Hola chicas!!!!! Join us on this Hair Journeyfeaturing Crystal, a poet and teacher from Brooklyn, NY. Crystal is a beautiful, afro-centric, politically conscious, intelligent naturslista. Go with us and take a trip down memory lane as Crystal recounts her very own Hair Journey.... As a black woman, since I was a very young girl I learned one thing very early on: There was something wrong with my hair. I remember being 11 years old and for the first time I got my hair pressed. For those of you who are not familiar with pressed hair, it is when a hot iron comb is placed on fire and passed through the hair to make it straight and silky. The hot comb was invented my Madam C.J. Walker in 1905. A hot comb was supposedly necessary for black women to make their hair straighter and more appealing to the eye. I remember that day when I got my hair pressed. For some reason, I felt more beautiful when I saw my hair swing, when I saw the way it moved. There was something magical about my hair in this free-flowing way, or so it seemed.Time passed and I graduated from the hot comb to permanent relaxers when I turned 13. A permanent relaxer is a strong chemical containing lye which is used to permanently alter a curly or wavy hair pattern. According to the US Food and Drug Administration's Office (FDA) of Cosmetics and Colors, chemical hair straighteners are a serious problem among consumers. Many customers complain of hair breakage, and scalp burns which often require Emergency Room treatment. With that background information, why then did I at such a young age get a permanent relaxer, just to have straight hair? Why do so many black women all over the world, continue to chemically straighten their hair every 6 weeks in order to avoid the lovely texture of our natural tresses? This is a question that could take centuries to answer. However, there is one reason that is at the root: self-hate. As a black woman I can say this is in fact true. We are taught early on that our hair is "nappy" "ugly" and "unruly." Family members pass these negative adjectives regarding our hair down to us and we internalize these words to mean one thing: Who we are naturally is not beautiful; therefore we must permanently change ourselves, beginning with our crown of glory-our hair. All of the women in my family always had relaxed hair and all of them still do. They served as my guide as to what a beautiful woman looked like, so of course I wanted to mirror their representation of beauty. Also, everywhere I looked, whether it was on television or in a magazine, every woman had straight tresses. Thus what was I to do but straighten my hair? It was my uncle Gerald who told me what I dreaded hearing one day, two years after my straightening ordeal: "So I see you want to be white!" I looked at him and I yelled back: "What are you talking about? I don't want to be white!" He looked right into my eyes and stated: "Yes you do, you just don't know it yet." Up to this day, I always remember those words, because they haunted me. I can honestly say that I never thought of straightening my hair as wanting to be white, but I do understand now that by straightening my hair I was adopting a more European ideal of beauty. I hated when my roots (new growth as it is mostly called in the black community) were visible, and I wanted to straighten my hair as soon as I saw my roots. Many black women complain saying things like: "My roots are coming in! I need to get my hair done soon." These statements are accompanied by head nods and understanding by black women alike who understand the pressure to upkeep their silky smooth hair. This is in fact a form of self-hate. Finally, after finishing high school, keeping my relaxed hair in tact, I went on to college in Vermont. While there, I realized that it was impossible for me to get my hair styled by someone who had a clue about black hair. This led me to doing my own hair every weekend. My roommate, who happened to be a middle class woman from Connecticut, was often amazed by the amount of time and energy I put into my hair. My routine consisted of 2 hours! The first hour consisted of washing and styling my hair. The second hour consisted of sitting under a hooded hair dryer (in my broom closet sized room) for another hour so that my hair could dry. After the 2 hours, I would then wrap my hair around my head and tie a scarf over my hair so that it would look extra silky smooth the next day. Whew. What a routine! It took so much out of me every weekend, but I never stopped, because I felt like I had to look this way. I put so much pressure on myself to have the "right hair." I also had fans. Many black women on campus would often admire how well-kept my hair always was in a place like Vermont. They often asked me for hair tips and suggestions. For some reason, this added fuel to the fire and encouraged me to keep up my 2 hour routine, despite the fact that I had loads of studying and extracurricular activities. During my junior year, after coming back from spending time abroad in France, I decided that I would, like so many other black women on campus, get my hair