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Older Natural Feature – Jennifer

Jennifer M.

[How long have you been Natural?]
Oh, gosh, I’ve been “natural” for about 7, 8 years now.

[How did you transition?]
I had been wearing a curl, a Care Free Curl or some other curl, off-and-on since I had been in high school.  I was never any good with maintaining the straight hair look, I hated rollers and I burned my hair with curling irons.
I didn’t like getting my hair treated; I am a ‘scratcher.’ Everyone would tell me not to scratch—from my beautician to my mom but I did it anyway. If my scalp itched, I scratched it. Then in the beautician’s chair, oh, the pain! Afterwards, I would have sores in the spots where I scratched. I figured this couldn’t be good for my scalp. I went longer and longer between beautician visits and one day I decided that my unprocessed hair is the way God made me and I should just go with it.

[Was it a hard transition?]
Well, I never did go out and get my processed hair chopped off, I just continued to wash, condition and fluff. That was easy. The hard part was when I decided to get locks.

[Why was that hard?]

Well, I’ll be honest; I had seen some pretty scary locks out there. I saw why they called them DREADlocks.

It may be vanity but I didn’t want to have scary hair.

That all changed when I met a family in a parking lot. The three boys had braids and their mother had locks. I couldn’t help myself; I asked her if she had done the hair. Although it makes me uneasy, I was willing to go to a stranger’s house if I could have braids like that. She told me that she took the boys to a beautician who had also done her locks.

You’d think that I would go straight out and get the braids or locks, right? No. I had to think about it. Every day on my way to work, I passed by the barber shop where this beautician worked. Every day I thought about it.

I went online and looked at pictures of women in locks. I found a blog about a woman who went with “Sisterlocks.” She talked about her process, the transition from relaxer to locks. I might have gone that route if there had been someone local who could do them. The thing that sticks out in my mind from the woman’s blog is the length of the locks from her chemically-damaged scalp compared to the length of the locks from her healthy scalp. The hair that was growing through the scarred part of her scalp was several inches shorter than the hair from the healthy part of her scalp. I remember wondering if that was going on with my scalp and hair.

Finally, I decided to call to call the beautician and make an appointment. Her name was Faren and she talked to me while braiding a young man’s hair. She told me she was going to twist my hair and that if I kept it in the twists eventually my hair would lock up. After that, I would only need to get the roots twisted. By the time she had finished braiding the youngster, I had decided to get the twists.

When I left her shop I had what I called “micro-dreads”. They were about an inch long and were the cutest thing I’d ever seen. I loved the style immediately.

[Did your age aid in your decision to go Natural?]
[She laughs.] I am a sci-fi fan, a geek, a nerd. I don’t care what people think about me. I stopped getting my hair processed because it hurt. I was 38 when I stopped getting processed and if natural styles are an older or younger style, I had no idea and it would not have affected my decision one way or the other.

[Does your age make it easier or harder to be Natural?]
I think my job makes it easier.

[Why does your job make it being Natural easier?]
I’m a videographer. Most cameramen, you’ve seen them, they have long hair, ponytails, piercings, tattoos, whatever. My hair, it kind of fits in. I’m an artist, a digital video artist and as such it’s expected for me to have an eccentricity. I asked my boss about my hair one day and he said, “I don’t care about the dreadlocks, I just don’t want you to dye them green or blue or whatever color you were talking about.”
I am still considering the color.
If I go a bit greyer, I may start dying it then. I got some brown tips done when Faren was still in the area, I like them, they make my hair stand out. I have thought about getting the whole length of some of my locks colored but I don’t like the idea of bleaching my hair first so I’m still thinking about color.

[Do you see many Older Naturals in your area?]

‘My area?’ I work at Stennis Space Center. There are a lot of white guys who work there. I think in the two buildings where I do most of my work there are 6 African American women.

[What styles are they sporting?]

