When I traded in my straight, relaxed hair for a natural look, it seemed as if my new curls had little to no use for my old hair tools. I had to swap blow dryers and flat irons for a new set of tools that every person with natural hair should own. The last time I had natural hair before now was in the early '90s, an era of hot combs, butterfly clips, and a greased scalp. It was also an era where there was little appreciation or love for natural curls to grow in a free and, most importantly, healthy manner. Fortunately, the rebirth of the afro has given new meaning to styling tools and I must admit, I would be lost without these tools I've come to consider part of my curl family.
Of course, there are plenty of specific products, oils, and butters that my own Type 4 hair needs in order to thrive daily, but these tools are made for every natural-haired person. Regardless of hair type, these tools make styling, detangling, and hair growth more possible than ever before. While I can remember some of my natural hair gear from my relaxed days, others are novelties that my new curls can't live without and I, personally, would never get out of the house in a reasonable amount of time without them.
Here are 13 tools you know you have no business skipping out on.
To be fair, pretty much anyone with hair can benefit from a shower cap. But on the days where my hair is fluffy and beautiful, I know that even a drop of moisture will shrink it right up. That's when these oversized shower caps come in handy: They fit over all of your curls, making sure you're totally protected from the humidity of your shower.
My spray bottles are usually the most visually unappealing things on my vanity: They are often covered in oil and my own hair because I always want to spritz my ends and scalp before I put any emollients on. Wetting your hair every day isn't ideal for all hair types, but everyone with natural hair needs a spritz of water to give your strands the moisture it craves.
3. Bobby Pins
Conair Brush Styling Essential Bobby Pins, $2, Amazon
You may be living in hair-maintenance-luxury with a short, recently cropped-do now, but trust me, bobby pins will still save your hair and style game if you ever decide to grow it out. Bobby pins great for stretching hair length, creation updos, and sectioning. Plus, let's not forget how cute a side part looks on a short 'do with a bobby pin to twist the hair back.
At one point, the sight of an applicator bottle reminded me of relaxers, but now it serves as a reminder to moisturize my scalp, especially when I'm in a protective style for several days. Put your favorite fixed oils in it to directly apply on your scalp (after a nice spritz). I like the tinted applicator bottles so I can add essential oils to make my application smell less greasy and more herbaceous!
Gone are the days where I will put a plastic rat tail comb in my hair; my curls are too tight for the cheap rattail combs I use to purchase. Whether you purchase metal or heat resistant plastic, the quality of your comb will be more gentle on curls and IMO more precise when parting hair.
6. Old T-Shirts
The next time you're offered free swag if you fill out a survey, ask one question: Is the free gift a T-shirt that I'll never wear? If so, fill out 10 surveys. These unwanted tees are great for two things: 1. Laying down on the floor when you're detangling to protect it from any oils and creams you'll be applying. And 2. drying your hair. Old T-shirts retain more moisture than towels and don't snag the fine curls of natural hair the way terrycloth will.
I love my soft touch control clips. They're excellent for applying treatments on wet hair without snagging any curls and great for sectioning big chunks of hair.
Being an avid finger-detangler and in love with my detangling brush, I found no use for a wide-tooth comb... until I needed one. A wide tooth comb is a great way to identify knots that can turn into straight up dreads before you style your hair dry or wet. I like to think of the wide-tooth comb like white vinegar: I almost never use it, but when I need it? There is no other substitute.
If this list was ranked, our trusty satin scarves and bonnets would have been #1. I know you aren't trying to lay your head down on cotton pillow cases and wake up with dry hair and a hundreds of tiny curls on your pillow. The expression "Wrap it Up" before you get into bed shouldn't only apply to sexytime. Always use protection.
I've regretted asking my naturally straight or relaxed-haired friends for a hair tie too many times to not wear my own ouchless elastic on my wrist at all times. Sometimes I luck out, but the times when rejecting the offer causes a slew of "my hair is just like yours" comments (I don't care how big or dense your straight hair is, it's not a competition: I just don't want to use your hair tie) is just plain painful. I like you, I like your hair, I just don't like your hair tie which is actually just an elastic band that my hair will get stuck in my hair after my curls wrap around it.
11. Handheld Mirror
"Is my hair messed up in the back?" It really doesn't matter what you say, I'll always doubt the answer. No one wants to run around thinking they look cute when the back of their hair looks like it was styled by an angry three year old. Fortunately, the handheld mirror was invented long before my curls existed. Whether you're identifying a knot, making sure that up-do is on fleek, or checking on your scalp, the handheld mirror is an extra set of your own eyes.
12. Big Scarf
You know the friend that you never really hang out with because maybe they aren't super fun or they don't love parties, but when you really need support they are the first ones to be there for you? Well, that is the big scarf for me. Sure, I don't love wearing them every day, but there are too many times it's been there for me when my hair is dry, dirty, knotted, or just stressed out. And you know what? Those are the times I vow to wear my scarf more often, because I know my hair will be protected and my moisture sealed. Unfortunately, wearing a big afro is too much goddamn fun for me to commit to a scarf for good.
13. A Camera
I couldn't resist adding a camera to the list! This is probably a tool all of us own, but use exclusively for selfies of our good hair days instead of using it as a hair journal. I realized I wasn't utilizing my expensive smartphone as much as I could be when I noticed breakage on my hairline mid-selfie. I already knew that my hat habit was pulling my hair and it had to be rectified, but once I started treating the area, I had no idea if it was new breakage or my hair was actually growing back from the breakage. It turns out, I had no idea where the exact location was at all. Take it from me, a quick picture when your problem-solving your curls will clear up any confusion.
Image: Andrew Zaeh/Bustle; Kristin Collins Jackson (12); Courtesy Brands