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JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY How did it all start? Ep.1

12 Sep

I was 15 the first time I relaxed my hair, it was agreed with Mum.
“Only when you will be 15, not before” Mum said… So, I couldn’t wait! Can you imagine the thrill, the excitment?

It was like finally getting the authorisation to become “Pretty”…

I know, it does sound awful when I say it so openly, right? But I will keep it real with you!
My journey back to being natural started from a place of hurt and self-hatred…I think it is important for me to be authentic with you guys and share my raw truth as I hope it would help some of us.

Perming my hair was a big step out of childhood and a massive jump into what I imagined at the time to be “Femininity” and “Beauty”…

I was sure I would feel more confident, more love-worthy, more watchable ! This perm-thing, seemed to have it all ! It looked like the best solution not to ever feel inadequate/akward again !!!

I don’t know if my family understood the motives behind getting a perm and the ill-being that the perm was supposed to heal…

I was, at the time, trying to convince myself that it was ok, “Don’t all “real” teens have a perm??”

But you see, deep down inside, I knew something was wrong; why should I “NEED” a relaxer to feel “PRETTY”? Why should I need a relaxer to feel OK with my reflection in the mirror? How come a relaxer was so crucial to my sense of self-worth and acceptation?

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY To perm or not to perm, that was no question! Ep.2

12 Sep

So, finally ! The big day arrived, and the process started… I remember the excitement, the fear, the first burn, the first sting…

“I know – I thought – it is burning. But You have got to hold a little bit longer” , “I want it to be sleek, so Suck it up Girl!” … Be real here, How many of you have been in this situation ! Haha ! We all have …

At the end, I glimpsed at myself in the mirror and here it was; my first reflection with straight hair!

At last, I was feeling attractive!

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY The real deal! Ep.3

12 Sep

 

I carried on perming my hair continuously for the next seven years at least. It was convenient, despite breakage, and it then became, the only image of myself I accepted and wanted to see. I couldn’t stand regrowth, frizzy edges and couldn’t wait for the next touch-ups!My hair was suffering, breakage, dryness (I was clueless on how to maintain it) – but more importantly I was suffering! I couldn’t stand the natural mane I was given at birth… You see, to be completely honest, perming was not a choice I made for ease of hair manipulation, but purely out of an aesthetic and adequate quest. And please, don’t tell me I was just the vulnerable victim of a ‘fashion trend’… Trends, come and go. Relaxing, has been the main, steady, continuous styling tool for Black women for centuries ! That is no Trend !! But a societal phenomenon..

I would very often wonder “Why God did give me this ugly head of hair?”

I would pray every night (Lupita, your empowering speech did bring me back years ago… We were sisters in the inadequate feeling.. 🙁 ) and was hoping to wake up the next morning with loose curls! I couldn’t get use to my hair texture; I didn’t like it!… On the contrary!

But, neither did my family! Before I perm my hair, I would very often hear comments such as “Your hair is so coarse! Oh God!” or, “You have got the kinkiest head of hair of the family, that is really not lucky!”… And, no need to even bring up the painful memories of dry combing, that most Black women would remember… That really didn’t help to make one feel blessed with a set of hair…

My hair was my shame!

But despite my lack of love for my hair, despite my lack of understanding for its needs and mechanics and being clueless on the best grooming practices, I was eaten inside by a paradox! I didn’t want to “HAVE” to perm to feel good about myself! I wanted to be able to look in mirror and love what I was seeing (without a relaxer)! I wanted to learn to love my natural coils!

Then it hits me, I didn’t have to live like my hair was a divine punishment!

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY Rock those coils! Ep.4

12 Sep

(Credit to Simplyounique)

If the universe has designed me with that natural attribute, how about learning to love it?!

From the moment I came to that realisation, my internal self-love journey started. It was not a journey against relaxer… What I wanted to accomplish, was to be able to feel attractive, to feel worthy without needing a perm.

And that is how my beauty perception shift journey started…

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY Welcome to the beauty perception paradigm shift! Ep.5

12 Sep

Because I had taken the decision to love and appreciate myself as the naturally coily head I am, it became clear that in order to stop altering my hair, I needed first to learn to find it beautiful !!! Yes, that is right! As you have certainly guessed by now, with my coils, it was not exactly love at first sight! But I think, you got that part already ! Haha!

I was determined to make this relationship work! If I could find coily hair compelling and attractive then I would naturally renounce to chemically alter it! And at that moment, I realised I strongly needed inspiration; I strongly needed Coily Beauty Icons…

Ok! Decision is taken! Let’s find inspiration, now! Yes, I needed to be proactive about it…

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY Let’s find inspiration, now! Ep.6

12 Sep

Let’s find inspiration now.. But where?

