Welcome back, fam! I’m sitting here at my computer in the middle of another “system cleanse.” Of course, in typical “I forgot what I was JUST doing” fashion, I decided to start my next blog. For those of you who read the last installment and know what a “system cleanse” is, don’t worry! I am not more than 12 feet from my bathroom. LOL!
This chapter of “How Not to Do It” is not about actual disasters in nature. It is a nostalgic review of me joining #TeamNatural, AND the disasters I encountered along the way. For the uninitiated, “#TeamNatural” refers to women of color who decided in the last 3-5 years to stop straightening their hair (either through chemical relaxers or other means), and start wearing their hair as it grows naturally from their scalp. This is also referred to as being a “curly girl”. I put the stipulation on the time frame because women of color wearing their naturally curly hair just became a full-fledged-media-attention “thing” about 5 years ago. Women have been doing it since forever. How do I know? Well, what the hell do you think they did BEFORE Dudleys, Hawaiian Silky and Bronner Brothers came on the scene? Coconut oil is NOT NEW. Ask your grandmother. There are plenty of women who have been wearing their hair natural for decades, if not for their entire lives.
As for how *I* made the decision …
to go from this in 2011… to this in 2013…
It had a lot to do with Chris Rock’s movie, “Good Hair.” I think if we are being honest, a LOT of the recent influx of women going natural can be laid at his feet. His movie didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know or experience firsthand. It just reminded us of it all. But please believe that the transition period from the first picture to the last is a funny journey. Soooo many disasters…
Now the bulk of this rant will be about my current state of naturalism. I am still trying to do different ‘protective’ styles, and manage my ‘curl pattern’, and all that #TeamNatural lingo you learn along the way. Sooner or later, I will probably go the way of all the O.G. Naturals. If you pay attention, you will see that women who have been natural long enough either cut it all off or lock it all up. This picture is PROOF!
I will skip the rest of the boring rationale behind why I went natural. It involved a hair stylist that was NEVER on time, and an unwavering belief in my own superior smarts [Editor’s Comment: *ahem* #TeamBadDecisions] and styling skills. Ask me if you want to know. Now WHAT I did –that’s where it gets interesting. Let’s start with general maintenance.
Step 1: Oil Changes
Once I cut my hair off and was completely natural, I decided that I could take care of it on my own. I had been managing just fine my whole life. Sure, I went to the salon to get cuts, perms, and color. But washing and styling it? Pffft. I got this. I decided to start looking for products that worked well with my hair. That’s what all the thousands of vlogs on YouTube told me to do. So I will run down the list of everything I tried, in order:
- Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus line
- Other stuff…blah blah blah
- Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter line
- More whack, expensive garbage
- Miss Jessie’s line (I’m too broke for this!)
- Carol’s Daughter
- Paul Mitchell
- Everything else at Ulta…
After TWO YEARS of product junkie bingeing, I settled on Dove’s new line of Intensive Moisture shampoo and reconstructing mask for ‘coarse and curly hair’ plus Eden Body Works, Coconut Shea line of styling products. That ish is the bomb-dot-com! I have … exhaled…
(Side note: I took a break from writing this entry for about a month, and now I am COMPLETELY on the Eden Body Works product line. I’m exhaling again. #fickleass)
Now let’s revisit the time I spent at Ulta because here is your first What NOT to do!
1) WHAT NOT TO DO: Let a random white woman color your natural hair.
That sounds racist. It’s totally not. Natural hair is a challenge. If you have not been trained how to handle it, you will f@#k it up. Period. Yeah, I said it. The color of the person doesn’t even matter. That was a shameless click-bait tactic. There are plenty of black stylists who don’t know WTF they are doing either. If you don’t understand the porosity, tensile strength, and moisture needs of naturally curly hair, you will dry it out, over process it, and break it all off.
Which is what happened to me when I went into Ulta on a product search.
Why Ulta? Simple. I had an Ulta card, and Sally’s was farther away…
THAT IS A LIE!!! I WAS BEING BOUGIE!!!
I thought I could get what I needed out of the “refined and calming” Ulta store instead of the “Why is it always in the hood?” Sally’s Beauty Supply. My bougie butt paid well for the lesson in marketing and location. The reason Sally’s flourishes in the ‘hood’ is because THAT IS WHERE THEIR MARKET IS. I deserved what happened to me.
I now stay out of Ulta, and shop at CVS and Sally’s exclusively for hair products. But while I was in Ulta, a very nice young employee started talking to me about my hair. I asked her: “Where is your natural section?”…
After 2 seconds of blank stare, she directed me to the organic section because there was not a section for ‘black hair’. Okay, close enough. I mentioned to her that I wanted to put highlights in my hair, and she said she was a colorist and that Ulta had a 50% off special going right then. Okay great! But c’mon son! I should have known ON SITE (racial profiling, I know) that Becky With the Good Hair wasn’t going to know crap about MY struggle!!!
