My Natural Hair Journey, Chapter 14: Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Hair

It’s  been a minute since I’ve written about my hair’s progress.   That’s probably a good thing in that it has allowed me to write more about things that are more about life purpose and plans.   Indeed, this “chapter” was more of a struggle because I feel as if I’m floundering in the middle of somewhere, with no real point of closure that would normally tie my post into a neat little package.   That said, consider yourself warned of the rambling that might follow.

I sometimes wonder if all of the hype around transitioning and natural hair leads women to make way more out of it than there actually is.   The answer to that question is probably yes, and that we, African-American women who make up less than 15% of the population but purchase 80% of hair products, have been bamboozled into spending  a ton of money for what could be summarized to a simple ‘eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep’ program.  Don’t all good life/ health initiatives begin with water, fruit, veggies, and exercise?   I don’t remember much about my natural hair as a pre-teen, but I do remember doing simple items to make it grow: “oiling” my scalp (moisturizing it with a petrolatum-based salve), washing it, braiding it, and leaving it alone.   I’m not so sure that those rules have changed, although the wealth of internet wisdom (assuming that it is indeed wisdom) has increased exponentially.

Within the last month, I’ve found myself between the mythical Scylla and Charybdis—a rock and a hard place, if you will.   Just when I thought I had “arrived” in terms of my personal hair care knowledge and application, the weather changed.    So did my hair, and what worked with the cooler months blowing through my tresses isn’t producing the same result as we enter into an already hot spring.    As if the warmer days weren’t enough, I also had my once-per-quarter hair cut once again earlier in March.    If I had the guts, I’d go ahead and chop off the remaining perm and move on with my life.   Yet at this point, I’m still thinking in terms of an 18-month transition, which would give me about 3 more months of 2-textured hair.   We’ll see.

Even though I’m not all natural—technically speaking, with the majority of my hair in its natural state, I get to see exactly what I do have, as well as what I’m lacking.   That is the root of the love-hate relationship, when you’ve watched months of You-Tube vloggers, read numerous blogs, joined all the hair communities, and have patiently awaited the day when you’ll be able to do [insert your style here], only to realize that, short of divine intervention, your hair will probably never do that.    Personally, I fell hook, line, and sinker into an assumption that once my hair was natural, it’d be thick.   I looked forward to these fat 2-stranded twists that would allow me to protect my hair from everyday maintenance, but still look conservative enough that I could wear them anywhere, without feeling the need to “take my hair down” and put it back in twists/braids at night.   One problem: though my hair isn’t thin, I have these fine thread-like strands that simply don’t translate into thick twists.   This past summer, I was so excited as the natural hair grew and I had these medium-length braids that weren’t completely natural, but they were the shape of things to come—so I thought.

Yet, as the permed hair was cut, and my shorter, curlier hair remained, my twists look more like this:

(Perhaps with the fuzziness, I can deny that it’s me at some later date–ha ha!)

YIKES!   Most people who encounter me face-to-face would only see this if I took off my cap, which is now a permanent spring/ summer accessory while I figure out what I want to do.    Generally, around the house, I wear these twists or a flat twist.    I still look much like my profile picture in public, but my indoor look probably isn’t very fair to my husband when he’s in town.   To say the least, there’s nothing about my twisted hair tucked under a cap or scarf that is bedtime-sexy.

The news is not all bad by any means.   The back of my hair is now totally natural, and growing like wild corn, as my FIL says.   In fact, all that is partially permed at this point is the crown area of my hair.   This was the back of my hair in November of 2011, when only the bottom 1/3 of it was perm-free:

This is the same section of hair as of March 2012, now completely perm-free:

Reality #2: my hair has low porosity.   Simply put, it does not soak in or retain moisture well.    So, I am educating myself in how to seal in moisture as best I can without loading my hair down with a wealth of products.    My vocabulary is expanding with terms like ‘humectant,’ ‘glycerin,’ and ‘ cuticle .’

There are great articles out there regarding hair type and texture.    I am sharing a couple that have been particularly helpful to me and my hair here and here.   In the meantime, I’ve changed my regimen significantly from the chapter in which I talked about the cost of natural products.   A part of that change was to take advantage of local suppliers who sell great products without me having to incur shipping costs.  I made my first trip to the hair and body section of the Whole Foods Market, and loved it—so many testers available.   I was trying to figure out if it’d be too “country” to walk in there with damp hair and try a few things!!  (Just kidding  😉  )   As I write in fact, we’re on the road to Oklahoma, and I intend to stop by a Dallas area beauty supply store for a new favorite product, Curl Junkie’s Aloe Fix Hair Styling Gel.    The product is heavy, so I only need a dabble.   Yet, it softens my hair and naturally stretches my curl pattern, giving me a lengthier look and getting me away from the afro.   As the heat progresses, it will keep humidity from drawing my hair further into an afro and perhaps even allow me to pull it back by summer’s end.  The shot immediately above includes that particular styling product on my hair.   Here’s the rest of my product list and how I’m using them as of March 2012:

