Reclaiming My Hair

There comes a time in your life when you have to decide to be honest with yourself. Not sugarcoating anything but being truthful with how you feel on the inside; that way you can learn to embrace the things you wish you could change. I recently had to have this deep and intense conversation with myself. For as long as I can remember I  have always hated my hair. I wished I had longer, thinner, looser curls… I wanted to have “good hair”. Instead I was given extremely thick, medium length hair that I constantly wished would somehow magically change if  I tried hard enough. My childhood was spent sitting  in the beauty salon getting relaxers and spending an hour or two under the dryer to my stylist’s dismay.  I constantly used heat to give me the silky smooth hair that I  desired.

Having hair stylists make remarks about how my hair was too thick to even wash and how it would never get dry, had a damaging effect on my self-esteem. Instead of them giving me tips on my hair type, the negative criticism made me hate my hair even more. At this point I felt as if I could never go to a stylist again because I didn’t want to burden them with my “difficult” hair. My mom tried her hardest to get me to see that the hair I was given was good enough, but I could never see it. Until one day I stumbled upon a Youtube video by Naptural85. Seeing her opened my eyes to a world that I had never even thought I could be apart of. She had the same hair type as me and her hair looked healthy and long just like I had always wanted for myself. On that day I stopped getting relaxers and started my transition.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 10.49.27 PMI knew that I couldn’t keep straightening my hair because it would start to become heat damaged and doing the big chop was something that I was too scared to do so the next best thing for me was to get sew-ins.  Sew-in extensions became my best friend, having my hair in braids underneath assured me that my hair would grow and stay healthy while allowing me to  have  versatile hair styles. This was my comfort zone for many years and instead of it helping, it hindered me. I was no longer waiting for all of my relaxed hair to grow out but rather deepening my hatred for my own hair. As I got into college I would strategically schedule hair appointments so that none of my classmates would ever see me with my actual hair. I would even go so far as to skip class and call off work so I wouldn’t have to be seen without my “hair security blanket”. It got so bad that my hair stylist was pleading with me to stop with the extensions and to let my hair breath. I knew that in order for me to stop running away from my hair I had to run toward it.

On December 20th I took down my last sew-in and for the first time in three and a half years I wore my hair out. The first full day was the hardest, I constantly looked in the mirror at myself as I tried to adjust to this new person in front of me. I felt self conscious as if wearing my hair in a twistout would make me the target of piercing eyes.  I was worried that wearing my natural hair would make me stand out more thanks to the ridiculous standards of beauty that we are taught. Instead of all of my greatest fears coming true the complete opposite happened, I was comfortable.

The stigma that I associated with my hair was gone and I felt like this afro style suited me better than any of the styles I had previously. As each day goes on I’m learning more and more about my hair and how to take care of it.  I know that not everyday will be a good hair day but the more I accept what I can’t change the better my attitude about myself will be.  The India Arie song I Am Not My Hair contained lyrics that made me ponder even more about my decision to accept my kinks and coils. “Does the way I wear my hair make me a better person? Does the way I wear my hair make me a better friend? Oh Does the way I wear my hair determine my integrity? I am expressing my creativity” These lines resonated with me and helped me in the decision to reclaim my hair and to no longer be ashamed of it.

 

 

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LaToya’s Natural Hair Journey

In November of 2013 I received my last relaxer. I did not realize it would be my last until a feeling of guilt came over me as my hair dresser applied the chemical to the very intriguing waves that had started springing out of my scalp. I felt bad for my natural roots. I felt like I was denying them or like I wasn’t giving them a chance.

As I sat in that chair I decided that it would be my last relaxer. I was going to give the “natural” thing I try. Mind you, before I made this decision, I was that girl that declared I would never go natural and would continue to use relaxers until they stopped manufacturing them.

My relaxed hair: Dec. 2013
My relaxed hair: Dec. 2013

I had a negative opinion of my natural hair because I didn’t like my hair when I was younger. I didn’t understand why it didn’t lay flat like the other girls in school. I guess I felt too different. I viewed my hair as ugly and not beautiful. When I was in 7th grade my mom allowed me to get a relaxer. I continued to relax my hair up until my sophomore year of college, November of 2013.

I decided that I would transition instead of doing the BIG CHOP. I wasn’t comfortable with having super short hair. My plan was to transition for two years but just after the one year mark, it became too difficult for me. I was wearing weaves or braids throughout the majority of my transition, but I became tired of that. I wanted to have my own hair out. I wanted to feel my own scalp.