Despite my internal warning signals going off, I get in her chair. She proceeds to bleach my hair. I tell her that my hair lifts very quickly, and try to remember all the things that my former stylist in Orlando (Wizard Billi) used to say, She just pooh-poohs me and says that all of that is just extra steps and that I will be fine. The color comes out great. The style … not so much.
You shoulda seen this little 20-something white woman trying to tell me how much I looked like Angela Davis. I think that was the only afro reference she had. I didn’t look a thing like Angela! First of all, I was transitioning, so I had a TWA underneath and stringy straight hair on top -hich she then tried to “pick out”. She kept telling me she loved it and I should wear it like that. But I peeped the sweat droplet running down the side of her face. I knew it was a fail. But at least the color was right. I walked out of Ulta with a multicolored, half-assed-blown-out afro. And a $70 chunk taken out of my wallet.
A day later, I still smell chemicals in my hair. Why, you ask? My hair has high porosity. You can’t just “rinse” things out of my hair. You have to get in there and really put an ocean of water through it. So I wash my hair again. And again. Trying to remove the chemical smell. I finally do, and I think everything is great. In my infinite wisdom, I decide to let it air dry. Because – stupid. And then I try to comb it. I can’t get the comb through my hair. Not even a little. I had a head full of dry, brittle, split hair.
Now here is where some black women would mistakenly think that their hair is just nappy. Nappy is not actually a thing.
SOAPBOX MOMENT: NAPPY IS NOT A THING. Your hair might be tightly curled, or zig-zag, but it is not nappy. If you can’t comb through it, it’s not because it grows that way or is not “good enough.” (Lord, the things we believe about ourselves…) You can’t get a comb through your hair because the cuticles are raised up and your hair is overly dry. The hair strands will tangle and latch on to each other – it’s like Velcro. Your ends are probably split. Wet your hair and put more oil than you feel comfortable with into it. You should be greasy. Then start combing from the bottom and work your way up to the scalp. THERE WAS A REASON YOUR GRANDMOTHER USED TO GET OUT THE BLUE MAGIC GREASE TO DO YOUR HAIR.
Sadly, I can give you this advice now, but a couple months after I left Ulta, I had to cut all my hair off and start over again. SIX months down the drain!! If I knew then what I know now, I would have soaked my head in Blue Magic and a hot towel. Now, I can’t actually advocate for Blue Magic, because God knows what’s actually in it. But I DO advocate for oil. LOTS of oil. My rule (and it should be your rule too) is that if you can’t eat it, don’t put it in your hair. Examples of good oils to use: Extra Virgin Olive Oil – straight out of the kitchen. Coconut oil, saffron oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, shea butter and cocoa butter (which is what makes white chocolate, so yes you have eaten it). If it grows, it’s probably a’ight. I have never seen a seed packet that grows 2-2 dimethylcone.
Step 2: Protective Styling
So remember the first rant in this series where I said that to truly be a victim of your own stupidity, you have to COMMIT to your path, regardless of (multiple) failures? This is where we are now. I have been doing ‘curl pattern’ styles and ‘protective’ styles for the last two years. I have tried flat twists. Flat twist outs. Two-strand twists and twist outs, THREE-strand twists and twist outs. Most recently, Bantu knots (and knot outs, naturally). For those that don’t know, the “twist/knot” is the protective style, and the “__ -out” is when you take your hair down and wear it loose. I’ve watched hundreds of hours of YouTube videos and practiced until my hands cramped, trying to perfect “a look” I saw someone else rocking.
2) WHAT NOT TO DO: Care about what someone else’s hair is doing.
HERE IS A SECRET: IT DOESN’T F@#KING MATTER.
You can NOT “train” your hair. No matter what you do to your hair, it will ultimately revert back to its happy place – usually in anywhere from 2 to 4 days. And that’s even LESS time if you get it wet or live somewhere humid like the Gulf Coast. And once you get it wet….
Shrinkage is the bane of my existence.
You have NO idea how much your hair is going to shrink up until it grows out. Right now, my hair can be anywhere from 5” to 15” long, depending on the humidity.
And the irony of ironies, people actually like my hair the most when it is in its no-effort, “I woke up like this” curly afro puff state.
Step 3: Adding that “flavor”.
I love having highlights in my hair. The highlights in this picture were professionally done on a trip to California. And I wanted that back. I love me some honey-colored streaks! Of course, in true “Joy can’t learn” fashion, I tried to highlight my hair myself.
3) WHAT NOT TO DO: Refuse to Listen to EVERYONE ELSE
Here is the thing: I think I’m smart. I think I can do anything. I think that I am capable. I don’t lack in self-esteem (brain-wise, anyway). So in my egotistical mind, why SHOULDN’T I be able to highlight my own hair? [Editor’s comment: #TeamBadDecisions for real!]
