I had been considering going natural for about a year before I actually properly did it in February 2012.
Before I get on to my natural hair journey and all that jazz I’ll start from the beginning…
I was born almost 28 years ago with a full head of fuzzy, curly baby hair, my wonderful mother washed and blow-dried my hair every week and created the most amazing beaded and canerowed hairstyles.
This continued until I was about to go into secondary school and my mum gave me the option to either start looking after my own natural hair or get a Texurizer , I choose to get a Texurizer as I thought it would be easier for me to look after my hair if my curl pattern was loosened, and it would also make me more grown-up.
Up to this point I had never washed or styled my own hair not even in a puff or twists. My Mum took me to a professional salon and they applied the chemical and smoothed it in, looking back on it I think it was just a “mild” relaxer as once my hair was washed out it was bone straight. I loved it though and they blow dried and cut my hair to shoulder length and I was ready for “Big School” I stepped out of the salon with my hair literally flowing in the wind, I thought I was prettier and grown up!
For the next few years I mainly wore my hair down and loose, or sometimes in bun/ponytail my Mum did my touch-ups at home and my hair was ok it looked the same as it always had and I didn’t notice that my hair wasn’t growing or should I say I wasn’t retaining any length, anyway I was happy with it and I still had long hair “for a Black Girl” so I was cool.
Then in about Year 9 (age 13-14) I discovered GEL and pink oil moisturiser! I went to an all girls school and most of the black/mixed girls had relaxed hair and they used to flat twist their hair into all kinds of fabulous intricate styles and gel down their entire fringes (bangs) to theirs faces and while the gel was wet they would use the end of a rat tail comb or their fingers to create pasted down “baby hair” waves and curls. I know it sounds awful but back then it was so cool and in fashion.
Up until then I’d only had what I considered to be “boring” styles and some of the girls had been asking if they could “do” my hair -one of the biggest hair mistakes I’ve ever made was saying yes and letting my school mates use me as a practice dolly head for around 3 years. Unsurprisingly during that time my hair continued to break and it never grew past my shoulders again. By the time I was in Year 11 (age 15-16) I hated my hair so much I went and got it cut short to around ear length… it was not pretty it was not in a style either it was just hacked off and even worse I couldn’t put it in any kind of style not even two bunches. My end of School photo was so ugly (in my opinion) that I told my Mum not to buy it. After that cut I wore single plait extensions for a while (box braids) and then continued to relax my hair, I cut my hair the next summer into a style this time and it was hot it was longer at the front than the back and graduated and tapered to my neck I also discovered crazy colour and used to colour my hair “Aubergine” which was a burgundy/purple colour.
I was happy with short hair and it was quicker and cheaper to look after. I noticed my hair seemed to grow very quickly and I needed to get the back shaped up every week, I learned that the barbers was cheaper and quicker than going to a Hairdressing Salon. Every summer I cut my hair short and every year it grew back which was lucky as I had more than one incident of over processing my relaxer when I couldn’t wait for my Mum to do my hair and I went to any random hair salon. One time when I was about 18 or 19 I went for a touch up and the girl was combing through the chemical with a small toothed metal comb! I knew that wasn’t right but I didn’t have the guts to say anything, when she washed it out I could see loads of my hair in the sink, then she blow dryed and HOT COMBED my hair, up until this point I had never even seen a hot comb – I kid you not they were not needed in my house growing up and I’d never seen any of my friends using one or having one used on them. Thinking back on it my hair was already bone straight and flat as a pancake so I don’t know why she felt the need to hot comb my hair or why I let her do it, to add insult to injury I even paid the girl for the privilege of burning my scalp then hair!
Needless to say I ended up with a big patch of broken hair, it was too short to even canerow so once again I cut my hair, at that time in my life I was completely against wigs and weave thinking they looked so fake. My Jamaican Grandmother saw me with my short boyish cut again and made me promise not to cut my hair again as it was my “crowning glory” I promised and regretted it instantly but I felt I couldn’t break a promise to my Nanny. I was stuck trying to look after and grow long hair, I wasn;t very successful I didn’t really put much effort into it and do any research or anything.
