Ask any Black woman who has decided to go natural, and she will most likely tell you that it’s not easy. I have been natural for the second time since January 15, 2011, and, I have had more ups than downs. Especially given the fact that many of us did not grow up wearing our hair in its kinky curly coily glory. I for one didn’t have a chemical relaxer until college, which was a disaster that first time around. Prior to that, my Dear Mom used a straightening comb, otherwise known as a hot comb, to press or straighten my hair. Dear Mom was a pro at wielding that comb. My hair was so straight, it looked as if I had a relaxer.
The second time at chemical services was at age 22, after four unsuccessful months as a natural for the first time. Out of frustration, and, simply lacking the knowledge, expertise and professional services to properly manage it, I acquired my second chemical relaxer. For the next 23 years, I endured all that accompanies the wearing of straight hair via a harsh chemical process: shedding, breakage – especially at the crown, dryness, thin ends, lack of body, and expense. A relaxer touch-up ran anywhere from $50-100, depending on the salon, and, where I was located geographically, which was paid every eight to ten weeks. Additionally, waiting several hours for a service, despite the fact I had an appointment; Black stylists are notorious for double and even triple booking clients. Last, not every stylist is proficient at providing a quality relaxer service, and I have suffered damaged hair on more than one occasion as a result.
Being fatigued with the relaxer experience after two decades, I obtained my last relaxer in May of 2010. For the next several months, I attempted to grow out as much of the relaxer as I could, without sustaining too much damage. The area between the new growth and the relaxed hair is very fragile, and susceptible to breakage. Therefore, I had to handle my hair like a cashmere sweater. Then, on January 15, 2011, I got the “Big Chop”: I cut off all of the relaxed hair, which left me with about three inches of natural hair. I wore my hair closely cropped for several years, until last summer, when I decided to attempt to grow it longer. And this is where the situation began to get especially hairy (pun most definitely intended).
The three most critical issues I have battled over the past six years are dryness, breakage, and manageability. And, with the plethora of natural hair advice out there, via blogs, websites, and YouTube channels, my natural hair has yet to thrive.
Last Friday, I decided to get a good trim. So, I went to my day spa, where there is a lovely stylist who worked on my hair when I wore a relaxer. She is the only stylist there I trust with my hair – relaxed or natural. Although my morale was lifted, and my hair looked and felt so much better, I was still frustrated that my hair was not thriving: still dry, still unmanageable, still breaking off and not maintaining length and growing longer.
I went to visit my Dear Parents and Dear Brother for the long Presidents’ Day weekend. And, I didn’t comb my hair – at all – for the entire weekend. Then, today arrived, and, I needed to do something with my hair in order for it to look presentable for school. So, I asked my Dear Mom for help. She felt my hair, and commented that it should feel softer. However, the back was all flattened and a bit matted, not to mention dry and rather hard. I asked my Dear Mom if I should put something on the hair to soften it up so I could comb it. She said no. Instead, she asked me to hand her the jumbo rake comb I had given her recently. Dear Mom took the comb, and started tapping the hair at the ends to lift it. Then she worked her way up the hair shaft. I could have cried. My hair looked better than it had in six years, and without spraying it with water or applying oil to loosen the tightness of the curl. Not to mention that not one piece of hair – shed or broken – had fallen.
All of this to say: I will no longer follow any of the previous advice that I have spent the past six years following, as none of it has worked for my hair. Precisely because it was not designed for my hair. This very simple fact was the one thing I wasn’t getting, and led me to spend literally hundreds of dollars in haircare products in my quest to find the perfect solution to my natural hair woes.
So, I am releasing myself from the obligation of using oils, butters, juices, berries and other natural products on my hair. I am also freeing myself from perpetually wet hair, styling products, hair boards, and the daily application of layers of product. Instead, I am going to use what has worked for my hair in the past. Which, at the end of the proverbial, was serving me well.