My hair journey started before I was even born. While my mother was pregnant with me, she prayed that I would look just like my father. She got her wish, right down to his hair, which is thick, very curly, and light brown. I was born with a full head of curly hair. Most of my childhood, my mother kept my hair in afro puffs or big pigtails (so cute!). Even though she complained about it being hard to manage, my hair grew to a good length and was healthy natural. My mother’s go to product for my hair was Blue Magic Bergamot Hair & Scalp Conditioner (hair grease).
By the time I was 5 years old, my mother had already given me my first relaxer! She thinks it was the Care Free Curl brand of relaxer, not the ones specifically formulated for younger girls. I don’t remember getting this relaxer, but I do remember that even as a young girl I never liked getting them. They would always burn my scalp and the smell would linger on my hair for days after getting it done. I am not sure what benefit the relaxer had for my hair as a young girl. Looking at past photos, there is an obvious different between my natural hair in pigtails (long, thick, healthy) and my relaxed hair (shorter, and less full). There is clear breakage that occurred not long after I started getting relaxers.
My mother styled my hair throughout elementary school, but in middle school, I started doing my own hair and making my own salon appointments. I remember one particularly bad experience at a salon that I frequented. I was getting my usual relaxer, and after it was fully applied to my hair, my stylist told me to sit in the back by the hair dryers to let it “marinate” a bit while she finished styling another clients hair. She must have forgotten all about me, because by the time I got the courage to walk back to the front of the salon to remind her, I was in so much pain I started sweating and shaking. I had one of my worst scalp burns after that experience. Yet, I kept getting relaxers.
In between getting relaxers, I would only moisturize my hair once a month at the salon when I got my usual wash and condition three weeks after my relaxer. Other than that, I would only add in hair sheen using Isoplus Oil Sheen Hair Spray. I would use a heavy gel to slick down my edges and mainly wore my hair in a ponytail with a side bang (I have no idea where I came up with that hairstyle!). My hair was lacking in moisture and essential oils and was not growing past my jaw line.
By high school, I had a new stylist and a new hair cut. Because my hair had broken off so much from the lack of moisture, my new stylist convinced me to cut it so it would be even again and start to grow. So, I let her cut it in a short bob tapered in the back, which I thought looked like Nia Long’s hair during the 90’s. It was cute, but shorter than I expected it to be. I think I cried that night when I got home. After awhile I accepted my fate and moved on with shorter but healthier hair.
During this time, I also started experimenting with braids, and latch hook styles and went less and less to the hair salon. I loved box braids and would get my hair braided every month to keep them looking fresh. I also had my best friend cornrow my hair and wear it up in a ponytail – I loved this style and wore it for an entire school year. I would try out different ponytails: wavy, curly, kinky, straight. It became my signature look. I was even stopped by a modeling representative who asked me if I was a hair stylist because she liked my hair so much.
Even with all the experimenting with natural styles, I kept getting relaxers in between. I think this caused even more stress on my hair because I never kept consistent with a style. In college, I mostly did relaxers only and would wear it pulled back in a ponytail. I never knew what else to do with my relaxed hair because by this time, I was exercising more regularly and walking all around campus, which meant I sweat a lot. If you’ve ever had a relaxer, you know relaxers and sweat are not a good combination! My relaxer would only last a week or two before it would start to “revert back,” so to hide my puffy roots I had to slick it down and pull it in a ponytail.
This was an important time for me when it came to deciding to go natural. The more I spent on time and money to get my relaxer, only to have it last a week or two, the more I started to question why I kept getting them. When I started to become more aware of my health, I started to wander more about the effects of relaxers since I would usually get a scalp burn. The more I thought about it, the only reason I could come up with as to why I kept getting relaxers was because I didn’t know what else to do with my hair, and because I thought I was supposed to. I had no other hair experiences that did not involve a relaxer and believed it was the only way to manage my hair. Even the natural styles didn’t seem like they could be permanent solutions for me because I still liked my hair to be loose and able to breathe.
I don’t remember when it happened exactly, but around 2008, I decided that I didn’t want to get relaxers anymore, so I simply stopped. It was completely liberating to know that I never had to set foot in a hair salon again and pay half my (small) paycheck every month to get a style that didn’t even last. I had my sister cornrow my hair and I’d wear it in a ponytail with a hairpiece. I wore this style for at least two years, while trying out micros and kinky twists in between. I even tried a sew-in but hated how it pulled my scalp so tightly that I only kept it in for a week.
I had no idea that I was transitioning during this period to go natural. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as “going natural.” I wasn’t prepared to care for my natural hair at all! I didn’t do any of the things that I was supposed to do. I never did any re-moisturizing with water, deep conditioning, sealing with oil or heat protecting. I would even have my sister flat iron my hair, without a heat protector, before she cornrowed it so the braids would look cleaner. I believe this is the reason my hair didn’t grow as fast as it could have during the 3 years before I learned how to really take care of my hair.
February of 2012 was when I realized what the hell I was doing, GOING NATURAL! After becoming obsessed with YouTube natural hair tutorials for about a month, I did my first two-strand twist and absolutely loved it! That year was a transformation in the way I cared for my hair. I finally felt like I understood what I was supposed to do and how to style my own hair. I didn’t fight with my hair anymore because I wasn’t trying to make it do something it wasn’t supposed to do. I had so much fun trying out new styles, products, and hair accessories. I fell completely in love with my hair.
Now this might sound really vain, but when you are told in a thousand different ways your whole life that there is something wrong with your hair and that it needs to be straightened in order for it to be “good” or “right,” realizing that is not true is life changing! It’s even better when you learn cute and easy styles to show off your tresses.
I know that I would not be madly in love with my hair if it was not for YouTube. I was able to see women with their natural hair, loving it, and being confident with themselves. I needed to see these women as an example so I could start to get a different perspective. I am eternally grateful to all the YouTubers who post videos, review products, and share their experiences! Without all of you, I would still be lost. Thank you!