Being Natural In College

The task of being natural is daunting enough as it is. It’s a lot of time, effort, dedication, andddd money. The effort, time commitment, and expenses that come along with being natural anywhere are already a challenge, but imagine all of that with plus the not-as-spacious showers in the dorm bathrooms. You’re not alone if you’re kind of quaking in your boots by the sheer thought of it all.

I have been natural throughout my entire time at the University of Illinois, and I must admit that at first, those showers were posing some real challenges! Being tall with an afro meant that I was kind of ducking and diving the whole time, trying not to get my hair wet when I wasn’t washing my hair and trying to get my hair wet enough when I was washing it. BUT it is possible to be natural while in college even if you are living in a dorm. My freshman year I was able to discover a few tips and tricks to make wash day go smoother and keep up my hair routine.

For one, I was extremely grateful that I had one of those large plastic shower caddies instead of those mesh ones. Wash day always involved combs, hair clips, conditioner, deep conditioner, shampoo, more conditioner. . .you get the gist. Having a larger shower caddy makes it so much easier to bring everything you’ll need into the shower with you and avoid having to set stuff on the ground (because ew). A plastic shower caddy is also much easier in my opinion to clean regularly, which comes in handy when you’re using all of that conditioner.

Plenty of room for all of your products!

Another struggle that I discovered was figuring out what time of day was best for me to wash my hair. Everyone in a dorm is on various different schedules, so before you know it, you’ll notice some peak shower usage times when there are never any showers available. Make sure you pay attention to this! The first time I went to wash my hair and all of the showers were taken, I really got my feelings hurt. Try to figure out when there’s a lot of traffic in the bathrooms and then choose a day and time that fits into your schedule that doesn’t correspond with busy bathroom periods. This way, you’ll never be stuck sitting in your room with dripping hair trying to wait for an hour before a shower becomes free.

The biggest struggle I had my first year at college being natural was figuring out how in the world I was supposed to get all of my hair products when my usual stores were at home. I was used to just buying whatever I needed at Target after school with my mom and being on my merry way, but with the Target nearest to campus being a 40 minute bus ride away, I knew that making that trek just for some tea tree oil was not the move.

Freshman year while natural

Luckily, being put in this predicament actually forced me to look into other hair brands, since the closest location that sold natural hair products was Walgreens. Upon exploring the aisles of Walgreens, I discovered the brand Maui. Finding a place where you can still easily get hair products is key to being natural in college because nothing is worse than being mid deep-condition and you realize that you’re all out of shampoo. Always keeping your go-to products on hand and ordering things that might be a bit farther away also never goes wrong either!

Regardless of if you’re already natural, in the process of going natural, or just thinking about it, I am here to tell you it is possible! Being natural and figuring out what works takes time, but don’t think that your new life in college has to stop you from being natural if that’s what you want to do. Just be patient with yourself (and try not to fight the dorm showers!)

This year’s homecoming game 🙂


Class of 2021
Hey y’all, I’m a History and Gender and Women Studies double major and a French minor from Chicago! I concentrate in all things Black and Black women studies and love long-distance running.


  • Such a great post! I didn’t realize that staying natural through college was a fear of mine. Thank you for your encouragement and tips, I feel more excited to navigate 🙂

  • I recently decided to go back to loose natural hair and i´ve been a bit anxious about going to college and properly caring for natural hair given the conditions. So, when I saw and read this blog post it made me so much more comfortable about being natural in college. Thanks so much!

  • Wow, thank you for this insightful post =)

    I’m from Florida and seeing that UIUC is not really a racial minority majority school, I was worried about where I would go to do my hair and the logistics of hair care over there.

    But you calmed some of my fears and really helped me out, thanks again!