Where? Family? Friends?...

Most people around me, at the time, had chemically processed hair. And no one seemed to really grasp what my decision was about! The opinions around me, seemed much more to say “You were not blessed with nice hair, just get over it”, “Why you want to do that to yourself? Just put a wig, or a weave-on or something!” As I couldn’t really compare my hair realistically with looser curl patterns, (I realized early on that my hair would never naturally behave that way, despite many attempts! And you know what guys? That was a painful realisation!Lol) I then needed to find what pretty was for my hair type… The first step was then to dissociate myself emotionally from this “fair skin, loose curl beauty ideal”. Being realistic, I am a world apart from this canon of beauty!

Does it condemn me not to be pretty? Of course not ! Only if I choose to!

If I want to become a “feel good in her own skin” woman, I have to give-up trying desperately to look like somebody else. And instead, choose to look the best me I can with all my natural attributes! The problem was, looking around me, I could rarely see dark skin girls (like me) rocking their hair and looking blissfully radiant and confident.

I need to state something, before going further, I am not against pressing or straightening our hair, for a change; or nothing against the use of extensions, weave or wigs as protective styling options! But not as hair REPLACEMENT!

For me, if I cannot look into the mirror without those fakes and love what I see, there is a PROBLEM! You get what I mean…

I therefore needed another source of inspiration. Magazines? I hear you laughing already!
Yes, I did try. I was vulnerable and was desperately hoping to find “Dark skin Coily hair models” that would become my icons, full my inspiration and transcend my love journey ! I flicked through several hundreds of pages in vein. Then turn to the net!

I spent hours and hours the on web. Googling “Afro hair beauty” ” Afro hair care maintenance tips”, “Afro hair styling options” and so on! And this is when it happened; in my inner quest to reconcile with my coily beauty, I stumbled upon YOUTUBE, and its YOUTUBERS. Hundreds and hundreds of coily, curly, wavy beauties sharing tips,“do’s & don’ts”, struggles, accomplishments and their journeys!

“Carry on clicking Sister, you are getting warmer!” I thought!

And you know what? Discovering this community was one of the best things that happened in my life! I am not kidding! Can you imagine that for the first time, I was able to witness 4c hair type grow to hip lenght (check sera2544)! Kickass styling options (check Simplyounique)! Amazing maintenance tips (check Naptural85)! Scientific insights (check Kimmaytube)! Those women are Pioneers, they have opened the breach and are inspiring, emulating thousands of people every day! I had found my castle! Here it was; the inspiration I needed and had been searching for years! In abundance, for all hair types, for all beauty types!

I know now that “Dark skin, Coily Hair” is celebrated too!

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY The “virtual Big Sisters” and when it all started! Ep.7

12 Sep

(credit to Kimmaytube)

After witnessing the beauty of afro hair on the web, I couldn’t wait to start transitioning and experimenting with natural styles! And finally, I found them, my first “4c Beauty Icons” (thank you Youtube); I cannot describe to you how ecstatic I was. They were embodying for me, at that time, a beauty ideal I only could dream about. The deep chocolate tones of their skin, their general femininity and a “feel good in their own skin” sensation, crowned with gorgeous head of coils! They were the ideal “4c Beauty” I could relate to. Identifying with their features didn’t push me to distort or hate my natural attributes; on the contrary, it did help me to look at them with more love, and finding beauty in them. No need to emulate a beauty ideal that is not mine!

The Virtual big sisters!

They became my virtual “big sisters”…
And like a little sister, whom will always be looking up to her older sibling, I started mimicking everything they would do without (initially) adapting it to my own hair (despite their advices). From the products recommended, to the number of time their hair was being washed in a week…I was missing the point! Which was learning to feel my hair and understanding its needs! After all, if their hair were so lush and thriving so well, it was because they had learn to reply to its need adequately. That was what I should aim for!!

The most import thing of all when one is becoming natural is to realize that not two heads of hair are the same! Of course there are general rules for all, but one should not forget that we are all unique!

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY Transitioning, Big Chopping! The learning curve Ep.8

12 Sep

Like many of you ladies, at first the idea of ‘Big Chopping’ (cutting all the relaxed hair, to only leave the new growth) was a tad too brutal. So I opted first for ‘transitioning’ (gradually letting the natural hair growing, leaving the two textures to co-exist). Then, was ‘protective styling’ (styling option that protect the strands and ends from friction and damages) my hair in big box braids or twist most of the time.

