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My Hair, My Choice

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My Hair, My Choice

A side profile of senior Beverly Danquah showcasing her locs.

A side profile of senior Beverly Danquah showcasing her locs.

Torch Photo/Beverly Danquah

A side profile of senior Beverly Danquah showcasing her locs.

Torch Photo/Beverly Danquah

Torch Photo/Beverly Danquah

A side profile of senior Beverly Danquah showcasing her locs.

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Beatriz da Costa – Opinion Editor

 

I remember when I first relaxed my hair. I look back on my time in middle school when my hair was so heat damaged and wonder, “Why did my mom let me do that?”

Before I relaxed my hair it was long and healthy, but peer pressure and seeing my non-Black friends with their long hair (I went to a predominantly white school) got to me, so the chemicals came and eventually my hair went.  

By the time I got to high school, I had sworn off all chemicals. I didn’t do the “big chop,” which is when you cut off most of your relaxed hair and start anew; instead I slowly trimmed my damaged ends and worked from there.

I’ve been natural since my freshman year of high school and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I could go back and not have relaxed my hair in middle school — if I had known better or if I had the patience to take care of my hair, I would have.

As soon as I hit the natural route, my preferred protective hair style became braids — and it still is today — just because of its convenience, the benefits, the versatility and the look of it.

Nowadays, however, I’ve been trying something different — weave. I’ve always said I’d never use a weave, mainly because my mom stressed to me that it’d weaken my hair just like a relaxer — I still don’t know the verdict on that — but I was desperate for something different and for me that something different is weave.

The way I choose to wear my hair now isn’t based on what my peers around me are doing, or bless my mom’s heart, what she would rather I not do, but instead based on the research I’ve done about my natural hair and what makes me feel beautiful.

 

Beverly Danquah – Features Editor

 

Last spring, I partook in SJU’s Discover the World study abroad program. It was a perspective-broadening experience that took me beyond the bubble that is New York City. I expected to catch flights and expand my horizons in a global context —I didn’t think I’d cut all of my hair off a month in.

Around this time last year, I woke up early one morning and did what I consider to be unthinkable as a Ghanaian-American woman who comes from a structured household . My hair had been relaxed for as long as I could remember; however, I’d been wanting to do the big chop for a while because every time my new growth would come in, I thought the texture was gorgeous. I was looking forward to putting my week’s worth of YouTube tutorial research to work. My natural hair journey spanned about six months. I realized that I didn’t know enough about my hair to really nurture it like it needed to be. I also realized that I didn’t have the time to invest in my natural hair that it deserved.

I’d quickly learn that my natural hair would also require me to either sport a short fro, or stick to wigs and protective styles. I’d never considered being bound to either option when my hair was permed. I also quickly learned why my mother would always pop me on my arm with the comb while I was getting my hair done in my childhood — I am really tender-headed.

During my journey, I had a friend who told me that she hadn’t messed with her natural hair in about two years because she would get box braids back-to-back-to-back. The thought of cutting my hair just to cover it up all the time because it was so high-maintenance made me want to get a perm again.

My determination to remain natural was so real that I even endured a silk-press phase, where I was getting a silk press about twice a month just so I could preserve my curls while rocking my God-given hair, and shorten my morning routine.

Since then, I reverted back to relaxers, NOT because I hate my curls or my hair, but because I don’t know enough about my curls yet to take care of them like I should, and presently, I don’t have the time to invest.

I’ve limited my perm appointments to about four times a year.

In order to care for my hair, I use Hair Bloom by Youma’s Beauty to massage my scalp. I’ve also put my hair in the trusted care of a black-owned salon near campus.

 

 

Rachel Johnson – Contributing Writer

 

Growing up, I never really hated my curly hair, I just didn’t know how to take care of it. Since my hair is curly, it looks full when it’s cooperating, but my hair is very thin, which means it doesn’t  hold shape very well.

I would often get frustrated with my hair. It was frizzy all the time, but I thought that was just a part of having curly hair — which it is, if you don’t know how to combat it. My journey to loving my curly hair and learning how to take care of it taught me two very important lessons.

My first ‘Aha!’ moment was when I chopped off eight inches of my hair to donate in tenth grade. My hair went from being at my waist to at my shoulders, and it changed everything. With how thin my hair is, all the length from before was weighing it down and making it flat, so when I cut it, I suddenly had tons of volume! I’ve kept my hair short ever since.

The second lesson I learned was to use the right products! After my big chop, my cousin, a hairdresser, showed me what products I needed to be using. I started using a mix of Head & Shoulders (for dandruff), Paul Mitchell curl shampoo and Herbal Essences curl conditioner, as well as scrunching my hair after getting out of the shower. Doing this made my hair softer, have better shape and hold curls longer.

But, my hair was still temperamental. Six months ago, I was in Ulta and saw the Paul Mitchell Full Circle Leave-In Treatment. I tried it out and it completely changed my hair. It gave my hair much-needed moisture, and I also started spritzing my hair with water every morning and scrunching it to revive the curls. My hair looks amazing now and I love my curls more than ever.

 

Morgan Mullings – Outreach Manager

 

I had a perm since I was around seven years old. My mother is of Indian descent, so her hair has a looser curl, while my dad has thick, brillo pad hair. I turned out to be the happy medium, in my opinion. But wow, was my hair hard to comb.

