To fully enjoy healthy natural hair I had to change my mindset and embrace new ways to care for my hair and that meant breaking old habits. I’m not ashamed to admit that I couldn’t imagine life without these 5 things, but I have learned that change is good and I’m enjoying the fact that my hair is flourishing because “I Quit”:
1. Toxic Treatments: No-Lye Relaxers and Color
My mother started applying Gentle Treatment Conditioning Creme No-Lye Relaxer in my pre-teen years approximately every 6 weeks and I remember the kit coming with plastic gloves, a jar of creme, and a mini shampoo and conditioner and I continued going to salons for a treatment into my adulthood. Hair Stylists used gloves to apply this topical cream to my hair and I sat at the sink bowl and waited for the relaxer to straighten my hair. I enjoyed the straight hair, but sometimes my scalp would be sore and a few days later I’d develop scabs on my scalp and it never occurred to me the toxicity of applying relaxers to my hair. Today, I share this experience with my daughters whose hair I have chosen to keep natural.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone who knows me knows I’m all about color. I was the girl who was excited to usher in the season with the season’s “It color”. I’d make my appointment, enter in the salon and pick the color of my choice to be applied to my hair whether it be highlights or a full head of permanent hair color. If I desired to lighten, I hadn’t known the damaging effects that meant for my hair. Although the process was explained, I didn’t fully grasp the health effects and the new upkeep regimen that was required for my that was now stripped/bleached to allow the desired color to take. The hairstylist would mix the color and apply it to my hair with gloves using foil paper. There were times I was happy with the color and a time that I was shocked that my dark brown hair was now a platinum blonde colored hair. I’ve even experienced my natural hair being colored resulting in a looser curl pattern. There are semi-permanent and rinse options on the shelves that tote non-toxic and ammonia free labels but understand how that will change your hair once you get it done. Most likely your hair will need to be treated with an increased amount of TLC to avoid breakage. Some of the non-harmful options, such as henna can make your hair extremely dry and the last thing my hair needs is to be thirsty. I, myself have learned to simply embrace my natural dark brown hair color…it is beautiful!
2. Thermal Styling
I didn’t think it was possible to live without my curling iron in my teens or my flat iron in my twenties. In my early thirties, as a natural, I gravitated to blow dryer to stretch my hair. Now, I have a stack of unused thermal styling tools in my house. The primary no-heat styling tool I use are my hands. My teen and I have both experienced heat damage and have lived through life lessons that change how we care for our hair differently. We enjoy updos/pinups as they are versatile and you can dress it up or down.
As my hair grows fabulously natural, I have learned to embrace air drying my hair. There is no need to quick dry my hair and because my hair enjoys water so I don’t want to draw moisture out of my hair. Because my hair is naturally curly, I also do not desire to straighten my hair. By giving up blow drying, I don’t suffer the duty of brushing my hair out which puts your hair through vigorously pulling, which may snap your delicate wet hair.
3. Heavy combing
I grew up in a home with Jamaican influences and combing the hair was what you did before you left the house. You couldn’t go outside the home with uncombed hair. On Sundays, it was a weekly ritual to prepare for the school week and my hair was washed, parted and combed to detangle, combed to style, combed to free of lint, combed to basically get the hair as straight as you could to get the kink out. The after effects are, I remember feeling like my scalp had been raked. As an adult, I’ve learned that is not necessary and I realize how valuable my hands are. I can honestly say that my hands are the best tools in my shop. I use my hands to detangle hair, section my hair (as I seldom use precise parting for my hair), and I use my hands to two-strand twist or plait my hair among other things. The comb is no longer “the tool”, it is a backup in a pinch tool. If I choose to use it, it is a wide-toothed comb that saves my hair from the harsh pulling and ripping of hair from my scalp. The constant combing contributes to hair loss of healthy hair. I always try to use my hands first and default to use a wide-toothed comb if at all necessary. Your hair naturally sheds dead hair and you’d be surprised how good your hair is revealing those hairs to you.
4. Purchasing Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) Shampoos
I never paid attention to the first five ingredients in my hair products much less shampoos. I usually picked the shampoo that looked like it would clean my hair most effectively. Since my journey began to achieve healthy natural hair, I’ve learned that although removing dirt from my hair is important, it is just as important to use the best products that do what it needs to not what it appears to. I never paid attention to shampoos that contained SLS. SLS is used in many cleaning agents including kitchen cleaners and car wash. It is a cheap way to create the foaming effect that you see when you lather the shampoo into your hair to give the illusion that your hair is getting clean. I start sparing the expense and started using Sulfate-Free Shampoos that are designed to cleanse safely and remove the dirt from my hair. There are just as many sulfate-free shampoos as there are SLS Shampoos. Shop wisely.
5. Spending a Fortune
Being a natural, a mother, wife, a graduate student, and a career professional I just about tried it about every hairstyle to make my life of many roles manageable. I had to attend special events and parties, company meetings and trips, and life was so busy there was never any down time which meant my hair had to be kept up. You name it, I’ve tried about every protective style… full weaves, partial weaves, all kinds of braids and hair pieces (tree, micros, mini-micros, senegalese, cornrows, individuals, goddess, etc.) and my hair has both flourished and I have also suffered breakage and hair loss. I would get protective styles back to back sometimes and I have spent a fortune not only on the hair styles, but the labor (having 2 braiders sometimes 3 on my hair at one time). I have spent a fortune at the beauty supply stores for synthetic hair and the ever increasing prices for smaller packs of human hair. The upside to adding hair would provide the volume my hair needed as I have fine hair but on the downside this hair would dry out my natural hair. I would have to work double-time to care for the hair that lies underneath which meant spending additional dollars on deep treatments at the salon or purchasing products to do it myself at home.
You can’t forget the almighty tip to the shampoo girl, my hairstylist, and the gas expense to get to and from the salon. I decided to quit!
It is no longer a line item on my spreadsheet, time out of my day, an appointment in the appointment book, I am free!
It became apparent to me now that I care for my own hair at home how much I used to spend and I am completely shocked at my savings! I sometimes would sit in the chair and think I could just as well have paid myself to do this at home, without the wait and monetary expense and it does feels real empowering 🙂
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