Rebecca’s Journey to Acceptance

My journey with my hair has been a long one. As I think it is with many young African children. To me, the “black hair” struggle began the minute I was old enough to have my beloved momma twist my hair into braids and curls. I recall growing up around girls with light skin and pin straight blonde hair. Man, was I jealous.

All I wanted was to be able to tuck straight strands behind my ears like every other little girl. A good friend and I laughed just a week ago about the “T-Shirt-Wig phenomena.” The one where you pull a shirt over your head, the collar like a crown, and the sleeves tucked, just so, behind your ears.

I may be generalizing, but I feel like every little girl with curly hair has done it. The minute I figured out how to use a flat-iron its usage became an instantaneous habit. That’s when it all began. You see my hair was like a mop when straight. Thick and full with no particular direction of where it was supposed to lie. From the eighth to the ninth grade that changed dramatically. My chronically straightened hair thinned out substantially, which at the time I thought was fantastic.

The thinning made it easier to style on a daily basis, and it looked more like the girls who had naturally straight hair, but by 20, it was too thin, and broken, and I had to make a change. I decided to straighten my hair rarely – if ever. When I look back at my hair journey it is saddening and speaks to a much larger story than just strands of protein hanging from my scalp.

Growing up, you don’t want to be the different one. Being half Ethiopian and growing up with less than 10 African students in my school, I felt like I looked different. In junior high school different wasn’t pretty, and I wanted to look pretty. It has been over a year now since I decided to embrace my curls.

With that choice came more interest in my culture and what it means to me. I am lucky to be born with curly locks, but I only discovered how lucky I am after I learned how to truly accept myself.

Why accept myself? Why now?

I work for a children’s charity that serves sick children and there is one little girl that enlightened me on this question. She is seven years old, and battling chronic leukemia. Her mother told me the story of her diagnoses and how after their first experience in the pediatric enology ward her little girl began to ask questions about the children with no hair.

You see, this little girl always had her hair pulled back in the most adorable little braids, curls and twists. However, once she realized that this sickness – HER sickness – had stolen the other children’s hair, she was determined to show the sickness that her hair belonged to her. The sickness wasn’t allowed to steal it. She owned her hair, and no one was allowed to take it away from her.

From that moment on, the little girl wouldn’t let her momma do anything but brush her hair. No pig-tails, no braids, no curls, just wild, wavy and beautiful locks. As I look back at my childhood, my hair was always pulled back, in braids and curls. These styles were lovely, but they never taught me to appreciate my hair in it’s natural, wild, wavy and beautiful form.

Growing up from a child to a teenager, I always remember feeling foolish when my hair was loose and natural. I hated swimming because I’d have to flat iron it the minute I got home. Heaven forbid it rained because then I felt what can only be described as shame for my horrid frizz.

There is tremendous value in teaching young little African girls that their beautiful black hair, is just that, it is beautiful. I rarely straighten my hair, once in the last 9 months in fact, and I don’t think I’ll be changing my curly ways any time soon.

Teach young little African girls that their beautiful black hair, is just that,beautiful

Teach young little African girls that their beautiful black hair, is just that, beautiful Click To Tweet

What do you think. Have you embraced your curls? If so, how?

Breaking News: I Know Nothing About My Hair

In my first year of university I went natural and became obsessed with black women’s hair. I watched all the youtube videos I possibly could and read all the articles I could find all online. I thought I knew something about black women’s hair. I knew I at least understood my hair. Then I spent a few hours in inHAIRitance Salon and realized… I know nothing about my hair.

Problem #1: My Shampoo

My inHAIRitance stylist, Michal pointed out the first glaring problem: I wasn’t using the proper shampoo.

When I first went natural I was often irritated by the demographics of women who were publishing how-tos and videos about their hair because none of them had my hair type. And then I discovered Naptural85 on youtube. Her hair looked like mine, she’s Jamaican like me, and her hair looked super healthy. Plus it was growing like a weed. So I made the mistake that many new naturals make: I copied every single thing she did to her hair. Ever.

