Why I’m Considering Going Back to the Creamy Crack

The next post I was supposed to write about natural hair, was the second part to “My Hair Revolution” in which I was to discuss the changes in my routine in terms of what products I now use. My last “hair” post was sometime last year. Since then I have been going through a roller-coaster of thoughts and emotions about my hair.

For the most part, I would rather not have to think about my hair at all. I live a very busy life, and dealing with my natural hair is to me is just one of those necessary evils in life. When I think about “wash day” (I assume it has that name because it literally takes up the whole day) I almost come out in a rash. I anticipate with dread the huge amounts of shedding, and the hours it will take detangling, and styling. And after all of that, I look in the mirror and the results hardly seem worth it. After a few days my hair starts to mat together, and I run out of ideas of how to style my hair in a way that covers up my lack of edges.

Last year I excitedly declared that I had found the solution to most of my natural hair problems. I thought that mini-twists were the most ideal style, but the truth is, there is no ideal. Every style, process, product, procedure associated with (my) natural hair ALWAYS has a catch. For twists, it was the time it takes to install them. My busy schedule means I just do not have the two days it takes. Since then I tried going back to weave. The catch? excessive breakage and shedding once taken out. Then I tried straightening my hair again with heat. The catch? I need to exercise regularly, and therefore I just end up sweating out the straightness, and also the heat weakens my hair. So then I tried a wig. The catch? Uncomfortable, and did not look great (though to be honest I acknowledge that it was a very badly made wig and I may still try this option again in the future, using a different wig maker). Then I tried braids which I’ve just taken out. The catch, as ever, was intense damage to my edges resulting in a depleted hairline.

Perhaps I should just leave my hair to be free, and just do the occasional twist out etc like the natural hair bloggers do. Well I would, except I am not genetically blessed like the natural hair bloggers, and the results I get on my hair look nothing like the images you see when you type into Google “natural hair”. These are the struggles that have led me to start asking; was relaxed hair ever really so bad? Of course there is a catch with relaxed hair too, but is it any worse than what I experience with my natural hair?

I am still undecided. I am going to give myself to the end of the year to see if I can figure something out with this head of hair in its natural state. And if I’m still struggling as much as I am now, you may just see me start a new hair journey altogether. The “Back to the Creamy Crack” journey.

My Hair Evolution: Routines and Techniques

The natural hair journey is certainly one of learning! Over the past 3 or 4 years since I stopped wearing my hair straightened by heat ALL the time, I have had to learn how to manage, maintain and style my curly mane.
As I said in my first post about natural hair, I have made many mistakes along the way! I hope this post will be useful especially for other thinned haired ladies like myself, in things you MAY want to avoid. Of course no to heads of hair are the same so do play around a bit to see what works for you. First I’ll detail the evolution of the techniques/processes I’ve used on my hair, and in the next post I’ll talk more specifically about the products.

Washing routine 
In the beginning… I would just wash my hair without putting it into sections first. I would try and just keep my head either facing down of leaning right back so that all my hair fell the same direction. That was my only precaution against tangles. Of course this led to extreme knotting and breakage. Then I stumbled across YouTube, and in particular the naptural85 channel, where Whitney taught me about dividing my hair into chunky twist sections before washing. This was a MASSIVE help in reducing tangling.

Then… I added a few other things in such as a hot oil treatment before washing, and then after washing, a deep conditioner followed by twisting my hair in readiness for the twist out hairstyle to be worn the next day. Basically the whole routine would take me the whole day! I could not live that way, and I was beginning to hate my natural hair for taking up so much of my time. So I started to wash my hair in large sections and where possible, cut down on deep conditioning time.

Now… I clarify and wash my hair whilst it is in my new favourite styling option; mini twists! I also condition my hair whilst still in mini-twists, wash out the conditioner and then when the hair is still wet, redo each twist one at a time, adding a little leave-in conditioner and half a drop of oil to each mini section. But more on that below.

 

Detangling

In the beginning… this did not even feature in my vocabulary! It brings a picture to mind of when your head phones get into a knot and you have to carefully unwind them, and tease the straps apart to remove the tangle. What I would do with my hair, was far from that! Initially I would simply rake a comb through my hair, in fact, it was the afro pik attachment to a hair dryer that I would use while blowing it out and getting it ready for the straighteners (flat iron for you American ladies). I would pick out the knots that had been ripped from my hair from between the prongs of the comb, and then stare helplessly at my now even thinner hair, in the mirror.

 

Then… I started to use my fingers more and more to try and detangle knots in my hair and afterwards use a comb followed by a Denman brush when I became too frustrated/tired/lazy to continue finger detangling. I would only do this when my hair was wet though. And I quickly learned the importance of using a conditioner “with SLIP”. However tiredness and laziness would often get the better of me and I would find myself reaching for the Denman far too quickly.

