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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Nappy love ... my natural hair journey

Now I am a believer in love 'at first sight/date/glance'. What do I mean by that? I believe in a clicking and knowing that can happen almost immediately between 2 people, and then based upon that, both get to know the other person better, and have 'the unity' grow. This can be a 'love' relationship or a friendship.

However, I have now also discovered that real love can grow from a history of initial mutual indifference bordering on almost disdain. At least, that's how its been with my hair. Nappy coarse hair and I have finally fallen in love after decades of disdain, neglect, abuse and almost contempt. 

As a child, I HATED my hair. It was coarse, very nappy, tangled easily and was a tearful nightmare to comb. So when I first got it relaxer at 15, I was an ecstatically happy camper. When said hair grew and grew until it flowed past my shoulders and was a pretty decent length down my back, I KNEW I had made the right choice. So what if it needed the strongest relaxers possible because its tight coarse curliness resisted chemicals? So what if the chemicals had to be left on wayyyyyy past the recommended time until my scalp burnt otherwise the relaxer wouldn't take? So what if the poor hair got a lil more brittle and dryer as the years passed. Who cared? It was straight AND easy to comb AND long! 

Then I had a bad relaxer experience and over a 2 week period, the relaxed hair broke off from the new undergrowth. Luckily my hair grew fast so I did have some fresh undergrowth (aka the new hair growth after the hair is relaxed). I rushed to the doc panicked (a whole different blog note!!), but he said the natural hair itself was fine and I had probably just had a bad reaction to the chemical relaxer used. Mega sigh of relief as at least I wasn't going bald! So I chopped it off and spent the next three years braiding my hair (which caused damage to my hairline). But my natural hair grew back in long and thick. 3 years later, it was again down to my shoulders - but I noticed something odd - my natural hair structure seemed to be permanently changed. While it was still coarse and nappy, it was also softer and much less tightly curled even in its natural state and it was growing in longer than it ever had before chemicals. 

Buuuuut, stupid me plunged back into the craziness of chemicals, braids and the occasional weave. This time around, my poor hair did not do so well. It stayed long but began to lose some fullness. I also had my hairline screaming from the weaves and braids especially.

Finally 3 years ago, I decided no more chemicals. I hadn't relaxed it in almost 6 months at the time and I simply could not face the thought of the pain of a burnt scalp again. Being the stubborn me that I am, I also refused to chop it off and decided I was going to transition it with braids and the occasional weave, and simply snip off the relaxed ends every time I re-did the hair.

This worked well, but braids and the occasional weave were further destroying the fine hairs of my hair line. With great trepidation, for about 3 months last year, I tried wearing it in an Afro. The Afro was cuter than I thought it would be and seemed to work, but my poor hair was so unused to the freedom of sunlight, air and naturalness, that I lost about half of it over 3 months (a lot of black women trying out an Afro the 1st time have told me exactly the same. It breaks off and sheds quickly.) Disgruntled, I went back to braids until January this year when I called myself to order and decided that no matter what, the hair and I were going to find a way to live together in peace, love and harmony. And I was going to give my hairline room to breathe and do its own thing. 

So, nappy hair and I embarked upon the scariest journey of our lives. I was afraid it would hate me and all my hair would fall out completely. I was scared I wouldn't love it if it no longer was past my shoulders. I was terrified all my hairline hair would fall out.

However, to my total amazement, shock and extreme pleasure, love blossomed instead. This began with nappy hair and I getting to know each other (I read & read & read about black natural hair). We then began developing a healthy respect for the other (if my hair is in an Afro, and I want to comb it without crying the next morning, I have to plait it into 2 or 4 pigtails no matter how tired I am!).  I've accepted that heat is not good for my hair, so while it is extremely convenient to blow-dry it after washing it, I now only do so extremely rarely. I let my hair air-dry after washing it and then plait it into the afore-said pigtails. The next morning, it is manageable enough to comb-out into an afro or put it into twists. I don't load it down with greasy gunk. After washing it, I apply a hot-oil conditioning treatment, which I don't wash out. And while twisting it, I apply 'hair food' and a moisturiser. That keeps it happy for days. Every 3 - 4 days, I moisten the twists with a small hand-ful of hair food. Seems to keep it happy enough. 

I am pretty lazy & like a no-fuss routine, so I don't bother with loads of the tips given by the envagelically zealous natural hair crowd. My hair is very coarse and springy, so in twists it becomes quite short. I actually pretty much like that. Maybe because I've had longish hair, I no longer care whether my hair reaches my shoulders. In fact when my twists are done and initially at their straightest and longest, the way to keep em that way is to plait the twists into 6 pigtails overnight. But I don't really like them long and straight, so I often leave them and the individual twists will curl up tightly overnight. It is such a joy watching my twists and my hair take on a life of its own. The hair is having a blast. The fine hairs of my hairline are growing back in. And best of all, the other day, while out walking, it began to rain. In my chemical days or weave days, I would have run for the nearest shelter, however, this time around, I simply laughed. Rain simply means the twists twist up a lil more curly.

Yes, love has grown. Knowledge and respect, commitment & honesty, have grown into full-blown real love. So natural hair, what can I say but ... 'I love you to bits baby - let's stay together always'... 



MissHaneefa said...

I also wear my hair natural but my hair isn't growing and I am having a lot of issues with it. *sigh*

Ronke said...

Way to go! I loved reading your story. My natural hair journey is quite a trip... still discovering more along the way.

Tips for curly hair care: