Black Hair: Handle With Care

An update on this natural hair thing.

After 18 months of transitioning, my hair is finally 99.999 percent natural, and I can’t go back now. After scheduling conflicts and a friend putting a bug in my ear about Paul Mitchell: The School, I made an appointment to take advantage of their  Cinco De Mayo promotion the very last day in May. Rather than going to SuperCuts, I would get a haircut there for just $5. Turns out, the cost included a wash, blow-dry and style. The school was beautiful, chic and multicultural and seemed to be a little well-kept secret. My stylist, a young Asian chick, did an excellent job to my surprise (Yes I was hesitant about someone of another race doing my hair, regardless of them being in school. Forgive me for my ignorance). The press lasted a little over two weeks.  I returned after three weeks to see if this miracle could be performed again.

It was just my luck that my previous stylist had graduated last week. As I waited for someone to call me to a station, I honestly crossed my fingers for a black woman to appear, but that didn’t happen. My heart sunk and for good reason. After a wonderful wash and condition, I was ready to see this petite brunette with a hot  pink skunk tail in action combing out my hair. She took the wide-tooth comb and grazed over it, trying to find spots where it seemed easy to comb through. She didn’t have any luck, so she did the unthinkable: She rolled a hood dryer behind my chair to “get the moisture out.” Wait, what? I told her that wouldn’t work. She’s going to have a hard time combing through it. (My hair soaks up water instantly.) She said, “Oh, I do it like this all the time.” Riiight. She disappeared, and I figured she was looking for help since she was learning on the job and all.

She returned after forever and attempted to comb out again only to find that my hair was almost completely dry. She did not pick up a blow dryer, but instead, grabbed a section of hair and placed the flat iron on it. GASP!!! I immediately stopped her and asked for her manager/instructor. In the end, the instructor shared that they don’t teach a technique that requires a hood dryer, with no comb and blow out. I demanded that she re-wet my hair and condition it, and I still had to tell her what to do next. Put me on the payroll or credit some cosmetology hours, please!

Thank God for *Rebecca, a black girl at the next station, who saw her struggling and took over.  Both of them worked on my hair as Rebecca instructed her on what to do. Finally, my it was done, and I could log the experience under the Hair Files. In a weird way, though I was temporarily inconvenienced, I felt like I’d done the girl a favor. She no longer had to fake the funk when it came to doing black hair.  Apparently, while they were teaching techniques, she zoned out thinking she’d never run into me. She had to have learned something because my hair is a beast.

Can people of other races and cultures style our hair? Absolutely, but it takes some getting used to. Take note.

**Things Non-Black Stylists-To-Be New to Our Hair Should Know

You can scratch our scalp. I promise it won’t hurt us. What is this rubbing my hair about? We might not wash our hair daily, so it probably really needs to be cleansed when it’s shampoo time. Get in there, and put in work!

You cannot (and shouldn’t) comb through dry hair. Depending on the person, her hair may soak up water quickly, drying it out. Don’t wait. Comb it out and don’t forget your spray bottle.

When combing out, start from the bottom up, not the top to bottom. If you don’t you’ll never get through it.

Section it off to make blow-drying and flat-ironing easier. Keep clips and clamps near to secure the hair.

Personal pet peeve: Miss me with that pomade and extra oil. I don’t need it.

 If you don’t know how to style a certain type of hair, especially black hair, ask someone who does! Don’t make up techniques. Do it right or not at all.

The picture was taken from a story, “Stylists Learn to Shear All Hair Types in NEX Salons.” Great read!

*Names have been changed

**Disclaimer: I know the term “black hair” is not one size fits all. What I’ m referring to the texture of hair–my hair particularly. 

Naturally Obsessed

A little update on this natural hair thing. I’m still going strong. No urge for a relaxer 14 months into this transition, and after my appointment at SuperCuts, I probably have an inch of relaxed ends in some places. The “kitchen” is completely natural. So far, I don’t feel overwhelmed with all this hair, but two things have happened that I didn’t expect.

1. I’m obsessed with hair products.

I haven’t been to my new stylist in weeks for no particular reason. She does a great job, but I know I need to be able to tackle this beast called my hair alone, too. I’ve been practicing my blow-drying and flat-ironing since I could do neither very well before. I’m a rollerset kind of girl. Between these hair blogs and talking with friends who are transitioning, I’m always tempted to try new products, which is crazy because it’s not like I’m doing anything spectacular with my hair. I wear it straight and occasionally, I may throw some Curl Formers in to add some curl.

