Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dead Leaf Hair

Through all my high school years I wrote fanatically in journals. I wrote in tiny writing on both sides of loose notebook paper, often six pages a night. I bound all the pages between covers that clipped together with metal fasteners. When I got about 100 pages, or when I thought a new chapter in my life was starting, I'd begin another notebook. By the time high school, and then my brief year of college (the first time I went) was over, I had thousands upon thousands of angst-filled pages written.

When I visited my mom in Kentucky last July, I grabbed as many of my old journals as I could fit in my carry-on bag to bring back with me to Seattle. When I got back, I was thumbing through the journal I wrote right after high school, during the summer before college. In it was a chunk of the hair I dissolved with a relaxer. You can even see the words "dead leaf" right above the hair clump, which describes exactly how the hair that didn't totally dissolve or fall out of my head felt when it dried. It was so crunchy that I had to cut the rest of my hair off, and was basically left with a narrow fringe of hair at the back of my neck that the relaxer hadn't touched.

How did I manage to dissolve my hair with a relaxer, you ask? Well, it takes a special person to do something like that, I tell you. I had worn locs during 12th grade, but had put them in wrong, so they were little more than pieces of a large mat that I'd cut into strips to make my locs. So I cut those off at the end of 12th grade, and was left with my curly, and still damaged hair (because I'd been bleaching it auburn). Not knowing what to do with it, I fell back into old habits, and decided to relax it.

However, it had been well over a year since I'd relaxed my hair, and I forgot how to do it. This would have been okay, except I didn't realize I'd forgotten how to do it. I thought I knew exactly how to do it. But I was wrong.

I bought my first box (yes, that's right, my first box) of relaxer, opened up the big jar, and put it on my hair. I waited about 20 minutes, rinsed it out, and saw it didn't work. It wasn't until I looked through the box later that I saw the activator bottle I'd neglected to mix in with it. So I bought another box. My reasoning being that the first time didn't do anything at all to my hair, so I could do it all again with no problem.

I was wrong. When I went to rinse out the second relaxer, it gummed up in my hair and wouldn't rinse out. I went through all my bottle of neutralizer shampoo, and had to use some of the half-used bottles my mom had saved through the years as well. And as I finally rinsed away the relaxer, my hair came out too. When I was done, the sink was filled with hair, and the hair left on my head wasn't really even hair anymore.

And being the dutiful journaler I was, when I cut away this hair, I saved some in my journal, to properly record the day. And then I went out and bought myself my first weave.


Eli (Beauty Blog) said...

That was scary! This story reminded me of my first (and last) perm...I really don't even want to recall that episode

Laura said...

happy you found your happily ever after. You are amazing!

iamatraveler said...

Wow! what a traumatic experience!

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

Eli aka Negra Cabreada: Yes, that was pretty scary when it happened. And oh my gosh! That's really frightening if it reminds you of your first perm. But I'm happy to hear it was also your last perm. At least you learned from that experience.

lowra: Thank you so much! I'm glad I found out how to make my hair and I happy. I appreciate your kind words!

iamatraveler: It was pretty traumatic. The saddest part is that I still didn't learn. It took me about another 8 years to totally stop using perms. But by then I was doing a perm/ weave/ extension combo before I decided to try going natural.

Riana said...

Oh my god I almost cried when I saw this post... how awful! Lord!

Latasha Charmain said...

Dear Teri,

Wow! A similar thing happened to me in 2006, a few days before my college graduation. 2 weeks before graduation we were having grad photos done and I had gotten my hair coloured and straightened at the hairdressers (my first time getting a hot comb done). Well, I didn't know about flat irons back then and so, decided to get it relaxed for graduation, but I'd spent all my money on the colour and hot comb for the photos.
Well, 2 weeks later and a few days before graduation, my hair was still pretty straight, but I knew under the hot combed tresses were 3 months worth of kinkage, and so, I thought if I permed it myself (from a box) it would look extra good because it was already somewhat wrong was I! I am almost in tears thinking about it... But the perm gummed up in my hair especially on the sides. I couldn't figure out what had gone wrong and I began screaming, literally, for my mummy. Then we watched in horror as clumps started to come off from the sides! Somewhat happily, the neutralizing shampoo and other shampoos I used (must have rinsed 6 times!!!) sort of worked as not much more hair ripped from the scalp. Needless to say, however, I had mad breakage after that and my hair that I had been trying to grow since I had cut it short in '04 was in shambles; dissolved in that horrible nightmare of sodium hydroxide!I didnt learn my lesson, however and kept going to the creamy crack every 3-4 months. However, since July 4, 2009, I have been transitioning and I am about to cut the remainder of my relaxed ends either in May or August (I say May, because, I plan to read every syllable of your book when it comes out, and hopefully get the inspiration and the courage to cut sooner as I have the itch to just do away with the scraggly little ends!!!, plus these straw sets are killing me!
Thank-you for being such an inspiration. I am bi-racial too, however, I have had a relaxer since I was 4 or 5 (it was forced on me by an evil hairdresser) and I always envied the curly tresses of other biracial girls. Growing up, when asked the infamous "What are you?", I always suffixed my reply with "...but I just don't have biracial hair". Now, I am transitioning my brain to realize that all hair is "good hair" once it is healthy. And so, kinky, curly or nappy, I've stopped thinking of my hair as the enemy. After 24 years of being conjoined, I think it's high time me and my hair become friends.
Sorry this is such a long comment, I'm an amateur writer, and once I get going I can't stop! I'm sure blogger is going to give me a rude error message!

