Monday, August 25, 2008


Yes. I know I can be paranoid. Especially when it comes to tightly curly hair. That being said, I was looking at a magazine for African-American hair last night. It had been a while since I looked at one (since I'm happy with my hair and don't want to change it). And I saw something I remembered I kept seeing over and over again when I used to read them for real (and in the adds supporting them): Our curls are treated as if they must be "cured" rather than embraced.

Actually, there was almost no African-American hair in there. These magazines would be more appropriately called "Hair of Any Other Race (Provided It Is Not As Curly), Yak Hair, Nylon Hair, and Lots of Chemicals—Anything Other than the Curls You Are Born With".

I understand not all magazines are this way. Maybe I have a knack for picking up the ones that are. And I understand dissatisfaction is big don't make any money if we are happy with what we are born with. I guess it's a huge issue with me because I used to feel exactly that way about my hair. I spent my teenage and early adult years ashamed to have the hair I did. I was blind to the beauty and joy in each of my curls. I couldn't appreciate how our hair is unique, fierce, proud and stubborn.

Why did I want to break my curls' spirit? Why did I settle for broken strands of hair that were a chemically induced imitation of someone else's hair, rather than wear the glossy spirals I was born with? Feeling shame for my natural curls was what I was taught in childhood, since my hair had been straightened ever since I remember. My African-American grandmother hated curls, so she painstakingly straightened my hair and set my straight hair every night. I guess there seemed to be something shameful in them to her, like a dirty secret growing from our scalps.

So I guess I felt afraid of the hair that might erupt from my head without chemicals. The message I got was that it must be some terrible stuff I grew naturally, otherwise, why would we use lye-like chemicals to "treat" it? Almost as if we were using the most powerful disinfectant possible to kill them. Like a virus. And all the magazines I read seemed to nod their heads in agreement, and sidle up to me to tell me my curls were unacceptable.

The photo above is the hair I saved when I cut off all my chemicals, after finally catching a glimpse of what my real hair looked like for the first time in my life. I saved the two last pieces I chopped off, and taped them into a book. A dozen years later, even protected within the pages, that processed hair still breaks apart. I used to think this was the only way I could wear my hair.

The photo to the left is of my hair now. It's the same hair, but after I learned to love it, to celebrate it, and above all , let it be what it needed to be. I feel like I cut off a stranger, and grew back a friend.

Our curls are perfect just as they are. I believe that if there were more images out there of how beautiful our natural curls are, the more we will see them as a wonderful, affirming option for us. And less little girls like me will think destroying their curls are the only option for them.

Every year that I used chemicals, my hair continued to grow back in good faith, giving me yet another chance to do right by it. It took decades, but I finally stopped hurting it and began to take care of it. I came to treasure my curls for the curls they are. I know my hair has forgiven me for what I did to it. It will take me a while longer to forgive myself.


Hazel said...

Omg. I relate! I am only 18 but i feel as if i have been on a hair rollercoaster ride since i knew what hair was. Your hair is really nice! I think in african american hair mags they put pictures of girls with "permed" hair because those with " nappy" hair want the next best thing.In terms of african american beauty in mags or TV they tend to cast bi-racial girls. Then this becomes the new ideal for what black girls should look like. In the end it is something some black girls cant achive without a texturizer. Even when it comes down to being black, being of mixed race even seems more wonderful do to the fact that in stead of "nappy" there hair is "curly". I dont know where i was going with this but i wanted to

Star in the Universe said...

Just wanted to thank you so much for sharing all of your hair tips! I discovered your site earlier this year and just noticed the link to your blog today.
I've always struggled with my hair, but I am beginning to notice a big difference in my hair, now that I am leaving the conditioner in my hair and not shampooing it so often.
I don't feel like I have time to separate all the curls and do the smoothing but I was thinking about trying it today, since I have some extra time.

Anonymous said...

I am afraid of not being able to do the sectioning and the smoothing. Do you know if they work for really tight curls? I think my hair is tight as the end of yours, very small ringlets. And I only got them after using Devacurl line.

Anonymous said...

I am 28 years old and so far everything in your posts mirrors my life and hair so closely it is ridiculous . I have had the shave it off thought for years but, my husband is afraid of me being basically bald, so twice a year I relax . I have two three year old girls who have the same thickness as I do , they look like Marge Simpson when it is in pony tails . It is to their waists when wet but shoulder length when dry . I guess I will live vicariously through them until I'm brave enough to get the scissors . I'm not sure if I will laugh, cry or attack it with a vengeance but, the day is coming and I thank you for your page . People who don't know wouldn't understand how heavy it weighs on you to fight what you are with what you are told you should be. thanks once again.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I am 17, and 5 months ago I decided to stop perming and flat ironing my hair, I feel like I have the same story for a few months the twist and sleep is good. But then my hair started mattin up like crazy especailly in the so I just been trying to manage with my overly shrinking and matting hair. Im glad you wrote this because now I know i'm doing the right thing with my hair and these stageise are normal!! thank you. I can wait to part my hair and see my new "S curl" growing from my

sewdope said...

wow that was a great post. it's amazing how similar your experiences are to my own and we have different hair textures. i think it's wonderful that so many people are posting their experiences and stories. i tried to grow my hair natural in high school but i would still blow dry it out so that my two strand twists wouldn't look so short. i'm still learning to embrace and love my shrinkage for what it is.... beautifully curly hair. no it's not wavy or straight but it's mine and i love it. :)

Moni said...

Im growing out my hair right now, and Im 13. I saw your site and thought your hair was mad beautiful, plus I had already been sick of perming my hair. Our hair is unique, and nobody else has it, so why not embrace it? Why try to be like every other person with stick straight hair? I have about 2 inches new growth too...haha every time I get the top of my hair wet it just immediately turns curly, its funny xD

Chanel said...

I really want to go natural but at the same time, I'm nervous about it. I want curly hair and natural hair. I remember I had a huge dread on the back of my head. My mom cut it off and that was the day I got a relaxer. I've been using relaxers since. Now I'm 19 and I'm just so torn. But I'm slowly building up to going natural. It still makes me nervous, but I'm glad there are websites and blogs like yours out there to help me.
Your hair is so beautiful!

Unknown said...

I love the post. I know the feeling as well, and I'm grateful that I was so supported during my decision to transition. I've been natural for two years now and it's great! I lose 50-75% of my length due to shrinkage, but I've also committed to stop blow drying and doing the dry twist, and just let my hair be. To Chanel, I totally understand your feelings. I felt them for 5-6 years before I took the leap. You have to be strong against the naysayers and do what's best for you. I ADORE my curl now; you'll get there too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your site and blog. You captured the experience many of us have when taking care of our hair. I look forward to the day we all wear our natural hair. Or most of us, at least... I know that my choice to wear natural hair has been liberating...and I feel proud.

Beastie Tetteh said...

my hair is short barely shoulder length and really short when washed all though it does curl but turns horribly afro when it dries like a 'mat' it used to be soo long but my mother who didnt know how to deal with bi racial hair decided to relax it to make it easier for all of us. so at seven years old my hair was relaxed and it broke rather quickly from then. Ive straightened it religiously and dyed it since 14. I now have extensions in but i want MY hair. so i can be ME again. i know it can curl but i dont want to cut of the dyed bits its not too badly damaged but i need to do something. Please give me some advice Im 16 and im looking for my perfect hair procedure do i have to cut it all off? i have about 4 inches regrowth.

Anonymous said...

I went natural in 2000 after reading Bonner's book as well! I wanted locs so I started with a completely shaved head because I was on bed rest with my son at the time. My husband came home from work and thought I had gone nuts! LOL Now. He can't stop playing with my locs. After 9 years, they are at my waist :)

I can't wait to try ur techniques on my daughter's hair!

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU SOOO MUCH FOR THIS BLOG!I have 6 month of new growth and your page and instructions comfort me and guide me through my experience. This is the 3rd time I try to grow out my hair and I have faith that I will not fall back this time. My new growth is more manageable thanks to your advise on products and your video on how to detangle. The Darden brush is great for detangling! Thank you again!

ariya said...

omg, you made me cry... my hair isn't as curly as yours, but I'm encouraged to appreciate it for what it is, rather than try and force it into something it isn't.

Thank you so much.

Unknown said...

I am 40 years old and live in Houston. I have spent countless years struggling with having an acceptable hair style. I wasn't brave enough to let my curls come out. So, I everything except coloring. I was never satisfied.

Being bi-racial and having extremely curly hair is a challenge itself. However, having a chronic illness which require medication, my hair falls out in handfuls. So, I had to find a way to wear my hear that I could live with.

So, this summer I cut it all off (lost about 15 inches). Currently, its is about 6-10 inches. currently, I have people absolutely gawking at my hair. They can't believe it is me. I went from a bun every day or a twist with curly tendrils to the head of curly locks.

I even had a co-worker ask me what I was doing to my hair.

I have looked at lots of bi-racial or curly hair sites and this is absolutely the best I have ever seen. You should be thoroughly proud of yourself and the contibution you are providing to us.

Thank you!

Priscilla Bri said...

I have been relaxing my hair for many years and I can't remember what my real hair looks like. I usually relax it every three months but this cycle I just neglected to. It has been four months since I last relaxed it and the new growth is about an inch and a half.

I have been flip-flopping with my decision and I nearly relaxed it last week then I found your website and your blog. My decision is now final. I have been wanting my own hair (no chemicals, no heat) for a very long time and I have decided to stop denying myself of that.

Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

Anonymous said...

The best website I have found yet. I have mixed race hair (Dominican and Jamaican) and I battled with it for years to try and conform to one side of my heritage or the other. I was currently in the relax/not to relax battle but after reading this website I will embrace my hair and follow your detailed advice. Thank you very very much.