braided (with the aid of hair extensions.) Braids made my life so much easier because I didn't have to worry about doing my hair at all and I could have the braids in for months! I was finally at peace while at school. One day while sitting in the school library, a friend of mine, who always wore her hair natural approached me and asked: "Are you going natural? I noticed you have been keeping it braided. Is that because you are growing out your hair?" This idea had never even occurred to me. Why on earth would I stop chemically relaxing my hair? There wasn't any other option for me. "No" I replied quickly while shaking my head in a mocking way. My friend just acted as if it wasn't a big deal and we changed the subject, however, she didn't know that in the back of my mind, I was considering the true meaning of her question. Fast forward to senior year of college; it was the month of April, and I was about to graduate in a few weeks. I looked in the mirror to see my chemically straightened hair. It had been 9 years since I first made the switch to silky smooth. I was 22 and ready to do the big chop. All of my dead, chemically straightened hair had to go. It was like an epiphany. I woke up in the morning, looked in the mirror, and I knew that I was finally ready to accept the real me, not the me I was trained to be. I made my way to a barbershop in Burlington, Vermont with 3 of my closest friends, two of them were black women, so they knew just how big of a deal this was. We got there and I told the barber: "Shave it all off, now!" He looked at me like I was mad and asked me if I was sure. I said I was and that was the best day of my life. Upon seeing my shaved head, I felt beautiful, and truly free, more free than I had ever felt with silky smooth hair.
I had forgotten what my natural hair looked like at all. Seeing my extremely hair made me smile. My hair was beautiful and there was absolutely nothing wrong with my "naps" as far as I was concerned. When my family saw me for graduation, they actually loved my new look and they were very supportive. From that day on, I grew out my natural hair and finally started locking my hair in May of 2006. Now I wear medium length locks and I love my hair! Every day I learn to love myself more and appreciate who I really am without chemically altering my natural hair pattern.
Because I personally choose to wear my hair natural does not mean that I no longer feel pressured by all of the European ideals I see around me on a daily basis. However, because I have a much stronger sense of self, it is much harder for me to be swayed by popular demand. It still bothers me that everywhere I turn I see black women with straight hair or long weaves which is now the trend. It is as if we believe we are cursed and have to hide who we really are in order to fit into mainstream society. A lot of women I talk to say things like: "It's just hair; it's not a big deal." Some black women even go as far as saying: "I don't look good with natural hair." My question is: How can you not look good with your natural hair that you were born with? Does that even make sense? I wish more black women would love their natural hair because it is beautiful and unique. Now I must say living in a society where European ideals are often celebrated: Straight hair, straight noses, thin lips, etc. it is much harder as a black woman to love who you are, without feeling like you need to change. However, we need more role models in our communities who embrace natural beauty and most importantly, we need positive role models in our families! Perhaps if I grew up in a family where I saw women with natural hair, I would have never chemically relaxed my hair. Or maybe I needed to go through my straightening madness in order to really appreciate my hair when I discovered it again. Who knows? But one thing remains true, black women we are beautiful as our natural selves. Keep that in mind!
I got my last perm in August of 2010..so almost a year now.
And what/who influenced you to start this journey?
I wanted to transition because I noticed how thin my hair had gotten after perming it for 12 years. Previously, my hair had always been thick, long and gorgeous. It had gone from that to just done. It’s something I had tried a couple years prior, but I hadn’t done the proper research on how to care for transitioning hair and my stylist swore by perms for all of her clients so it was a bad combination. This time around, I did the research (and I’m still learning) and am excited about the journey.
Have you done a BC? If not, will you?
I have not done a BC. I’m considering it but not until I’m further along in my transition.
What does your haircare regimen currently consist of?
The fact that now I’m working with 2 textures of hair makes for some creativity. I’m with a different stylist now and she’s willing to help me transition so I visit her biweekly for soft flatirons..mostly since the majority of my hair is still permed. In between visits, I mostly use Organic Root Stimulator products 3-4 times a week to maintain and I plait it at night and sleep with a satin scarf.