Thanks once again, I'll be reviewing you book on Amazon by the by, I'm one of thie vine voices.

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

Riana:Oh! I didn't mean to upset you! You are so sweet. If it helps, it happened a long, long time ago. I look back on that fried piece of hair and am grateful for having figured everything out, so that will never happen again.

Latasha:Oh my goodness!!! Your relaxer story sounded just like mine! That crazy gumminess, the horror of realizing that burning stuff isn't rinsing off, the horrible feeling that something has gone terribly wrong. I loved your message! You sound so much exactly like me and my hair! I thought I was supposed to have "biracial hair" too, but ended up with tight curls. And it frustrated me that all my other biracial, half black cousins, as well as my brother, all had easy, slightly wavy hair. But "biracial hair" comes in all different textures, and all hair is beautiful, and deserves to be loved.

You are so kind with what you said about the book! I really hope you like it. I wrote that book for people just like you. And congratulations on growing out that perm! It isn't always easy to change our mindset about our hair after so many years of being shown it isn't good enough in its natural state. But having our own hair truly is a gift we give ourselves, and it seems to get better and better over time. And thank you thank you for wanting to review the book! Your voice is so very much appreciated.

Mamabelle said...

Wow! You noted in your photo history about this event, but reading it in detail really made it sink in, I nearly teared up, just as another reader did. For all the biracial girls (and boys) out there--thank you so much for working so hard to get information out--hopefully sparing another person's beautiful curls!

Unknown said...

I'm glad you've found the new way to care for your hair. And thank you for sharing that way with others! I really appreciate it : )

Unknown said...

Hi Teri,

My wife and I run - a premier biracial hair products brand since 1998 and we are big fans of your blog. Thanks for the excellent techniques - I often direct our visitors to your site if they have questions about their hair.

I would love to offer some of our products for free to your website's visitors and promote your book on our website which is well trafficked. If you might be interested, please reply or email me at so we can discuss further.


Unknown said...


I know I posted on the other blog post about this question. But I felt I didn't fully explain what I am doing with my hair.

I exercise 6 days a week. When I exercise, I part my hair into four parts and clip up each section so that when I sweat, the sweat does not run to the ends. After my hair has dried in the clips, I take my hair down and wrap it for bed. When I wake up in the morning, I apply oil to my ends. When I wash my hair, I do your Curly Primer method, except I put twists in my hair after I apply the conditioner.

Do you think it is necessary to rinse my twists after I exercise? My hair gets extremely frizzy when I do. What do you suggest?

Thank you : )

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

Mamabelle: Aw, thank you! I really don't want anyone else to go through all the crazy things I once did to my hair. I appreciate you saying this. And now, after all these years, I can look back at that crunchy orange piece of hair and it almost seems like it happened to another person.

rinserbear: Thank you for your kind comments about the site! To answer your question, I'm going to assume you are totally natural? Also, I'm not sure how much you sweat. What worries me is that sweat contains salt, and salt makes me nervous. It's wonderful that you are clipping your ends up so the sweat doesn't get to your ends. If you are only sweating very lightly, then doing what you do should be fine. However, if you are sweating a larger amount (so if you pat your head it feels damp), or you are exercising multiple times a week, I would suggest rinsing. The reason your hair gets fuzzy if you rinse is (and I'm guessing on this because I'm not totally sure of your routine), is that rinsing is taking out the combing conditioner (which is what keeps our hair from frizzing). So I'd suggest putting a squirt of a good combing conditioner in your hair after rinsing, and smoothing that through your hair again, concentrating on the fuzzy parts. Hopefully that will cut down on the frizzing by unifying your hair (different strands of hair get wet at different rates sometimes, so smoothing distributes the moisture better), and having it held together with the conditioner a bit better.

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

Srini: Thank you for directing people to my site! I'm always looking for great new products to suggest on the site! I have to say I don't even try a product until I see every ingredient that's in it, so I will write to you directly to see if there is a way I can see your ingredients list. Thank you so much for asking me.

Unknown said...

