There is not one woman in the world who hasn’t experienced some form of hair struggle. Most people bemoan their tresses at least once a week, if not daily. Depending on your natural hair texture, your struggle may be different, but that doesn’t make it any less of a trial. The funny thing is that women with kinky hair will think women with curly hair don’t have hair woes, while the women with curly hair are thinking women with straight hair have it made. Then you have women with straight hair buying every roller on the market or waking up an hour early for work so they can barrel curl their hair for “effortless beachy waves”. Whether we want to admit it or not, as women our hair is our crown. Pun intended.
My hair has been a sort of defining factor for me my entire life. I was raised by my white mother and her wavy-straight brunette hair which she manipulated with various natural (lemons) and unnatural (L’Oreal) products to create a sort of sandy-sun-bleached brown. I spent my entire childhood wanting my mother’s hair. My mother spent her entire childhood eating all her bread crusts because her own mother promised her that it would make her hair grow curly. The other day my daughter said something about wishing her hair was more like mine and I realized then that no one is ever satisfied with the hair on their head.
When I was little, I would ask my mom to leave the conditioner in a while on wash day before we rinsed it out. I would squeeze huge dollops of Finesse into my palms and smooth it through my wet hair because that was the only way I could feel it against my back. With the shower sending magical water running through it, my hair was obedient and long. But most importantly, when it was wet, my hair looked like my mother’s.
This is not to say that my mom didn’t do her best to care for my hair; she did. My paternal grandmother and aunties descended upon my nappy, dry toddler head and performed miracles with sharp-teethed combs and wads of hair grease to which my hair had previously been unaccustomed. They instructed my mother in caring for black girl hair in an age before forums and blogs dedicated to guiding mothers of mixed children. And so, for the next decade or so, I sported twist-outs and the occasional French braids. When I was around 11, my mother trained my hair into pencil-thin dreadlocks and I wore it like this until secretly tearing them all out at the age of 15.
I still did not love my hair. It would be dry, it would be poofy, it would defy gravity and I hated it.
Other people loved my hair. White people thought it was fantastic; black people could see its potential. My mother taught me to love my hair, but I still resented it because it was not like hers. I envied other mixed girls whose hair grew straight down their backs in compliant curls. I felt like I had been cheated out of my birthright to receive hair more like my mother’s; my hair was not like my father’s either, but as far as I was concerned it was.
It took me a long time to truly love my hair. The biggest factor in discovering that my hair was not my enemy was when I realized that it would flourish under its own tailored regimen. Not just washing and conditioning, like my mother’s, but a longer process that could actually stretch washing my hair into an all-day event.
One thing about mixed girls is that our hair is not like our mothers’. Some mothers can pass their own hair care tips down to their daughters, but most mixed moms can’t do this because their daughters’ scalps sprout evidence of their mixed ethnicities.
The following are things I have learnt over the years which moved me closer to loving my hair:
- The comb is not my hair’s friend. My well-meaning aunties had taught my mother to plait my hair, but raking a comb through it hadn’t given my tresses a time to show me what they were really made of. When I discovered that I didn’t need to “comb” my hair, it was revolutionary.
- My hair is actually curly. When I put the comb down, I realized that my curls were beautiful, individual ringlets which were previously ravaged into nonexistence.
- Not all conditioners are created equal. Just because something says “conditioner” doesn’t mean it’s conditioning.
- Switching up hair products helps. If I use the same shampoo and conditioner all the time, I start to see build up and my curls become weighed down. What I’ve found is that by alternating bi-weekly, I’m able to avoid this detriment to my hair. My favorite products are Deva Curl’s No-Poo and One Condition system along with Garnier Fructis Curl Nourish Shampoo and the accompanying Leave-In Conditioner. All of these are sulfate free which is HANDS DOWN the best way to go for curly hair like mine.
- Spend the extra time. Rushing through your wash routine is not the best bet. I am the most impatient person, but for the past few weeks I’ve been taking way more time on my hair than I usually do and it shows. I also use Olaplex No. 3 once a month and see a big difference in the behavior of my curls. This product strengthens the bond in your hair and repairs damage in an amazing way. The bottle says leave it in for ten minutes, but I leave it in for an hour before rinsing and see amazing results.
- Don’t detangle dry! I stopped detangling my hair dry and, voila, amazing curl appreciation. I use a brush called the Wet Brush during my conditioner time. Sectioning the hair into four manageable clumps to detangle is very effective and gives my curls the opportunity to be truly snag free.
- Curl gel is awesome for definition. Tresemme Flawless Curls Defining Gel is my best friend. I smooth it through after washing using the shingling method (which I recently discovered is Ah-May-Zing) to have defined curls all week.
- Wrap it up. I never skip going to bed without my scarf on because this would result in curl mayhem. At night, I pineapple my loose curls and then fluff them in the morning with a little bit of hair oil for instant cuteness.
Being more appreciative of your hair is something that can improve not only your appearance but also your self-outlook. If you don’t have hair like mine, I’m sure there are things you can discover about your own texture which would revolutionize the way you feel about your tresses. The important thing to remember is that loving aspects of ourselves is a journey that is never absolutely complete.