What have you learned about your hair so far on this journey?
All this time, I thought my hair was naturally wavy. Not so. It’s naturally curly and incredibly soft. I think it appreciates how much attention I’m giving it.
What do you love most about your hair?
I love how responsive it is to this transition and I love my natural curl pattern. Shoutout to these genes! LOL!
What do you like the least?
Honestly, the length of time it’s taking. Granted, I realize I haven’t done a BC and that my hair stops very near to my waistline but I guess I have to learn a bit more patience.
If you could use one word to describe your hair what would it be?
What’s the best advice you could give aspiring naturalistas?
Girl! Research..research..RESEARCH! Youtube is an extremely valuable resource to the aspiring naturalista. Message boards, online forums, websites, other natural ladies..whatever! Knowledge will be your greatest friend in this journey.
What are 3 hair care products you can’t live without?
Organic Root Stimulator’s Hair Lotion & their AWESOME Smooth-n-Hold Pudding and Elasta QP’s Glaze (Conditioning Shining Gel). The glaze is woooonderful for those edges! ;0)
Recently I've been thinking about doing a piece on men & natural hair...What are their thoughts? Do they like it? Do they hate it? How would a man feel if his woman transitioned from relaxers to natural hair???
So as I was scrolling through my twitter timeline I ran across a post from Mr. Phill Wade. You know the guy who mocks Trey Songz like no other....
Well he tackles the whole topic of men & natural hair in his latest blog. It's a good read so check it out:
I am an avid Essence reader so you can imagine my pure DELIGHT when I saw that the Hair section of the August issue is dedicated in part to the 'fro in a piece entitled "Fro-tastic!" Though the piece is short it highlights two famous naturalistas who rock their 'fros with pride
Both chicas are stylish, beautiful and both love & embrace their hair. Check the article out as they share a few styling secrets and tips
Additionally in the Style section of the same issue there is a call for chicas rockin their blonde 'fro. If you're interested submit your best pics of your blond 'fro, accessories and rings to firstname.lastname@example.org for future issues.
What or who influenced you to make the transition?
I would have to say you (Kira) put the thought in my mind and my friend Anissa encouraged it along with my other girls. Ultimately I was tired of relaxing my hair, I really admired the natural look and wanted to see what my hair would be like in its natural state.
Have you done a BC?
No not yet....October 10th
Why October 10th? What makes that date so special?
I want to give my hair time to grow and October 10th is a special person's birthday so I know I can keep the date
How would you describe your hair?
OMG!! My hair is super duper soft with a hint of thickness, I don't know my curl pattern yet but I know I will love it!!!
An one what one word would you use to describe your hair?
Nice!!! So what does your hair care regimen consist of?
well I shampoo once a week sometimes twice and I also co-wash my hair once a week especially if I only shampooed once for that week, I use Wen conditioning cleanser shampoo and sometimes I use Pantene curly series and for my conditioner I mainly use Wen deep conditioner with motions leave in conditioner, I also use shea cantu and isoplus tea tree and aloe conditioner for my scalp.
If you could give any advice to aspiring naturalistas what would it be ?
HAVE PATIENCE PATIENCE AND PATIENCE!!! it is so hard at times not to be like heck where’s that no-lye relaxer at but it’s worth it as your hair begins to grow &change textures etc. you begin to adapt to it and also I see it as looking deep within thing because transitioning isn't always a walk in the park you really have some bad days where it seems like nothing is working but you have to make it work, it is then when you find that inner beauty while finding out what works better for you!!
What do you love most about your hair?
I would have to say the texture! =)
Give us 3 hair care products you can’t live without?
