For a few months now, I have been meaning to write this personal story about my hair. Each time I try to, it just seems so personal to put out there. One part is like “why would anyone want to hear you write a long blog about your hair?” There are many other more important things I could be commenting on right now- like the current tense elections and political climate at right now in Liberia, like corruption. like…but hair?
Anyway, today is thanksgiving day in Liberia and I felt I needed to do something with this unexpected free time on my hand that was not work. So, here I am sharing a personal story. And yes about my hair.
For millions of women around the world with “nappy” hair, it’s a constant myriad of emotions and moods about our hair. It ranges from being in love, falling out of love, frustration, resignation, etc.
I am no exception. I used to have a love hate relationship with my hair for years.
From an early age we are conditioned into feeling how “tough” and difficult our hair is to manage. I remember that I eagerly waited to turn 12 to be able to be officially allowed to try the “white crack” on my hair so it could be straight, silky and manageable. Of course, as the nickname depicts, you get hooked. There is a constant cycle of needed to retouch to maintain that full straightness.
In the process, we burn and damage our hair. Over the years, I went through several heartbreaks due to my over use of perms and chemicals in my hair. There is this constant search for the right products. This one is good for black women hair. This is good for conditioning. This one shines. This one moisturizes. Before long we have tabletops full of various hair products, a variety of brands. Always searching. Always unappeased.
Of course I have had my share of hair adventures and experiments. I have cut it, dyed it many colors, permed, over permed, braided and weaved it, too often to even remember.
In recent years, there has been a revolution of the nappy hair. We have come to see it differently.
It is en-vogue to appreciate the various nappiness of our hair. It is actually okay not to be ashamed of the nappy texture but to embrace its versatility. Everywhere I look, I see black women proudly and adventurously trying out new ways to embrace our unique and versatile hair.
Pregnant with my first child, I decided to lay off perm – after reading all those online articles that said it was not safe for the baby. I decided to grow out my hair. And so, I fluctuated between braiding it and keeping it weaved for months at a time. In between, I treated myself to new fad two-finger twist. It was nice, but it was still the constant struggle of going to the salon for hours, sitting for hours to have the hair braided. Then there was the additional hours spent unbraiding it. All of this left me constantly annoyed, antsy, tired and with short-lived appeasement.
After about a year and upon delivery, I got frustrated and went back to my perm addiction. Few weeks in, I was angry and unfulfilled.
So, I resorted to doing only micro braids. For one year, it seemed nice. I had no need for salons for up to 3-4 months at a time. My head was very light weight. But, there was still the stress of sitting for up to 9 hours to get them braided and another 9 plus hours just to loosen them.
You get the picture. I do not have 9 hours in any 24-hour cycle just to do my hair.
Quite simply, I could not afford to do that! Additionally, the hair STILL seemed to be breaking! AND those “100% human hair” didn’t come cheap either.
I was nearly at a point of cutting the hair and sporting a low cut for a few years when IT happened. In January of 2013 I saw a strange hair style on a friend. Samantha lives in Ghana. She was wearing what looked like tiny braids. I kept staring trying to figure out if they were extensions cleverly weaved or braided. I couldn’t figure what they really were. They looked like nothing I had seen before.
I was intrigued.
“Sisterlocs”, she said.
I had never heard of it. She explained that they were strands of her hair interlocked into tiny locs. They were not the usual dreadlocks. I touched them and confirmed they were her own hair. They looked beautiful, felt soft and seemed manageable.
I fell in love!
I knew I had to know more. I googled it. The more I learned, the more I got interested. I found a new resolution: To give myself 6 months within which to research further about sisterlocs, and to figure out if I would still be as interested as I was after 6 months. If I still was, I would try it out and if I did not like it I would cut my hair after a few months. After all, it’s not like I had not cut my hair before, right?
After 6 months, I was still in love. I was still interested. I decided to take the first big step towards locking my hair. I chopped it off. With only new nappy growth, my hair was down to about an inch.
in late May 2013 I made the final decision. My transition began to loc my hair.
Four and a half years later, it has proven to be one of the best decisions I have made in my adult life.
I feel fulfilled. Free. Liberated! My hair has blossomed. My hair and I are finally a peace with each other.
Today, I love the freedom to not worry about sitting in salon for hours and using up my Saturdays just doing my hair. I am also spared the hassle of waking up too early to fix my hair inpreparation for the day or even worries of protecting my expensive “human hair” from damage due to unexpected down pours. I also have less concerns about loosing my hair or its breakage due to various chemical applications.
And, it is quite cheap to maintain. What can beat that?
Except for twice a year when I apply light hair coloring, I no longer apply chemicals to my hair. I use only natural oils. They include, coconut oil, olive oil, tea tree oil and castor oil. All of these I am able to buy at a very low price right in my home country Liberia.
In the years since I locked my hair, it has opened a new and happier chapter in my relationship with my hair. My hair has grown at a pace that amazes even me. In four and a half years, I have gone from an inch of hair when I chopped it off and locked it to 11 full and healthy inches of nappy hair.
Nappy IS pretty.
I am free of the constant stress about what do with my hair in the next two weeks or even the next month. One thing for sure, I will look the same today as I would the next two weeks or the one month. The fact that it is my own hair gives me added sense of confidence and pride in myself and about my appearance. And I look fashionable.
Of course I get stares and compliments about my hair from both men and women. I treat each compliment with a smile. I also cannot say that I do not secretly enjoy the chatter when I go down to the local market and overhear the market women wondering whispers that my hair HAS to be extension or cleverly weaved. I can’t say I blame them. I did the same.
I have had many queries about how I manage my hair. Here are few things I do:
- Wash it about 2x a month. Depending on the heat and sweat from exercise I do it more. But generally 2x a month.
- I oil it once a week (or when I remember hah) with a natural oil mixture I do myself comprising of coconut oil, castor oil, olive oil, tea tree oil)
- Because my hair at the front is very fine and prone to falling off very easily, I try not to do too many twisting and pulling of my hair to cause more hair loss and damage to my front hair
- Retighten every 6 weeks.
We live in a world of stereotypes. My decision has further reinforced my impression that natural can be beautiful.
I am raising a beautiful daughter. And I am inspiring her to accept her hair as unique, rich and beautiful as naturally as it is. Yes, she can grow up and choose to want to perm it, weave it or braid it. But it should be her decision to explore, and one with which she must be content and afford to do. What I hope she will learn is that her natural hair is beautiful and she can choose to keep it as natural as she desires.
Today in Liberia, I am happy to see the various trend towards natural hairstyles. There is an evolving pride in the way Liberian women are wearing and displaying their natural hair.
A whole new industry is developing. There are young Liberian women entrepreneurs like Satta Wahab of Naz Naturals, Thelma Debrah of Kouzoya’s Nature who are making their own natural products and brands to promote the growth and easy management natural hair. Together, we embracing our nappyness in all its unique splendor and beauty.
So what can I say about my love affair with my hair? We are at the happily married couple stage, where you now know your partner well enough to know how to navigate and accommodate each other. You know what you need to do to keep the peace.