It’s nearly my 4th natural hair anniversary, so I thought I would take you through my journey. You may or may not understand the significance of a hair journey, but I am hoping that by the end of this post you will.
The relationship I had with my hair started off as a hate one, but then blossomed into one of love. My story begins in 1993. Like everyone in this world, I was born in my natural state with my natural hair. When I was younger, my mother cut off all of my hair several times because like a lot of afro hair, it got tangled easily and was difficult and time consuming to comb out and tame. Then from about 5 years up until I was 15, I kept my hair in braids. My monthly visit to the hair dresser was routine. I would sit for hours on the floor, strategically placed between the hairdressers legs as she tugged and pulled on my curls, taming them and putting them away into neat lines, so I wouldn’t have to deal with it daily. When I reached my teens, the idea that I wanted to have my hair out all flowy and pretty, instead of unattractive lines and pineapples (if you know you know) manifested. Like almost every teenage girl, I wanted to look pretty and feel attractive. But In my head, I faced a problem. Even though it was quite long, my hair was puffy and therefore ugly, and I felt unattractive. I wanted it straight and silky like my friends who had recently had chemical relaxers applied. This is when I convinced my mom to give me my first relaxer in late 2008. A relaxer is a type of lotion or cream generally used by people with tight curls or very curly hair which makes hair easier to straighten by chemically “relaxing” the natural curls. The active agent is usually a strong alkali.
I was ecstatic. After relaxing my hair, it was magically manageable! I could wear my hair straight and flowy all the time, combing time was reduced by 90%, and most of all, I felt I was pretty. I was happy with my hair after this for a really long time.
But everything changed when I was 19. I was on my summer holiday in London in 2011 when I distinctly remember my cousin Hari asking me why I dint wear my own natural hair and why I relaxed it. For some reason, this question really unsettled me. Thus began a journey of self reflection. Why did I relax my hair? Because I felt my own hair was inadequate and ugly. But why did I feel this way? We live in a society where hardly any black woman wears their hair in their natural coily, curly or kinky state. I have several aunties and friends who either constantly wear weaves or wigs, or chemically relax their hair. You see the same thing on TV and the media. How many black movie stars and pop stars do you see wearing their hair in their natural state? So imagine a black girl growing up in such an environment? Do you expect her to love her hair when she sees you not doing the same?
We live in a society where being ‘lightskin’ is desirable and where ‘good hair’ is a looser curl pattern. This list goes on. This all boils down to the fact that our perception of beauty has been skewed by years of slavery and colonialism, where there is an underlying unconscious belief that caucasians are superior to and more physically desirable. I’m sure many of you who read this will disagree, but I ask you to ponder on it, and ask yourself why. Why do so many black people not feel confident enough to wear their hair in their natural state? Now I want to clear something up. It’s okay if you occasionally want to wear a weave or a wig. But the important thing is that you are comfortable going out in your own natural hair. Natural hair shouldn’t cripple you.
The point I’m trying to make is that I was able to reflect on my reasons for relaxing my hair in the first place, and these reflexions made me confident enough to begin transitioning and stop chemical relaxers, and finally do the big chop in 2012, and begin a journey of self love and acceptance, much deeper than hair. Since then, I have grown my hair past my shoulders despite cutting it several times. My favourite way to wear my hair is curly in a wash and go, but I also enjoy braid outs and I occasionally flat iron my hair. My hair sometimes annoys me, but I have learnt to essentially love all my kinks and curls. I hope that my journey can encourage yours, if you haven’t embarked on it yet.
1 – Before relaxers, when I wore my hair in braids all the time.
2 – After I relaxed my hair in late 2008 – picture taken in 2011.
3 – Whilst transitioning. I stopped applying heat to my hair and just wore my hair like this. I din’t know anything about braid outs or twist outs, so because my curl pattern was messed up from the chemicals, my hair always looked ratchet when left out. I wore it away from my face a lot. I transitioned for about 7 months. During the 7 months, i cut at least 3 inches off every 3 months.
4 – The big chop. I did it myself at home one night very randomly, when I became too excited to wait any longer. My mom helped me do the back of my head the next morning. I was in love with my hair. I liked how coily it was, how full it was and how surprisingly easy it was to take care of.
5 – A year and a half later, my hair grew really long. I mostly wore it in a wash n’ go (on the right) and had on straightened my hair 3 times since the big chop.
6 – After around 2 years as a natural, I became worried about split ends, whose madness drove me to go to the hair dressers who cut a massive chunk of my hair. I was pushed back a lot in terms of growth. It’s at this point I decided to start trimming my own hair.
7. These last 2 pictures show my hair in it’s current state. It’s longer than ever and still healthy, despite colouring my hair in the summer of 2015. As I said, there are days when the state of my hair annoys me, but the versatility of natural hair is wonderful, and once you learn how to cope with it and take care of it, you will be fine.