For Black Hair Mommies, Part 1, click here.
For all my hair-related posts, click here.
This post is for all my black sisters, all my white sisters raising biracial babies and for my white girlfriends who are endlessly fascinated with my hair (as I am with theirs).
I was forlorn at having to leave my hairdresser back home when I moved. She was one of only a couple of women in the state who specialized in ethnic hair and I’d been seeing her every two months for close to four years. She outlasted a couple of my romantic relationships, that’s for sure. Still, Cassandra and I couldn’t figure out why we couldn’t get my hair to grow.
I know most of my readers are either white or male, so I’ll take a quick moment to explain the whole point of writing this post. The reason why you don’t see a lot of black women walking around with long hair is because our hair is exceedingly dry and delicate. (Unprocessed) Caucasian, Asian and Latina hair is strong and flexible like fishing line while our hair breaks like a filament of spun sugar.
Simple, everyday things like washing our hair or tossing and turning in our sleep causes split ends or even makes it break off. Our strands’ insanely curlicued composition makes it that much harder for all the moisturizing oils to make it from scalp to the ends, where it is most needed (and my dry-haired curly friends of other races can totally relate). Compounding the problem is the fact that black people’s hair grows very, very slowly.
Every month when I came in to get my hair cut, Cassandra and I would talk about what shampoos and conditioners I was using and what else I could do to help my hair grow. I was doing everything right – or so we thought – getting regular cuts, eating well and drinking lots of water. But nothing really worked. On the whole my hair was healthy, but any growth was lost in split ends. So, she suggested sleeping on a satin pillowcase because cotton pillowcases absorb the healthy oils in hair and cause it to break even more.
The satin pillowcase wasn’t enough – and I hated sliding all over the place every night anyway.
So it was with trembling and fanfare that I booked my first haircut at a new salon near my apartment. It was owned and operated by a woman with tons of experience with black hair who was herself a minority. I thought, “Finally, this will be my answer. I will ask her all my black hair questions. She will be my black hair mommy.”
I don’t have the skill required to convey to you how funny that hair appointment was. Suffice it to say I was like a seven-year-old all over again, asking her black hair mommy (BHM) what everything was and what order she was supposed to do it in. I told them everything I was doing with it currently and how frustrated I was. They understood my frustration. After all, I had “good” hair. There was no reason it shouldn’t be growing.
Wait. Hold up. I was the keeper of the much envied “good” hair? No way!
The conversation basically went like this:
Me: “Well, I curl it every day and . . .”
BHM: “Uh uh, honey. Oh NO. You cannot curl your hair every day. That is why it is all breaking off.”
Me: “Okay, well I also . . . ”
BHM: “Oh NO. You cannot do that.”
And the best part was that there was another girl working in the salon with long, natural hair. I swiveled in the black vinyl chair, pointed at her and said, “I want that. Come here. I want to ask you things.”
Black Hair Mommy 2 came over and giggled over my cluelessness. As BHM continued cutting layers into my hair, the two commiserated over why my hair was at an epic standstill.
BHM 2: “Are you wrapping it at night?”
Me: “No. Ummmm . . .”
BHM 1 “You have to explain to her what wrapping is. She probably thinks you just mean wrapping it in a scarf.”
Me: “Yeah, what do you mean?”
BHM 2, a beauty from Barbados, was patient with me and answered every question. She even whipped out a brush and demonstrating what she meant by wrapping, sweeping her hair up and around her noggin into a flat beehive shape against her scalp.
I had a lot to learn. I immediately stopped using a curling iron and booked another appointment this past weekend to spend a morning with my two black hair mommies. It was a hair tutorial, if you will. They spent close to two hours showing me how to take care of it from start to finish, and I am beyond grateful. They washed my hair, showed me how to blow it out using a paddle brush and showed me how to style it using the least heat.
I’m gonna go into detail because I know black women are buying books about how to take care of their hair. Down at my subway station, the newsstand is chock full of black hairstyle magazines. Women have sent me messages on here asking for advice on what to do with their babies’ hair.
