Friday, November 12, 2010

My Natural Hair Experience is OVER . . . For Now (Pt. 2)

Here I am making a funny face at work in 2007, the year I moved to NYC

I was quickly diagnosed with lupus during my first dermatologist appointment when I moved to New York. I was vaguely familiar with lupus as my aunt had passed away from it in her 40s after being diagnosed in her 20s. Hers was systemic and I found out mine was discoid - meaning it affected my skin and scalp. I had a biopsy which confirmed it and was monitored over time to make sure it wasn't escalating. It turned out I'm very borderline but have to be sure to wear sunscreen and limit my sun exposure. Overall, I had 3 patches of hair that had fallen out and started to notice my hair was significantly thinner.

I don't believe lupus was the only cause, but frequenting the Dominican salons slowly deteriorated my hair. Paz Hair Salon was the one I frequented the most as it was close to my apartment. I found it after seeing a bank teller with beautiful hair and I asked her which salon she went to and although she couldn't remember the exact name of the salon she gave me the cross streets and that was the one I thought it was.

So why would I keep going back if I knew they were damaging?

It was a cost and efficiency issue. I had saved a list of high-end African-American salons and had tried many such as StylesHairstyling by Jospeh, Indra and Melange Salon at the Peninsula hotel. Many of these were written up in Essence but when I tried them I found I would have to wait for long periods of time for my scheduled appointment or would be left to marinate under a hair dryer while the stylist would work in other customers. Also, these salons were charging over $100 for a touch-up, wash, trim and deep condition. Melange, which came highly recommended from a friend, charged $200!

At last I thought I had found hope in the upscale, Dominican salon Elia. I had started going to this salon in 2007, but really began going there regularly in 2009. They were very professional, did the roller set styling but actually cared for my hair. It was at Elia where I ended up with this style and color that I loved:

But unfortunately things took a turn for the worse when I went to see the usual stylist but she wasn't available. They put me with a woman I had never seen before who overprocessed my hair. When I called her out on it she had a nasty attitude in return and berated me for having color and a relaxer. I explained that it was done under the guidance of the owner of Elia and I had not experienced any problems.

I complained to the owner who gave me a complimentary deep condition on my next appointment but after that they were constantly trying to up-sell me on expensive treatments such as keratin as the only "fix" for my hair. I knew from my healthy hair days in Boston that expensive treatments weren't needed so I stopped going there.

By the fall of 2009 this is what my hair looked like:

Compare that to exactly two years prior:

My hair had become dry, brittle and thin.

It was not too soon after that I found out I was pregnant. By March 2010 when I knew I was having a girl I decided that it would be my last relaxer. I made this decision after seeing Good Hair and seeing the discussion on Oprah.

When I told my family I was going natural I was met with:

"Are you sure about that?"

"Will Uka like it?"

"You know you have a difficult texture; your mom had such a hard time with your hair!"

So much negativity!

When I went home for my baby shower in June I went to Synergi, a wonderful salon in Columbus, Ohio that specializes in transitioning from relaxed to natural hair. Many of the women who frequent the salon move from kinky to straight hair with ease. For $35 I got this fabulous style (trim, wash, deep condition and style):

From there I maintained my transitioning style of braidouts:

There was definitely a competition going between the relaxed and natural hair, but I still didn't want to do a drastic big chop.

For my 30th birthday, I went to Khamit Kinks, which is a pricey but well known natural hair salon. The detangled, washed, conditioned and styled my hair into flat twists:

They commended me on my transitioning so far and recommended that I not cut my hair as I had just had a baby and it was more maintenance than longer hair. We also talked about braids at some point.

Well a couple weeks later I was washing my hair (I wash it in the sink as I can easily do my deep conditioning treatments under my hair dryer close by), and Nia started having a meltdown. It got later in the evening and I was exhausted and wasn't able to finish my hair. I put a scarf on it and went to bed.

That was not good.

When I woke up in the morning it had dredded up, and I had to do this: 

Although Uka helped me, he was not happy. I went to Harlem Mane the following day and ended up with this style; the stylist didn't get it completely even, but it was a start:

However, I didn't want to be committed to straightening it constantly as it was time consuming. Also, I didn't want to do a cropped style. No offense to those with cropped styles, but Uka and I both agreed it wasn't a good idea for me to be going around looking like a man.

I had been looking at pictures of myself too and missing my long, healthy hair and my sister had recently broken down from transitioning to natural and decided to get a relaxer. Her hair looked so good!

Finally, last weekend Uka had an honest conversation with me about my hair. He wanted me to pick a style and stick with it. He sent me out the door, and I joined my sister who happened to be a few blocks away at Sisters, a popular neighborhood salon, and I got a relaxer.

I honestly believe had I found a salon like Synergi in NYC I would've stuck with transitioning to natural. They had excellent customer service, techniques and prices. 

So where do I go from here?

I plan to baby my hair, drink lots of water, take my prenatals as well as biotin and silica which I used to do in Boston, exercise and speak up immediately when I believe my hair is being over-processed. I will be documenting my progress here.

Also, I find Prissy Mommy's blog posts about healthy hair very helpful. You can read them here and here.

And what do I tell Nia?

That she is beautiful just how God made her! And when she is old enough I will share my hair journey with her.

I hope a time will come that I can go natural and stick with it.


  1. WOW sister that was a big decision you made..i understand going natural isn't the easiest thing to do. Whenever I think about it i imagine how difficult it can be since we as black woman have had to conform to the ways of white woman's form of beauty so long that our mom's have lost the "African" touch to maintain our natural hair. Relaxers are easier and I hope that one day you will be able to go full out natural!!

  2. I have been experiencing some of the same skin/scalp issues you mentioned, but no doctors are willing to go deeper than throwing drugs at symptoms. I am going to email you with some ?s

  3. You know, I think dealing with hair is tough no matter what you do - natural or relaxed! You always have to make some time investment. I have a good routine now, but my hair is also always in a bun so I'm not taking full advantage of having longish healthy hair.

    Good luck to you!

  4. @Lauren thank you for stopping by and for your thoughts! yes, i agree about losing the african touch; if our own mothers and grandmothers had been taught how to care for their own natural texture many of us wouldn't be where we are today. i want to break that cycle with nia!

    @Teresha i'm happy to help!

    @keyalus thank you for the encouragement! i agree there are complications with hair across the board. also, i definitely don't think it's limited to black women; just look at all the hair issues displayed in mainstream advertising

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