I’m not sure why my mom decided to perm my hair. I think that’s just what people did. Every outing, my hair needed to be straightened or it wasn’t presentable enough for a wedding or school recital. For 2019’s standards, that sounds pretty toxic. But for my parent’s standards, it wasn’t. I don’t resent them for behaving according to their world view; especially since they have adapted so well to changes. They’ve been with me, watching all the Youtube videos of natural hair gurus talking about wash-n-go’s and protective styles. They learned about the processes of wig wearing and the positivity that comes from changing up a style every now and then. They saw big hair as beautiful in any setting and joined me on my journey. Maybe not wholeheartedly at first — they had to endure me having very short hair for the first time in my life — but the hair grew back.

It grew into an interesting poof of fine strands that coiled up instantly in humidity, looking nothing like my dad’s afro or my grandmother’s stick-straight Indian hair. It was beautiful, jet black and bouncy. It was in my face — the bangs practically covering my eyes. It was radiant and beautiful.

And I’m going to miss it. It’s been a year and six months since my big chop, and now I’m big chopping again.

Because the natural hair journey doesn’t go in a straight line. It starts with love and is run by love and finishes with love. It does not always start with shaving your head, growing your hair to the ground and never stopping (although that would be pretty awesome). It goes however you want it to. It starts and stops and starts all over again. It’s about accepting yourself at every appearance when society has decided to stop. Men literally stopped looking at me when my hair was short and springy. And I’m willing to risk something as trivial as that all over again to enjoy one of my favorite looks on myself of all time. Either I can hesitate for another three months,or I can do it, cry about it and then have all the fun.

 

Dayra Santana – Staff Writer

 

From frying my hair with a flat iron to destroying it with bleach and hair dye, it’s safe to say I have gone through just about every style and color phase there is to go through with my hair.

Over time, however, my favorite hairstyle has slowly gone from pin straight locks to my natural curls. I’ve ditched my hair straightener almost entirely, although I do love a sleek blowout from time to time.

It took a long time for my hair to get healthy after everything I put it through, and even longer to find a hair routine that worked for me. It’s been a journey, and I’ve got a long way to go. I still never know what to do with third-day curls and I don’t own a silk pillowcase. My go-to has become a simple wash and go, and I tend to use only one or two products in my hair to avoid weighing it down.  

Colder weather often leaves my hair dry and dull, so co-washing, conditioner-only washing, hair masks and argan oil have become my best friends. I always like to switch up my routine with new products every couple of months to bring some life back to my hair.

The best part of my hair journey has been trying out new routines and styles periodically — nothing stays the same, so why should my hair?

 

Dana Livingston – Staff Writer

 

For as long as I can remember, heat was the only medium my hair knew. Taming my 3C hair has never been an easy feat. It requires time and effort that my working parents never really had the time to give.   

My earliest memory of my hair care “routine” was sitting at the kitchen counter, towel around my neck to protect against the severe burns inflicted by the pressing comb my mother used to straighten my hair. Keeping my hair straight was the “easiest” way to tame it.

As I grew older, I “treated” my hair to the harsh heat of blow dryers, straightening treatments, flat irons and more. After a while, I couldn’t stand to look in the mirror without my hair being straight.  

And then came the summer of 2014 when I went off to sleepaway camp: Acres upon acres of woods with no electricity (a place where blow dryers go to die). I had no choice; I had to wear my hair natural for three whole weeks. And although I had no idea what I was doing and my hair looked like a mess more often than not, it was then that I realized that my hair did not have to be straight in order to be considered beautiful.  

Today, I view my hair as a symbol of my external beauty, an element of my life that represents a rich history that is not only my own, but also that of my ancestors. Although it does whatever it wants most of the time, I recognize that my hair does not have to look one way for it to be beautiful. It is mine to cut, mine to style and mine to love. My hair, my choice.

 

Crystal Simmons- Staff Writer

 

The last time I sat in the chair to receive a perm I was 13 years old. I had been getting them since I was around five years old, heading into Kindergarten. I never asked my mother for the perm but she was tired of chasing me with the comb.

During the school year I would rock the Shirley Temple curls from a roller set and when I was of “appropriate age,” I was able to get my hair flat-ironed. Although my hair never went quite as planned and I spent many nights trying to get the bump out of my ends, it wasn’t until middle school that I began to see the negative effects that a perm had on my hair. I had excessive heat damage and my hair was shedding at an alarming rate.

After confiding in my friend (who had been natural her whole life), she inspired me to let my hair grow naturally. Throughout high school, I periodically trimmed out my relaxer and was determined to rid my hair of any chemical straightness. The natural movement was just starting to pick back up and I had limited access to hair care products. In the summer, my hair was easier to maintain because I wore braids and I would only get my hair flat ironed (sans the chemicals) in the fall. I didn’t really see the shift in my curl pattern until freshman year of college. One thing that I have learned throughout this journey is that understanding how your hair retains moisture is key. Every time I think about my best hair days, it’s usually when my hair is properly hydrated.

There will be times when you must switch up your products or regimen based on what your hair needs. Maintaining natural hair is a constant process of evolution and you have to be able to adapt.

 

 

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1 Comment

One Response to “My Hair, My Choice”

  1. Efficient Elegance on February 21st, 2019 4:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing these stories. It really helps normalize the actual trajectory of the experience for new and seasoned naturals. Please keep up the great work!

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