I actually did have a moment of clarity where I thought “You know, I should let Lamonica do this.” Lamonica Sharp, of So Sharp Salon in Pearland TX, is my stylist. She has rescued me from myself time and again. Most recently, she called me out because I hadn’t been to see her in about six months. She saw my blow-out on FB and said “You trying to set me up. Bring yourself in here.” So I made an appointment. Now in my mind, I am going to get a cut and color. And in Lamonica’s appointment book, she had cut. Not color. So when I start talking about highlights, she (correctly) told me she wasn’t prepared for that and to make another appointment. Cool. She was right. She was smart. She wasn’t about to take on something she didn’t have the right products for and have it come out crazy and have me blame her.
….But I wanted some highlights though! Hnnnnggghhhuuuhhh (*insert whiny teenager voice here*)
So I’m in CVS with my sister, and I pass by the area with hair color…
And my evil ego kicks in…
Ego: “Just do it yourself. I’m sure there’s a YouTube video saying how to do it…”
To the Internets!!!
Now here’s where things really get silly. EVERY VIDEO I saw on the internet said – and I quote – “If you have never done this before, do NOT try this yourself.” Or, “I am showing you only how to prep your hair, go to a salon to get the color.” Or, “You are going to damage your hair if you don’t know what you are doing. Seek professional help.”
Ego: “Nah Joy, you got this. You can do it. You’re smart. It doesn’t look that hard…”
Then my ace Ericka sent me a picture of her hair, where she had dyed it blonde herself. Ericka is the one in the middle with the short haircut. Her dye job came out cute!
Ego: “If she can do it, YOU can do it, right?”
Sensible Voice: “Bitch, her hair is ¼” long. If she messed up, she’d be back in business in a week! You have 2 years of hair. Do you REALLY want to try this!?!?!?!”
Ego: “…Do it.”
So there I am, in the Sally’s getting the Textures and Tones coloring system that I saw on YouTube. (Because I had already picked up the Feria color system from CVS and done a strand test and failed. That bougie chick just will not die.) I also picked up a cap with the little holes in it and accompanying crochet needle – because I had seen Billi do this once when my hair was permed. SEEN not DONE. And only seen ONCE. But now, I think I can do it. Because Ego.
My ego knows no bounds, y’all. Not only did I try to highlight my hair, I bought TWO DIFFERENT colors of dye so I could put in blonde and russet highlights and lowlights. Because I’m not a professional stylist, but I’ve seen one do it so… (So disrespectful!!!)
Let me break this down for you: I separate the crown of my hair from the rest. Tie off the rest and put it in a shower cap. I use the holey cap and pull out the pieces to be dyed (which hurt like a sonofabitch) and then applied the darker color to the lower part and the blonde color to the top. Then I covered all that with another shower cap. Then I let it sit for an hour. Because after the required time nothing had happened. Then I got scared and pulled off the holey cap – which stripped out all the liquid dye and caused me to have a back full of dye as it dripped down. Good thing I didn’t have a good shirt on. But there was dye all over the floor. I rinse out all the dye and wash my hair and deep condition it and PRAISE JESUS! All my hair is still there. But the color is not. BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE F@#K I AM DOING. I tried to convince myself that I had “subtle” highlights, and I almost believed it. Until my sister got in the car with me a couple days later and said “I thought you were going to dye your hair?” #fail
[editor’s comment: #TeamYouGoneLearnToday]
And do you know that I had to stop myself from trying again?! I actually had to call Ericka and get her to talk me out of getting in the car and going back into another Sally’s for more dye. I have a problem. I clearly cannot be left unsupervised. Luckily for me, I had to go to Atlanta for a meeting and Ericka suggested (i.e. bugged the crap out of me) that I go to her stylist to get color because he was a natural hair professional. #PROFESSIONAL. So I went. And he #SLAYED y’all! I felt bad for cheating on Lamonica, but Ericka wisely intervened before I could get in trouble again. Check out this color!!
And also, after watching him I learned a few things about how to TRULY do a wash and go. I did one just now, and I had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I did it!!! It looks great! On the other… I confirmed that I had been doing all these damn twist outs and shyt and all I had to do was run some damn gel through my hair and be still… Ugh. DAYS of my life lost to the twist out efforts. LOL
Now you know when this grows out I’m going to be right back in front of Sally’s looking like Pookie from New Jack City. “The products… they be calling me…” LOL
[Editor’s comment: Jesus be a ‘closed’ sign.]
But after two – almost three – years, I have at last learned the following:
- Pick a damn product and roll with it.
- If you are leaving “soul glo” stains everywhere, cut back on that coconut oil.
- You. Are Not. A professional.
- “Training” your hair is not a thing.
But still… I Got This
Rant 54 and I’m out! But, stay tuned for my final series installment which will come around to my favorite topic. Wait for it… Yeah, sex.
[Editor’s comment: Lord Jesus…]