Confessions of a Former Hair Abuser
Like almost every other black woman with internet access, I have joined the healthy hair bandwagon. I have always wanted the luscious, long locks that I saw on my classmates’ heads in high school and university, but that I could never have. My own hair is very thick, and very kinky; what is referred to at home as “hard Mashona type” hair.
I always used to have the relaxer left on my hair for so long that my hair would end up looking like a wet cat’s fur
in my mother’s words. After a few weeks, the hair at the back of my head would start breaking off and I would have long, straight hair at the front and middle of my head, then short, kinky hair at the back. I can now admit that my hair was a complete disaster.
Things got even worse when I started my A-Levels. The school I attended allowed A-Level students to have their hair braided so in the last week of my school holidays I would get tiny braids that would last the whole term. Thinking back, this was a pretty disgusting thing to do, considering the fact that water and soap would not touch my hair the entire time. To maintain the hairstyle, I would redo the front braids once in a while to camouflage the disaster that would be the back of my head until the end of term. The result? Well for the duration of my high school education (six years in total), my hair never grew long enough to be tied into a pony tail. I made myself believe that I had the kind of hair that never grows and so I continued perming it to get it to look like the other girls’ hair.
Fast forward to my senior year in university, I decided to dye my hair. I googled the best way to take care of my coloured hair and discovered a website dedicated to black hair care that I got hooked to instantly. I decided to go for the big chop, which means cutting all of the chemically processed hair, and start afresh. I did my big chop on 1st May 2012, and the rest was history.
First I wanted to rock an afro, but by the time I got to September 2012, I couldn’t manage to get a comb through my hair. And so I crawled back to the creamy crack, this time however I decided to learn how to manage my relaxed hair before considering another big chop. That’s how I gradually started to build a hair care regimen.
Just after I got the relaxer in September, I would wash and condition my hair once a week. I didn’t have access to a blow dryer so I used to let my hair dry naturally. After about two months of doing this, I moved to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The weather there is very hot and humid, so I had to adapt my hair care regimen to this new environment. I started moisturizing my hair using water, before sealing it with a natural oil such as castor, olive or coconut oil, every morning. I started looking for blogs on the internet that would help me to find the best way to manage my hair without going to a hair salon. Just 13 months after my big chop, my hair has grown from a TWA (teeny weeny afro), to shoulder-length hair. For the first time since I was a toddler, I can tie my hair into a pony tail and I am sure a lot of you ladies can imagine how exciting this is.
In the past year I have acquired the following lessons;
1. Reduce the amount of heat you apply to your hair and if you can go completely heat-free. I only blow-dry my hair on rare salon visits, or when I have a really big event I need to attend.
2. Shampoo and deep condition more often. I wash my hair once a week, and deep condition it as well. My scalp is cleaner and healthier which means my hair will grow healthier as well.
3. Use a wide toothed comb. I stopped using a rat tail comb to comb my hair. A wide toothed comb is gentler on hair, and is less painful.
4. Moisturize!!! Afro hair loves moisture. I no longer panic when it starts raining and I don’t have an umbrella. I always spray water on my hair every night before bed, and then apply coconut oil onto my ends. The result in the morning is hair that is easy to style for work.
5. The kitchen is a good source for hair care products. Besides the egg and avocado on your hair, there are other things you can try. Like adding honey to your conditioner, it is surprisingly a really good moisturizer. After shampooing, and before conditioning, a cup of black tea or black coffee will be good in reducing the amount of hair you shed. Diluted apple cider vinegar is an excellent after conditioner rinse that makes your hair shiny and soft.
6. Patience is crucial. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and definitely hair will not grow overnight.
7. Learn from your mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable. What works for that blogger with waist length hair will not necessarily work for you. Keep experimenting and never be discouraged. You will discover what works for you and what doesn’t.
Don’t get stressed when you go online and see all the hair jargon and acronyms. Remember, you should have fun with your hair and love your hair, whatever state it is in. Just keep it healthy and everything will work out in the end. You are definitely not your hair!