Natural hair–the process of growing, keeping it healthy, enjoying it–I find to be one of the most daunting yet special experiences. Growing up, my hair was relaxed and lived at a decent length, but like most young black women over relaxing my hair caused it to become damaged. During my last year of college, I decided for once and for all I wanted healthy and long hair. I felt going natural was the only way to achieve length and health. The gag is, the entire process has been inconsistent. It has caused me a great deal of self- esteem conflicts and I would say bitterness, but today after five years–damn five years– on this journey, I find the process of nurturing my hair to be evidence of my own love of self.
Natural -adj|existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind.
Let’s be clear. I was about 14 years old when I learned to hate my hair. It was damaged at this point. It was short. It was thin. It didn’t bounce, move, perculate, or anything else I felt it was supposed to do. I tried everything I knew to get it dance again. For cheap maintenance, we decided to go the beauty school for a simple wash and style. I was so excited to see how my hair looked after the process, after all everyone else I knew who took this route had flourishing hair. I got home, looked in the mirror and immediately cried. Once again my hair proved to be thin and lifeless. In my mind, because my hair was ugly and lifeless, I too felt ugly and lifeless. My crown, my hair was ultimately a reflection of me. Ornamental if you will. And yet, the crown did not match the light and confidence I felt on the inside. Honestly, I felt curse. Especially when it seemed everyone around me had hair that danced. At that moment I resolved to cut it all off. Not quite. I cut it into a pixie.
The pixie cut had movement. I was being compared to Nia Long. My bang was flourishing. I had the best hair stylist in the city. I was feeling good about myself again. The raw truism in my last statement lies in the fact, if my hair looked good, then I was allowed to feel good about myself. It was a common mistake I carried with me for a while, but I digress. Soon, like all good things, the pixie cut I had for four years, passed over to the other side of life. It too, lost it’s bounce, it’s nae, nae, it’s dance. I cut my hair again. This time, I big chopped until I had about one inch left of hair. But girl, I had no idea what I was doing.
Reflecting back it is so ironic. Natural hair, the whole concept is based on the idea that because the hair is natural, or caused by nature–the most raw creation of something, we should know what to do. But in reality, many of us have been so far removed from the old school remedies used to take care of our hair, we have to relearn all of our classic processes. There lies a parable. I had to learn how to love and take care of my hair. In the process, however, I realized I was also learning to love and take care of my own self, for the lies society, media, and community tell about natural hair is congruent to that of Black womanhood.
Break it down, B:
Society and those who subscribe to the lies say, “Your hair is nappy and unattractive.” “You won’t get a man like that.” “You are worth nothing.” Those whispers along with my own experiences charged me with the task of learning to honor and appreciate me. Interestingly, it started with my hair.
For the first year of natural hair life, I had no idea what was going on. I tried to emulate what the Youtube gurus were doing. That didn’t work. I wasted my money on every product under the sun. That didn’t work. I even tried to get braids. That didn’t work. I couldn’t hide my hair with braids. They slipped right off. It was an awkward phase. But just like anything newly born, its awkward. Its a new unfamiliar world. Learning it all takes time.
After some time though, ya girl learned a flow. I learned how to and the importance of routine deep conditions, hot oil treatments. I now know the difference between water based leave in conditioners and cream based leave in conditioners, as well as which ones my hair likes more. I learned exactly how much shelf life I have on a twist out as well as how many days can I rock the puff before my edges start to pull. I learned which protectives styles are the best for my hair, as well as the least damaging synthetic hair to buy. I’m on fire. On the contrary, all of those lessons came at a cost and the cost was learning to love my hair as it exists as much as I needed to love myself . With that said, below are 5 things my natural hair journey taught me about self- love
- Protect it. In all of the years I have been natural, the most growth came when I wore my hair in protective styles. The rule of thumb is to keep your ends protected, for your ends are the oldest parts of your hair. Makes sense. When I did, I accrued desirable growth. As it applies to learning to love myself, however, protection meant protecting my heart and feelings from people who had ill intentions. Protection meant knowing when and why to let go of other’s people’s baggage. Protection means making sacrifices to protects my goals. Protection means advocating for myself during times that require a voice.
- Keep it moisturized. To moisture means to make something less dry. With our hair do this by using the LOC method. Apply liquid, oil, and conditioner to your hair. Makes sense after all, our hair produces oil, but due to the design of the coils, it’s difficult for the oil to travel through out our entire hair shaft. As it applies to learning to love myself, however, keep it moisturized meant doing things that keep me less dry–happy and in good spirits. Keep it moisturized meant I had to learn what things brought me joy. Keep it moisturized meant constantly trying new things and keeping those which brought me happiness, peace, and inspiration.
- Cut off dead ends. Because our ends are the oldest parts of our hair, they are also the most fragile. When these ends are left untrimmed, they have a tendency to travel up the healthy part of the hair shaft and, well, spread the old and the damage. This process causes like reverse growth. Meaning, it doesn’t matter how much your hair grows, if those ends are not cut, they will inevitably damage the rest of your hair. The same notion applies to cutting of the dead ends in your own life. I learned from this practice to cut out bad habits, bad people, bad circumstances, bad mindsets, and anything else that cause reverse growth. Holding on to old and damaged ends only hinder our growth.
- Be patient. Everything grows. The most frustrating part of my natural hair journey has also been hair growth. I would get so frustrated that my hair growth was not coming fast enough. Eventually, I had to accept the pace it grew. After I did, I would look at pictures and in the mirrors of other peoples eyes and learn that my hair has actually come a long way. Growth was happening right before my eyes, but lack of patience blinded me from seeing it and enjoying the process. The same goes for life. You/ we are growing. We are becoming. We are achieving. Although we don’t see the growth happen everyday, thankfully it still occurs. After all, you are not the same person you were 6 months ago. Yet, with patience we can learn to appreciate ourselves no matter what season.
- Natural hair does what it is supposed to do and there is beauty in that principle. Looking at the gurus and comparing my own hair to theirs became so daunting and quite annoying. My twist outs did not come out the same. My hair does not shine the same. After one night of a twist or braid out, my hair shapes itself into a taper like cut. I got frustrated and questioned: why is it not doing what I want it to do? The answer is this: my hair was specially designed to do what it does. The good news is, when I embrace it for what it is, I see the beauty in its unique texture, length and movement. As in life, we can prod, pull, twist, and shake all we want to turn ourselves or our lives into something else, but the bliss of life comes when we embrace what is and understand it as exactly what is supposed to be—beautiful.
At the end of the day, I’ve learned a lot about my hair and is still learning. In the same light, I’m learning a lot about my self and is still learning, evolving and growing. The beauty is, my crown and my personal evolution work hand in hand to help me become the natural hair, bad bish, Godly woman I am destined to be. On the way, however, I learned my hair is more than my crown it is my teacher. It is amazing in its own right. Just as I am. Just as you are.
If you love it, it will grow.Dr. Phoenyx Austin
- Hair growth takes time.
- Life is what you make it.
- Natural hair is the most beautiful there is.
Thank you for reading!
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