When it comes to natural hair, no two journeys are alike. From when we embrace our curls to how we choose to do so (one of the first big decisions you’re likely to make is whether to go for the big chop or a slow transition), everyone has a unique experience.
A few rules, however, have long been seen as universal: among them, that you should think twice before coloring your hair. Switching to a platinum teeny weeny afro or hot pink puffs is to risk transforming your healthy natural hair into dry and damaged strands.
But not anymore. As I Am’s Curl Color Collection allows naturals to experiment with bold hues while maintaining hair health in a way that previously felt impossible. The six highly pigmented color gels infuse curls with Jamaican Black Castor Oil and ceramides, and provide a bold and vibrant hold for up to one wash--meaning you can change your hair color as frequently as you change your sheets.
Myself and natural hair enthusiasts Sabrina and Amina took the collection for a spin—and we were all thrilled with the results. Read on to learn more about our individual hair journeys, and how As I Am’s Curl Color Collection is helping us breathe new life into our curls, kinks, and coils.
Eden Stuart, Associate Editor, Byrdie
Like countless Black girls who came before me (and many who came after) one of my earliest hair memories starts with the smell of lye and a burning scalp.
After pleading with her for months, my mother finally caved and allowed me—then around 7 years old—to get my first relaxer. Having grown up in Appalachia as one of the only Black kids in all of my schools, I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t feel different. Transforming my thick, kinky hair into long, sleek strands seemed like a way to get a little bit closer to “normal”—and, by extension, beautiful. We took a trip down the mountain to the closest city (the area wasn’t exactly brimming with Black hair salons), and the stylist got to work on giving me the sophisticated Laura-Winslow-on-”Family-Matters” hair of my dreams.
The results were awful. Hair that had previously hung down my back broke off to chin length; my mother was distraught (to this day she tells me she wishes she “had been a better mommy” when it came to that decision). But I was… thrilled. I spent the next 15 years getting my hair relaxed right on schedule every six weeks. The ‘90s of my childhood made way for the ‘00s of my teens, during which my beauty routine consisted of smudged eyeliner, poorly matched foundation, and relaxed hair flat ironed to an inch of its life.
I can’t exactly pinpoint the moment I decided to stop going under the cream. To tell the truth, I think the decision might have sprung from laziness more than anything—I didn’t feel like finding someone to give me relaxers every month and a half in my college town, and even if I could have, my limited finances felt better spent on costume parties and the occasional off-campus restaurant sojourn. Growth played a part, too, and I’m not talking of the follicular variety; I had spent the majority of my life hiding my real hair to fit in. Now that I was truly discovering who I was—and making the decisions that would help me become who I wanted to be—it felt like the perfect time to embrace myself fully, including my hair.
That was around 2011, and I’ll be completely transparent: The last decade hasn’t been all curl creams and deep conditioner dreams. Transitioning from relaxed hair to natural is a process, both literally and figuratively. As someone with high porosity, type 4 hair, I’ve had to shift how I view my own strands. Like many with my hair type, I grew up inundated with messages that it was “bad;” bad because it so easily broke off, bad because it tangled—bad because it didn’t fit mainstream beauty standards.
Today, I know that just like all hair has its challenges, all hair also has its own unique beauty. My hair can so easily transform itself, switching from braids and twists to afro puffs and even the occasional silk press with ease. These days, when I wake up and shape my fro in the morning, it’s impossible not to look in the mirror and think that this is exactly who I was meant to be.
Of course, part of the literal process of transitioning to natural hair is finding the right products. Given the fragility of my hair and the low-maintenance nature of my hair care routine, I’ve generally stayed away from dyes. My only foray into permanent hair color happened not long after I began my natural hair journey; I was getting keratin treatments to help with the transition, and decided on a whim to get a streak of bright red during one of the appointments. The color looked abysmal, and by the time it had finally grown out, I had vowed to never color my hair again.
So imagine my delight when I discovered As I Am’s Curl Color Collection. Not only does it perfectly suit my wash and go lifestyle—just add the cream to hair that has been washed, deep conditioned, and dried—but it’s also infused with ceramides and Jamaican Black Castor Oil, meaning it helps add moisture to your hair. The colors show up beautifully on naturally dark strands, without the need for harsh bleaching agents or chemicals to lift the color, and the shades wash right out when you’re ready for a change—perfect for someone who, like me, is making up for lost time by experimenting with as many colors as they can. My preferred look at the moment is layering Hot Red with Cool Blue for an ombré burgundy hue.
The Curl Color collection has earned itself a permanent spot on my shelf, right beside the As I Am Coconut Co-Wash (a favorite since my earliest natural days) and Leave-In Conditioner. Ten years after embarking on my natural hair journey, I’m discovering even more about myself and my hair thanks to the power of color. And it’s a road I’m excited to travel down… while rocking a variety of bold new looks.
Growing up in the mid-’90s, there were two things I was always sure of. When it came to lip gloss, more was more, and when it came to hair, unfortunately mine was just not "good." Because straight and sleek seemed to be the only celebrated hair at the time, I fought my big, textured hair as much as I could.
