I’m so excited to write this post, specifically because I’ve recently (as in hours ago) just experienced a big change…the BIG CHOP! For the second time!
Not only was I not daunted this time round, but it felt like such a positive, empowering step and it was one I took a lot of time over. When I think back to cutting off my relaxed hair in 2009 and how unhappy I was with my hair (*crying down the phone to my then boyfriend now husband “…I don’t want to be bald when I’m 60! I want to be that grandmother with really healthy hair!”), doing the BC felt like an inevitable admission of defeat. This negative attitude was quickly replaced with an obsessive hunger for all things natural: YouTube videos, books, blogs, wash-and-gos, deep conditioning, everything except the dreaded trims!
I fell in love with all the different hair textures out there and became a bonafide hair porn addict, watching, mesmerised, as others melted and mixed butters, smoothed conditioners in their hair and detangled their heads in sped-up realities complete with jaunty background jazz. I fell in love with the world of natural hair, but can I say I fell in love with my hair? No. I tolerated it, and worse, I emulated what others had, constantly trying to find what worked for me by mimicking what worked for other people. There’s a difference between educating yourself about hair and educating yourself about your hair. The purpose of being natural was to grow my hair long and I celebrated any length achieved with a blow dry that always set me back.
It’s been a long road, and I’ve enjoyed mid-length hair along the way, and rocked and enjoyed lots of different hair styles. two children, an iron deficiency and a return to full time work later, my hair could only be described with one phrase – sick and tired. Unlike our bodies, which must be nursed back to health, we do have choices with our hair, and I realised that although I had the desire, I honestly did not have the time or patience to nurse my hair. On top of that, I really just wanted to have a ‘style’ again, to have control over the way I looked rather than to make do with this half-hearted bun that I was never happy with because of all the postpartum shedding and breakage I’d experienced.
I am so happy with my cut and so pleased to see my face again! But my real excitement comes from the fact that I’m truly empowered by the lessons I’ve learned about my hair, most of which I’ve only learned in the past 18months since my daughter was born.
Our genetics must be loved and embraced: when I look at my daughter’s hair, I see the healthy kinky coarseness from her father’s side and the loose curl pattern from mine. I understand it and I embrace it. I’ve started to do the same with my own hair. I love to see photos of my mother when she was young and I now understand that my hair is a gift of love from both my parents, just as theirs is from their own parents. It can’t be controlled. My hair cannot grow like my daughter’s nor vice versa, and the day she complains about her thick, voluminous hair being too much to handle and yearns for my ‘easy’ hair, I will laugh and tell her this.
Practice is just as important as products: oh my goodness, this took a long time to figure out. I’ve had to accept that I have so much to learn about hair care. Having an experienced, knowledgeable hair stylist is so important but if you don’t have access to one then understand that your hair will become a guinea pig and you will make mistakes as you learn. I now keep things really simple (no attempting flexi rods etc!) and accept my limited abilities.
Low maintenance is everything: I put my daughter’s hair into four big plaits and leave it like that until I work up the courage to incur her wrath a week later. It gets wet in the shower daily and I smooth leave ins and hair milks afterwards, but I NEVER undo those plaits even when they get rough because she won’t let me! She has the most incredible hair and I’m just getting out of the way while I let God work his magic.
Pain is unacceptable: my daughter bites my hand off whenever I detangle her hair, even with lots of leave in and a light oil. When I take a deep breath, and continue with extra gentleness, adjusting my expectations, she doesn’t make a peep! She is not interested in pain of any kind and because of this, she has forced me to work through knots without losing her any hair. Of course if she wasn’t so difficult, I’d detangle her hair more often which would lead to less knots but the point is, when I realised this correlation, I had to take a hard look at my sore scalp and accept that this wasn’t okay. This leads me onto the next lesson…
The scalp is more important than I realised: I NEVER gave a moment’s thought to my scalp. I saw scalp massages as tedious and unnecessary and as long as I didn’t have dandruff I thought I was good. Once I started looking at the science of hair and being more focused with my hair research, I realise where I’d gone wrong all these years. I used a clarifying shampoo for the first time and now do 2 minute massages daily. Even with my damaged hair, I saw a lot of improvement within a month. I don’t do massages for her, but I’ve realised that I really need them.