To summarise the first part of my hair journey, I went through two ‘transitions’ and three ‘big chops’. I know, I know… You thought my struggles were over already? That would have been too easy! Lol! It was not a straight forward process. I was battling with accepting the newly discovered nature of my hair and how I looked. And as I was not yet near my “virtual sisters” results, it was generating many frustrations. I was sometimes running out of patience, and this is why I would go back to the only thing I knew best at the time: PERMING.

But, my desire to reach my new beauty ideal goal was now very deeply rooted…

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY The first steps: hit and miss Ep.9

12 Sep

I needed to learn how to care for my hair, how to wash it without it becoming all matted on the top of my head, dry and hard like hay. I needed to understand that even if my hair is a 4c type (the coilyest hair type); it could be soft and manageable if I knew how to groom it. Initially, I would have days with and days without. Sometimes my hair will be manageable and soft and without understanding why, the next day everything will be rough and dry 🙁 Sounds familiar?

Then, I started to understand that I could retain length! Yes ladies ! Real long natural afro hair that is COMPLETELY MINE !!

Let’s get right to business here and dispel those myths ! Our hair could grow ‘cray-cray’ length once we know how to care for it ! And yes, even if we are not mixed race, and yes even if we didn’t have long hair as a child, and yes even if all of our family has very short hair ! The problem is that we had been inflicting so many bad treatments to our hair (without even knowing!!) that we assume the length we have has to be our determined genetic length ! But it couldn’t be further from the truth ! When we understand that the keys to length retention are hydration/conditioning, protective styling, gentle manipulation and healthy diet in between other, then we gradually start better grooming regimen that in the long run allow to grow healthy long hair…

I realised that none of had to be a hit and miss process! I could grow my hair every month and the results could be gradually visible…

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY My third Big chop! And finally in love… Ep.10

12 Sep

At the time of my third big chop, I had made all the mistakes a newbie natural could ever dream off ! lol ! As a result, I had mature quite a bit ! Several Youtubers had cross my road and now Natural 4c Type hair was hugely appealing to me ! I couldn’t keep my fingers out of my hair! Caring and protecting my coils all started to make sens !

The shift of paradigm had fully taken place and finally, I was in love !!! In love with my hair and more at peace with my beauty type !

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY The Love story! The Honeymoon Ep.11

12 Sep

That was it! I was finally in love! And like newlyweds we couldn’t spend long time apart. My hands couldn’t stop running through my hair. And my mane couldn’t be more radiant. The communication was optimum; I knew now what my moisturized hair should look and feel like and I would adapt in a “fraction of second” if I felt the harmony was about the break. I got really observant, to the point I could speak the same language my hair does! “You’re squeaking Hun!? Too much clarifying shampoo? Not a problem, I’ve got your back Babe!”

This is the moment I realised for the first time that when my hair is truly moisturised, my coils would be defined! I thought I just had a fuzz with no definition! And believe me, that was a true breakthrough!

My hair was like a “Trophy husband”, you know, so handsome you would want everyone to know he is your hubby! I would be taking pictures of my new growth every month, and asking my friends all the time “Do you think my hair is longer now?” or “What do you think, they are quite soft, are they?”… Come on, don’t let others believe I am the only one it did happen to ?! Lol ! Admit it too Cheeky You ! 🙂 I had never been so adventurous and creative with styling options, lush time…I would dedicate entire week-ends (Yes, You have read well !! Entire week-ends!) to deep-condition, pre-shampoo, shampoo, finger detangling and all the click…

I would think about my hair all day long, and as one can dream of her future life with her Honey boo, I would be dreaming about all the amazing Do’s and accessories I would be able to do or use as soon as it would hit a certain length…

I was even feeling fully feminine with my natural coils! Check me out! Lol! That was completely new for me! This is when I realized that whatever would happen between us now, I could not go back anymore to a relaxer! Perm time was definitely over! I had won my challenge; I had managed to change my conception of beauty! I knew now that the Beauty Paradigm Shift was real for me! What could go wrong?

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY Love is a roller coaster Ep.12

12 Sep

Upside down! Love is a roller coaster! Love goes slow, love goes fast… Does any of you ladies know the saying “Love is a roller coaster”? That is exactly what I experienced with my Babes (cute name for my hair, hugh) ! It started first with too much to do at work, so I got less time to devote to my hair. Or, I would be feeling so exhausted during week-ends that the all caring session would appear way too much work! During the Honey-moon period caring for my hair didn’t equate with work, but pleasure. What was happening to us now? I started to dread the time I had to dedicate to do my hair and it all started to feel painful and constraining again.