Three of the women have relaxed hair; a fourth has followed my example of shunning chemicals (she told me that it is partially due to me) and is using a hot comb on her hair instead of the relaxer. A fifth woman has loose natural curls. She told me she wants to lock her hair but it is too soft to hold them. She is currently wearing a short, curly pixie cut. And I, of course, am the 6thI have been wearing locks for 4 years now. (This Christmas will make 5 years) I have seen other women in other buildings at Stennis with short locks and one woman who has cut her hair completely off. I wonder if I have inspired any of them but I have no way of knowing.

[Do you think your locks would be an issue if you needed to get another job?]
That is something I wonder about. I have been told that my locks are “very neat” and that they “don’t look like other dreadlocks” and things like that. I work for a corporation. I had an Afro when I got this job and now that I have locks, I do wonder if a potential employer might pass judgment on me because of my hair.
Because of what I do, I would hope that my work would speak for itself but it is possible that someone might judge me because of my hair. But that kind of person would probably judge me because of my skin color, too and I would not want to work in a place like that.

  [How do you primarily wear your Natural hair?]

Locks are very versatile, you name it, I’ve worn my hair that way. When the locks were short, I wore them loose or I held them out of my face with a head-band, one of those elastic bands that was big enough to go around my head. When my hair got long enough, I started wearing it back in a pony tail, twisted into a French twist or braided into a faux-hawk.

[What is a faux-hawk?]
I would braid my hair into a French braid but because it was so short, it stuck out of the braid at every twist. It kind of looked like a Mohawk. Kind of.

[And now that your hair is longer?]
Well, I still pull it back with bands, wear it loose or pull it into a ponytail. The longer locks have their own challenge. A lot of the clip-and-go styles I used to wear don’t work anymore. I miss being able to twist it into a French twist. The jaw clips I used to use aren’t big enough to hold all of this hair. So I’ve started wearing a pull-thru ponytail. I put the ponytail band or scrunchy on one wrist and use that hand to grab all the hair. With the other hand, I pull the band over my hand and onto the hair. The ponytail forms a loop and doubles back on itself. It keeps the hair off my neck when I am outside shooting (and sweating).

[What are your favorite products and/or product line?]
I change what I use from time to time.
At the moment I use Pantene’s Relaxed & Natural collection for Women of Color. I wash my hair on the weekends because it takes so long to dry. I admit that I use the Pantene line because I like the way it smells.
Between washes and because I have a dry scalp, I use a mix of Infusium 23 leave in conditioner, water and Doo Gro Stimulating Growth Oil. I put it (1/3 each) in a spray bottle and apply it whenever I think about it, probably every other day.
Sometimes I will dip my fingers in coconut oil and rub the ends of my locks. I worry about them drying out and that hair is 5 or 6 years old.

[Any words of wisdom or encouragement for other Older Naturals already Natural or thinking about it?]
I never had long hair. I always wanted long hair. Because I’m not “girly,” I wasn’t able to take care of any other style. Chemicals stripped off my hair’s cuticle and left a fragile porous hair shaft that broke easily. That hair usually grew about 4-6 inches before breaking. Now, in my 40s with locks, I have hair down past my shoulders.
Anyone who is thinking about going natural and is still wavering about the chemical straighteners, I would encourage them to see Chris Rock’s “Good Hair.” There is a segment where Chris goes to see a chemist about sodium hydroxide, the main ingredient in relaxers. (It is also the main ingredient in drain cleaners.) The chemist in the movie puts a few drops of sodium hydroxide on a chicken breast and a few minutes later, there is a hole where the chemical has eaten into the skin and meat.
Why do that to our scalps?
My only concern now is traction alopecia. I used to re-twist my hair after every shampoo. After reading about alopecia, now I wait a month or so between twists. I also don’t twist as tight as I used to.  Anyone who gets braids or weaves and anyone who has locks needs to know about alopecia. I’m not saying to avoid braids, weaves or locks but women (and men) need to be aware that their style choice could have consequences.

Jenna Melton

I want to thank Jennifer for sharing with us as well as being so informative on Locks.  I don’t have them and really don’t know much about maintenance on them but her are beautiful and I love how versatile she is with them.   I love this pic of her right above!  She’s seriously natural, beautiful and obviously loving it!

Take care Naturals,



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