 

Now... I do about 90% finger detangling. Because I’m trying out doing mini twists repeatedly, I found that by using the method described above after washing, I can easily finger detangle each section before I twist it to remove any shed hair. Another benefit is hardly any knots form, except the ones formed by shed hair becoming tangled.

 

Styling routine

In the beginning… as I mentioned earlier, I was straightening/flat ironing my hair all the time. I wasn’t even using a heat protectant! It was only when my hair became excessively thin that I thought that something had to give.

Then… that’s when I decided to wear my hair curly. It was wonderfully liberating, and I quickly became addicted to the likes of Naptural85 and the Care For Your Hair blog to educate me on how to maintain and style my hair in its curly state. I quickly noticed the difference in texture with the hair near my roots, and the ends of my hair. I now know that this is what’s called heat damage. The roots were curly, but the ends stayed straight and limp. The more I experimented with styles the more I realised I did not like the limp ends. So I took the plunge and chopped them all off. This was about 4 years ago. That would make me 4 years heat free right? Wrong! Soon after, I itched to see how long my hair had gotten, and succumbed to the heat again. This time I told myself it would be different, as I had learned to use a good heat protectant. But sadly I ended up with severe heat damage again, which I am still in the process of growing out (I last used heat on my hair in February 2013).

Now... I am heat free. I’m not saying all thinned haired ladies should be heat free, but that’s kind of what I’m saying. Or at least turn the temperature down! Don’t you use less heat when ironing delicate fabric? Your hair is even more delicate! So what do I do? I’ve had twist outs, braid outs, wash and gos (which I don’t do anymore because they give me crazy single strands knots), and I am now settled with my mini twists. As you may be able to tell, I can’t get enough of my mini-twists. The style is so versatile, it allows me to exercise and sweat buckets without changing much in appearance, it takes about two minutes to style in the morning, and two minutes to put into 4 chunky braids for night time (which is great for keeping the twists stretched). The only downside is installing the mini-twists takes TIME. Go back and read what I have to do at the end of my wash routine – I have to literally set aside a day to this. But when I used to install my own box braids, it would take me two days, and cost me far more breakage (and around £5.00 for the Expressions). But with mini twists, the time is worth it!

This is what my heat damage looks like. Sad

This is what my heat damage looks like. Sad

 

Trimming

In the beginning… I never had a problem with this as I think I am addicted to cutting my hair. Perhaps the reality is that I have made so many hair mistakes, that I always had a reason to cut my hair and start again.

 

Then… I thought I would regulate how often I “trim” (if cutting off two inches a time falls under that category) my hair, and decided to do it only 4 times a year.

Now… I constantly trim my hair because I am trying to get rid of all the heat damage. Once that is done, I suspect I will trim as and when I need to, which in my opinion, is the best way to do it.

 

Useful links:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9Zl_UOLc2F5Aq45G6DxEaQ

http://www.cfyh.co.uk/

https://adressrehearsal.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/10-things-you-ought-to-know-before-you-decide-to-go-natural/

 

 

Follow me on Twitter @adressrehearsal

Black Hair (Part 2): It’s None of Your Business!

I do not mean to cause offence by the title of this post; it is aimed at narrow minded people who judge black women not on the content of their character, but on something as superficial as how they choose to style their hair.

 

With this post I fall in danger of contradicting part 1, in which I sought to argue that it does matter how black women style their hair, in the sense that those who choose to wear it naturally, (knowingly or unknowingly) send a message to the world that there is nothing wrong the kinky textured hair of people of African descent. However I do think that it is also true that how a woman chooses to style her hair is her own personal choice, and as such should not be open for criticism and debate by others.

 

Let me explain what I mean. One day I was sitting on a train when I observed a very disturbing and bizarre scene. A black male starting speaking loudly to a young black female sitting across the aisle.

 

“Excuse me, is that your real hair?”

“No” she replied quietly, head down.

“I didn’t think so. You shouldn’t be wearing weave. It looks fake”.

 

I felt embarrassed for the young woman. Her hair was obviously a weave, and by the looks of it not “human hair”. Maybe she was not in a position to afford a better quality weave. Maybe she just wanted to cover her natural/relaxed hair with a weave as a protective style. Whatever her reasons for having a, not so great, weave, what right did that man have to question her? Whatever the state of her hair, in what way did it affect him?

 

Sadly he’s not alone in his condemnation of black women who do not wear their hair natural. If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to stumble across certain Youtube channels of (black) men, dedicated to spewing venom at black women, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. In fairness, it’s not just black men, and it’s not just men. Women too can be very judgmental about what they perceive to be a bad weave or bad hair day. Remember how much stick Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglass during the

How could simple tied back hair cause such a fuss?

How could simple tied back hair cause such a fuss?

2012 Olympics? She was not criticised for her performance – and rightly so as she won two gold medals – but what was her crime? Not having freshly relaxed hair!

