Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Battle of the Curl - Curly, Natural, Straight...Tired of Fighting It!

A woman's hair is her crown...I don't know who said this but never have more truer words been spoken. There are more products on the market to make a woman's hair shinier, bouncy, change the color, lengthen, fluff, tease and do any other form of manipulation than any other product category that I can think of at the moment. And, in the African American community, never were truer words spoken. A lot of importance is put on hair - for a variety of reasons - many of which I'm not going to get into. I for one have never been one of those people who thought that there was a direct link between an AA woman's hair and the rise or fall of the strength of the AA community. So, if you thought that this was one of those posts, sorry to disappoint you. If my choosing to wear extensions or relaxed hair or natural hair keeps you from going to college then it's more a sign of your lack of focus than my choice in hair styles.

Anywho, it seems like my hair journey began when I was little. Pictures of me as an infant show me with these really awesome almost silky looking corkscrew curls (unfortunately I don't have any of those pics on hand - but take my word for it!). Fast forward to when I was 2 and the silky curls turned to the traditional afro puffs that most AA little girls rock until they're at least four or five. And then somewhere around there, my hair went from being somewhat manageable to being something of a nightmare for my mother to deal with in its natural state. My theory: my 1c/2c baby hair came into its own and turned into a 3c/4a even pushing 4b combo that was a bit more resilient to baby oil and a spritz of water.

So, then we transitioned into the relaxer years (although back then it was always just called a perm even though that was technically an incorrect term). The relaxer years took me from about the age of 5 up to my early twenties. I really didn't know much about my hair growing up except that I always remember it being referred to as the "not so easy hair to manage". It wasn't necessarily bad hair, but I definitely remember my mom saying that I inherited my Nana's (my great grandmother) coarse hair. The regimen was usually just relax it every 6 to 8 weeks and then press it straight. Braids were the normal fare in elementary school, followed by overnight roller sets in middle school and high school was a mix of roller sets and curling irons.

By high school, I was pretty well conditioned to believe that my hair was the kind that didn't do much growing, was the most difficult of AA textures to maintain and should never be seen without the world's strongest relaxer on it. I definitely bought into the theory - once college began I chose to get my hair braided rather than deal with my actual texture (on fear that I wouldn't find a good stylist in a decent radius of the school). College turned to post college and I had switched from micro braids to sew in extensions because they took much less time to install (3-4hrs vs 7-9hrs for braids!).

This is around the time that I also stopped relaxing my hair (circa 2004). In my opinion - if I wasn't wearing my hair out there was no real purpose for me to relax the hair - which honestly makes a ton of sense. Why create an extra step if you really don't have to right? This is also around the time that I would tell my stylist to go ahead and cut my hair if necessary to braid it down because I wasn't wearing it out anyway. Well, fast forward to about 2007 and I decided that I would try and grow my hair out and one day start wearing it on the regular again. What prompted this? Seeing all the length that I was gaining between sew ins. My hair had gone from barely just above shoulder length and being thin and scraggly to being in the shoulder blade area. And, it wasn't gross and stringy but was actually quite thick. At the time I still wasn't ready to wear it out, but I was interested in making the effort to grow it out.

Fast forward again to 2010 and during one of my take down processes (removing a sew-in for you hair novices out there) I realized that my hair was now reaching BSL (bra strap length - referring to the back bra strap)! Literally the longest my hair has ever been! And it was healthy, full - but really coarse (or so I thought). I still wasn't interested in going back to relaxers just because I had this concept that relaxers are inherently bad for you based on my experiences growing up. Thinking back I think it was more of a poor hair care routine, stress and probably not the world's greatest diet that had more to do with that than with the relaxer itself (although looking back, my mom's relaxer application methods are definitely not orthodox - putting relaxer on all hair, not just the new growth).

My hair flatironed Jan '11
Shift to January of this year and I decided to actually take my hair out for a test drive. So, while I was washing my hair, I realized that I had these awesome corkscrew curls throughout my hair. However, when it air dried, the top 6-8 inches of my hair experienced a ton of shrinkage because those inches were all virgin/unrelaxed hair. The bottom 6 - 8 inches maintained their cute corkscrew curls without the shrinkage issues because it was the old relaxed hair that had grown out. Technically, I guess, I'm only half natural. I'm not one of those people who felt like doing a big chop, nor am I one of those people who gets a high from telling people that they're "all natural" - seriously I have bigger concerns in my life than whether or not other people think my hair is really all mine/unaltered by chemicals etc. So, since I couldn't control the curl pattern on the virgin portion of my hair, I ended up straightening everything just to keep some uniformity and because I really wanted to get a look at the length that I had achieved.

Braid out & pinned back
The drawback of trying to wear your hair straight when you're natural is that any little bit of humidity would make the hair poof a bit at the roots - meaning I had to flatiron the hair again to achieve the straightness that would last longer on the relaxed ends. I didn't flatiron all the time, but even I knew that all the length I had achieved I was jeopardizing by flatironing my hair even on a weekly basis. So, for the past week or so, I've been considering alternative methods - and I only had a few options. I could attempt to really embrace my two textured hair (virgin vs. relaxed ends) - but considering that I'd been doing that for the past two and a half months with no luck, I wasn't really taking that option seriously. I could just go back to extensions, keep my hair braided down - problem solved, but not really what I wanted to do. Or, I could put in a texlax, an under processed relaxer that doesn't actually straighten the hair but loosens the curl pattern and somewhat alleviating the shrinkage issue.

Relaxed ends curl pattern
Well, after seeing the super cute curls on my older relaxed ends that I've spent lots of money on to recreate via extensions, and doing a ton of research I opted for the texlax. The reality is the Dorian today isn't the same Dorian who had no clue about proper hair maintenance, relaxer applications and the like. So, tomorrow I begin yet another phase of my hair life and enter the world of texlaxing. And before the natural heads come in and circle the wagons...I think being natural is awesome, but for me it was really an unrealistic option. My natural curl pattern is a mix of 3c and 4a. And it creates gorgeous curls when wet - but when it starts to dry, the curls tighten into something unrecognizable where I can't even comb the virgin hair without wetting it down first. That's just way too much work for me to put into having "natural" hair. I'm a busy chick, I run my own company, I'm always on the go. I DO NOT want to spend all day in front of the mirror - that's why I switched to extensions for so long!!

I'll try to actually document the hair journey via pictures when I remember to do so - I would say that I'd post videos - but I'm not quite that committed to the cause. Anywho, I'll try to keep this updated, but my ultimate goals are gorgeous curls and super healthy, strong and growing hair. :)


Natural Beauty said...

the bible says a woman's hair is her crown and glory :) . Love your blog by the way!!!!

Dorian @ Big Apple Style said...