Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Hair Journey: In Words & Pictures

It took over a year, but I'm completely relaxer free! I didn't do one grand "big chop", instead I chose to transition. So now, a look back:

April 2010- This picture was taken on Easter, the day after my last relaxer touch up. I spent a good eight (!) hours in the salon that day, and I remember feeling like I could not do that anymore.I was spending a good amount of money and way too much time to have my scalp burned and to get itchy on a regular basis! I want to point out though, that my hair was very healthy, despite the relaxer and the honey blond highlights. This was my usual "style"- not a style at all but a roller set. I usually just sat for an hour under the dryer after getting a deep conditioner and walked out without even getting my hair wrapped. Why? Because I found that due to the repeat relaxing, my hair was losing body to the point I had to use some effort to actually keep it from hanging limp. Thankfully, my hair is very thick, so it didn't look bad. But I definitely could tell my hair wasn't the same as when I first started relaxing 9 years before.

May/June 2010- I decided to experiment with not relaxing my hair but just washing and styling it myself. I was toying with the idea of going natural, but didn't think I could do it. So I started by trying differently curly creams and gels. Some would weigh my hair down, others didn't give enough hold and I wound up with poofy waves. I thought it was funny that I actually had to scrunch waves into some sections that were over-processed. When I wore my hair like this to work, I immediately got some negative comments. Everything from "Is that a weave?" to "What happened?". This was actually good preparation for the onslaught of negativity I was about to receive in the coming months.

July 2010
: Frustrated by dealing with two textures, I went to the salon and got a good 6+ inches cut off.. It was either do this or I would've just grabbed the scissors and cut all of it off, lol! The criticism abated for the few weeks I wore it straight (this was the result of a flat iron, btw). Some of my family members weren't crazy that I cut my hair, but came around once I explained I was growing the perm out (they never liked my getting relaxers to begin with).

August 2010: I made the choice to keep the heat out of my hair and try to work with the two textures. The insults started back, and my confidence (despite the bright smile) plummeted. I used Miss Jessie's Curly Meringue and Buttercreme to manage the kinks/waves combo. Although I tried to be confident, I wound up in tears more than once as people not only mocked the texture but also the now much shorter length. As much as I was tempted to go back to relaxing something about the barrage of insults made me dig in my heels.
September 2010: With more and more of my true texture growing in, I knew I would have to figure out a way to do my hair sans gel as the weather grew colder. I began experimenting with bantu knots (wound up a fail), braids (so-so) and finally found success with twists to set my hair. Since so much of my hair was still chemically straightened, I would wrap my ends with rollers made from brown paper bags to give them some curl and blend better with the new growth.

October 2010: I got into a pretty good routine of doing twist outs and using rollers to make a curly fro. I used coconut oil or olive oil to moisturize daily, washed with a few different products I saw recommended on hair blogs and set my curls with either Bee Mine curly butter or the Ms. Jessie's. I began to receive a few compliments on my new "funky" look, but very few from other Black people. I was stunned by that, and still am to be honest.

November 2010: I start using hair accessories to add a little dazzle to my twist outs. My hair had grown a lot (even though it looks shorter) with all the new growth, and I still had to wrestle to put life into the straight half of my hair.

December 2010: After a rough few weeks of first trimester pregnancy, I knew I needed a break from doing my hair! I went back to the salon and had a few inches cut off and had a dark rinse put in to even out the color. My stylist made a few comments like, "So, are you FINALLY going to get a relaxer?" and "Your hair is too thick now!". I felt a little uncomfortable but must say, she did a great job. My hair was nicely conditioned and stayed straight through the holidays. When I headed back to work a few days after New Year's, I received a few, "Oh, good, you gave up that afro-thing and got a perm." I let them know they were dead wrong. It was the flat iron. Sheesh! Why do people forget that the relaxer is NOT the only way to achieve straight hair?

January 2011: I found my hair routine much easier after the hair cut. My hair was easier to style and softer. I continued doing twist outs and purchased soft, cotton-filled cloth rollers to enhance the curl.

February 2011: Oh, the joy of pregnancy... I wound up sick a few days and realized after not doing my hair that... I don't really *need* to do it so much. Let me explain. I had been pretty vigilant about applying leave-ins and re-twisting often. At this point, though, I realized as long as my hair was moisturized (a few spritzes of water and some coconut oil before bed), I could honestly do without all the heavy creams. It was a relief! Plus I started getting more positive feedback which I think might be tied to Esperanza Spalding's surprise win at the Grammy's. Suddenly, afros weren't all that strange.

May 2011: Oh the joy of pregnancy... and I'm being non-sarcastic this time. Besides my nails growing super fast and strong, another benefit to being preggo and popping prenatals is my hair has grown very thick. At this point, I still kept up the twist outs for their relative ease and used almost only water and coconut, olive or sunflower seed oil. I mainly do co-washes and have found using plain old Fruitopia conditioner for curls or Organix coconut conditioner leave my hair as soft and easy to detangle as some of the pricey specialty stuff.

