By Domineque Michelle (pictured above)
Growing healthy hair is a mission impossible when defeat has begun prior to your attempt. Hating your origin will do you in every time. This article serves as a step in the right direction for changing your mindset about yourself and your hair, because hair growth takes more than products — otherwise those with the most product would have the most bountiful and nourished hair. If you are already on track, let this be a reinforcement of self love and an opportunity to gain a new insight.
I can recall growing up in a separate home from my older sister for a few years. She was probably 6 and I, 4 years old. Our mother never relaxed our hair, but where my sister was to reside, it was decided that she “needed” a relaxer at the tender age of 6 years old. I continued on without a relaxer; my mother told me that my hair was beautiful and that was confirmed to me when she gently washed my hair over the kitchen sink, while letting me hold a towel in my hand just in case shampoo or water got in my eyes or when she’d gently comb through my hair to give me Rudy Huxtable-like twisted pony tails. Instead of harsh chemical straighteners, she’d sit me on the floor between her legs, grease my scalp with blue grease or Vaseline and blow out my hair with a blow dryer. There was also that time that she burned my edges clean off, right before I got on the school bus because I wanted straighter edges, but there’s no doubt that those incidents make the funniest stories. Unfortunately, during this time when the health and thickness of my hair was being maintained, my sisters hair was thin, breaking and caked with grease, but this seemed to be the norm of many women of color in the 90’s and even still.
I shared a snippet about my family past to incite thought and to show how separate households with different ideas about how Black hair should be cared for can really shape the thoughts you have about your own hair and subconsciously dictate the health of your hair. I ended up getting a relaxer at 14 and cutting it all off at 17. The positive thoughts about my hair that I grew up with stuck with me. I took command and responsibility for the health of my hair ever since. As far as my sister, I talked her into getting rid of her relaxer years ago and her hair remains natural and is shaping up quite nicely with regard to health.
-Did you get a relaxer at a young age and perhaps don’t recall what your hair texture is like?
-Was the adverb “nappy” used to describe your hair? Hard? Rough? Brillo? Ugly?
-Did you receive chemical or heat burns commonly in an effort to obtain bone straight hair?
— I know ya’ll didn’t think I forgot about waiting from 1 month and beyond to get your hair relaxed or pressed out only to be told by your stylist aka the grim reaper of length retention that “you need a trim”. Noooooo!!! Then whether the hair was actually damaged and needed to be cut or not, right before your eyes, it was GONE.
— Last but not least, maybe you are the girl who was never tempted by the “creamy crack” and never had a relaxer, but you never knew to treat your hair, therefore it never seemed to grow.
When we were stolen from Africa, our wooden and ivory combs were left behind. Our natural hair cleansers and emollients of the land no longer surrounded us and scalp infections occurred in abundance. Styling muds were no longer available to us and we didn’t get to create the intricate braided styles that only we are known for creating, due to a loss of skill due to enslavement and discrimination for failure to assimilate if we wore braided styles. We had to figure out how to care for our hair in a land of people who were made to seem so outwardly dissimilar to us and hateful of us.
We have come a long way with learning about our hair with blogs like BGLH and having products created by women with hair like us. Continue to appreciate, take and share the knowledge you receive from people whom you are inspired by and only came to know because of hair. Forgive your mom. Forgive your grandma. Forgive anyone who has planted a negative seed in your mind for the mistakes they’ve made and don’t hold them accountable for the state of your hair now, if you are unhappy with it. Instead, absorb the knowledge that’s available to you like a thirsty plant absorbs water and allow your hair to grow*.
*Allowing your hair to grow means that you’re not fighting against your texture and ripping at your hair or even neglecting it for months in braids under weaves.
Ladies, what were you taught about your hair growing up? How did it affect your treatment of your hair?