NaturalArtMaven’s Hair Story

My hair story starts at age 5, when I received my first relaxer.  I honestly do not remember much about the experience aside from crying.  I was and still am very tender headed.  I’ve shed a lot of tears in stylist’s chairs during my youth.  Before the relaxer, all I can remember about my hair is that there was a lot of it, it hurt and I wanted to wear ONE ponytail like all of the other Caucasian girls in my class.  I loved the way their ponytails would swing back and forth when they walked down the hall.  I on the other hand, had to wear 5,001 ponytails.  I hated the way the barrettes on the end of my ponytails would smack me in the eye.

I got my hair pressed one time and one time only.  It was horrible!  I cried, the stylist burned me and blamed it on me, I cried some more and although the end result was pretty, no one told me I couldn’t get it wet.  My mom literally walked in the moment I came up from under the water in the bathtub.  I remember thinking that I was going to die that day based on the look on her face.  That’s when I found out I wasn’t supposed to get it wet.  I must not have told her that I had been trying to “teach” myself how to swim during my bath times.  That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for my mom.  She told me I was getting a relaxer.  Me:  “What’s a relaxer mommy?”  Mom:  “You can wear one pony tail.”  Me:  “Yay!”  I was pretty excited about this relaxer business.

The relaxer years:  For the next 25 years, I continued to relax my hair and experienced thinning edges, breakage and chemical scalp burns.  I finally learned to swim for real thanks to the Red Cross and practically lived in the pool during the summers.  By summer’s end, I usually had all kinds of chunks of hair missing from my head.  Thankfully, because my hair is so freaking thick, no one could tell.  For a short period of time, my father actually used to relax my hair.  It was kind of funny because he would set the kitchen timer and the gloves never fit right.  Although he tried his best, my hair ended up over processed and not “bone straight.”  My mother had turned over the hair duties to me and I did a lot of damage on my own.  I only used shampoo and after I was done washing, I would use a brush to try to get through the tangled, rough, and matted mass of hair.  My hair balls were pretty huge.  It took too long to blow dry so I would just pull it back into a pony tail either with a rubber band or a boggle.  Yeah, it was bad.  I would braid that and wrap it into a bun and put a scrunchy around that.  Because of my hair’s thickness, it would still be damp in the center almost four days later.  I’m surprised I didn’t grow some type of fungus or mold in my hair with this method.  My mom’s stylist told me after a massive trim, that what I was doing was pretty bad for my hair.  I stopped using rubber bands and a brush, but everything else stayed the same.

I learned a little more about my hair in boarding school.  Living in a dorm with a bunch of females, helped me a lot (I only have brothers).  I started tying my hair down at night (with a cotton bandana, lol) and even learned to relax my hair and trim it myself.  I discovered that I had a knack for styling as well, and styled many heads for banquets and special occasions.  My hair filled in some and seem to grow like a weed.  Because it grew so well, I was never afraid to cut on it and experimented with the scissors a lot.  My philosophy was that “It’s just hair.  It will grow back.”

By the time I got to college, my hair was the longest I could ever remember it being.  It was about armpit length my freshmen year.  Then I started cutting it again and I discovered color.  You know where that story goes…

Fast forward to a couple of years ago.  I realized that I was fast approaching 30.  I was diagnosed in college with a medical condition that required me to take several medications and I had gained a considerable amount of weight.  I decided that my creative cropping and Photoshop work to the images I posted online was just not cutting it.  Especially when other people were posting their unedited versions.  I decided to get it together and start living a healthier lifestyle.  I started exercising and totally changed my diet.  After about three months, I was able to go off of my medications and I have been off them ever since.  I lost 30 lbs and kept it off.  A light bulb went off in my head.  “If I don’t want to put chemicals IN my body, why would I put them ON my head?”

I turned to the internet for research and information and in October 2010, I big chopped.  I didn’t really transition.  My last relaxer was only 7 weeks prior to my big chopped.  I had a ton of new growth every where except the front of my head.  My hair was just past shoulder length and the stylist didn’t want to cut it.  She kept asking if I was sure.  I had envisioned looking down and seeing long locks strewn across the floor, but that wasn’t so.  Because she was so scared to cut it, she cut a little at a time and styled it along the way in case I “changed my mind.”  A girl constantly swept the floor and when it was done, there was nothing left on the floor for me to see.  I was disappointed, but I loved what I saw in the mirror.  Fascinating.  I had curls!  Tight curls, but curls.  It was not what I expected.  I had expected to NOT like it, but I LOVED IT!

And the journey has begun…

 

 

***ONE YEAR UPDATE***

I am now one year into my journey and loving every minute of it.  The first few months were definitely pretty rough and I had many days where it looked like a dirty cat was sitting on top of my head.  Going from straight hair to my natural hair was a big learning curve, but I think I finally have the hang of it.  At least most of the time I do.  Me and my hair are doing less fighting now a days.  I’ve found some staple go to styles that are cute, don’t take too much energy out of me and last long enough to keep me from constantly messing with my hair.  For the most part, I just leave it alone.  Most of my work and energy are spent on the front end, on wash day.  Once I make it through wash day, I don’t have to do much to it afterwards to maintain.

My go to styling routine is as follows:

After cleansing and deep conditioning, I twist my hair in medium two strand twist and apply my shea/cupuaçu butter mix to each section.  I usually leave my hair in twists for up to a week.  I don’t usually wear them out, but cover them with silk scarves, hats, berets and beanie’s (I have a video tutorial here).  Then when I tire of this and want to see my hair again, I undo the twists and rock a twist out.  During the summer I was only able to get about three days tops out of a twist out before the humidity killed all of the definition.  During the Fall/Winter, a twist out can last me a week and still look pretty good.  I’ve found that I don’t like day one twist out hair and I prefer my hair with some frizz/definition loss.  In conjunction with the covered twists styles, I can go up to two weeks before I wash/style my hair again.

Another go to style for me is to wrap a scarf around my head headband style, either with a creative knot in the front or free flowing draped over my shoulder.  This is good for my really lazy days, to save a twist out that looks a hot mess, or for when I have been caught in the rain and look like a poof ball.

At night, I sleep on a satin pillowcase…that’s pretty much it.  No retwisting, spritzing, tieing, bonneting, nope, I just lay my head on my satin pillowcase and go to sleep.  Pretty simple.

My wash routine keeps changing but the only thing that has stayed constant, is that I almost always deep condition with the steamer with every wash.  I also stopped using traditional shampoos early in.  I either use my homemade black soap shampoo, or cleanse with ayurvedic powders like Kalpi Tone.  As far as detangling, I had been using the Tangle Teezer for the last nine months, but I feel like my hair has reached an odd length that is making the process more difficult.  I’m currently tweaking this part of my regimen, because although I love the Tangle Teezer, I think I might need something with a handle.

Well, that’s about all for now in terms of updates!  :)

Colleen Eakins, photography by Robin Allman Photography

Colleen Eakins, photography by Robin Allman Photography