Natural is beautiful. See Solange's album cover or the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show for examples. Unbelievable as it might seem, the fight for the right to curls isn't over — there's still bias against it

Hair expert Cassandra Cadwell – a.k.a. Cassy California – believes that all hair, no matter the texture, is beautiful. We were excited to talk to her about this guiding philosophy, tips on hair growth, and her own hair story. 


Cassandra Cadwell Cassy California Natural Hair


BIKINI: How did you feel about your hair growing up? Did you hate it, love it? Can you share a time when it either made your life better or worse – your best hair day or your worst?

CASSANDRA CADWELL: I hard a hard time with my hair growing up. I wore my hair in a ponytail for about 15 years straight — I’m serious! I never felt comfortable wearing it down, and I had no idea how to manage it. In high school, I began straightening it, and that’s when I struggled the most. I did every possible treatment to make my hair straight and used a flat iron every single day. This went on for about eight years. So, as you can imagine, my hair was fried. It was at that point, when my hair was literally straw and about three inches long, that I realized going natural and embracing my curls was just something I had to do. I’m so glad I did.


BIKINI: How often do you wash your hair? What hair products do you use in the shower, and post-shower?

CC: I wash it every couple days, mostly whenever I feel like I need to comb it to prevent tangles! I use Beauty with a Twist Daily Shampoo and Conditioner and their Intensive Hydrating Mask. Their products are sulfate-, cruelty-, and paraben-free. They donate a portion of the profit to the Beagle Freedom Project to free beagles from cosmetic animal testing sites. I think this is incredibly important! Post-shower, I use either Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Leave-In or Lottabody Shape Me Custard Gelée, which is actually my favorite.


Cassandra Cadwell Cassy California Natural Hair


BIKINI: How do you straighten your hair? Any secrets you've discovered from trial and error?

CC: My secret? I don’t! Well, at least very rarely – two or three times a year at most. If you see my hair straight in photos, it is almost definitely – wait for it … a wig! That’s honestly my big secret to perfect, straight hair. It allows me to wear my hair straight with no damage or work! If I straighten my hair — and that’s a big if — I do a protein treatment prior, use a heat protectant, and only ever use one pass of the straightener.


BIKINI: How do you tame your hair at the beach? Do you have a different hair routine for tropical climates?

CC: Bun life! At the beach, my hair is almost always in a bun or two braids. I love protective styling, and it is especially important when you introduce sun, salt, and wind exposure. I also usually opt for a hat. Hair is just like skin, it can get UV damage. Not only does a hat protect my hair, but I’m pretty OCD about my skin and it protects that, too. Win, win.


Cassandra Cadwell Cassy California Natural Hair


BIKINI: You're an expert on hair growth – what are your top tips?

CC: Hair growth should be considered in two factors: actual growth from your scalp, and length retention. Both are equally important. Tips for growth from your scalp:

1. Take a supplement! Taking a vitamin is a huge help in increasing the speed of your hair growth. My favorite is Sugar Bear Hair.

2. Give yourself scalp massages! Scalp massages increase blood flow to the scalp, which increases hair growth, and is so relaxing!

3. Eat a healthy diet full of protein and iron and drink lots of water! What you put in your body makes a huge difference in hair growth.


Tips for length retention:

1. Do not use heat! I can't tell you how important this is! Using heat damages your hair and causes it to break — you will never see growth if your hair is breaking off from the bottom, or if you have to keep cutting off damage.

2. Use a satin pillowcase. Cotton pillowcases are awful, and very drying to hair. Satin is much better, even for your skin!

3. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. One of the biggest components of keeping your length is to keep your ends moisturized to prevent split ends and breakage. I moisturize my hair daily and deep condition every time I shower.


Cassandra Cadwell Cassy California Natural Hair


BIKINI: How do you feel about the natural hair movement, with celebrities like Alicia Keys and Solange Knowles opting to rock their hair au natural?

CC: I think it’s amazing and incredibly important. A lot of people, my younger self included, feel like they have “bad” or “ugly” hair because it doesn’t match classic media portrayals of “perfect” hair. There are much more serious issues, like people not getting jobs or being fired for wearing natural hair. The natural hair movement is so important because it shatters this notion that in order for girls or boys with natural hair to be pretty or professional, they have to straighten it. It’s important to have natural hair represented among those who are idolized. This movement means a lot to me. If one little girl can look at my Instagram or YouTube and think, “Wow, she looks great and happy with her natural hair, I’m gonna do that, too” and have the confidence to feel pretty with her own hair, then I’ve done my part.


BIKINI: What's one moment you remember seeing a celebrity wear their natural hair? How did that make you feel?

CC: For me, either Amandla Stenberg or Tamera Mowry. Amandla, because she is such a powerful voice against cultural appropriation. Her hair always makes a major statement to the natural hair movement. She has a whole speech on her blog about African-American hair and the cultural side. And Tamera Mowry, simply because she documented her entire transition on her Instagram and it empowered me to do the same. Seeing these two wear their natural hair made me feel inspired and empowered.


Cassandra Cadwell Cassy California Natural Hair


BIKINI: What message do you hope to send to young girls, especially ones who have struggled with their natural hair like you did?

CC: About four years ago, I was sitting in my sorority and one of the girls turned to me and said, “Oh my gosh, Cassy, you have to read this article.” The article was an interview done by GQ Russia with the “Human Barbie” Valeria Lukyanova. In the article, she said, “Ethnicities are mixing now, so there’s degeneration, and it didn’t used to be like that. Remember how many beautiful women there were in the 1950s and 1960s, without any surgery? And now, thanks to degeneration, we have this.” When I read that, I cried. Not because I felt as if I was a “degeneration of beauty”, but because it broke my heart that there was a possibility that little girls all over the world, who looked like me, might feel they weren’t pretty because they were mixed. I hope to send the message to young girls, who have hair that looks like mine and struggle with it, that you don’t have to look like media’s portrayal of beauty or a Barbie to be pretty, but that you can just be beautifully you. It’s why I do what I do.


For more tips on hair growth, visit Cassandra's YouTube channel: