I don't see hairstyles the same way I used to. Ever since my dermatologist told me I have cicatricial alopecia, I respond differently to various styles. Recently, I was watching the BET awards. Gabrielle Union looked stunning (as usual) in a one-shoulder, scarlet and silver dress paired with strappy sandals. But it wasn't her attire that held my attention--it was her hair. Gabrielle wore a braid style: two-strand twists so long they could've grazed her navel. They were as flawless as she looked. A long time ago (okay, fine, last month) I would've thought, "Yep, totally gonna rock that look this summer." But not anymore. Now I pause and wonder, "What would my fine hair and fragile hair follicles think of that style?"
Why, hello bald spot
I had joined the natural hair crusade. I was on the bandwagon and commiserating with others on the same journey about the struggle to maintain two completely different hair textures--relaxed and natural. I was hanging in there with all the other natural-hair transitioners whose videos I'd watched on YouTube. With them, I counted steadily: six months relaxer-free, eight months relaxer-free, and so on. I was down with the cause! And then, one day, I wasn't. My conviction was as pliant as a weft of the finest Indian Remy.
I became frustrated with my coarse, unwieldy hair. I had an important event coming up (okay, fine, it was Beyoncé's The Formation Tour) and wanted to look my best, but I couldn't get an immediate appointment with my hairstylist. So I called a different stylist who, as it turned out, could get me a relaxer that very same day. A relaxer! Soon, my fingers would be sliding though silky strands once more. All of my convictions about harsh chemicals, burned scalp, and embracing my natural hair went out the same window as my two-strand twist jelly as visions of bouncy tresses swirled through my head.
I did it. I got a relaxer. My hair was far shorter than I thought it would be after nine months of new growth from transitioning, but hey, at least it was shiny and straight. I sat in my car and admired myself. And then I drove home. I went into the bathroom, picked up a hand mirror, and then I saw it. There, on top of my head, was an unmistakable bald spot...
I couldn't hide from it anymore. My hair -- this pile of protein that I kept wrapped in synthetic, smothered beneath Remy, hidden under a lacefront -- should not be my enemy. Each coil is as apart of me as my hands and feet. So why the avoidance? Hair is a symbol of beauty. Many of us have been taught that hair is our crowning glory. On the flip side, the difficulties in taming our hair has caused it to be a symbol of shame and evidence of pain for some of us. As a child, I was teased terribly about my "nappy" hair. It was a relief to finally put a Jheri Curl or relaxer in my hair and pretend that I had "good" hair.
After thirty years of chemical dependence and more hairstyles that I can count, it is time to stop pretending I'm Sasha Fierce. I'm not her and I don't want to be. I want to be the best me I can be. It's been nine months since my last relaxer. Am I saying I'll never put a weave, wig, or relaxer in my hair ever again? Nope. I'm saying that in this moment, I want to see, touch, feel, and nurture my own hair.
Okay, cool. But now what? I've studied the YouTube videos and have decided on my first style. The two-strand twists look easy enough despite the fact that none of the women in the videos seem to have my exact fine, thin, kinky 4C grade of hair. Nevertheless, I've fed my brain with the fruit of knowledge that can only come from watching a million videos. I can do this...
A black guy walks into a salon
So there you are sitting in your hairstylist's chair. Perhaps it's been a minute seen you've seen her and you two can't stop gabbing. While she's tending to your hair, you commiserate about family drama, pontificate about Hollywood gossip, vent about the chick at work. The entire salon is buzzing with the sound of ladies laughing, dryers whirring, and perhaps even gospel music or old-school R&B playing overhead.
And then it happens.
The bell on the front door chimes. The door opens. In walks a guy. A black guy. Maybe he's an attractive black guy (you're single -- you take note.) And maybe he's not (you're single, times are hard -- you still take note.) He is dressed more like Denzel Washington's character from Training Day rather than his character in Mo' Better Blues. A hushed silence washes over the salon as though you're playing a reverse version of The Wave at a sports arena.
Imagine sitting in your stylist's chair as she gives you a new haircut. You've shown her the exact style you want on your cell phone or magazine. But now she's working from memory or requesting to see the picture again. And when it's all done, it still isn't quite what you were hoping for.
