“I am not my hair”
“It’s amazing that it’s considered revolutionary to wear my hair the way it grows out of my head.” Tracy Thoms in Chris Rock’s Good Hair
Last year, on the 14th of July (Le Quatorze Juillet, France’s National Day) to be exact, I cut my hair all off (I have since learned that what I did was The Big Chop aka BC). Before then, I had been frustrated with the state of my hair. It was relaxed and over the years, lost a lot of thickness. Even though people commented on how full my hair was, I knew it was nothing like it used to be years ago. I reckoned that it was a result of years and years of chemical treatment so decided to cut it all off, stay away from chemicals and see if it would make a difference.
I was a bit apprehensive about managing my natural hair as I recalled that my hair texture is very coarse and it used to be very painful just combing it out. I was also unsure whether or not low-cut style would suit me. It had been over 20 years since I had sported a similar style. Mo Cushla was very supportive and encouraged me to go ahead as he thought it would look great on me. Anyway, after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, I decided to go for it. I reckoned that if it did not suit me, I would just wear a wig until it grew out long enough to style differently.
Though I knew next to nothing about natural hair care, I have to confess to thinking that it would be a walk in the park. Boy, was I mistaken! Having taken the plunge, I started to do some research. I wanted to make sure I got it right so I signed up to a couple of groups on Facebook and watched a number of videos on Youtube on the subject. I was amazed at how much information there is out there. Some I have found really helpful, others, simply a waste of precious time. However, making sense of all that information is something I am still grappling with.
I have since learned that achieving the healthy and thriving growth I had seen and envied on some naturalistas (that is what people who wear their hair natural are called) is hard work. I am discovering that a wash and go is the low man on the totem pole and there is a whole lot more to natural hair care than a simple wash and condition.
To start with, you need to ascertain your hair type. Hair type? What’s that? I know, I had never given much thought to my hair type prior to this but it turns out that this is very important as it will determine what products you should or should not use. You may need to try out different products in order to find which ones work best for your hair. It is strongly recommended to stay away from products with sulfates, parabens, silicones and/or alcohol in them. Please do not ask me what those are, apart from alcohol, I could not tell you as Chemistry was never my strong suit. The number of products available for natural hair is gazillion, it is a growing market. It could end up costing you a fortune, if you’re not careful.
The next step is creating a hair care regimen. This will include but is not limited to pre-pooing, detangling, shampooing, co-washing, conditioning, deep conditioning, hot oil treatment, moisturising, sealing-in, protein treatment, hair masks, protective styling and the list goes on.
In the course of my research, I have come across an interesting phenomenon. I have observed that a large number of naturalistas are women and they take this business of wearing your hair in its natural state very seriously. So seriously that it pretty much defines them. Some get really worked up by the fact that others use chemicals in their hair. They refer to relaxer and any hair-straightening chemicals as ‘creamy crack’. In some of the groups I have signed up to you can ask questions and get advice to help with hair care. I am both amused and alarmed at the responses to a certain question which gets asked fairly often. It is the question of applying heat to hair to straighten it.
Some women find that their hair does not return to its natural curl pattern after they heat-straighten it and, at their wit’s end, they ask what to do. Sometimes I can actually feel the venom in the responses hit me smack in the face as I read them. The indignation expressed is palpable. Basically, some are of the opinion that if you wear your hair in its natural state, you have no business applying heat to it as this not only causes irreparable heat damage but also means you are trying to get your hair to look like a Caucasian’s thereby betraying your heritage. They are neither reticent nor do they mince words telling the offending party off for daring to desecrate the sacredness of their kinky hair by applying heat to it.
I find this reaction equally baffling and entertaining. However I realise that for some it is more than just hair, there are other underlying issues that are inadvertently triggered every time the hair issue comes up. At the risk of sounding prejudiced, I think that in certain parts of the world particularly the United States, black hair has been so politicised to the point where it has become an identity issue. This, in my opinion, is the result of a tortured racial history where thick, kinky, curly black hair was seen as bad and uncivilised. The media perpetuates this kind of thinking when they fuss over black women’s hair excessively. A case in the point is the recent wide press coverage the First Lady of the USA, Michelle Obama’s fringe (bangs to Americans) at the presidential inauguration received a couple of weeks ago.
Black women are having to defend how they choose to wear their hair, usually, to other black women who are guilty of judging and criticising others about their hair choices. This is unfortunate.
To me, hair is hair. How you choose to wear yours is your prerogative. I will not presume to know what is best for you. I respect your choice and I would also appreciate it if you would respect mine. My hair and the way I choose to wear it do not and should not define me. I say live and let live. It’s just hair and I am not my hair.
Thanks for stopping by.