Teri: Thanks for the reply. I am working to get the ingredients list uploaded to the website. It's been on my to do list for a while and this will be a good excuse to get that done! I will send that to you as well. I got your address from the facebook post. I will ship you a trial pack right away and would love to hear your feedback on it. Also, like I said earlier, I'd love to offer a free giveaway of our products to your blog/site/facebook visitors in the form of some contest that will help get the word out about our products. Perhaps, to qualify for the giveaway, they can comment about our products on your blog??

Thanks again! Btw, how's the response to the book been? My wife is getting a copy soon, so she says...


Venuschild said...

Hi, Teri! I've been coming to your site for awhile now, & wanted to commend you on what an inspiration you are to me & my curls.

After about 20 years of relaxing, I grew out my curls & loved them for about 5 years, but then went through some health problems that involved radiation treatment. A lot of my hair fell out, & when I got healthy again & it was growing back, it was a totally different texture, hard & straight like dried sea grass, of all things. Had I known then what I know now, I would've just left it alone, because eventually my curls would grow back. Hair growing back from chemo & radiation is always a different texture (NOW I know this!). But instead, I spazzed out & went back to relaxing because I didn't know what else to do, but grew VERY tired of the constant rolling, hair dryers, blow dryers, flat iron, worrying about weather, etc., & started thinking about going back to curls. It was only when I read your story & that you went through the same symptoms of broken pieces of hair everywhere that I finally decided to say "No!" to the relaxer!

My last relaxer was December 2009, & am following your bit-by-bit approach you mentioned when growing out chemical hair, going from a shoulder-length to a shorter, stylized bob. My bob is already looking a little wrong, which I'm actually excited about, because I can feel my approx. 2 inch-roots of curls growing in, anxious for them to be free again so I can start the Tightly Curly Method! Thanks so much, Teri!

Speaking of "Tightly Curly," I noticed you changed the name of your website to "This Wild Crown." I love both names, but just out of curiosity, why the change?

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

Srini: I look forward to trying out your products, and I very much appreciate you sending the list of ingredients to me! It is very kind of your wife to be thinking about buying a copy of my book.

I must say that I don't have a typical site that does product give-aways, since I try really hard to keep the site as a resource that focuses on researched hair information geared towards very curly hair. However, if I like your products, I will feature them on my site, with a link to your site, as a resource for curlies looking for good products.

Venuschild: Thank you so much for your kind words about the site! That makes me so very happy to know anything on it has helped you in any way, or has inspired you. Wow, you've been through such a journey, surviving radiation. I hope very much that everything is fine now. And actually, I had no idea that hair grows in a different texture after radiation treatments. So I just learned something new. Thank you so much. I admire your bravery. And I know you will love those sweet new curls of yours.

Wow, you are really observant about the site name! Actually, it's the same site, and the same name. We have been having trouble with our hosting service, and for that day, the only way we could have the site show was to display it on our "internal" site, which is ThisWildCrown. But hopefully TightlyCurly should be now up, and we are working to find a solution to make our hosting sites more reliable. Thank you so much for noticing and asking. You are courageous, and I really appreciated your post and everything you talked about.

Unknown said...

Thanks Teri! I tried the method of rinsing and adding the conditioner right after and it has been working wonderfully this week! Thank you! And my scalp isn't itching as much as it did. : )

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

rinserbear: Oo! I'm so glad to hear that's working better for you! Yes, I really do try to keep all products off my scalp as much as possible.

Mamabelle said...

Hi again Teri,
Your book just arrived from amazon, so I've been looking through it, yea! I noticed that the Pantene I've been using isn't listed, so I checked the site and sure enough they'd changed their ingredients. Well, I stockpile when I find good deals, so I looked through what I had and looked at them at the store today, they have apparently changed ingredients yet a second time. The current bottle says "NEW Fragrance" at the top and does not have sodium chloride anymore. Unfortunately, most of my bottles do, but I will donate them to charity, and I don't know if the newest ones are any good to use either. Anyway, long story short, thought you'd want to know about it. For now, I'm trying out some of your other suggested products, which is way more fun than using the same ole boring stuff anyway. I will definitely post again about your book after I finish reading it, Best Wishes!

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

Mamabelle: Oh! Thanks for letting me know Pantene changed their ingredients...again. I'll check them out and see what's going on. Honestly, if they keep changing them, who knows if they will do it again by the time I get to looking them up. I'm so glad you're enjoying trying new things. I am too, actually. I love researching new ingredients to add. And thank you so much for getting the book and being willing to post something after reading it. I do hope you like it!

Janis said...

Just got the book last weekend, have read it through and enjoyed it THOROUGHLY.

I'm so glad you included completely-up styles. I know I keep hemming and hawing, but I think I can manage this now that I know I can wear it entirely up. I may have to lose about six inches of the lower ends though, since they may be so battered that they just won't curl. And yet when I comb my hair after a shower, the bathroom floor is literally covered in these little nickel- and quarter-sized perfect circles of curled-up hair ...