So around the year and four months mark I tried to wear my hair out, but it just did not look right. My roots were super thick and my ends were pretty much see-through. It was not a cute look. So I decided when the semester came to an end, I would do my big chop, or transitioning chop, and I would finally be completely natural.

Leading up to the day, I was really excited but super nervous. I did not know how I was going to look with shorter hair. I had no idea what my hair texture would be, but I was determined to learn to love it.

In May of 2015, I invited some friends over and we had a Transitioning Chop Party! I ordered pizza and we played music. I think this was the best way for me to shake my nerves and to celebrate this turning point in my life.

Before big chop vs. after big chop
Before big chop vs. after big chop

And it turns out, I loved my hair! I was so surprised to see curls on my head. I had no idea that my hair was curly. It’s weird to think you’re 21 years old, and you are just discovering what your hair looks like.

That’s why I think this natural hair movement is so important. Although everyone has the right to wear their hair in a way that makes them feel beautiful and confident, I think it is important that we all learn to love and embrace the hair we were born with. There is only one you and we are all unique in our own way. So embrace every part of you.

It has been 5 months since my big chop and I can still say that I love my hair. My hair is not like anyone else. My curls are just for me and I love them!

Photo by Siu's View. www.siusview.com.
Photo by Siu’s View. www.siusview.com.

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SG7’s Natural Hair Experience

I was a part of a group, SG7, during my senior year in high school. The group was formed for Loveless Academic Magnet Program’s showcase, Showing Our Other Side (SOOS). We stepped, sang, and danced. As of today, we all rock our natural hair. This excites me because we are all able to be a part of the natural hair community, along with sharing ideas with each other and helping each other out. I have interviewed my fellow group members so that they could share how they feel about their natural hair.

Questions:

  1. When and why did you go natural?
  2. What do you like about being natural?

Deborah Bethea: “I went natural the winter of 2010. I honestly did it impulsively. I had heard of it, but didn’t really know what it was about. I am grateful I took the step because I love it. It suits my multi-faceted personality because of the versatility (my favorite part).”

Ryan Scott: “I believe I went natural the summer of 2012 because my hair was VERY damaged from excessive hot tools and relaxers. I like the versatility. One day I can have a curly wash and go and the next a nice blow out, and I know my hair is still healthy.”

Brittany Dallas: “I did the big chop on November 23, 2014. I never planned to go natural. I wanted braids to start off my freshman year in college in order to have a hairstyle that was easy to maintain. So, in order to do that I stopped getting a perm a few months before school started. After wearing braids from August to November, I decided to go natural. I’ve loved it ever since because it makes me feel like I’m doing what’s best for my hair. I find it easier to care for my hair and style my hair now that I have a twa.”

Carla Aviles (Puerto Rican): “Personally, I have always preferred natural hair on African Americans. I don’t know much about what being natural means to different people, but from what I have seen, I like the look of it. I think it is great for someone to embrace their natural hair and be able to do different, beautiful styles with it.”

Kristin Mays: “I went natural in the winter of 2012. I got my first perm in the fifth grade and it started off fine but around the ninth grade, I got a lot of damage. In my junior year of high school I decided to go natural. I love how much healthier my hair is and how many different styles I can do with my natural hair.”

Destiny Turner: “I went natural in September of 2014. I wanted to explore my curl pattern and see what all the hype was about. Plus my permed hair just wasn’t pretty to me anymore. I love the versatility and freedom of my natural hair.”

Although we went natural at different times, we have motivated each other through the wonderful process of going natural.

When and why did you go natural?

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Evolution of my hair regimen

Over the past year or so, the questions I have been getting are “what products do you use on your hair?” and “what is your natural hair routine?” It is always difficult for me to answer these questions because I have tried so many products and switched up my routine several times. At the beginning of my natural hair journey, I only used products that my friends suggested. Well, eventually I realized that everyone’s hair is not the same, and what works for one person does not work for the next. However, I was willing to try all of the products as a source of trial and error, so that I could learn what did and did not work. Although I usually answer the question with the products that I currently use on my hair along with my current hair regimen, I tell them about the products I have tried that did not work for me and why they did not work.

