensed as of this month! I’ve been offered partnership in a practice where I’d counsel plastic surgery patients coping with body image issues, and depression. I’m incredibly excited and can’t wait to get started!

What are your favorite products at the moment?

I can’t live without DevaCare One Condition, Jessicurl Weekly Deep Treatment, Herbal Essence’s Totally Twisted, henna, and unrefined Shea Butter.

So there you have it — product recommendations, hair advice, and the word on natural hair according to Curly Nikki. I’ve got more great interviews with bloggers of all hair textures coming up, so if this didn’t answer some questions for you… hang in there! There’s more to come!

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