J.E Wise & B.E.K Royal
I wish I could say that I embraced my natural-hair me. But it wasn’t easy for me. It still isn’t. I was introduced to the relaxer on a personal level at the age of 13. Before that, however, I was introduced to the relaxer upon entering this world. My mom who is now a proud member of the natural hair movement, always kept her hair relaxed. To me, that was the norm. To me, that was something to aspire to. My mom didn’t want us to relax our hair when my sisters and I were younger. Instead, she took pleasure in meticulously hot-combing our hair until our hair sizzled and shined. There had to be a hot-comb occasion though. Weddings, graduation, and banquets were at the top of the list for hot-comb occasions. Straight was the norm. Straight was considered beauty. I don’t have a strong memory of the first time I had a relaxer put into my hair, but I do know I was happy that day. As I grew older and had more say in the when and how of my hair process, my decision became influenced by how bone-straight a relaxer could get my hair.
Over the years, however, I suffered from the consequences of poor maintenance and chemical-overload. My decision to go natural is not based on self-discovery or a need to start over for healthy hair. I still like the relaxed hair look. Self-discovery and a natural-hair-me appreciation came much later. Nevertheless, two years before my 40th birthday, I became pregnant with my son. Going natural during my pregnancy and while my son was being breastfed was a health choice. I was concerned about the health of my baby.
Over a period of three years, I’ve learned to appreciate my natural hair. The texture, the look, and the different stages of growth that I have experienced thus far. I have also learned how to properly care for it. My natural hair looks and feels different today than it did when my mom cared for it when I was younger.
My mom had a process that many of you can probably relate to: 1) wash to cleanse 2) braid to maintain 3) repeat.
Each week, on a Sunday, 1) my mom would wash our hair. She’d apply grease to our scalp, and then, 2) she’d braid our hair in an intricate cornrow style. The braided style would keep for the remainder of the week, or longer–depending on the protective style. My mom would undo our hair at the end of the week so she can do a barrette hair style for church, and then 3) the process would start again.
My natural hair journey is a learning experience. I have learned that the process my mom followed may not necessarily work for hair growth as much as it works as a form of convenience.
I learned that the how is just as important as the what. How you care for your hair is just as necessary as what you use to care for your hair.
I’ve learned about co-washing. I learned how resilient natural hair is. I learned about patience. I learned this from a community of bloggers who cater to natural hair. I learned from the self-help youtube videos, from the women who frequent pinterest and other social media types to post their natural hair images. I learned it from the numerous women who proudly wear their natural coils.
We learn from eachother and we must continue to learn from eachother. Our mothers learned the process that they teach us from their mothers and their mothers from their mothers before them. Is their process outdated?
A Simple Process or an Ordeal?
When I first started my natural hair journey, I followed a leave-it-alone process. I felt as though natural hair was super high maintenance. It was easy for me to put a wig and forget about it until I decided to wash it. At which point, the ordeal would begin. Washing my hair was an ordeal because shampoos tangled my hair and made it hard, while conditioners only worked while the conditioner was on my hair. After the final rinse, I had a tangled, matted afro to deal with. No fun! No fun at all!!!
Over time, however, I realized that hiding my hair under a wig did not help. I had to find what worked for me. I found water was my solution. It became easier for me to just wet my hair everyday–twice a day; sometimes more. My hair was more manageable and full of life. I would add oils to my hair, leaving my scalp free from add-on oils. My hair was not dry and hard to manage. My hair retained moisture too. So, my process was born: water is my moisturizer and oils are my conditioner.
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