My earliest memory of my hair was that it was very thick and kept braided because that was easy. Somewhere around the age of 7, my hair was straightened with a hot comb, and my ears had Vaseline put on them because they were constantly being burned. Between ages 9 and 12, my hair was in its natural state except for occasional straightening for special occasions. I lived in several foster homes since birth, yet even after meeting my birth parents, the hair confusion continued. By 14, I had a full-blown permanent which turned into a curl at age 17. At 19, I was back to relaxing my hair until age 23. The car accident happened in 1990, so while I was in the hospital recuperating, my hair was in its natural state. Miraculously, I found someone who was willing to braid my hair from my hospital bed, and I wore braids, on and off, for the next two years.
Living on my own with a disability trying to figure out my hair situation was always challenging; getting into the salon chair at the beauty shops or leaning back over the sink or sideways is usually uncomfortable. I went through a plethora of hair stylists trying everything from weaves to goddess braids to tree braiding. These styles were very time consuming and costly, so I went back to braids because at least, then, I could find someone who could come to my home. Finally, I felt my hair was a good length, and I found a stylist who was very good at relaxing my hair in 1998; her salon was wheelchair accessible, and I didn't have to get out of my wheelchair to wash my hair or go under the hair dryer; I was in heaven.
Then, the inevitable happened. I was on medication for adult acne, and low and behold, one of the un-mentioned side effects was hair loss. I went for a relaxer touch up of my new hair growth and half way through my stylist exclaimed, "Your scalp is turning purple!!" I gasped, because I had no idea what was going on. By the time the session was over, I was leaving the salon with a scarf on my head, and 40% of my hair was in the garbage. Needless to say, I cried all the way home and when I came through the door my husband hugged me and showed me several brand new scarves that he had purchased for me. Apparently, my stylist called him and let him know what had happened. I am so grateful for his support because he clipped the rest of the damaged hair off and I wore a tiny afro in 2004 until it grew out. People were not very welcoming of my short hair, so I left them alone and made new friends with other women who were going natural.
I wore scarves and big earrings a lot until I got used to the short hair. As it grew longer I used Bronner Brothers' hair care products on my twists. Wanting to stay natural but have the straight look, I had my hair flat-ironed; however, I noticed the heat was still causing breakage around my edges, so I quit using any heat-related tools and moved into dreadlocks. The Jamaican Mango gel and beeswax worked really well in terms of moisture on my locs, although most times I co-washed with Garnier Fructis' conditioner. When the dreadlocks grew past my shoulder blades, they were so heavy that my neck began to hurt all the time, so I chopped them off in the summer of 2009 and started over wearing a tiny afro again.
Today, I wear either my own hair braided-- without hair added to it, two-strand twists, or a large afro. I now use Shea Moisture's shampoo and conditioner, Curl Enhancing Smoothie, and occasionally apple cidar vinegar or liquid black soap when I have product buildup. Hopefully, your story or your journey will not be as harrowing as mine has been, and you will have a better love affair with your hair. Peace and blessings to all.
Can you relate to Deborah's story?
Was a bad relaxer the reason for your transition to natural hair?
Tell me in a comment below.