Weekly co-wash (washing with conditioner):  Oyin Handmade’s Honey Hemp Conditioner or Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner

Leave-In Conditioner: Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine and/or Oyin Handmade’s Honey Hemp Conditioner

Moisture Sealant: a shea butter mixture that includes vegetable glycerin, honey, water, sweet almond oil, coconut oil lavender oil, and aloe vera gel

Monthly deep conditioner:  a homemade mixture of avocado, almond/coconut  milk, honey, water, olive oil

Intermittently through the week for dryness prevention:  coconut oil or grapeseed oil

I also continue to drink a lot of water, drink my veggies (green smoothies are the best!) and eat my fruits and salads, and eat with both fun and function in mind.

With my cap in tow, I continue to learn, to grow, and to learn to be happy with me.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalms 139:14.

Many of God’s richest blessings to you, friends.

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4 thoughts on “My Natural Hair Journey, Chapter 14: Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Hair

  1. Looks great to me! I’m right behind ya…still learning what my “pourosity” is or is not. And still gradually chopping off relaxed hair. The return of the area humidity has had me sporting a bit of a combination “fro”-laxer though. But, much to my delight…every hairstyle has either my hubby or my kids saying: “Your hair looks nice like that, mom!” That warms my heart and makes me press on!

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    • Yes, ma’am, those acknowledgements from the people who matter most are critical, which is why I don’t like my twists, etc., when my hubby’s home. Yet, he’s been so, so supportive, even though he’s made it clear that he hates most my “head scarf” donned right before bedtime. (You can tell how bad I was at doing anything to my hair when it was permed).

      As I said to you, I was surprised that you were doing your own hair when you asked me about how it looks, and I LOVE seeing the little princess’s hair–it’s growing each time I see her. Isn’t it great that our girls won’t go through the same mental cartwheels that we have about what constitutes beautiful? I’ll say my own “amen” to that.

      Blessings, sis!

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  2. Wow! “less than 15% of the population but purchase 80% of hair products”. Something’s gotta be wrong with that!

    I love your writing: “between the mythical Scylla and Charybdis—a rock and a hard place” ha How do you come up with phrases like that?!

    Your monthly conditioning treatment sounds awesome; I need to do something ilke that myself, although in summer my hair is a lot more moisturized (that sounds way better than “oily”) than in the winter where everything is fly, fly away!

    “With my cap in tow, I continue to learn, to grow, and to learn to be happy with me.” The most beautiful statement! I need to write that one on my mirror! (and find my own “caps” too)

    As for me, I’m going back gray and it’s in about an inch already. Ah, your fickly friend. Or maybe you had an inkling I’d go back 😉 That’s part of the reason why I’m keeping my hair short–so it will grow out faster. It’s been an interesting journey of trying to balance how to look acceptable in my small community (as the Romans do) AND “learn to be happy with me.” But the fact remains is that I hate the coloring process, the cost, and the….for lack of a better word…the fakeness of it (for ME for ME….I’m not judging anyone’s else’s hair care process! I don’t even have time to ponder anyone else’s hair!). I also keep stopping and talking with other women who are naturally gray because quite frankly I find all of the shades beautiful. Maybe I need to find my own “naturally gray hair forum” haha

    Working it all out along with you. I miss you lots; looking forward to re-entering twittersville and blogsville more after Easter. I have a new website that will be up soon, Lord willing and no more late nights cross-eyed writing code and learning the ropes of wordpress. Oy.

    Sorry. Forgot this was supposed to be a “comment”. Looks like I left you at least FIFTY cents worth 🙂

    Love to you
    Keri Mae

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    • Your words are always rich to me, dear friend. I know there’s well thought out wisdom where you come from. ‘between Scylla and Charybdis’–can you tell I’ve recently read Homer’s Odyssey, now for the second time, with our son??!! LOL!!

      Yes, there is something wrong with the exorbitant amounts of money we as AA women spend on hair. In watching the movie “Good Hair,” I was appalled at the $1500+ women were paying to get real hair (from Malaysia and India) weaved into their own in the name of having straight, long hair. Mind you, these were not celebrities; they were school teachers and grad students. They put it on lay-a-way, for goodness sake! It’s a mentality that has to, hear me, HAS TO, change! Though my personal budget on trial products, etc. for the girls and myself is right now around $30/ month, (which is still too high), I’d take my feelin-good-about-myself attitude, my radiant skin, and healthy head of hair, even with its temporary setbacks, over someone else’s that gave me the delusion of being able to whip my hair back and forth!

      I’m now subscribed (don’t know why I didn’t do that before!) to your blog because I want to be sure to celebrate with you when baby #7 arrives. In your spare time between the kids, the hubby, and the upcoming magazine (ha ha), post some more hair posts, please, so I can see your progress!

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