Porosity is real…: Lord, this was an eye opener. I’m guilty of running from concepts I don’t understand and this was one of them. Videos on porosity by Green Beauty kept popping up on my YouTube home page, and I kept thinking about it. The next time I washed my daughter’s hair, I got distracted before I could add a leave in and was shocked to see it had completely dried within twenty minutes! This really stuck with me because after washing my hair, it would take a full day for mine to dry…Out of curiosity, I decided to place a clean strand of my daughter’s hair in a glass of water and watched it sink to the bottom. Intrigued further, I did the same to mine…several hours later, it was still floating at the top! I had low porosity hair! But what did that mean…deep conditioning with heat (hadn’t done that in years), protein treatments from time to time (none for years), staying away from heavy butters (used them constantly), using glycerin (and again, nope, not in at least two years).
Stick to products that work: I can’t imagine changing the products I use on my daughter’s hair when I’ve already found products that work. So why have I constantly done that with my own hair? Many times we’re seduced by packaging and a constant need for variety but it means I haven’t given myself the chance to see if something works in the long term. Living in Singapore brings it’s own challenges because everything’s imported but some lines are more accessible than others. Even when I have found a product that works, I’ve been plagued with self-doubt as to whether I’m applying it correctly or if there might be some other version that works better. I’m so thrilled to have passed the product junkie phase, even if I do still buy in bulk. I now have a shampoo, clarifying shampoo and conditioner that I can buy from a supermarket here or get delivered, and I’ve found a range I love but need to buy in bulk: Curls Blueberry Bliss. I have a lot to learn in terms of practice (see above), but in terms of products, there is no miracle out there. As long as it’s got water, glycerin and lots of slip, then I’m good. No parabens are a bonus too.
Stick to a routine: I thought I was doing this before but with my daughter’s hair, I literally do the exact same thing daily and weekly. I have got to get to a place where styling my hair and caring for my hair is the exact same thing and not in conflict with each other. I used to be someone who changed their hairstyles monthly, now I’m trying to embrace the idea of a routine.
Everyone’s hair truly is different: Applying the same product on my daughter’s hair and getting a completely different result to when I use it on mine has been eye-opening. Occasionally, a product has worked in the same way. For example, both our hairs like Eniagedee’s mango butter though I use a lot less on my fine hair than I do on her’s. Noticing differences like this has been surprisingly uplifting. I’ve had a-ha moments and I’ve had ‘my hair’s really cool’ moments and it’s resulted in a renewed excitement to discover more. I’ve finally realise that there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with my hair at all.
Nothing is impossible: honestly, there was a point when I wondered if I would ever have healthy hair. Then it dawned on me – I have been the one caring for my daughter’s hair. She’s grown beautiful hair in less than two years because of my gentleness and thoroughness and attention to detail. When I realised that tying her hair in cute little buns was tugging on her hairline, I stopped immediately and now tie up her plaits as loosely as possible or leave them free. When it reached a certain length and started to tangle as she slept, I plaited her hair in cornrows for two weeks at a time. I noticed how coarse her hair is and yet how fragile the individual strands are; I noted exactly how many days she could rock a fro before it got messy and I figured out how to keep moisture in her hair, all while contending with the bull-headed personality of a toddler. If I can do all this objectively and consistently, to another person’s hair, then I can definitely do it to mine.
The challenges come when you start to compare your hair to others or criticise your own locks. They come when you want to achieve a certain ‘look’ that your hair was not designed for, or when you place your self-worth and confidence in the condition of your hair. My daughter does none of these things and it’s my responsibility to teach her to care for her hair, passing on my knowledge, but also to teach her to embrace and love it.
She has better things to do: an alphabet to master, an older brother to beef with and a world to conquer.
She has taught me so much so far, and I can’t wait to teach them right back to her. Many of these lessons aren’t even applicable to her necessarily – I sure as heck won’t be doing an onion treatment on her head any time soon (!) and I’ve never once seen a fairy knot in her hair but even after my BC I’ve still got loads… The protein and hot oil treatments are just for me right now but the point is, she has demystified and simplified hair care for me.
Right after my BC, I deep conditioned my hair, did a scalp massage and moisturised my curls. I felt beautiful and for once, I felt like I knew what I was doing.
For hair-spiration by ladies who know what they’re talking about, check out
Green Beauty – https://www.youtube.com/user/GreenBeautyChannel
Eniagidee – https://www.instagram.com/eniagidee/
Mango butter and protein defence: https://www.etsy.com/shop/healthyhairstudio