Back home, I had always put my hair on the back burner. I was raised on the devil's cream (relaxer), which uses harsh chemicals to permanently straighten hair. My mother was a high school teacher, university lecturer, and examiner all at the same time, so she barely had time to do her own hair, let alone mine. Relaxer left coarse hair soft and easy to manage. Ideal, right? WRONG! Relaxer burns. I grew up scratching scabs off my scalp because the relaxed hair was more convenient and deemed more beautiful. African parents did not confront their natural hair and made no effort to understand it. Unfortunately, this was passed on to their children.
Black hair can be put into 4 categories, each with their own sub-categories ranging from type 1 (straight hair) to type 4C (mine). The hair types get curlier as you move from type 1 and the curls (or coils) become tighter as well making it increasingly difficult to run your fingers or a comb through the hair and. Tightly coiled hair results in more painful detangling. I, personally, have broken several combs.
Given its almost worldwide takeover, I'm pretty sure most us have heard of the natural hair movement: Black and mixed-race men and women accepting their curls, coils, and kinks and finally cutting ties with the devil's cream for good.
I was empowered by the movement and when I arrived in the UK last September (2017) I decided to go natural. In my mind, I was going to conquer Europe and show them my uncrackable blackness, my “#melanated” goodness and kinky coolness.
BITCH YOU THOUGHT!
Turns out, the movement is not for everyone. To date, I've spent close to £200 on hairdryers, oils, creams, spray bottles, gels, applicators, conditioning caps, combs, and more in an attempt to have my hair look like that of the hair gurus of YouTube.
Titles such as "How to GROW Natural Hair Long & Fast! 3 steps that ACTUALLY work" paired with an impressive 'before and after' thumbnail were enough to reel me in and suck me dry. As an Economics major, I am extremely embarrassed to have been bamboozled like that.
I religiously followed their natural hair regimes:
- I hot oil my hair every Saturday (using a mixture of grapeseed, olive and peppermint oils) before I wash it in the shower.
- Then I deep condition for an hour with the conditioning cap on
- I hop back into the shower to rinse out the conditioner.
- Come out of the shower and detangle (the most painful part)
- Put my hair into 8 braids and let it air dry because direct heat from a dryer can cause irreversible damage.
You’d think hair that gets so much attention would flourish. (smh)
I like to describe my hair as the "hardest of everything" I have the most difficult-to-manage texture, the hardest-to-work-with porosity and the mother of all shrinkage. My hair is the coarsest of its kind with tight coils, will not easily absorb moisture and is constantly DRY but shrinks like crazy when it meets water (or water-based products). This makes it very difficult to love. I'm guilty of comparing my crown to that of girls with looser curl patterns but I always feel awful about it later. Their hair is thick, luscious, gorgeous and healthy, something mine has never been.
At this point, relaxer seems like the most sensible choice, except I can't bring myself to use it again. This is who I am. This is the hair that grows out of my head and I can’t run away from it. I will continue to dump overpriced products onto my scalp and hope to fully understand my hair and its needs.
For now, I am still an off-track African.