I’m simple. I don’t want to have to fool with oils and sealing and co-washing. I just want to wash, condition, alleviate frizz and add shine. I’m determined to find one set of staple products that does this. I’ve bought all kinds of conditioners, leave-ins, serums and rollers. I don’t remember my grandmother using all that stuff when she pressed my hair as a little girl, and I had a head full of hair. For me, less is more.

I made a vow two weeks ago to forgo buying any more products after attempting a regular rollerset (came out decent, by the way. Use roller with caps!). I was doing well until I went to Target last night. I was looking for Giovanni Organics serum, only to find that they were out. I snagged John Frieda’s Frizz-Ease (used to be a staple back in the day when I lived in Louisiana) and Giovanni’s Wellness Shampoo. I tried the conditioner and loved it, so I completed my set. I have no willpower whatsoever, but atleast my purchase was under $10 tax included.

Here’s the short list of products I’ve used:

Twisted Sista Serum: This bad boy is $5 at Target. They’ve clearly expanded their “ethnic” hair care section. I wasn’t impressed with the results after the flat-iron. I think my heat protectant does a better job.

Garnier Smooth Milk: I used it, but not really. It’s for blow-drying, but you can use it on dry hair. I saw a difference even on my dry hair. I’m hoping that it, along with the John Frieda contributed to my hair not being as big as Texas this time around.

Grey Flexi-rods: After failing miserably, I realized that I’m just not ready to set my hair on these things yet. I don’t have the patience. I tried them on dry hair and proceeded to try to sleep in them. What the hell was I thinking? After 10 minutes in the bed, I got up and flung them out of my hair. Later for the flexis.

All that, then the stylist at SuperCuts suggested Redken’s Heat Glide to prevent dead ends from heat damage (I was well overdue for a trim) and Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Serum. A-yi-yi! They trying to stick me for my paper!

2. I miss the beauty shop. I ran across this post, Nostalgia: Black Beauty Salons on CurlyNikki.com, and I’m telling you, this girl read my mind. I haven’t been inside a real salon since November. Dare I say that I miss it? No, definitely not the waiting, not sitting up under a dryer, but the atmosphere, the customers, the talk.  There’s just something about being in a beauty shop. Maybe I have a soft spot because I grew up in my granny’s shop. I went to my mama’s stylist until she left and my next stylist rented a booth in a granny’s shop until she retired. I have always, always been “at the shop.” It feels a little funny not being there. After a few trips down memory lane, I’m over it.

The Break-Up

I think I broke up with my hair stylist. Well, I did in my head, atleast.

To bring you up to speed, I’m “going natural.” I haven’t had a relaxer since December 12, 2009. That’s a mighty long time, and I’m proud of myself sticking for it out. I recently heard growing out relaxers described as the new black. Everybody’s doing it.

Negative. Especially not in my stylist’s salon… Nothing but perms and weaves are done. Our business relationship is similar to a dead-end romantic relationship. You don’t want to believe it’s coming, but you can see it a mile away. There’s nowhere to go, but the other way, to get out. Don’t get me wrong—I love her to death. I’ve tried to hold on to her, getting spiral curls and even twists to get me through, but as I sat in her chair last week, I knew I wouldn’t be back for a long time.

Why, you ask? Because she doesn’t know how to style “virgin” hair. How dreadful. Maybe she just doesn’t want to. When I made the decision to transition, we talked about my options and the fact that she’d no longer be my stylist after a while. The conversation was refreshing. Thankfully, she’s not the type to be offended if a client goes elsewhere for services, but I don’t think she thought I’d go this long. My visits have dwindled from every other week to once or twice a month, if that.

My hair grows like weeds, so after two months, it was a beast. Instead of random “beauty shop” conversation, I listened to her talk about how long it was going to take to spiral, how she doesn’t have the patience to deal with it and how I’m going through a phase. I didn’t pay for that; I paid for styling services. End of story.

Take away the customer service component (which is stellar usually), and my main gripe is stylists’ limited skill sets. Why don’t they know how to handle transitioning or natural hair? Why do I have to go to an older stylist or one who “specializes” in children’s hair? I don’t think natural hair should be a specialty. It should be a requirement because we don’t come out of the womb with relaxed hair. Yes, natural hair is fragile and needs special care, but so does  relaxed hair. So why aren’t both taught in cosmetology school?

