I Haven't Put Heat on My Hair in 5 Years—Here's How I Finally Cut the Cord

One of the first memories actress Tiffany Boone can recall about making the decision to go natural is her then-agent—also a black woman—expressing concern that Boone wouldn't be able to book as many roles if she did it. "It was revealing to see how so many of us black women have our own issues with our identity and what it means to have straight hair or curly hair and how that changes people's perception of us," she told Who What Wear. "And then we put that on each other. We burden each other with whatever we think it means to have straight hair."

Such is the struggle for countless black womxn grappling with the decision to go natural. Unfortunately, we live in a world where every part of black and brown existence is subject to such intense policing and scrutiny that even the seemingly minor choice to change our hairstyle is often seen as an act of militant defiance. From our full lips to our curvy thighs and right on down the kinky strands that sprout from our scalps, black womxn are harshly judged and made to feel less than. And although the natural hair movement has gained immense traction over the last few years, it's still a wildly unfair reality that making the decision to embrace our natural hair textures comes at the steep price of weary stares, uninvited touching, and even professional repercussions.

In case you're wondering, things are working out just fine for Boone. It's been 12 years since her last relaxer and five years since she decided to end her relationship with harsh heat styling, and the numerous credits she's added to her CV since then include roles on Grey's Anatomy and The Chi and, most recently, as Roxy Jones on Amazon's new drama series Hunters. You'll also spot her in Hulu's upcoming Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon-starrer, Little Fires Everywhere. Suffice it to say, her career and her hair are thriving.

But it's not without some struggle that Boone has gotten herself to a place of hair acceptance. Ahead, check out her top five tips that have helped her embrace her curls, from at-home care to navigating Hollywood. 

Tip #1: Be patient.

Boone's first piece of advice is a virtue we can all use a little more of: patience. "Your hair is going to change a lot. The curl pattern is going to change, and you're going to have to learn a lot. So just be patient with yourself and your hair," she says. An area that's required a lot of patience is learning to settle into extended deep-conditioning sessions. We're not talking 10-minute treatments in the shower. Boone says she regularly slathers her hair in a homemade concoction of mayonnaise (yes, actual mayo!) and honey for hours on end as a protein treatment to strengthen her hair.

"I'll mix mayonnaise and honey and put it on wet hair, put a cap on it, and go. I've gone to lunch with friends like that with a wrap around my hair or a hat on. It's cheap and so easy. It can smell a little weird, but once you shampoo it out, you're fine," she explains. 

Said patience extends beyond the self, though. It also means having patience with the process of acclimating hairstylists to our preferences, and for Boone, that's meant teaching stylists on set how to treat her hair. "I'll sit under a hooded dryer or I'll use a diffuser attachment on a blow-dryer, but I haven't straightened my hair since 2015," she says. "I've had a couple of conversations with hairstylists so they know that I don't put heat on my hair, but because I've been auditioning with my hair curly and natural, it's never really a thing where they're trying to straighten my hair. They like me the way I came into the audition, so they mostly just want to learn how to maintain what I already came with." 

Tip #2: Hydration, hydration, hydration.

"I switch shampoo and conditioner quite a bit, but my favorite right now is the Mane Choice Detangling Hydration Shampoo because my hair can get dry. I love to use this shampoo because it's really moisturizing," Boone told us.

In terms of conditioner, Boone loves the Shea Moisture line. Its hero ingredient is shea butter, which is a nourishing and deeply moisturizing natural ingredient for the hair and the body, too.

"It's also really important to use great leave-in conditioner," Boone says. She's currently reaching for this Kinky-Curly detangler that has tons of smoothing, hydrating ingredients like organic mango extract, organic slippery elm, organic marshmallow root, and organic lemongrass.

"For me also depends on the time of the year. If it's cold outside and your hair gets super dry, you might need another set of products than for when it's warm outside," Boone says. But all year round, she loves the styling creams from the curly hair experts at Miss Jessie's.

Tip #3: Find protective styles that work for you.

"I love twists, but other people love braids, wigs, or weaves. Don't be afraid to experiment and have fun with protective styling," she says. Whichever style you end up choosing, it's important to make sure you regularly oil your scalp to keep it healthy and flake-free.

"I'm obsessed with Marley twists," Boone told us. "If anybody goes on my Instagram, they'll see that in half of the pictures, I have Marley Twists. They're so easy, they're fun, and I can change up the colors." This versatile protective style is super low-maintenance, but you'll want to have a great edge control on deck to smooth down those baby hairs.

This boar-bristle edge-styling brush is super small and perfect for precise baby-hair styling.

Tip #4: Always wear a bonnet or a head scarf at night.

"Stop trying to look cute for your man and protect those curls," Boone laughs. 

Sleeping with a satin bonnet protects the hair against snagging and breaking on cotton pillowcases at night. They're not the cutest hair accessory in the world, but totally necessary for maintaining healthy hair.

There are endless satin scarf options out there for sleeping, and they tend to be pretty inexpensive. 

If you're worried about getting too hot, a more breathable mesh option like this one is really helpful.

Tip #5: Know that you aren't alone.

"I remember when I first transitioned [to natural hair], my friend, who was already natural, took me to this event at a loft in downtown L.A. where it was just a bunch of black women talking about what they did with their hair and which products they used. It was just so fun to see everyone sharing with each other," Boone recalls. She encourages everyone to seek out their local natural hair communities and also to explore the endless resources and information available online.

Up next, 14 black thought leaders defining cool-girl beauty right now.