Samsung Electronics may have solved this problem. It has introduced an interactive mirror display. The first-of-its-kind, 55-inch mirror has made its debut at LEEKAJA HAIRBIS’ Jamsil salon in Seoul, Korea. It won't be long before you and your stylist can consult on various styles on the mirror and determine the best look for you. Want your bob shorter with a bump or longer and straight? You can pinpoint the style you want, check out latest news about the style, and then watch as it comes to life.
Pretty cool, huh?
Swimming is one of the best exercises because it allows us to burn a relatively high number of calories in a short amount of time. According to Healthline.com, expert physiologist Tom Holland states that “a 150-pound person will burn roughly 400 calories during an hour-long swim at a moderate pace, and 700 at a vigorous one." If you're like me and need exercise that is gentle on the joints while still working up a sweat, look no further than your local pool. Celebs have long used swimming as part of their exercise regimen. Take Mariah Carey for instance. She attributes swimming to her 70-pound weight loss. And we already know Beyoncé loves to swim as is evidenced here, here and here. No one can argue that Queen Bey isn't in top physical condition!
So why aren't more black women hitting up the pools? Wait. Don't tell me. You don't know how to swim. Nope, not a good answer. Lessons at the Y are affordable and available. No one is saying you need to ever be Michael Phelps in the water, but knowing how to swim might save your life one day. Oh, I'm sorry. You do know how to swim? My bad. Then what's your excuse for not swimming more often, especially when you're on vacation for goodness sake? Of course! You don't want to get your hair wet. Look, I hear ya. Dealing with our hair on a good day can be a pain, add in chlorine and it's doubly so. But it doesn't have to be impossible. Here are a few tips for maintaining healthy hair before and after jumping in the pool.
1. Leave-in conditioner
Before swimming, saturate your hair with water which will prevent your hair from absorbing as much chlorine. Apply a protectant like Ion Swimmer's Leave-In Conditioner just before swimming to form a protective layer between your tresses and the harsh chlorine water.
2. Swimming cap
Don't even think about getting into chlorinated water before putting on your swim cap. Have a head full braids or extensions? No worries. This large swimming cap is available for all of us who like BIG hair.
3. Swimming shampoo
After your dip in the pool, use a swimmer's shampoo like Aubrey's Organics Swimmer's Shampoo to safely remove the chlorine from your hair. While chlorine can be great for keeping a pool sanitary, it can be extremely damaging to our locks. Don't skip this paraben and sulfate-free shampoo.
Add moisture back to your hair by using a restorative conditioner. A good conditioner after swimming in chlorinated water can help repair dry, damaged hair. Give Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner a try.
5. Deep conditioner
Looking for a deeper condition when you get home? This Coconut Oil Hair Mask deeply hydrates, moisturizes and conditions. Who doesn't love coconut oil?
Here are a couple of swimming extras that you might need for your trip to the pool.
Me, getting ready to swim!
Yes, I know. Melissa Harris-Perry and MSNBC parted ways in a blaze of glory this past March. If you're unfamiliar with the details, check it out here. However, seeing as this is #ThrowbackThursday, I thought it fitting to remember the unique voice that Ms. Harris-Perry had in the media. Below she discusses how black hair matters, a topic rarely heard on television.
Her voice and perspective are missed.
Little Mix - Hair Video
Kima Braid Hair Video
Ode to the curious co-worker
I know you never could conceive
You’d stumble upon a fly-ass weave
Right in front of your astonished grays
Are eighteen inches of Remy waves
You boldly show me into your mind
By asking me questions that show no sign
Of social awareness or beauty IQ
That would explain your ‘80s ‘do
Is that your real hair
Now girl you know
I didn’t have this length twenty hours ago
Did it hurt to install
After the opiates and booze
All I could feel was the slightest bruise
I wish we could do that
Deep breaths because why even bother to say
I see her kind every other day
Cute girls, like me, who love to embrace
Faux clips of hair down to the waist
Is it very expensive
Now you’re moving too close
To the thing we like to protect the most
Is that your hand making a move toward me
I know you’re not that damn crazy
But before I can duck, dodge or sway
Your hand’s on my head, feeling its way
My temper flares, my anger rise
Has no one ever told you, is this a surprise
My hair’s part of me, my body, my being
You don’t touch my breasts, it would be obscene
So don’t touch my hair, as a matter of fact
Curiosity can do more than kill a cat
I’ll tolerate the questions
Do I have a choice
I’ll answer them all with a neutral voice
But my hair is off limits, admire from afar
It’s mine, I can prove it. The receipt’s in my car.
Unabashed lover of all things hair.