Wednesday, April 04, 2012

I whip my hair back and forth...

I went natural in the spring of my first year of college in 1993. I was inspired by a friend of mine who had transitioned from a perm to wearing her hair without chemicals, I make that distinction because she still straightened her hair daily and never ever wore it curly. I didn't have a big chop or anything like that, I just stopped perming my hair, and let all the permed hair fall out.

This was before the internet and Amazon even so I had no clue what to do with my hair. I just threw it in extension braids  and that was that. I hated braiding my hair though so as much as I could when I was out of  my mother's clutches, I would leave it out. Now, because I thought natural hair was strong and could take anything, I abused my hair. At the time though, I didn't realize I was abusing it. I combed it all the time and went to bed with it loose and free.  I loved washing it but then it would take me about a week to get it soft and then it was time to wash again. My regimen at the time involved washing it with nexxus humectress or the suave equivalent, conditioning it, and then braiding into four or five plaits while wet. I would oil the plaits in coconut scented petroleum jelly.  I was told by hairdressers without a clue that I was washing my hair too much and all that water was damaging to my hair so I would let it languish, except I would catch a bad case of dandruff or it would get HARD and unmanageable.

My youngest sister's hair was also natural but unlike me and my extensive manipulating, she would just leave it in a big afropuff on the top of her head. She rarely combed it, rarely washed it.  Needless to say, her hair was much longer and thicker than mine. I wondered why my hair wasn't growing, why it wasn't full, why it wasn't pretty like the pictures of naturals I would see in Essence magazine. Actually, I knew my hair was growing. I could see the new growth when I had my braids in. When I was in medical school, I dyed my hair and I could literally see the color grow out of my hair until it disappeared. My hair was growing but I wasn't retaining any length.

Things came to a head for me finally in 2009. I was frustrated with my hair. It was short, I didn't know what to do with it and again, I felt it should have been much longer than it was.  I was so frustrated that I even posted my frustration on my facebook wall.

As life would have it, my youngest sisters had become obsessed with an online forum called Long Hair Care Forum many years prior. I never paid them no mind because they had betrayed me by getting perms, plus I thought the forum was just for permed folks. Finally, while on call one night, I visited the site and was blown away. I somehow ended up on the fotki of Chicoro via black girl with long hair. OMG. Her hair was waist length and it looked similar to my texture while wet. I was so impressed I bought her book full price on Amazon. That's a big deal because as usual I was broke and full price for a book? me? But I didn't care. This woman's hair was long, and I wanted my hair to be long too so I was willing to pay the price.

I learned so much from her book. The first thing I learned was that my hair needed moisture, moisture and more moisture. I was a bit crazy in the early days. I was a moisturizing fool, to the point that I was leaving grease stains on pillows and thangs, just like in the day of the jerri curl. But it was worth it. For the first time, my curls were defined and my hair did not look ashy. More importantly, I was retaining length. Then I learned about protective styling and I stopped wearing my hair out in a puff. Finally, in my quest for protective hairstyling, I got my second weave ever, and I became a weaveaholic for about 2 years. I would still be one now, but ironically, the best weavers for me are all based in Boston. I found two haidressers there who can do the closing so crucial for a full head weave really well. I found it ironic because when it comes to hair, Miamians are no joke. Their hair was always did every week, in all kinds of styles, and you could always find a hairdresser for cheap. I did these amazing braids similar to ghanaweaving for $25 bucks. Killed my hairline but I digress.

I had to let go of my love for combing my hair (which was the main reason I didn't want to lock my hair) Now I only  comb it when I condition it, so maybe about once a week if am being diligent about washing my hair or every 2 weeks if am lazy, like now. Of course with any new thing, it eventually becomes old, and I have backslidden a few times. I was brought up short by a photo I took in August of last year and I went searching again for tips. My hair was wilted and dry and screaming for help.

This time around, I discovered youtube and the many videos on natural hair and I got re-obsessed again. I especially loved Kimmaytube and Naptural85. Inspired by them, I even started documenting what I had done with my hair. I had a lot of time on my hands. I was studying for my boards and unemployed so I basically cooked a lot and played with my hair.

Once I started working I got lazy again. I tried the wig route for a while, and eventually broke down after three years and put single braids in my hair. I had swore off them because I always lose the hair on my edges. Of course, as expected, even though I asked for big braids to minimize damage, I lost a few braids here and there with my hair still attached. It hurt!  Nevertheless, am back on my quest for waist length hair. My routine is simpler now. I spritz my hair with water, oil it with coconut oil and seal with my coconut petroleum jelly. This works for me. I braid it for the night or twist depending on how rushed i feel. In the morning, I repeat and put in a bun.  I thought my job was adverse to my hair so I was putting gel in it and brushing with a boar bristle so it would lie down flat but I swear I could hear each hair snapping so I stopped the madness.

My favorite resources as as follows: 
JC of Natural Haven. This is an amazing natural hair blogger. She is amazing because she actually cites reference articles. I never even knew there were hair scientists doing experiments on hair and stuff.

Blackgirllonghair: The articles inspired me when I was frustrated with my hair, and they led me to Chicoro so I will always love them.

I really want to buy this book very very soon: The Science of Black Hair. My sister has nothing but good things to say about it.  Here is the companion website.

And of course Chicoro, I still go back and read her book. She also mails out weekly email tips.

You could find anything and everything hair here, plus more.

And finally there are some Nigerian hair bloggers based in Nigeria. I am pretty excited for that. 

A hair retrospective. Not the greatest quality because I took most of them with my cell phone. I still have a long way to go. Now that the weight is falling off, and the debt is cut in half, it's time to get obsessed with my hair again.

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