When I first started wearing my hair natural, my hair regimen was very complicated simply because I was doing the most with my routine, especially when I did not know why I was using the products I was using and had read about the somewhere.

My routine consisted of:

  1. Washing my hair with Bronner’s Castile Soap
  2. Deep conditioning with 1 egg and mayonnaise for 30 minutes
  3. Rinsing my hair with Apple Cider Vinegar
  4. Taking three hours to do a twist out with a leave in conditioner, shea butter, and coconut oil
  5. Adding the shea butter and coconut oil mixture to my hair as my hair started to dry out throughout the week

I stuck with this routine for about a year. I learned a lot from the products I was using. I figured out that the protein from the egg and mayo really helped to grow and strengthen my hair. On the other hand, I learned that the coconut oil was drying out my hair; therefore I started mixing olive oil with the shea butter, which really helped to keep my hair moist.

When I saw that my hair was progressing in growth, I switched products and changed my routine.

This routine consisted of:

  1. Co-washing with Tresseme Naturals Conditioner
  2. Using the Paul Mitchell Leave in Conditioner
  3. Styling with up do’s using the shea butter and olive oil mixture

I reduced my regimen when I realized that I only really needed to keep my hair moisturized, and it would grow. However, I switched from this routine when I discovered my hair type. I started using products that suited my hair texture.

My current hair regimen consists of:

  1. Co-washing every two weeks with Tresseme Naturals Conditioner
  2. Shampooing with Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap
  3. Styling using Shea Moisture’s Curl Soufle and olive oil

The evolution of my hair regimen has taught me that my hair texture will constantly change depending on how I care for it. I have also learned the level of moisture my hair holds depending on the products that I use.

How has your hair routine changed? What have you learned about your hair over time?

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Meet The Interns: Kiana Ward

Hello! I am Kiana Ward, a current student at North Carolina A&T State University and I am expected to graduate in the year of 2018. I went natural January 2nd, 2014, and I big chopped.

My deciding factor on going natural was that I just wanted healthier and more even textured hair. I had grown tired of the straight ends and the breakage and I just needed something different. Still today, my perception of myself varies depending on my social group. Some like my curls and others do not. When I receive compliments on my curls, I love them. When there’s criticism, I find myself trying to change my look. I have definitely experienced a difference in treatment since going natural…especially with the guys. But I enjoy my hair either way. It’s mine!

My favorite part of my hair routine would have to be deep conditioning. I love the feeling after you’ve detangled and shampooed. It is amazing. My top three hair products would be Coconut Oil (any brand, honestly),Aquage Seaextend Ultimate Colorcare with Thermal-V Strengthening Conditioner, 16 Ounce( love it! live by it), and Shop CurlyInCollege© – Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk Original Leave-In Moisturizer for Unisex, 8 Ounce.

My top three hair tool…I don’t really use any tools. However, I do use my paddle brush whenever I wear my hair in a bun. Bob Pins are very useful also.

My #MCM has been and will always be A$AP Rocky, and my #WCW is the beautiful Jade Kendle from Youtube. I love you guysss.

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Meet The Interns: Hana Ford

My name is Hana Ford. I attend Temple University and I am apart of the class of 2018. I went natural June 29, 2012, so I have been apart of the natural hair community for approximately two and a half years. I was attempting to transition however I simply did not have the patience so I just decided to do the big chop.

The main thing that made go natural was the overall health of my hair. I was starting to experience lots of breakage and I tried everything to fix the problem, but I just was not successful in doing so. Every since I cut my hair I have become so confident in myself and I have started to value myself for the queen that I truly am. I think other people definitely perceive me as a much more confident and outgoing individual since I went natural.

Since I have cut my hair I think people have subconsciously placed me in a group with all the other women and girls who have natural hair. I have much love for the natural hair community, but I have an identity outside of my hair and each person with natural hair is different in their very own way.

My favorite part of my hair routine is styling my hair because there’s always numerous options. My top 3 hair products would have to be coconut oil, Cantu Leave In Conditioner, and Organix’s extra penetrating Argan oil. My top 3 favorite tools are my fingers of course, a Denman brush for detangling, and a wide tooth comb so I can pick out my fro from time to time.

My current #WCW is the model Wakeema Hollis. She’s absolutely stunning and she rocks her natural hair in photo shoots which I absolutely love. My #MCM would have to be Pharrell because he is both timeless and ageless and he’s an icon in the music industry.

 

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