Growing up, I had long hair. It was almost to the small of my back, and my mom would take pictures to show her friends. They never believed her when she told them how long it was. I remember it seemed like it would take hours for my hair to get braided because of how thick and long it was.
That all changed when I was around 10 years old.
For some reason, I got a perm. I’m not sure if I begged for it, or what. But the smell was horrid and it burned before it was rinsed out of my hair. When I looked in the mirror, I was upset. My hair, usually frizzy, was bone straight and sleek. That’s not what bothered me, however. My hair that used to be so long was now a little past my shoulders in length. The perm had broken off my hair.
I spent the next eight years perming my hair. I couldn’t stand when the perm started to stop working and I could feel my roots returning to coils and waves. I spent mornings before school straightening and curling what was left of my hair so that it was smooth. Then my senior year of high school I found out about Senegalese twists, and decided to try those instead. I tried to wean off of the “creamy crack,” but about four months I caved. It was a vicious cycle of perm, twists, unbraid, repeat.
Freshman year of college, I had this roommate. She would do hair for a lot of her friends, and for free. I decided to ask her to braid my hair when I was strapped for cash one day. It took her almost all day, when I had finally dropped her off on campus at 3 a.m. the next morning. I was exhausted. But my hair looked good, so I was happy. Over the next couple weeks, I thought nothing of how unusually tight the braids were. That was, until some of the braids fell out. Now, they fell out around the crown of my head, pulling out my edges, edges being the baby hair along the hairline. Now, in black culture, edges are extremely important. So, imagine how it felt to have them be patchy and thin. I was so embarrassed, and it didn’t help that people kept commenting on it.
It was then and there that I decided to go natural.
Now, there are many different ways to go natural. There’s the big chop, cutting out all of the permed/relaxed parts of hair, usually resulting in an extreme change in length, or you can just grow out the hair until the permed sections are gone. Seeing as how I already hated my short hair, cutting it was not going to work for me. I decided to just grow out the perm and learn how to take care of my natural hair.
I am now a senior, and over this past summer my hair has officially become all natural and healthy. That being said, I still run into obstacles. My hair hasn’t grown since that fateful day of the perm and is stuck at shoulder length. I’ve tried everything I have seen on YouTube or Google for hair growth, to no avail. At least the black castor oil helped bring back my edges.
I see people online leave comments concerning natural hair, talking about how easy and cheap it supposedly is. News flash: they are liars. In no way is being natural cheap. When I first started going natural, I bought shampoo and conditioner, oils, gels and hair accessories to try and manage my transitional period. I spent about $50 and had to go back a month later to buy more shampoo and conditioner.
There is definitely a lot of research that goes into maintaining healthy, natural hair as a person of color. You have to determine your hair type, which contains a lot of factors, but in the long run it helps you figure out what works and doesn’t with your hair. This includes products and styles among other things. I thought I had one type, but it took my friend, who is a part of the Naturalista club on campus, to lead me in the right direction.
Transitioning involves the most extensive research in my opinion. You have to find styles that work for you and your lifestyle. It was hard and still is hard. There are days where I am so unsatisfied with my hair, the length, the texture, all of it. It makes me so mad that it gets to me so much. Plus, some of what is good for natural hair I happen to be allergic to: coconut oil and avocado oil. Some days, I feel that I don’t love my natural hair when I should be embracing it.
Honestly, I wish I had never gotten that perm when I was younger. If my hair was still that long and I was still natural, maybe I’d love it a bit more. But there’s nothing good that comes of dwelling too much on the past. I’m looking forward to my natural hair journey and eventually embracing the power that are my curls.