In my teenage years growing up in a small town where black people were the minority my top desire was to fit in. My skin colour was an obvious difference and I wasn’t able to change that. So what could I modify? My hair of course. So seeing these “popular” girls with their long, flowing straight hair and the desire to be one of them led me to relax my hair from a young age. To top it all off a strong sense of self-worth and confidence wasn’t really instilled in me from a young age.
I always felt as though I wasn’t enough: “pretty enough, small enough, smart enough, light enough…” the list goes on and on. And I constantly compared myself with other people probably because I was constantly compared with other people and fell short.
Relaxing my hair resulting in tons of damage, breakage, stunted growth, tears, prayers, more tears and more prayers! All I wanted was for people to love me and accept me for who I was. Not make fun of my because my hair was different and because of my skin colour. My hair wouldn’t grow and I desired long, flowing hair so desperately. After all, that’s what young girls and boys and “the world” considered to be beautiful right? Those were the messages I was bombarded with every day. And so I continued to relaxand my hair continued to break and become more damaged.
So I survived my emotionally turbulent teenage years and went off to university. You know – the place where the discovery of self is promoted. At that point I was secure enough in myself to know what was important to me and what wasn’t. And hair definitely wasn’t. I left the past behind me and was on to greater things and the meeting of new people. And while straight hair wasn’t that important it appeared that something else was: naturally curly, silky hair. So I found myself in the midst of self-doubt, self-loathing (sometimes), shame and insecurity about my own beauty.
University was over – I survived those years too! And I went on to naturopathic college where honestly, my hair was sooooo not important. Until one day – before natural hair was en vogue – I decided I had enough. This was in the year 2001. My hair was damaged, the length was definitely not adding up and I heard about this novel process called “wash and wear relaxer” created by the owner of a popular salon in Toronto. The hair was taken to about 80% straight so that some elasticity was left in the hair so that it could be manipulated without breakage. And to top it all off, the hair could be worn curly.
It was a dream come true! I could have the best of both worlds – the curly hair I desired, straight hair if I wanted, and it would grow long and lush because it would sustain less damage. I did my research, looked at the videos of women who were rocking this style and viewed testimonials from women who had the process done. So I excitedly made an appointment to get this wash n wear relaxer. At first only the roots were done as I was told I would need to grow out my perm. So I “relaxed” the roots and had my hair blow dried straight every time it was styled. And then my hair started to grow out gradually and all I could see was stringy, semi-straightened hair.
Where was the curl I was promised??? And to top it all off, it started to break in patches. I made an appointment to see the salon owner who investigated my hair. She was in disbelief that her product would result in breakage. After all, I was supposed to have minimal damage to my hair due to this process. After investigating she told me that it was alopecia due to stress. She was adamant about this. Did I believe her, of course not. But I was given no suggestions, no real course of action. So once again I dealt with my hair issues and started to grow out my hair with braids.
After a few months I decided to absolutely go natural. So I went to another salon that “specialized in natural hair” and my hair was cut by a stylist. At this point it was only a few inches long. After my hair was cut the stylist looked at me and said,
Is your hair always this dry?
No suggestions, no recommendations. No nothing.
I left there in tears not knowing what to do. This was serious. Because for some reason part of our identity is wrapped up in our hair. I had no knowledge about how to take care of it and my hair looked terrible. I didn’t know what to do. So I did the only thing I knew how to do at the time.
You can read the rest of this engrossing article by Dr wellnes over at Global Couture.