One thing that I have learned in my journey to growing longer hair is to be patient. In the country where I live – the United States of America, most of us are used to having almost everything we want or need instantly. If we want to eat, we can go to a fast food restaurant and get a meal within minutes. If we want clothes we can go to the store and buy them instantly. If we want information about something, we can look it up on the internet and get a variety of answers (some good, some not so good) within minutes. But growing hair is one of the things that doesn’t work that way. Growing hair, takes time, and it takes patience. I’ve learned to slow down in my approach to taking care of my hair. Instead of rushing when I do it, I take my time.
These two photos of my hair were taken on May 15th, 2006. I read recently that if you are iron deficient, it can cause your hair to be brittle among other things. Women of childbearing age are the ones most likely to be iron deficient. But doctors don’t recommend that you take iron supplements unless your doctor prescribes it because if you take too much iron it can have negative effects too. They say it is better to get your iron from food sources like spinach and sunflower seeds, or enriched cereal.
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).
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.