June 2011: I'm not sure why, but for some reason, last Friday, I just became so fed up with the straggly, relaxed ends I began to go through my hair and cut them all off. In some areas, that was 1/8 of an inch. In others, it was 3. But I just kept on, slowly snipping away so that by Sunday...

I was left with just coils! To keep the spring in my locks, I used the clear EcoStyler gel after wetting and applying coconut oil.

The next day, I didn't have to even re-wet it or add more products. I realize 1.) that my natural texture is kind of Sideshow Bob, kind of Whitney Houston in "My Love is Your Love"and 2.) definitely 4a in the hair typing scale (except for some random "baby hair" around the edges, lol).

So now, 14 months later, I'm pretty much on the opposite side of where I started. Dark where I had been light, coily where I had been straight. I wish I could say I wake up everyday loving my hair, but I don't. In fact, I still look at pictures of myself from years past and feel I really looked better with straight hair. It also bothers me that people rarely compliment my hair, no matter what hair band I wear (they'll carefully comment on the accessory without mentioning my hair), or style I try. From the day I stopped using heat, I've received a barrage of criticism, even when my hair texture was still pretty "loose" thanks to the relaxer last May and June.

I wish I could tell the girls considering going natural that it was a breeze, but that would be a lie. Not so much because of the work of doing my hair (although I did have some missteps!), but because straight hair really is more favored in the minds of many people, and a deviation from it raises eyebrows (or for some, ire). I'd tell anyone considering it to be prepared for the naysayers, even some of your closest family and friends.

But on the positive, let me add I've saved well over a $1,000 (maybe even closer to two). My Saturdays are mine again. I no longer fear having a daughter with a lot of hair because I actually know how to manage my own without running to someone else. My parents are happy that I'm finally off the creamy crack (who knew they kind of had a point about the trap of relaxers? HA!). My husband is no longer afraid to touch my hair. My scalp is not flaky and bumpy anymore. My hair smells nice without that chemical burn I use to try and mask.

It's been quite the journey and I'm proud of myself for taking it... and for far longer than a couple of weeks. :-)


Red Cardigan said...

Wow! I love your natural hair look. I've always envied people with any real curl in their hair.

Looking at those pictures, I would say that your absolute best hair accessory is your beautiful smile. :)

I honestly didn't know how controversial the topic of hair can be for African-American women until you wrote about it, Alisha. I'm glad you've shared this journey with your readers!

Alisha De Freitas said...

Thanks, Erin! I'm just one of many women who are sharing their stories about their hair. It's funny because, well, it's JUST hair. It has no magical powers. It will not make your life amazing. It will not find a cure for cancer.

BUT... it's not just hair. People really do judge others by their appearance. I had always thought as ling as I wasn't sporting a Mike Tyson type facial-tat or purple hair, I wouldn't create much waves because of my appearance. So imagine my surprise when allowing my hair to grow out of my head the way God made it suddenly made me "ugly" (really... I was called ugly a few weeks ago).

It's almost like the little girl in me wanted to scream, "BUT WE'RE ALL BEAUTIFUL BECAUSE OF OUR DIFFERENCES! LIKE FLOWERS IN A GARDEN!". I felt betrayed... as if those years of 80's afterschool specials had been lying to me! And yeah, I also realize that I should stop taking my life lessons from "The More You Know" and "Schoolhouse Rock".

And as much as I hate to bring up the race issue, I find it very sad that the most vocal against my hair has been other Black people. And the ones who like it are normally not of African American descent but from the Caribbean or Africa. I think it's interesting that my mom, who is multi-racial (and has been mistaken for Italian, Jewish or a light-skinned Cuban), has always LOVED my kinky hair. I hate to say it, but there is some real self-hatred in the people around me... :-(

I am thankful that my husband has totally been supportive as has most of my family. I'm also thankful that I won't have to bother with a hot comb, flat iron or blow dryer now that it's hot and I have a baby coming in a few weeks!

Thanks for the compliment on my smile... can you believe I use to hate it? :-)

A Simple Thing said...

Aw, I'm glad you were able to see the positive of it all. I can't believe how vocal and rude the people at your work must've been to just say those horrible things out loud. To your face. Yikes!

It's pretty awesome though that your family and spouse have been supportive :)

Alisha De Freitas said...

I really couldn't have done the transition without my family! But you know, I'd rather have people say it to my face then behind my back! Thanks for commenting!

There was an error in this gadget

Picture of The Week

Picture of The Week
K and Z enjoying the Christmas tree.

Pray for Our Nation

Got A Burning Question? Ask Me Here!

Featured Blog Of The Week

Featured Blog Of The Week
Afro-Europe Blog

What I'm Listening to Right Now

What I'm Listening to Right Now
"Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album" by Lupe Fiasco

What I'm Reading Right Now

What I'm Reading Right Now
"Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets"


Far Above Rubies's Fan Box

If You Like What You're Reading, Share!

Share |

They Like Me, They Really Really Like Me!