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY From Fatuous Love to Companionate… Ep.13

12 Sep

But this time, I was committed! Although the passion seemed to have worn off, the intimacy and commitment was still there! What I found out about myself during this journey was so liberating and empowering, that I couldn’t just drop my lover because of an off-peak!
I had to think of a new strategy to keep us both happy! At the end of the day, I have made my mind; I have made the CHOICE to love my COILS!

And, Love is a decision

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY Speaking my hair Love Languages Ep.14

12 Sep

Which one of you is familiar with the ‘Five Love Languages’? If you are not, please go and read that book now please ! lol ! (But, only after you are done with reading my story 🙂 ) This book is a love-life saviour, when you think love is gone forever and could never be re-kindled with your lost lover, friend, etc here it comes and Boum-Shaka-Boum it does teach you that it could be otherwise !

You do not have to resign to a life of misery with a long-time partner, you could learn to speak its love language !…

All is well ladies, I can hear you thinking “Where is she going with that?”, “What does it have to do with Hair?”, “Focus Erika, Focus !” Lol…So here, I come to the point…I have found out the two love languages of my hair: Quality time and Act of services ! Shaka-Boum !

And, this is how I managed to gradually re-establish a loving and satisfying relationship with my hair. Our love tanks are both full ! I am giving it the time required on a regular basis in order for it to receive the TLC (Tender Love and Care) it needs; and in return, guess what, my hair would complement my by remaining soft, lush and fab !

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY In Bed with my coils! The drenched pillow! (or “Soaking wet pillow”) Ep.15

12 Sep

Newly naturals, raise your hands! (Please don’t be shy)

Have any of you ever moisturized your hair so much, only to wake-up the next morning with your pillow drenched in oil or moisturiser?! I know I have been there! We are going quite deep here, very intimate! Lol! Sometimes, the pillow is so soaking drenched that even your face benefit from it!  You wake up with a shiny moisturized skin but hair dry like hay! The moisture went everywhere but didn’t stay in the hair! I am sure I am not the only one here! Come on ladies, don’t be shy! Raise your hands too! lol

When you are sleeping on your own, that is not such a big deal, you just flip the pillow side, right?! Just kidding! You learn your lesson: moderate hydration is definitely the way to go!

What when you are sharing your bed?

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY Are you ready for intimacy? Ep.16

12 Sep

I remember, just a few months after my third big chop and last texturiser, I met this gorgeous young chocolate man. Our relationship grew to become very intimate. And for the first time I was experiencing the mix “natural coils and boy-friend”.

To be really honest I was quite anxious.  My past experience has let me quite wary of “natural mane and relationship”. I was scared of the “Drenched pillow” experience to happen while being with my new partner. And you know what?! It did … I was still working out the practicalities of being a naturalista…How did it make me feel I hear you asking ? Well, a tad vulnerable…It was the first time, I was facing letting someone into what was for me, at the time, my most intimate and personal journey.

But this time, I wanted “Mister Right” to know me with my natural attributes first!  No hair secrets between us! That was my rule! Because learning to love my hair has been such a key element in my self-love journey and rediscovering of my beauty and femininity, I needed to share with him. I wanted him to be part of it. The first few months, we had quite a few long conversational hours about “hair politics”, and I recommended to him few key books that has truly impacted my journey (one of them is: “Hair Story: Untangling the roots of black hair in America), because at this time it was the only way I felt he could understand me! Hair and relationship has been such a taboo for me in the past few years. But this time I decided to be fully open about it!

JOURNEY BACK TO NATURAL BEAUTY Everybody knows: no one touches a Black woman hair! Ep.17

12 Sep

I was at first quite reluctant for him to touch my hair. I know, it sounds so stereotypical. And I said no more taboo between us! But Ladies, to be honest, after my genitalia, my hair was the most intimate part of my body! So so intimate and delicate!! The more our relationship grew the more it became obvious. He will touch my coils soon! Scary thought (at the time)! I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it but I was feeling pretty vulnerable, such a private matter. Although I was still in my “Hairymoon” (the Hair Honeymoon), so no doubt about my hair; I was worry he may not love it enough. What if he doesn’t love the feel of it? What if he doesn’t love the massive pouf I have after my shampoo and before styling? What if, what if, what if…I was slightly torn, because I was not feeling in control!

But, paradoxically, a part of me was hoping he would one day want to play with my hair spontaneously and love the feel of it. Deep down inside I really wanted him to try and style my hair, just for fun! And have a good laugh about it! I know many of you may think “She is crazy!” ! lol ! I forgive you ! But I was secretly hoping for this level of intimacy to be reached. And I was just scared to death, because it was a truly new way for me to approaching intimacy! Have any of you ever desire this level of complicity with the person she loves?

To be continued