The reason this is not a smart thing to do is because everyone’s hair is different, therefore everyone’s hair reacts differently to different products. Naptural85 loved using the Terresentials Organic Mud Wash as a shampoo to cleanse her hair and so I have been doing the same. Michal took one look at my scalp and told me Terresentials was drying out my scalp and making it impossible for my hair to retain moisture. The problem with Terressentials is that for me, it was meant to be a clay mask that I use twice a year to cleanse my hair. Unfortunately, I have been using it regularly as a shampoo for almost two years.

Problem #2: Lack of Moisture

Another problem with my regime is that I wasn’t properly moisturizing my hair. I have been using Naptural85’s Shea Butter mix as a moisturizer when it should be used as a sealant. Oops. Not only was I stripping my hair of nutrients with my mud wash, I was also neglecting to infuse moisture into my hair when I styled my hair. That’s why I would always stare enviously at natural youtubers with their shiny twist-outs and wonder why my hair never did that.

Problem #3: I NEVER Trim

Okay, this one I was sort of expecting. I don’t remember which ridiculous youtuber I was watching but I remember hearing the phrase, “some people never really have to trim their hair, I haven’t trimmed mine for over a year.” And of course she had long hair down her back so I thought everything that came out of her mouth was gold. Don’t be fooled ladies. I’m sure some women can get away with not trimming their hair, but most of us mortals cannot.

So when Michal showed me the inch of hair [at least two months of growth] that she had to trim from my head using the pinch method , I was upset but not surprised. It’s been over a year since I last had my hair trimmed. Don’t make the same mistake I made and put it off. If you trim every 3 to 4 months, you will only have to remove millimeters instead of inches of dead ends.

Problem #4: Styling

Before this appointment I was familiar with many different styles available to my natural hair. I smugly thought I knew just about all of them. I love doing twist-outs, braid-outs, bantu knot-outs, high puffs – I even bought into the curlformers craze. Used them once.

Then Abisara exposed me to a protective style I for some reason had never heard of: shingling. Much of the natural world defines shingling as the process of applying moisturizing cream to natural hair in small sections and allowing the natural curls to form. The ladies at inHAIRitance define shingling as not just applying moisturizing cream to natural hair but then taking small sections and twisting them around your index finger until the hair twists around itself. My hair shingled looked a bit like dreads, which I thought it was cool. Another style to add to your natural hair repertoire.

Problem #5: Hair Type

Since I was first exposed to the hair typing model I was convinced my entire head was 4c, with smatterings of 4b in the front.

At my consultation with Abisara she sat me down in her chair and beamed her sunshine into me. “You have such beautiful hair!” she exclaimed encouragingly. She glanced at her table overflowing with natural products, squirted out a glob of one, and started to work it into a small section of my hair. I was a little bit uncomfortable. The only people that I had allowed to touch my hair since I went natural were my mother and my little sister. I squirmed a bit in my seat. Abisara lifted the strand of my hair she had applied the product to. “Yep, that’s what I thought,” she said, “You’re a 4a with sections of 4b.” I squinted a little. That’s not my hair I thought. I put on my glasses and stared.

“I’ve never seen my hair do that,” I stuttered in disbelief. Abisara grinned and nodded knowingly at Michal.
“How many times have we heard that phrase Michal?” she asked.
“Every time,” Michal replied.


Because my hair was drying out from using my mud wash as a shampoo, Michael recommended a moisture-infusing shampoo for me: Karen’s Body Beautiful Chamomile Sage For more moisture while styling, Abisara recommended: Blended Beauty Curl Styling Butter I’m obviously still learning.

Please, please keep in mind that every person’s hair is different.

The products that work for my hair might not work for you.

But it’s worth a try! Abisara trains each of her stylists in the science of natural hair before she releases them to the jungle that is curly hair. If you are struggling to take care of your natural or transitioning hair, it’s worth the investment to visit a natural hair salon near you.

What do you think? What are the biggest concerns you have about your hair?

The key to living with my hair natural is taking every day as it comes, and learning to let go. #bhs #naturalhair Click To Tweet

I love my hair through the good and bad, but especially on the days when the stars align and it does what I want it to.

Tell us about your hair journey!