Growing Up Kinky
As a kid, I recall my mom applying the dreaded hot comb to my long, kinky tresses. She would take globs of hair grease to protect my hair from burning off too much and then went to war on my curls.
I did not know right away why my mother chose to torture me so with this little mechanism that brought me great pain. My flinching and screaming did not make the battle any easier.
It was not until several years later that my mom and I realized the easiest way to maintain my curly whirlies was to simply leave them alone.
Of course, that revelation was not until after the age of the perms that proved to be a Godsend to my rather thick, long and graciously kinky hair. Perms usually worked very well for me…at first. The smell of rotten mayonnaise was one I care not to revisit ever again, but the way it would make my hair feel was immeasurable.
For a couple of weeks, my hair was feathery and soft, requiring little maintenance. I would let it rip and run in the wind. A fresh perm meant the world to me. The way my hair flowed like the hair some women wore on television (or weaves as I would later discover) made me feel like a complete women sans the kinks! It made me feel desirable and sexy. I simply did not see a lot of women, of any race, on TV in the 80s and 90s, rocking their natural curly kinks and being portrayed as a standard of beauty. And when I did, the image was typically a lack luster.
Of course, after those few weeks, my hair started to “not act right.” The roots at my scalp got thick and dry. The ends started to get brittle and eventually split. I found that my mom or myself had to moisturize my hair constantly.
This was a reoccurring battle with my hair for nearly 20 freaking years: Perm. Bone-straight nirvana. Hair dries up. Hair breaks off. I’m mad. Repeat.
You would have thought I’d learn my lesson sooner. Well, I am not sure if it was me trying to achieve a certain image of beauty I perceived through the media or trying to best manage my hair and make it more “presentable” to the world or just me being plum dumb. But after one bad perm nearly frying all my hair off and the constant instances of breakage, I tried to come up with a way to make my hair grow dismissive of the “creamy crack.”
My Love Hate Relationship with Protective Styling
Once I decided to completely say to hell with the perms, I felt I had to find a way to keep my hair tidy for the workplace. When I decided to graduate from the perms, I kept my hair in a protective style.
The best way to describe a protective style in my opinion is any style you wear for a long period of time that keeps you from farting around with your natural hair, causing it potential damage. Many women with coarse hair textures can appreciate the concept of protective styling. Some of the more popular protective styles are braids, sew-in wigs, lace-front wigs, twists and dreadlocks. Protective styles have to be maintained as well or they will start to look like wartime.
My style of choice for a very long time was braids. I loved micro braids because they were limber enough to be styled as if they were your natural locks. Wearing the braids in my head for 2-3 months helped my hair grow out very well too. Of course, I had to manage my scalp during the protective styling times. Your scalp is skin just like any other part of your body; it does not like being ashy. Moisturizing is important during protective styling because the tendency to get liberal with hair care is high; it’s in a protective style so why worry about it? See the reason I stated above about ashy scalps…
But protective styling is not necessarily a blessing for everyone. Sometimes, I would visit a stylist who would install braids that were so tight, I couldn’t even pray! Blinking my eyes turned into a chore. Using my brain to figure out my grocery list was like drilling holes in my cranium. Basically, protective styling can often times be too good. Styles that are tight on your scalp could actually pull your natural hair out, leaving you with less hair than you had before the protective style. I had the unfortunate experience of losing a lot of hair on my edges because of braids being screwed into my brain a little too well.
How I applied the minimalist attitude to my kinks
I had to think of way to take care of my hair and allow it grow without it eventually breaking off because of a perm or it being pulled out because of a lousy sew-in job. What was a kinky-headed girl to do?
At this point of realization in my life, I had not had a perm in my hair for a few years. I danced around the idea of various braid types, but I still wanted something that would be a little more beneficial to my hair. I eventually stumbled upon the concept of braidlocks, which are basically dreadlocks that started off as braids. I knew of many ways to start dreads but this was new to me. After reviewing thousands of YouTube videos and before and after pictures of beautiful, very well groomed smaller-sized dreadlocks, I was sold.
I cannot think of another uniform method of styling naturally kinky textured hair besides dreadlocks. I know some folks may read this and think about the “dread” part of dreadlocks. Many people, even fellow kinky-headed rockers, often shun the concept of dreadlocks because they immediately believe it would mean eventually shaving your head bald. Not always the case.You can simply comb dreadlocks out if you no longer desire them, though this process can take some time.
You can start your dreads in many different ways, with two strand twists being the most common way. Back-combing (a technique involving combing the hair from the end up making it tangle on purpose) and free styling (doing nothing and allowing it to grow like bad garden weed) are other methods to start dreads.
And that’s it. The rest is up to your hair.
Of course you have to still take care of your hair. Here is a list of things I do to keep my dreads lovely.
- Retwist or retighten my locks every 4-5 months or so
- Oil my hair when my scalp starts feeling dry (my favorite oils are olive, jojoba, coconut, sunflower, diluted lavender oil, hempseed and avocado but when push comes to shove, I use olive oil)
- Try to sleep with a satin wrap or satin pillow covers because anything else may absorb the applied and natural oils on your scalp
- Wash my hair about once a month
So basically: Retwist. Oil. Wash. Smile. Repeat.
The growth my hair has experienced since establishing a minimalist attitude has been phenomenal. I went from having very patchy spots in the back of my head to fullness all over my scalp. Take a look at my before and after photos showing a year’s worth a growth.
Leaving my hair alone to do its own thing has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I still have the ability to style my dreads if I choose and I don’t have to worry about using harsh chemicals from perms or maintaining other more traditional protective styles.
No, dreads are not for all folks with kinky tresses. Some people do not want that type of commitment, which is understandable. But I would advise anyone who has experienced trouble with managing their kinky hair that the less you do the healthier your hair will be. Kinky textured hair is already, in my opinion, a little more delicate than finer hair types. This is mainly because the coiled nature of kinky hair means natural oils often have difficulty traveling all the way down the hair shaft as opposed to straight hair.
Hence, why kinky hair needs more moisture than many other types of hair.
And most importantly, love your hair and love yourself. There is enough doubt in the media to make a curly head girl think she is not well represented as it is. It’s crucial that loving your hair is the first step to managing it better. Stressing about it or anything else is not healthy for your hair or your body.
Additionally, bad habits like poor dieting, not enough physical activity can wreck havoc on your hair and your self-esteem.
So, give your hair more love, minimal maintenance and less strain and watch it do wonders for you!