The Trials and Tribulations Regarding My Hair
When I was 11-years-old my mother decided to put a relaxer in my hair.
My mom grew up in rural Georgia in the 1940s. During that time Black folks had experienced things that made them feel insecure about the way they looked so they tried to change it and my mother, with her fair skin and fine curly hair that she permed, was no different. Basically, because of experience, she didn’t like who she was and wanted me to dislike myself as well. She finally admitted that at age 70.
My mother didn’t find the children’s perm she was looking for so she bought an adult version and put it in my hair like a deep conditioner – it was plopped and massaged in – just like that. Once everything was done, I didn’t notice a difference but my mother said my hair was much better. People I knew noticed the change and said my hair looked was nice. Two weeks later she found the kid’s version and put it in the same way she did the first perm. A few weeks later my hair fell out in clumps. My mother tried to make it seem as if the breakage wasn’t that bad and said I still had some “long pieces left.” When I asked to see the hair that had fallen out my mother said she couldn’t find it.
My hair looked a hot mess! The texture changed. It was dull and brittle. The back broke off the most so it was shorter than the front. I could no longer put it in a pony tail or a pig tail for that matter!
I was upset. No. I was MAD! People would pick the hair on the back of my head with their two fingers and say “you had such nice hair what happened to it?” Women and men used to ask my mother “why did you do that to your daughter?” I started to go to a hair salon every two weeks to get it washed, pressed and curled. I didn’t have to do that before. At night I slept in hard plastic pink rollers with the little teeth because I was told the sponge rollers caused breakage. It was horrible. My hair never grew. As a pre-teen I also started to develop acne and became incredibly insecure. It was a very hard time for me and I was constantly getting criticized for not taking care of my hair and skin.
I started to wear hats daily because I just didn’t know what else to do. I used to pick fights with my mother over my hair whenever I felt like it and that’s when she started to wash, condition and cornrow my hair every two weeks. By doing that, my hair actually started to show signs of new growth. In high school I continued to wear cornrows but added extensions for a thicker look. Every month I would get my hair braided. My regimen was as follows:
I shampooed and added a raw egg for protein. Afterwards, I applied conditioner, rinsed and put in a deep conditioner for an hour or more. After rinsing I added a leave in-conditioner. I greased my scalp once or twice a week. My hair started to really GROW!! Within a year it was all virgin, completely natural and very healthy.
I wore cornrows for three years. Then I turned 16. I wanted a change. I thought about it. Talked about it. Then I did it. I got another relaxer. This time I went to a professional salon but everyone said the stylist put the perm in wrong because of the way it looked and said I should go to another hair-dresser. So when the time was right I did. The new stylist complaint about the way my hair looked and put in another perm. I was getting directions from several people on how to take care of my hair. I was confused and ultimately, yep, my hair fell out again and I went back to wearing braids with my tail between my legs. This time I got box braids instead of cornrows and was leaving them in for four or five months. My hair care routine was not the same either. I thought, if my hair is in braids, no matter what, it will grow, right? WRONG! My hair did not grow the way it had when it was in cornrows. I can’t remember my hair care regime while I wore box braids because I really didn’t have one.
After college I took the braids out and got a Wave Nouveau with a weave because I entered corporate America. My hair looked cute. Then I got box braids again and lived in the Congo as a Peace Corps Volunteer for two years. When I returned to the United States and entered corporate America again, I got another perm and would have friends put it in to save money. One time I forgot to wash the chemical out of my hair with neutralizing shampoo! Guess what happened? Then I had my hair cut short like Halle Berry and wore the pixie style for more than a decade.
In 2006 I decided to stop getting my hair cut. I wanted it long. I was making my own products but was doing it wrong by adding entire bottles of essential oils instead of a few drops. I experienced dryness and weird breakage. Then I started wearing protective styles such as weaves, ponytails and buns and researched the correct way to utilize natural herbs and essential oils that promote hair growth.
September 26, 2009 was the day of my last perm. Afterwards, I joined hair care boards to learn as much as possible about obtaining and maintaining healthy hair. I started doing co-washes, hot oil treatments and frequent deep conditionings.
Transitioning from permed to natural hair wasn’t so bad. I wore a weave for about a year and a half and had it cut out for good on February 7, 2011. I have been enjoying my experience taking care of my natural hair. I consider it a blessing to have healthy hair that is always growing. It may not grow as fast as some but I am noticing a difference. I’m happy.