My decision to return natural was not influenced by media or a trend because, as at that time there wasn’t as much hype about natural hair as there is now.
I hope my bumpy journey to healthy hair will help and inspire you to embark on yours. 🙂
I have a fuzzy memory of not wanting to touch my freshly relaxed hair when I was about 7years old. I can’t quite remember if, that was the first time I got a perm or if that occasion was one of many. All I remember feeling at that time was that if I touched it, it may lose its greasy feeling and sleek straightness. I was simply amazed at how my hair could look so sleek like the people I saw on television. So from then onwards, my hair was continually relaxed until I moved to a boarding school (Adesoye College Offa) in Nigeria.
There, all the girls were required to keep their hair in a short crop (TWA) till they were in their final years. I remember being completely dumbstruck because I had become so attached to my hair that cutting it off seemed like a nightmare. Sadly, I joined the system and had to obey the rules. I was very upset and self conscious because I felt like I literally had no hair on my head anymore and I had no clue how to take care of it.
Thankfully, things began to look soon after the school session began. I started to feel more comfortable with my TWA because I wasn’t the only one rocking it. My mates and my seniors wore theirs with beauty and elegance and it motivated me more. However, neither of us seemed to know anything about caring for natural hair. It was just a simple logic of comb your hair when it’s wet because it feels softer and it will hurt less.
Fast forward to university where I was completely on my own for the first time in another country. I had to think of how to manage my hair after I took out the Kinky braids I wore for two months plus. Fortunately/Unfortunately for me I found a black hair salon and this is where my addiction to weaves began…
This was the longest my relaxer hair ever was before I encountered chronic breakage a few months later as seen in the picture below.
This is where I got addicted to weaves…
It seemed like every girl, (yes both black and white), was wearing a weave and it appeared to be the best available option other than braiding my hair so, I installed weaves in different styles every few weeks after getting my hair permed and it became a habit. In my final year of Uni, I saw a documentary by Chris Rock called, ‘Good Hair’. This documentary shows the toxic contents that are used in making relaxers and where human hair is gotten from. I was so terrified and disgusted by the time I was done watching that I indefinitely put off relaxing my hair.
At the time, I had my hair in a braided style called ‘touch and leave’ or ‘pick and drop’ so I didn’t bother to learn anything about natural hair.
I also left this style in for about 3months without any proper care so when it was time to take it out, my hair was a tangled hot mess. (You have no idea.) My hair had started loc-ing itself and had sustained a significant amount of breakage.
So I decided that yanking the knots out with a comb and washing it will help make all the knots and tangles disappear crying face(I don’t need to tell you that this was absolutely the worst idea ever!). I got out of the shower defeated with wet knots piled on my head.
I even got my brother and a male friend of mine to help me take out the knots and by the time we were all through, I had a headache and this was what my hair looked like.
A few days later, I was still trying to stick to abstaining from relaxers so I decided to re-wash my hair (I’m not sure I used a conditioner, haha! Ignorance is the Devil!). Once I was done, I used a blow dryer on high heat to cook my hair dry.
I vividly remember wincing in pain in front of the mirror as I combed my hair from root to tip and it was at the moment that I spontaneously decided to revert back to relaxers.
“I can’t take this anymore” I told myself and then I hopped on a bus to the nearest Black Salon.
Salon attendant: You’re welcome.
Me: I need a perm but I washed my hair this morning, I heard it’s not good to relax ones hair on a clean scalp.
Salon attendant: That’s alright, we’ll just put some talc powder in your hair to make it dirty.
Salon attendant: What relaxer do you use?
Me: Beautiful Beginners by Dark & Lovely
Salon attendant: Okay, sit in that chair.
As I sat in the chair, I silently watched her as she mixed the ingredients and parted my hair in four sections. She started routinely while I sat there waiting for the process to be over. However, what I did not expect was the ridiculously painful burning sensation that occurred before she had gotten to the middle of my head. I cried. Yes, I actually had tears in my eyes at the salon because the pain was quite unbearable. I recall pleading with the salon attendant to stop because I couldn’t take it anymore. I told her I was okay with walking around with my hair half permed but she insisted she’ll be quick to put the relaxer on the undone parts of my hair and we’d rush off for a quick rinse. (Ha! She wasn’t quick enough because that burn is almost impossible to forget till today).
When she was done applying the relaxer, I literally jumped and ran to the to the basin to have it rinsed out. It was while she was rinsing my hair that we found an open wound on the right lower side of my scalp (this was where she first applied the relaxer). I also lost most of the hair on my nape (but that was majorly due to lack of moisture, wearing tight weaves and using wool scarves). Thankfully, the perm had only eaten away some skin on my scalp. It would have gone a lot deeper had I not rinsed it at the time I did.
Needless to say, that was the moment I decided NEVER to use a relaxer again…
My very first weave at University.
After I finally managed to take out the braids
After the relaxer, you can see the scalp wound if you look closely.
Battling with breakage.
Needless to say, that was the moment I decided never to use a relaxer again…
So, for the first time, when I got home, I Googled ,’how to take care of natural hair’.
I personally preferred visual explanations but at the time there were only a handful of YouTubers dedicating their channels to natural hair. However, as time went on, I researched further and found;
Torrianda7 (now known as Jungle City)- She taught me how to braid my hair myself and her mane, Lawd have mercy!
JcGrace- She is absolutely fun to watch and her hairstyling videos got me through my transitioning phase.
Kimmatube- Her tutorials were very detailed and extremely helpful. It was through her I learnt about the book, ‘The Science of Black Hair’ by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy.
My other favourites were: AfricanExport, WhoisSugar, Toni Daley, Nikkimae2003, NaturallyCandi, Alicia James and UrbanBushBabes.
These Vloggers helped me through my first year with natural hair.
I transitioned for seven months and impulsively cut my relaxed ends off when I noticed how limp and lifeless it looked. At this stage, my new obsession became products. I wanted to try every organic or close to natural product I could lay my hands on. I even purchased luxury brands like Ojon & L’occitane and although they lived up to expectations, they left holes in my pocket (haha). Thankfully, in time I found affordable products that worked wonderfully on my hair.
Currently, my hair has been natural since June of 2011 and it has honestly been one of the best journeys towards self-awareness and purpose in my life. I have been questioned by strangers and even looked at interestingly and weirdly but I continue to be a source of inspiration to some.
So far, I have also educated myself by reading books written specifically on black hair such as;
If you love it, it will grow by Dr Pheonix
Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy
Better than good hair by Curly Nikki and counting…
My advice to anyone seeking to grow their natural hair, is to learn and educate yourselves, Natural hair is 100% beautiful and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Peace & Blessings,
Chinwe Juliet N