This is Part 1 of an ongoing series, “Condition of the Hair,” where I will process and document my journey back to natural hair health and beauty.
As a Black woman, my lived experiences are viewed through that lens. So the stories shared in this series may sound familiar to a select number of you. Please trust that in confessing my own dysfunction surrounding my hair, it is not my intent to criticize or critique any other woman or her personal choices with regard to hair health and beauty. As an individual, I would never attempt to serve as the spokesperson for an entire group of strong, dynamic and empowered women. I am, however, fully aware that my experiences serve as a single representation of a much larger and important narrative.
I am choosing to post my thoughts in my blog because I am a writer and sharing is an essential part of my growth and healing. If you are tempted to take this personally, please don’t. While some of what I share may sound familiar to you, this post is not necessarily about you. Unless it is, in which case, don’t get mad: Get a shovel and dig in!
I made this video just over 2 weeks ago but I’ve been contemplating the dysfunctional relationship I’ve had with my hair for well over 2 years now. My most recent hair issue started in early 2017. After yet another incident left me with no other logical choice but to cut my hair, I wore my teenie-weenie Afro with an interesting mixture of pride and annoyance. I was proud because I had finally made the decision to do what was healthy for my hair. Still, I felt annoyed because, once again, that decision was thrust upon me by a series of bad choices.
Since 1996, the year of my first big chop , I have gone back and forth between maintaining my thick, natural crown to relying heavily upon chemicals or processes that have not been conducive to the health of my hair. So needless to say, 2017 was not the first time (or 2nd or 3rd) that I had been in this situation.
To be honest, I am most comfortable with my kinky, curly hair. Yet, somehow, I manage to find myself in this cycle dysfunction with it: far more concerned with how easy it is to manage and how it looks than with how healthy it actually is.
Since my first big chop nearly 20 years ago, the pattern with my hair goes a little something like this:
My hair is healthy. I get bored with wearing the same predictable styles and there are no more wigs that suit me or satisfy my desire to look different. I’ve recently moved to a new city or state (yeah, that happens every few years) so sadly, I am not blessed enough to have a stylist who is comfortable or knowledgeable enough to style my natural hair. To mix things up a bit, I turn to my beautician of the season and say, “Hey. I need you to do something that will bring my hair back to life!”
Somehow, the memory of what happened the last time I “got bored” with my hair is buried deep within my subconscious. I only recall it at the very moment that I see a tennis-ball-sized clump of hair in my comb. Then suddenly, I get all sanctified.
Dear sweet baby Jesus, if you just let me survive this color/itchy sew-in/braids so tight that I can feel my brains oozing out of my ears… I promise to…
But I never do. I turn around months later and… Well, you know. Same situation. Same prayer. Same cycle.
So, it’s 2018 and here I am: 45 years old and trying to get my natural hair game strong again. To be honest, I’m ashamed. This feeling has everything to do with the fact that after so many years, I still haven’t figured out a consistent, healthy hair regimen that won’t inevitably leave me reaching for the clippers.
The problem as I see it…
The way I see it, I have gotten into the dangerous habit of loving myself from the outside-in and not from the inside out. I have become fixated with waking up “photo-ready,” so to speak. I have been spending more time and money allowing others to perform services on me that I used to feel comfortable managing on my own. Lacking this crucial aspect of self-care leaves a void that affects me in a real, profound way.
My recent dependency on hair weave is less about me not loving my natural hair and more about me loving the ability to wake up and go without effort. As a result, I have found myself relying on folks who may be licensed to “do hair” but lack the training, time or desire to actually care for my hair in its natural state. The consequence of that has been undesired hair loss, shallow edges and a severe loss of perspective. (For the record, I can list 3 stylists who were indeed exceptions to this rule. I will share more about them in Part 2).
I’m in a space where I want to regain a more balanced, healthy perspective about my natural hair. So, I am asking myself some tough questions. These questions may not lead to definitive answers (or answers that I like) but they will likely serve as the foundation for growth.
- What changes have occurred within me that have led to my dependency on hair extensions and weave?
- What is it about wearing my Afro or rockin’ my twist-out that no longer satisfies me when it used to serve as a source of personal and cultural pride?
- Why, suddenly, do I no longer choose to spend the time or put forth the effort to care for my own hair?
- What hair care products, styles and treatments are unhealthy for my natural hair and which one are healthy?
I am going to spend some time getting reacquainted with my natural hair. The best way for me to do this is to make and take time to care for my own hair. This means that I must be first in line when it comes to washing, oiling, deep conditioning and stimulating my scalp. It means that from this point forward, until I determine otherwise, I will rock my natural hair more than I do a crochet, sew-in or wig.
This means that I will be my own voice of reason, reminding myself that my hair should not be just full of extensions, but a full extension of me! Much like me, in order for my hair to be healthy, it must be allowed to breathe!