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HAIRY CHRONICLES: I almost chopped off my identity along with my hair

Wednesday June 8 2016

(L-R) The writer's hair journey with her

(L-R) The writer's hair journey with her relaxed hair, with straw set hair and with her latest look: an Afro. PHOTOS| COURTESY 

EUNICE KILONZO
By EUNICE KILONZO
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I have a 6-month old Afro that I am totally in love with, but that is not how the relationship started. A few minutes after my sister chopped off my beloved tresses upon my instructions, I almost went into a panic attack on seeing the short tufts of copper-brown hair left on my head.

I had long relaxed hair for a decade now, and within minutes all that was gone!

What prompted it, you may ask?

Well, in 2015 I began sporting straw set on my hair. This involved a lot of gel and bee wax to my hair which would be curled out with drinking straws and after an hour or so in the dryer, I was all set.

I loved that for at least a month as I did not need to comb it. I just needed to fluff my hair in the morning, apply some oil on my scalp and just avoid the rain lest the gel holding the curls and springs let go.

PERFECT EXCUSE

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It was a perfect choice only that with each wash after a month with the set, I would get split ends. However, it seemed the roots were enjoying it as they were thriving and I figured that this could be the perfect excuse for a transition.

The author minutes after the big chop. PHOTO|
The author minutes after the big chop. PHOTO| COURTESY

I hadn’t fully considered what this transition would entail, though, as dealing with relaxed hair was mundane. Wash and set. Treatment. Wash and set. Repeat.

THE REAL ISSUES BEGIN…

All I knew was that I wanted a new look for 2016, but panicked after my tresses came tumbling down and retreated back to my comfort zone by going back to the salon for braiding which wreaked havoc on my hairline.

I couldn’t stand it! Then the real issues began…

I had a chunk of (quite weak) hair that I did not know what to do with. Looking at the mirror, I felt a tinge of embarrassment and defeat. I felt pain on the sides of my head from dread of what had I was looking at. This was crazy, I thought.

My quest for finding my hair identity took me to a salon I found through Facebook where a kind-hearted hairdresser with feather fingers shaped my hair into what I learnt was called a tapered cut.

My hair length gradually changed from the top of the head (where it was longer) and down to the nape of the neck (shorter). Then they did finger coils on it, gave me some natural hair tips, a gift comb and set me free to the world.

WOULD NOT BUDGE

But I would not budge. I still did not know what to do with the natural hair.

Then I went to Auntie Google and asked what I could do with short natural hair where I got more information than I could possibly process. Pages after pages with videos, blogs and accounts on how to kick-start the natural hair journey/program/project.

I even joined a Natural hair group on Facebook: Tricia's Naturals. I was ready! Or so I thought.

There were many theories online: wash with shampoo, don’t wash with shampoo, wash hair daily, do it once a week, co-wash (washing with conditioner only), use liquid oil, coconut oil is the holy grail, use gel to define the curls, hot oil treatment, use avocado as treatment, shave every month, use protein treatment, just wash and go, make twist outs.

This was too much!

ATTEMPTED A COUPLE OF TRICKS

Of course, the curious child in me tried a couple of tricks but six months later, this is what has worked for me.

Wash your hair any time you feel like it. I wash mine with conditioner only. No shampoo. Some weeks I wash it daily and go to work sporting wet hair. But always moisturise and oil it.

You hair is different from everybody else’s. You may all do the same oils and maybe style, but you may get different outcomes.

The writer sporting her natural hair look.
The writer sporting her natural hair look. PHOTO| COURTESY

I love hair dye but this dries hair rapidly therefore the key is to oil the hair, not too much it runs down your ears or too little that your hair looked thirsty. Just enough. You will know. Trust me.

Once you shave off your hair, you will get excited about cutting it again. It happens to me but I want to grow it longer now and experiment with more colour (loving red wine and burgundy lately) in the coming days.

I like to twist my hair overnight in small sections with a curling crème or olive oil and then make Bantu knots. In the morning, I get springy curls that are full of moisture and can stay fresh for at least four days despite my acrobatic sleeping styles.

You do not have to use any gel for your hair to hold. Just oils and water are good.

Eat balanced meals fruits and greens are your friend, drink lots of water and treat your hair with nice scented treatments and oils weekly if possible.

That said though, I am not a professional yet. I still have moments when I panic when my hair shrinks too much (very common with natural hair). But even then, I am glad I shaved it off. It has been a journey I would take all over again.

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