By my teenage years I had finally solidified my signature hair (press outs with bumped ends), and faithfully kept up with my salon visits for straight, relaxed roots. Throughout college I even made the drive back home every two months to see my stylist for my relaxer. But as time progressed I noticed my hair was slowly but surely breaking off, and getting shorter and shorter.
It wasn't until my 21st birthday, when a new stylist refused to give me a relaxer, that I even began to consider the ways my thought process was not only damaging my hair, but also my self-esteem. What was so wrong with my natural hair anyway, and what did it even really look like?
I pondered this for another two years before I finally decided to take the leap and learn how to embrace my natural hair. To hold myself accountable, I began sharing the changes in my hair online as I transitioned from heat and color damage to my natural coily curls.
Transitioning to natural hair was an unexpected spiritual journey. I learned to love each step of the process of growing my hair out, all while sharing my findings with the growing natural hair community. Finding great products recommended by curly girls online was my main resource in navigating the journey, and As I Am was one of the top brands put on my radar from the start.
Having reliable products in my hair routine is what truly helped me stick to the process, because the transition from easy-to-control hair to natural hair with a mind of its own was definitely stressful at first. Curl-focused brands like As I Am were always reliable and my hair loved the moisture from products like Hydration Elation and my favorite Olive Oil & Tea Tree Line.
After transitioning and getting a better grasp on how to consistently care for my hair, I knew I wanted to play it up a bit by adding some color. Adding highlights quickly taught me what it takes to maintain healthy-looking color with curly hair, and from there I was determined to find less damaging ways to play with color. Thankfully innovative products like As I Am’s Color Curl creams allow curly girls to experience fun, damage-free hair color. Color Curl has such a lively range of colors, and I love that it’s allowed me to quickly experiment while defining my curls.
As I move through the many stages of my natural hair journey, I'm forever grateful that it has led me to a place of not only self-expression, but also one of self-love and acceptance. I’m thankful for all the contributors who make it such an exciting journey to explore.
I’m a curly hair specialist, but I wasn’t always known as such. Many in my hometown would remember me as the fun-loving girl who always was rocking a straight hairdo. Looking back, I wish I knew then what I know now; curly hair is everything and more.
Growing up in the suburbs of Minnesota, I was the only Black girl in my class. In an effort to not stick out, I gave in and made sure my hair was pin straight every morning just to fit in like those around me. I had to use relaxers to achieve this look, not even caring that I was damaging my hair and scalp with harsh chemicals. I didn’t care that the heat was burning my hair to a crisp. I didn’t care that my curls were essentially dying. I thought because everyone else had straight hair, that was what was in style. That was until I discovered Aveda’s School of Cosmetology.
I knew straight away that I wanted a career in hair and cosmetology. I had always been quite good at styling hair and doing makeup. When I started school, I finally decided to embrace being different. My classmates had all types of cool hairstyles and colors, and I was inspired to start toying around and seeing what new things I could do with my hair. That was when I discovered just how amazing curly hair was. I have extremely thick hair, and I started to play around with it. I discovered that with time and dedication, my hair had so much potential to be healthy and beautiful. I started to focus on deep conditioning and protective styles, and watched my hair grow longer and become healthier.
The one thing that was damaging my hair, however, was the blonde color I kept putting in. If you’ve ever dyed your hair, you know how hard it is to stop. I would get so many compliments on my curly blonde hair, and I was always being asked for pointers. That was when I decided I wanted to focus on helping other curly girls embrace their natural hair.
I moved to Los Angeles on a whim. I knew that I needed to leave the comforts of my home to finally blossom into my own independent woman. I was working 10-hour days, seven days a week; I took no days off. I knew that I needed to work hard and show just how talented I was to make it. I focused a lot on using my social media to showcase my art through my clients and their hair. It became curly girl-centered and I started to use my page as a place for people to be inspired and to learn.
As time went on and I became more experienced, I began to try out many different brands and products that were geared towards curly hair. I was a huge fan of the As I Am Leave-In Conditioner and Coconut Co-Wash, so when I saw that the brand came out with a line of curl enhancing colored gels, I was sold. I stopped dying my hair due to the damage that comes along with it, and this collection proved to be an excellent, healthy alternative.
With As I Am’s Color Curl Collection, you can change the color of your hair as often as you want without any damage at all—and that is amazing! Not to mention, you can mix and match the six different colors to create your own looks. I have extremely dark black hair and the colors still turned out to be super bold and vibrant. My favorite look I created with the collection was a mix of the Hot Red and Cool Blue, with a dash of Sassy Silver. It created a beautiful purple color. I still can’t believe that I was able to achieve a dyed look without the chemicals and damage.
If there is one thing that I can’t stress enough, it’s that your hair needs its health to grow. Learn to work with what you’ve got, and find healthy alternatives to the harsher products that you are used to. Natural is beautiful and once you learn to embrace that, you’ll see growth not only outside, but on the inside too!