Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Natural Hair Story - #NoHeatDecember

This post is inspired by Vett Vandiver of Real College Students of Atlanta's #NoHeat December Challenge. Read about the challenge there and look at the blogs of the other bloggers who are participating.

Heat, as you may know, can really damage your hair, this challenge is about keeping your hair healthy. This isn't a big challenge for me because I usually don't use heat on my hair since it is too short to style. (Only when it's below 20 degrees since that's too cold to go out with wet hair.) But, I really like this challenge and I want to spread word of it because it touches on something important, embracing yourself as you are.

When I was little my mom would send me and my sisters with my aunt to have our hair braided. I didn't like having my hair braided it was long and boring and painful. Before middle school I started getting my hair permed to make it straight.

In Hawaii with our Hair Braided
L to R: E3, E2, Me!
One of my Middle School Portraits
We can all pretend we never saw this, right?
This looks like a very bad hair day.

Sometimes I would relax my hair at home and burn myself with the chemicals. I'd also burn myself with a curling iron. In high school and college, I would spend at least 20 minutes every other day blow drying my hair and then straight ironing it. I'd spend lots of money on products for my hair to lessen the damage I'd caused using heat and chemicals. When I'd go to have a hairstylist relax and style my hair it was expensive, too. It took a long time to get my hair done and I'd have to have it re-permed every month and a half or so.

Sophomore Year Homecoming
My Hair at its Longest

I liked having long pretty hair and being able to have it style was a plus. But like I said before I spent at least an hour a week making my hair look pretty and I'd spend money on product and tools.

This a a great photo of my hair.

I'd have to bring my supplies with me on family trips because my mom loves photos and she'd put them up all over the house and I didn't want to look bad in them. So I'd have to make space in my suitcase for my leave in conditioner, my hair dryer, and my straightening iron. Think of all the clothes I could bring instead.

Looking Nice in Kauai with the Family
Top L to R: E2, Mom, Dad, Me
From: E3

You can't look nice all the time.
Sometimes a candid photo
captures a bad, bad hair day.

I also had bad hair days. Because I was fighting with my hair when it rebelled it looked really bad (see above). It was hard to be spontaneous when I was worried about blowdrying my hair and making it look nice before going any place nice. My concerns made being pushed in the pool and extra disaster. In college, I started getting lazy and stopped blow drying my hair all the time. But I really didn't like how that looked.

The Pool, So Dangerous

See! My Hair Looked All Scraggly Unblowdried.
I really didn't like it but in College I was too Lazy to Care.
L to R: Me, ET, JR
My husband, then boyfriend, really encouraged me to go natural. I kinda think he just thought it would be cool to have a girlfriend with an afro, but his love and support really helped me find the courage to stop spending so much time worrying about my hair. I was also starting to find my first grey hairs and I was terrified of how my hair would react to relaxer and hair dye. I also knew that one day I'd have children and I wouldn't want them putting gross chemicals in their hair and burning themselves and I didn't want to look like a hypocrite to as of yet unborn teenage girls. So, I stopped relaxing my hair in the spring of my junior year of college. I left my natural hair grow in under my straightened hair (it was not great looking but it wasn't horrible) and I went in for a big chop that summer.

My Hair on a Cruise Post Big Chop
L to R: Me, E3, E2

After getting my hair chopped it was great. There was so much less to worry about. I went on a cruise with my family. I didn't have to bring a ton of hair products, I didn't have to bring a blow drier or a straightening iron. I even forgot my comb but that wasn't too much of a problem since I could use my fingers until my mom found me a cool wooden comb in Italy (the shops on board the ship didn't have any wide tooth combs).

My Senior Year: The Year of Bad Hair Days
This is how your hair will look if you do not cut it for a year.

It took me a while to get used to my natural hair texture. It was a big change. I didn't know any cool ways to style it or how best to take care of it. I didn't get my hair cut at all my senior year of college because the only way I could think of styling it with my cap and gown was in an afro bun. Since part of the reason I went natural was to minimize the time I spent dealing with my hair this was not a good plan, see the above photo. I did not have the patience or pain endurance to pick out my hair into a pretty afro. (I must have an incredibly sensitive scalp.) I wish I would have thought to hop on YouTube (if they even had it back then 5 years ago) and look for hair styling tutorials.

