In all honesty, my hair and I have really been through it. We’ve had a tumultuous relationship (an entanglement, if you will) throughout a good portion of my life. We’ve had our good days, and we’ve had our bad days (weeks, months… years). Sometimes she, like her owner, is stubborn and wakes up with a bad attitude (especially if she’s been betrayed by her homegirl, the silk scarf, over the course of the night). And other times, she cooperates effortlessly and we proceed to pepper dem like a phenomenal tag team (move aside Dudley Boyz).
Needless to say, it hasn’t been easy… and it’s certainly not picture perfect. I’m writing this particular series entitled “Hair We Go Again” to share a few candid truths, what I’ve learned, and some stories from my (rather eventful) hair journey, so far.
So let’s get into it. I’ve done so much to this headtop of mine over the years, I can’t even keep up. The most drastic actions I’ve taken? I did what is now famously known as “the big chop” back in 2007 and I’ve shaved my head twice (mainly due to my hair being neglected and becoming unhealthy). The first time I walked into a barbershop in 2013, I shaved it as low as a level 1 and 3 years ago, I skinned it clean.
If you had told me, let’s say, when I was 10 years old, that I would cut my hair, not once, not twice, but three times in the future, I would have told you that you’re a detty stinking liar *heavy on the Naija accent*. I wouldn’t have believed you primarily because whilst growing up, I was deeply attached to my hair. I think it’s important to note here that I’ve always had a lot of hair. My head is both big and full, and to date, hairdressers have either loved me or hated me for it (usually the latter).
As I was saying though, my hair was very much my identity. Throughout my formative years, I was known on the playground for having a long, luscious mane of 4C hair, and styling it became very much an art form in my household. Sometimes my hair would be in twists or plaits, and other times I’d have extensions in. My older sister got very creative with my hairstyles, perhaps because my mum adamantly refused (despite wayward encouragement from misguided aunties) to relax our hair?! Anyways, the point is, I truly loved it (my hair, not the playground props).
Fast-forwarding, unfortunately, there was a point during my adolescence where I started disliking my natural hair. In search of a “solution”, I was introduced to a plague of chemical relaxers; my mother referred to this phase of my life as when I “grew wings”…
Despite her disapproval, it was great… at first. I could now comb my hair without wincing and rock sleek leave outs with Premium Now/Premium Too extensions. I felt like the baddest babe that ever walked the earth. But that feeling didn’t last. Eventually, the inconvenience of my hair being regularly “due” (for another relaxer apt), the brittle state the treatment often left my hair in, and of course, the pain of chemical burns on my scalp (plus much more) began to outweigh the “benefits”.
I also went through a season where Xpressions twists and braids were everything to me, I appreciated their ‘get up and go’ styling ease. Also, my hairdresser at the time was trained in Nigeria and her braiding skills were absolutely killin’ dem (word to Burna Boy); she was a ridiculously talented woman.
However, if you’ve ever visited an African salon, you’ll know that African aunties don’t play when it comes to their hair picking game. They will pick every single strand of hair in sight. Mate, they might even pick your eyebrows for a braid, if you let them.
Unfortunately, this practice eventually incurs a little something called traction alopecia, which a few of the gyaldem back then didn’t even know they were experiencing. In short, traction alopecia is hair loss caused by hair being pulled over an extended period of time. The “loss of edges”, a beauty strife commonly discussed within the Black community, often alludes to the damage done by this very culprit.
I’ve definitely been there, done that, and tried to sell the t-shirt on eBay. Even though I only experienced traction alopecia on a minor scale, the entire restorative process (featuring a lot of unlearning) put the fear of the follicle gods into me. Many years down the line, I’d now like to believe that I’m the Chairwoman of the Board for the #LetBabyHairsBreathe committee. It’s a mantra, a movement and a philosophy (please get in touch if you’ve like to donate to the cause).
Re-growing or thickening your edges can be a long and painful process. If you’re like me, you probably bought into every product on the market, from Jamaican castor oil to T444z. Although I can’t guarantee which product will work for you, I can assure you that as long as there hasn’t been any irreversible damage done to your edges, they will grow back. It’s just a matter of time. If there’s anything I want you to take from this post, it’s that hair can always grow back.
How? You ask, well sometimes it’s just best to leave your hair be and let it do its thing. In part, wigs taught me that. In between each of the stages below, I wore wigs – and a variety of them too – and saw incredible growth, plus avoided breakage! As long as did the general hair care e.g. moisturising often, and washing and deep conditioning in between re-cornrowing, my hair was doing all the work underneath my wig cap. Without a shadow of a doubt, wigs are still one of my favourite protective styles (and I take joy in naming each unit I acquire).
My power puff & I, September 2019
In addition to my personal camera roll, the DMX Challenge on Instagram evidenced that versatility is the secret weapon of our hair. Apart from obviously making you look different, I wholeheartedly believe that with each new hairstyle comes a different persona, a different vibe, a different je ne sais quoi. That’s one of the reasons why my man should never come at me with that whole “wE sHoUlD sEe OtHeR pEoPle” mess because I’d really just switch up my hairstyle and terminate the entire conversation. I’ll go from good ole’ Mo to blunt cut Bobiana in burgundy, and she’s a completely different babe, so now what sir?!
I’ve been a born-again Naturalista for 3 years now (since my last shave) and I’m enjoying it. Whenever my natural hair comes out to play in person or on socials, I still get so taken back when I receive compliments. Why? It’s taken me YEARS of work to get to this place of progress (not perfection); I’ve battled with so many negative emotions regarding my natural hair in the past, particularly self-hate. So trust me, after the initial, momentary shock, I really do feel all warm and fuzzy inside when somebody compliments the fruits of my labour.
However, I also want to flag that I’m still learning, I’m still studying Naturalology 101… and I’ll probably be in this class for a while. I just thank God for the resources that are now available online. There is literally a YouTube video, website, or Reddit thread for any question you have, from products to techniques. Use all that you have at your disposal to learn and don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results overnight.
After all, every natural hair journey is just a series of trials, errors, and “here we go agains”.