I’ve been wanting to start a segment for awhile about your stories and your hair. There’s nothing like learning from other women – whether you can relate to their frustrations or you want to achieve similar success.
Erika, a natural of nearly 13 years, shares her hair story… and she’s happy to admit that the journey never ends. Here’s our first page in the Black Strands Hair Diary:
Growing up, hair was important to me and at the same time, it didn’t matter. I couldn’t compare my hair to anybody else’s – maybe this was influenced in part by the fact that I grew up in a predominately all white community. Well, I did once, in 2nd grade, but my mother slapped me with the comb, turned my head to her and said, “Yu black” in the wonderful Jamaican accent she reserved for anger and life lessons. That fixed that.
At some point during elementary school though, my mom started to perm my hair. She would leave it in for 5 minutes and wash it out. My hair was never straight-straight and it stayed in plaits and multiple ponytails pretty much all the time. That didn’t mean I had long hair either. See, my hair routine went something like this – 5-minute home perm every four months or so and then a cut with the same scissors we used to cut paper. Yup…
I made the decision to go natural, way before I actually did. I was initially motivated by visions of a freer, more bohemian, Cree Summery version of myself and all accompanying stereotypes. A UNCF ad, of a conservative-looking girl with a twa sitting on college steps changed my image of natural hair and who you could be with it. Lauryn Hill completely blew my mind with her early variety of styles and was definitely an inspiration. This is early 90s, “Mona Lisa” Lauryn, not Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn. Before I went away to college in ‘97, I got my last “perm” and haven’t looked back since.
Growing it out was relatively easy. I had never really gone to a hairdresser so most of my trauma occurred trying to find somebody to work with me. I wasn’t going to trim my hair with paper scissors again and I knew from lots of failed bang experiments that I didn’t have the skills to do it myself. Once I found a hairdresser, I would go religiously (ha! with coupons that I hoarded for), every month or two for a deep condition and a trim. The hairdresser would blow it out and then flat iron it. In between I wore braids or would chinee bump/Bantu knot-out my hair. At the end of my sophomore year, I cut off the relaxed bits and haven’t looked back since.
I don’t experiment a lot, my staple styles over the years have been twist-outs, buns and the rare wash and go. In the past year, I’ve started to part my hair on the side and sometimes pin up one side and that’s about as crazy/experimental as I get. I’ve also learned that a number of styles just won’t work on my hair- braid-outs leave my hair too flat, blow-drying is a big no-no because I will burn my hair and buns aren’t great for my hair and hairline (but I fall back on them often anyway). Until last July, I hadn’t used gel in about 8 years- but I ended up using some of my mom’s IC-Fantasia gel over the summer and have bought a tube. It isn’t even a quarter of the way used yet- I just don’t need it but I was compelled…
I am now growing my hair out after a devastating blow out last April that had my hair falling out in clumps for months and breaking like crazy until January. I thought I would cut all of my hair off and start over but after having a short look with a Bantu knot-out over the holidays, I remembered how much I disliked growing my hair out (no bun!) and decided to kind of transition all over again. If I had more skills and/or more hair (mine is not very thick and the strands are so fine, I could barely feel them when I run my fingers over a few of them) I probably wouldn’t hesitate to cut it because I could look really cute at times with short hair. I know this. ;)
All of my products now, are all-natural (except for the Nexxus Emergencee which has been a blessing to end the breakage) and my routine remains simple- wash, 6-12 twists, take out, go and deep condition on the weekends. My hair grows about a ½” a month- more than that if I’m working out and eating healthily too. My hair is also growing in thicker now, which is nice since I’ve always wanted thicker hair.
I’ve complained about my hair so much over the years, wondering why it couldn’t do this or that. But really, I love my plain-old, unfunky, never hip, on-the-verge-of-but-never-quite-thick-and- luscious hair.
Here are some more pics of Erika’s natural hair over the years:
If you’d like your hair story in the Black Strands Hair Diary please send your story and pics to firstname.lastname@example.org