Eco style gel, tea tree & aloe conditioner & I think that's it it’s not three but hey lol! =)
Natural vs. Relaxed....."good hair means curls and waves bad hair means you look like a slave...." There seems to be a common misconception that naturalistas feel as though we are"better than"our relaxed counterparts. I can't front when I first went natural there was a sense of arrogance. Part of me thought"oh I don't NEED a relaxer. My hair is beautiful."I'm almost ashamed to admit that but it's the truth. I was arrogant, uneducated and just plain stupid lol. I now realize that it's not about natural, relaxed, curly, straight, or kinky. It's about HEALTHY HAIR period. I know several chicas with relaxed hair that is strong and healthy. While I'm still an advocate for natural hair I now realize that this road is not for everybody. When people talk to me about transitioning I do find myself encouraging them to@ leasttrythe natural route. Bottom line is that you have to find what works for YOU. I no longer define myself by my hair. My hair is an extension of a bigger better more beautiful ME. It is what it is and I love it but like my girl India said:"I am NOT my hair...I am the soul that lives within". Does your hair define who you are? Can you still be YOU whether relaxed, natural or BALD? Whatever your hairstyle of choice OWN IT!!!!!
So chicas what's your take on the whole natural vs relaxed debate???
So Ty tell us, how long have you been natural/transitioning?
I transitioned for 14 months and have been fully natural for THREE exciting weeks
FOUR MONTHS POST RELAXER
I TRANSITIONED WITH:
BIGGER WEAVE !!! LOL
AND OF COURSE BRAID OUTS/TWIST OUTS/ BANTU KNOT OUTS ETC...
These are some really beautiful pics!!! Tell us, who or what influenced you to make the transition?
Every woman with big hair influenced me. I've always wanted to go natural to have big hair of my own and most importantly to learn to love every natural part of me. With my relaxed hair I could achieve a 'big look' but it would never last long. Now I love the fact that I can rock my hair in every way possible.
13 MONTHS POST RELAXER
Every possible way huh? What are some of your favorite styles?
I LOVE bantu knot outs. It was my favorite when I transitioned and I love it even more now!!!
Since being natural have you done a BC?
Yes, I did my BC June 16th, 2011
Woo hoo!!!!!!!! And now how would you describe your hair?
My hair is thick and filled with different textures. There are loose curls in the front and it gradually transitions to tight kinks in the back.
That curl pattern sounds typical of a lot of naturalistas. What does your hair care regimen consist of?
First I "pre-poo" with honey and EVOO in sections and let it sit for an hour. I wash with Trader Joe's Nourish Shampoo and detangle with Trader Joe's Nourish Conditioner. I add about a tablespoon of honey in my hair and let it sit for 30 minutes with the conditioner. Rinse. Then I apply Cantu Shea Butter Leave In. Last but not least I add my whipped shea butter mix which consists of pure shea butter, aloe vera juice, castor oil, EVOO, coconut oil, and rosemary oil. Oh yea I also use Moroccan Argan Oil Eco Styler Gel depending on the style im rocking.
Your own personal whipped shea butter mix??? Hmmmm...is this something you created? My sister made for me. there are also a lot of women on youtube who do the same thing. It is sooo much better than just pure shea butter and it smells delicious.
If you could use one word to describe your hair what would it be?
What advice would you give aspiring naturalistas?
To all you aspiring naturalistas, know that transitioning is not difficult it just takes a lot of patience and getting used to. This is YOUR natural hair that God gave you, don't hate it.. love it. Products that work for someone else may not work for you because all of our hair is different and needs special 'prescribed' attention. Last but not least, being natural requires a lot of confidence. Everyone in society will not accept your kinks and curls. People may tell you "your hair looks a mess" or "you NEED a relaxer" but understand that it is your hair and you do not need anyone's approval to embrace your roots. Do not be afraid to be different, the more you show confidence in your hair, the more negative comments will be kept quiet.
That is some really good advice!!! With that in mind, what do you love most about your hair?
I love that i can walk in the rain and not worry about my perm sweating out ;-)
LOL I can completely understand that. Give us 3 hair care products you can’t live without?
The natural hair nation is TAKING OVER the 4th w/ FROS!!!!!!!! So no matter where you go or what you're doing do it while rocking your fro'....Let's show the world just how much we love our natural hair!!!!
Don't forget to send ur pics to CurlyNikki's so she can post them on her website