I cut my hair when I was in Primary 4. Let me rephrase it this way, my hair was cut in Primary 4. The first statement makes it seem like I was the one in control of the decision. Sure, I quickly came on board when my Mom presented the idea to me, but it wasn’t primarily my decision. I remember being so eager to do it, because at the age of eight, I was so over it.
In primary school, “let’s go to the saloon” always meant that I was going to endure hours of uncomfortable stinging and tugging, with an extra night of post-hairdo headache from all the stinging and tugging.
Unfortunately my story is not an uncommon one. For a lot of young females growing up, hair was synonymous with pain. Pain arising from the way our hair was manipulated at the mercy of caregivers and hair stylists. For me the worst part of haircare then was ‘relaxing’. The relaxers, dear Lord, those creams stung like a bee. I dreaded them, because my scalp was always injured, no matter how expensive the cream was.
Almost every Nigerian female has experienced times when a snack was placed in front of her as a reward if she stayed still enough (enduring the pain), and the constant pleas of “don’t worry when we finish your hair will be very fine”, and the occasional threat of beating if she became very irritable. These were probably the only measures that kept us sitting on those wooden stools, in between the hairdresser’s laps.
Thinking back on all that, and with all I know now, I realize that the pain the average female endured need not be. The pain was caused by an indelibrate malhandling; indelibrate because they truly didn’t mean to cause harm, but a malhandling still, because our hair texture was largely misunderstood.
The average Nigerian woman has hair texture that resembles tightly-knit curls, popularly referred to as kinky. In the hair world, the term ‘Type 4 Hair’ aptly describes it.
In the spectrum of things that colonialism influenced, hair was segment of that. The ‘white man’ came and represented to us what hair should look like: theirs. Our predesessors were told verbally and non-verbally that their hair was “too tough”, that we would need something to “make it straighter and look better”. So in came the relaxers and small-toothed combs, and out flew our edges and comfort. We no longer saw our kinky hair as beauty, but looked to the Caucasians straight or slightly wavy (Type 1 & 2 hair) hair textures as the goal. Out of the kindness of their hearts we were then gifted us manuals for their own hair texture management which we used as a yardstick. That is where the problem originated.
Relaxers (or ‘texturising creams’) were marketed to us as a way of making our hair ‘easier to handle’. They didn’t tell us how chronically damaging it would be to our hair strands and scalps. To be honest it seemed like a quick fix, but long-term users can tell you their horror stories. Even though no relaxer has touched my hair in little over two years, my scalp is still not fully recovered from all that trauma. Have you paused to think about the substances a product that essentially alters your natural hair’s curl pattern would have to contain? I know that in recent times some brands have claimed to remove the more injurious chemical components of their relaxers, but let’s face it, it’s not like it’s a 100% safe.
Time for a little education. Please don’t let the dense of type 4 hair fool you, it is the most fragile of all the hair types. Due to the way each curl is wrapped around the other, it is more prone to developing tangles, or knots. The manner in which it should be combed and styled requires the most patience. If it’s not detangled with care, the hair is going to fall out/ break. Moisture is extremely key for kinky hair, and it could never ever be combed in it’s completely dry state. It’s also least tolerable of the elements (heat, snow, rain).
I remember watching High School Musical, the part where Troy and Gabriella were dancing to “Can I Have This Dance?” and then it started pouring rain but they continued in the abundance of their love. You know how Gabriella’s hair fell flat and lined her face? That’s basically how straight and wavy hair textures react to water. Kinky hair will literally ‘shrink’ and curl up into a ball.
A believe that all hair texture is beautiful, because God made them all and He calls all He’s made good. None is better than the other. However what works for A may not have the same desired effect on B. I’m so grateful for brands who have done their research and are dedicated to making products and sharing information that cater to the needs of kinky haired beauties. I know now tips like how I should be combing my hair from the tips working inwards, and detangling brushes have changed my life. I know how to treat my hair better, hence it hardly gives me any pain or headache.
So what’s all this ramble about hair, you may ask. It’s because loving your hair is a part of loving your body and the way you were made, and self love equals a higher self-esteem. If you dislike your hair, please don’t just go looking for some ‘quick fix’. Learn about your hair. We have this beautiful thing called the Internet, there’s a ton of resources to provide you with what you need. Know your hair type, know what your hair needs and does not need. For starters, I’ll recommend A Drop Of Black, I’ve learnt a lot of tips for managing my 4c curls from this blog. You can visit it here.
Think of your hair like a computer, what you put in is what you’ll get out. Give your beautiful hair what it needs, and you’ll be happy you did. Self love will come easier, you’ll see.
Thank you for reading.
Disclaimer: this is in no way bashing those who have chosen to ‘relax’ their hair, or had theirs done when they were too young to understand. I was just pondering on the origin and the rationale behind it’s use. Maybe this information may not apply to you currently but it will be important so that next generation doesn’t fall in the pits that we fell into.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
Psalms 139:14 NLT