One of my favorite ingredients in my hair care products is lavender essential oil. Not only does it have a nice fresh smell, it is naturally soothing to the scalp, it is naturally antiseptic, and it helps fight scalp problems. I also like to keep a small bottle of lavender essential oil next to me when I am pressing my hair to treat accidental burns (one of the hazards of working with a pressing comb or any other heated appliance). If I accidentally burn myself, all I do is dab a small amount of lavender essential oil on the area and the pain usually subsides quickly and the area heals without a scar.
This is where my hair is now in March 2006. My hair is quite elastic and sometimes the growth is not as obvious. In between 2001 and 2006 I have trimmed my hair by several inches to try and remove the damaged sections. My hair is thermally pressed.
When I was growing up, one assumption that I always had about hair was that some people could grow long hair, and others couldn’t. I always assumed I was in the second group. I figured that my hair would reach a certain length, and there it would stop. Even though I occasionally saw black people with long hair, I assumed it was a genetic thing and that my hair would never grow that long. But after working with my hair I have realized that it can grow. Hair growth is a product of two factors, technique and product. You need both to have decent hair growth, especially with kinky, coarse African American hair.
Hair growth = (good hair products) + (good hair maintenance techniques)
This is where my hair was after pressing it and trimming it for two years. My natural hair is what many call 4c. When unpressed, it forms ringlets, but there are kinks in the strands and it knots at the ends quite often. It is dry and coarse, and without proper care it breaks easily. Pressing it helps to moisturize the strands. I had been using my own hair care products for a while (and I still am).
At the suggestion of a relative, I decided to try pressing again. She suggested that pressing was a way to give my hair a sort of hot oil treatment. It would also help me detangle my hair and allow me to wear styles that wouldn’t pull at my hairline as much. Although I had never gotten good results with pressing I decided to take her advice. I was in the process of developing my own hair care products which I used exclusively on my hair. When I first pressed my hair after wearing it natural for so long, it was thin around my temples and the hair growing from my crown was so short that it couldn’t fit into the scrunchie at the back of my neck. Anyway, a new chapter was beginning for my hair.
Even though I liked wearing my hair natural, I didn’t realize that I was damaging it until one day (sometime around 1998) when a relative asked to see how long my hair was. She took my hair down, and as she looked through it she started saying very loudly “Your hair is broken, your hair is broken!!!” I was quite devastated because my hair had been doing quite nicely the last time I checked. But she alerted me to the fact that it was quite broken in the middle. Not knowing what to do, I decided not to do anything. I didn’t realize it, but the combination of me wearing my hair natural, brushing it, pulling it back into a scrunchie and a twist, and experimenting with ineffective hair care products, was causing my hair to break off. The most damage was at the crown of my head where my hair is the most coarse.
As time went on I did notice that the hair around my face had begun to thin out to the point where I could see my scalp when I brushed my hair back. Also, the hair at the crown of my head always seemed much shorter than the rest of my hair. I would laugh it off and keep going. The straw that broke the camel’s back was one day in church when a lady saw me in the bathroom and told me that my hair was thinning around my hairline and that I should be careful. It was true! It wasn’t just something that I noticed, it was noticeable to others. My hair was falling out and breaking off and I didn’t know what to do. I had always had thick hair as a young girl, but that was no more. I cried that day.
As a teen I wore my hair occasionally in a traditional Nigerian plaited style, and sometimes I wore it pressed. When I was a little older I switched to a natural style where I wet my hair, brushed it, and gathered it together at the back of neck using a french clip or a scrunchie. I would then twist the ends and tuck them under. I wore this style for many years.
My black hair journey began in Nigeria, West Africa. When I was a young child, I went to live in the city of Ile-Ife with my mother, my father, and my sister. My mother is a black American who was born in Oklahoma. My dad is a Yoruba from Nigeria, West Africa. We went to live in Nigeria because my dad had gotten a teaching job at the University of Ife (now known as Obafemi Awolowo University) in Ile-Ife. It was here, in Nigeria, that I have my first memories of African hair. I got to see the different hair styles that Nigerian women wore. The two styles that I remember best are plaiting (what Americans can cornrows or french braids) and string-wrapped hair. String wrapped hair, or coiled hair, is done in a way similar to braiding. The hair is sectioned off, but instead of each section being braided, each section is tightly wrapped in shiny black thread. When all of the sections of hair are completed, the hair coils are flexible and can be left as is, or sculpted into interesting designs like the style on the cover of J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere: Photographs. These styles can be beautiful to look at, but they tend to pull out the hair around the hair line.
I also saw women in fancy outfits that wore head dresses instead of hair styles. This was also very fashionable. A woman with this style would have a blouse and skirt made out of fancy fabric, and wear a piece of cloth made from the same fabric tied in an elaborate way around her head.
Many school age girls got their hair cut very short like boys. This was because that was the easiest way for them and their parents to deal with their hair at that age.
Growing up, and seeing all of this, I realized from an early age that my African/black-American hair is one of the most versatile types of hair on earth. Africans and black Americans can style their hair in a multitude of ways. To me, affirming my culture is not wearing my hair in only one way. Affirming and acknowledging my culture is appreciating my hair for what it is, enjoying what it can do, and wearing it in the way that is best for me.
Welcome to My Black Hair Journey. On this blog I will share my experiences in attempting to grow and maintain my hair. This blog won’t have the answers for everyone, but it will have answers for some. Before I talk about growing my hair, I will talk about how I arrived at this point – my black hair journey.