There have been problems. I came home from college one break and my mom said I looked like Angela Davis (while I was no longer a College Republican, I didn't want to be compared to a Marxist in any way). When my aunt came to visit from Nigeria after the big chop she asked me what I'd done with my pretty hair. (I do miss my long pretty hair.) I've also gotten more than my fair share of horrible hair cuts since the big chop. The worst was a hairstylist who told me that I looked like Michael Jackson and then clarified that she meant a young Michael Jackson (that did not help). The haircut wasn't bad but that comparison ruined my day.

My Second Worst Hair Cut
My hair was cut so short that it was
too short to comb for weeks.
I still looked okay but I was so annoyed.

It's been very hard for me to find someone who can cut my hair. Hairstylists seem to have a hard time cutting curly hair. I've had a hairstylist who regularly missed chunks of my hair and I wouldn't notice that a section of my hair had gone uncut until I got home and I'd have to fix it myself. It happened twice then I looked for a new salon. I had another hair cut where the stylist cut my hair so short that I was practically bald. Curly hair shrinks when wet. My hair gets picked out when wet, because my hair is more pliable when wet, and then gets cut. When it dries it shrinks back. On of my friends, a Mainer of Irish decent, with wicked curly hair also has problems getting her hair cut because apparently it is very hard for people to understand curly hair. If you cut half an inch of curly hair pulled straight out the hair will end up being far more than half an inch shorter. I usually ask to have the length halved because half straightened out works out to half when curly. But I just had my best hair cut ever here in town and I am almost excited to go back.

This is about the perfect length.

I really miss having long straight pretty hair. I miss being able to style my hair, but this is more so a problem because I like my hair so short. Overall I am really with my choice. I never have bad hair days anymore. I never use have to use a shower cap while sailing anymore (stray moisture means having to straighten iron all over again). I've saved time and money (I spend the money I've saved on more expensive shampoo and conditioner, though). I have over extra an hour of my life each week because I'm not fighting my hair to make it be something that it's not. My hair is healthy and strong now. It's still dry sometimes but it's not brittle and fragile. I am grateful that my husband supported and encouraged the change and I am proud of myself for sticking with it.

From what I gather, the choice to go natural with their hair is a big one for Black women in particular. But this lesson of embracing yourself as you are is something that all people can benefit from. You are you and you were made the way you are. Why should you have to spend time and money fighting yourself? Why should you put yourself at risk of harm to make yourself be something other than what you are? For example, my mom and I spend a lot of time tanning (my mom more so than I). We should embrace the pale, stop wasting our time baking in the sun, and we should stop putting ourselves at risk of getting skin cancer.

Do you think about how much time and money you spend on your hated beauty rituals? Do you have any horrible haircut stories? (Does it to top being told that you looked like Michael Jackson? I think that this is one of the worst things that has ever happened to me where someone was not trying to be mean.)

PS After I finished this post the first time, Blogger and I working managed to delete it all and going to edit undo would not bring it back. To say I was unhappy would be an understatement. The proof reading on this post might be a bit worse than usual because of my resulting frustration.


  1. This was definitely a wonderful and eye-opening post that I appreciate. Our hair can be a bit more complicated to manage and how it looks natural is not accepted by everyone as "neat" or polished (not that I care about that anymore!)
    Thank you for giving me some food for thought xo

    1. Thank you for reading. I am so happy now since I don't worry about my hair looking frizzy anymore. But I do worry that my natural hair might be hurting my job search.

  2. Oh, look how cute you girls were in your haku leis!!! Love that photo of you in front of your laptop. :) That hairdresser sounds like she has a screw loose. I haven't gotten weird comments, although once, an inexperienced hairdresser managed to get my hair sucked up into her blow-dryer. That was fun.

    I love your current hairstyle. It looks incredibly chic and professional. I spend an hour blow-drying my hair into submission several times a week. On its own, my hair will dry into a frizzy mess.

    1. Oh my! That blow dryer incident sounds horrible! Were you mostly okay?

  3. i love this post! what a beautiful lesson on embracing who you are. i wish i could do it more - with my body in particular. i'm in a fight with it right!

    1. It's hard to do! Our culture tells us all we have to be a certain way to be beautiful (tall, skinny, and blonde seems to be the best) and it's so hard to overcome what we're told all the time. I really don't give my husband enough credit because his love and support have really helped me to love myself as I am more or less.


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