And, honestly, the proof is in the pudding here. I used to look at those women with insanely shiny, soft-looking hair on the boxes of Dark N’ Lovely relaxer at the drugstore and be like, “Bitch, please. Ain’t no black woman’s hair ever look like that no matter what relaxer she use.” Yet I haven’t stopped touching my hair since this weekend because what the BHMs did to it is so incredible. It blows around in the wind! It swings! It moves! It can probably do trapeze stunts and make my bed, too. If I can love my hair this much now, I want other black women to be able to feel that way. I took the below pics tonight with NO products in my hair:
Hair Regimen Before:
-Relax with Optimum Care products 1x every eight weeks
-Haircut 1x every eight weeks
-Deep condition, Wash and condition with Ojon products 1x weekly
-Blow dry straight using blowdryer attachment and Luster’s Pink Oil 1x weekly
-Curl almost every morning before work
-Sleep with hair down on regular pillowcases
-Take vitamins, drink lots of water, etc.
Hair Regimen Now:
-Same relaxer and haircut regimens
-Deep condition with Ojon, wash with KeraCare 1st Lather shampoo followed by Crème of Nature Detangling Conditioning Shampoo for Normal Hair, followed by KeraCare’s Leave in Conditioner (still 1x a week)
-Blow dry to damp using just the dryer (w/a nozzle attachment), then blow straight (still w/the nozzle attachment) using a paddle brush and Salerm 21 B5
-Flat iron or use curler only ONCE a week (usually right after drying) to style, using Salerm Brushing Technica spray to protect against heat
-Wrap hair at night
The biggest, most important difference is that I’m not using heat on my hair every day. That change alone will allow my hair to grow past shoulder length by summer ’08, according to the black hair mommies. Next most important is that I’m wrapping it at night (meaning I physically wrap it – see pic – and then cover it with a satin scarf) to protect the ends while I roll around in my sleep.
I’ve also replaced a product that was way too heavy and greasy for my hair (Pink Oil) with a product that is just as economical but lighter and more conditioning (Salerm 21 B5, manufactured in Spain and available online or at beauty supply stores). Let me tell you, if you blow dry your hair straight (even if you aren’t black), do yourself a favor and get this product. My hair feels unreal. With my eyes closed, I wouldn’t be able to tell my own hair from that of naturally straight hair – that is how glossy and soft and swingy it is. Never in my life has it felt like that, and I’m convinced it’s due to how the B5 in that product interacts with heat to condition and protect the hair.
Also, using the paddle brush (brushing into the roots, then pulling smoothly from roots to ends) really straightened the hair a lot better than my straightening attachment ever did. It smooths down the cuticle of the hairshaft more too, resulting in more shine.
What’s not too different:
I was using great shampoos and conditioners before, but the brands I switched to are just a little better and a lot less expensive. While I’m still using the deep conditioner from Ojon (expensive, but worth it), the new shampoos don’t contain sodium stearate (soap) and are actually formulated for black hair. Don’t see the point in using two shampoos? I didn’t either. BHM 2 explained that since we only wash our hair once a week, it needs a little more help getting clean. Also, KeraCare products are made to restore your hair to a certain pH level. Wacky.
Why I’m psyched: Dude, I’m going to have long hair!
Why I’m not psyched: Wearing a head scarf at night is so not sexy. At all. Guess if I start dating someone, the scarf will be replaced by kinky satin pillowcases (method approved by BHM 2). Hey – I have priorities, okay?
- Salerm 21 with B5
- Salerm Brushing Technica
- Ojon Restorative Hair Treatment
- KeraCare 1st Lather shampoo and Leave-In Conditioner
- Crème of Nature Detangling Conditioning Shampoo (Yes, it’s really just $4.99)
- Paddle Brush (it’ll be cheaper at a beauty supply – but get one that looks like this and about the width of the palm of your hand)
- Satin Scarf