 

I accept that criticism of women’s looks is not limited to one race. The picking apart of women’s bodies in national magazines is indiscriminate. But when it comes to hair, there does not seem to be such a fierce debate around what it means if Caucasian hair is straightened or left curly, or if extensions are added in. If you listen to those venomous self-hating Youtube cowards (cowards because it’s easy to be foul mouthed and derogatory behind your computer screen), then a black women who straightens her hair, or gets a weave, does so because she wishes she were white. Of course it can’t be because she feels like a change, or likes the way it looks, or wants a protective style. Even if she does wish to be white, surely it’s only a small minority of people who would actually conclude that a woman wishes she were a different race because of her hairstyle? Or should I suppose that when Cheryl Cole wears cornrows she is expressing her inner desire to be black?

Not sure if this was before or after her alleged racial assault on a toilet attendant

Not sure if this was before or after her alleged racial assault on a toilet attendant

For the record, black hair is versatile. It’s probably the most versatile hair type that exists. Many different styles can be achieved with it. So when black women choose to explore the different styles, why not just leave them be? It’s not hurting you. And in my experience, most people of other races do not quite understand black hair, and so do not even realise that. For example, box braids involve fake hair! How many times have I taken out braids and then been asked by classmates/colleagues “have you cut your hair?” Before I would roll my eyes, and think “how ignorant”, but now I find it liberating. Knowing that my colleagues are not scrutinizing my latest hairstyle and scanning the back of my head for visible tracks, puts me at ease. If only all black women could feel that way all of the time.

Black Hair (Part 1): It’s Political

Sheryl Underwood was not a name I was familiar with until a few days ago. I did not even know that she was black when I first read about the comments she made on American National TV, basically saying that Afro hair is disgusting, and nobody wants it. I initially thought “that’s an ignorant thing for a white woman to say”. I was not overly shocked. I assumed that being a white woman, Sheryl was not accustomed to Afro hair, and by calling it “nappy”, she was expressing in her own way her perception of how it was very different to her own straight hair (so I wrongly thought).

Then I was surfing YouTube and came across a video that had the footage of Ms Underwood making the remarks on the show “The Talk”. To my absolute horror, I discovered that Sheryl Underwood is a black woman. My jaw literally hit the floor!  How could a black woman make such remarks about her own type of hair?

She has since issued an apology which is good to hear (though I do not accept that she was misconstrued, seeing as she clearly makes a distinction between “curly nappy beads” and “beautiful long silky hair” of white people) but I’m not so concerned about her apologising. I don’t say that because I’m outraged at her, and feel that an apology won’t suffice. Rather, I’m saddened for her. I’m saddened that this 49 year old woman, who would no doubt have memories of an America only just forced to abandon a society of segregation, has through her life’s experiences and understanding of what is acceptable, come to the conclusion that Afro hair is undesirable.

It’s a very sad thing that Sheryl should feel that way, but I can just imagine why. Would America accept the First Lady if she were to leave her Afro hair as it is? How readily available are images in the media of black women with afro hair? I suspect that all her life, Sheryl has been taught that Afro hair is unacceptable, and she has come to believe it. In a shameful way, there is no satisfactory answer to the question she posed “who would want to save Afro hair?” or simply put: “who wants  Afro hair?”

Michell Obama

The fashion houses don’t appear to want it. That’s why you have a supermodel like Naomi Campbell (one of the rare success stories amongst black models) with no hairline left, because she has been forced to wear styles that hide her Afro hair, for decades. A friend of mine who models, was once axed from a job because the stylists on the shoot could not work with her “Afro hair”.

naomi campbell bald

Hollywood and TV producers do not seem to want it. When a black actress does appear in a film, you can just bet she’ll be wearing a wig or a weave. And it’s not always because that is how the actress would wear her hair anyway. I’ve read interviews of some black actresses who would prefer to wear their hair natural, but have to put in a weave in order to get the part.

The printed and televised media don’t want Afro hair either. Even on the front cover of black hair magazines, you’re more likely than not to see the model wearing a European weave or wig. Black newscasters who air on various news stations (with the exception of Al Jazeera), all have their Afro hair tucked away, or chemically processed away, out of sight.

It’s not fair to direct anger at Sheryl alone. We should question the society we live in that seems to dictate that Afro hair should not be seen. I am very encouraged though, that more and more often now, I see black women daring to bare their natural hair. I know that women wear their hair natural for all kinds of reasons, and many are not seeking to make a political statement by doing so. However I can’t help but feel that with every woman that starts to go to work, especially in the corporate field, with natural hairstyles, it takes down another brick in the wall that stands in the face of black women being free to be who they are, without fear of judgment.

10 Things You Ought To Know Before You Decide To Go Natural

Gallery

I was born with natural hair. That ought to be my response when someone asks me “how long have you been natural for?” Perhaps “going natural” isn’t the right phraseology when it comes to describing the move of ever increasing … Continue reading