According to the State of Tennessee Board of Cosmetology, a cosmetologist, which requires 1,500 hours, and a natural hairstylist, which requires only 300 hours, are two separate classifications. Moreover, I think that proves the takeover of relaxed hair. Yes, I understand that some women’s hair requires so much to maintain, perhaps, a perms is “needed.” Even better, I understand that the unbe”weave”able world of weaves and perms is where the money is, but are we so far gone that  some “stylists” don’t even know what hair without a perm feels like?

Unfortunately, there’s an ignorance about our hair in the African -American community. I’m way far from who the natural community call “hair nazis,”  I don’t want to rock ‘fros and twists or emulate Angela Davis or Jill Scott. I’ll most likely continue to wear it flat ironed because that’s what works for me. I don’t know if I’ve had any self-discoveries that many women talk about, but I have gotten a glimpse of the lack of education about what grows out of our very heads.

Maybe I’m selfish in feeling like my stylist should be able to do all things cosmetology. I doubt that natural hairstyling was even apart of the curriculum when she took state board exams. Even so, I think a stylist should be trained to work with all types of hair. I pray styling options are added to state boards nationally because contrary to popular belief, everyone does not have a relaxer.

I’m not venting because I think natural hair is the only way to go. No elitism here. There are days when I want to run to the chair and feel that cold Mizani cream on my scalp, and who knows–I might do just that.  My biggest concern is the miseducation about hair–period. For far too long, we’ve been sitting in the chair or even standing behind it without knowing what’s really going on. Our only mission is to make it pretty.

Aside from my rant, the obvious solution to my problem is simply to find another stylist. Already taken care of, whether she knows it or not. In addition, I know how to do my own hair, and did so weekly for years. Luckily, I inherited those skills from my granny, who was a cosmetologist for 40 years. When I don’t feel like dealing with it, which is often, I pay someone else to do it. Complaints and jokes about what I do with my hair isn’t apart of the agreement.

It’s been great, but I’ve got to say goodbye now.

#NaturalHair Day

It’s #Naturalhair Day on Twitter. Guess what? I’m trying to grow my perm out; I want to be natural. If you know me well, that could be somewhat of a shocker. But then again, if you know me well, you already know that I’m transitioning. My last relaxer was December 18, 2009. I plan to do the long-transition. No Big Chop for me.

The biggest question I have for myself is: Why? Two of my best friends are natural and have been for atleast three years (One presses regularly and the other wears in its natural state–both beautiful). It never once crossed my mind. I’ve been blessed to have little to no problems with my hairs in terms of breakage and split ends. My grandmother was a beautician so I always had someone to take care my hair. (I didn’t get a perm until I was 12.) My hair began to thin in the back when I was 17. I cut the ends of into a bob that was identical to Tasha Smith’s in Why Did I Get Married. I love it still!  

I’m a slave to my hair. Always have been. In fact, that bob was the easiest to maintain. I cut again in 2007 and womp womp, me no likey. It frizzes and puffs up at the thought of rain or humidity. I’m always the one the most “worried” about my hair during special events held outside.” Ugh.

This is it:

Though I have a standing appointment every weeks, I’ve noticed that my hair has gotten thinner. Maybe because it’s grown so much or maybe it’s an age thing. Either way, I love to know what my hair is like perm-free. I’m not what the natural community calls a “hair nazi.” I’m not the fro type–it’s just not my style. I’d like to wear it flat ironed, in twists or curls. For now, I’m wearing it in spiral curls, and I guess it’s working. Thank God I know how to do my own hair, so my trips to the shop have lessened. I’m having the hardest time figuring out all this terminology and what products to use though!

I’ve included some pictures that inspire me, along with my links to natural hair blogs. This ish is addictive foreal.

I guess it’s obvious that I like big hair. **shrug**

Also, check out a link to Afrobella’s post on natural hair. There a lots of tips and advice that was given via Twitter.

Links:

www.maneandchic.com

www.bglhonline.com

http://moptopmaven.blogspot.com

www.afrobella.com

www.curlynikki.com

www.clutchmagazine.com (search: natural hair)

Ladies, how many of you are natural? Do relaxers work best for you? Men, how do you feel about natural hair? Feel free to add to the list! 

Wish me luck!