Fast forward to me at around age 20 my best friend introduced me to “tracks” her hair looked so nice and believable that I wanted it done to me, my hair was dyed then a light Auburn-ish colour, my Bestie took me to the hair shop and helped me pick out the right colour length and texture and off I went to Maxine in Tooting for her to put my tracks in, I was in love with the result I suddenly had LONG flowing straight Auburn hair which didn’t look exactly natural but matched my dyed and relaxed hair perfectly. I wore weaves almost constantly from age 20 to age 26 mostly long weaves but sometimes short and I was always tonging and curling my hair as I love big hair, I use to love that style that has now become known as the Kim Kardashian, long layers with loose ringlets curled away from the face, the only difference is I had a deep side parting.
During this time my Mum had “gone natural” but it wasn’t even a thing then it didn’t have a name she just cut off all her relaxed hair and grew her natural hair out, I thought it looked nice and really suited her but it wasn’t for me I loved my weave and relaxed hair and thought that the long hair made me look glamorous and sexy. I learned about lace front wigs which I wore in between getting my weaves done, you would never catch me out on road with my real hair out with no additions.
I don’t know exactly what started it, maybe it was my Mum in fact she definitely had a lot to do with it but as I got older I realised that I didn’t really like the long straight sew-in weave look on me. It seemed every girl on the street had almost the same hairstyle and from the back you could not tell the Ethnicity of most females Black White Asian and every combination of the above had long straight/layered hair I tried switching up my styles but it still wasn’t me. I’d always tried to be individual and different experimenting with hair colours and customising my clothes getting tattoos etc. I still hadn’t woken up though so instead of stopping the relaxers and sew-ins I was looking for a new type of hair addition and came across micro-ring extensions I didn’t know any one who had them and thought this was a way of being different again so I went for a consultation with a lady in Wimbledon, she quoted me about £600 for a full head of micro-rings including the hair! I did not have that kind of money and even if I did at around 25 I wasn’t spending the money on some HAIR! I went back on-line and discovered a lady called Sarah who did keratin extensions I read up about them and decided it didn’t sound so bad, and so I called her up and she was so nice she explained everything to me and sent me to her Facebook page so I could see her handiwork, one of her photos was of a black girl with relaxed hair so I contacted that girl and asked her a few questions, I was satisfied with her responses so I booked an appointment with Sarah. On the day it was all very straight forward and around 4 hours, £200 and 400 bonded extensions later I left with 22 inches of silky straight Indian hair which was not at all bumpy and I could part the hair any where I wanted and even have a high pony tail! I was back,! fashion forward and rocking a type of hair extension that of my friends or family had ever done. I loved those extensions, I wore them for months and months, my hair grew out but I didn’t see any reason to take them out, I just relaxed my edges myself and flat ironed the middle of my hair, I curled the hair and ironed it and dyed it and so on it was like I’d always had that hair…
Until finally after about 4-5 months I thought it would be time to take the extensions out, they had grown out too much, I was instructed to use needle nose pliers and pure acetone to remove the keratin bonds (why didn’t alarm bells ring when I was told this?!) I soaked each bond in acetone then used the pliers to crack and crumble the bonds away after about an hour I’d done maybe 3 bonds and I had 397 left! I asked my then Boyfriend to help me and it was slow painful experience, I’d left the extensions in far too long and with they heat I’d been using I’d fused my hair onto the outside of the bonds and fused several bonds together in clumps it was an impossible task. In the end I asked my Boyfriend if he minded me cutting my hair to get rid of the extensions he didn’t mind and so I hacked away at the middle of my hair and got rid of it all, I wish I’d taken photos I really do but getting a camera was the last thing on my mind. Just imagine a few inches of natural regrowth with straggly relaxed ends round the perimeter of my head then crusty choppy hair in the middle it was a mess and no amount of conditioner was allowing me to de-tangle my whole head so I cut out some more hair but managed to save my edges. I still hadn’t woken up so I decided to get kinky twist extensions until my hair grew back a bit and I could get a relaxer, during that time I decided that I did not need a relaxer if my hair was always going to be in extensions, I discussed this with my Boyfriend and he didn’t mind me quitting relaxers so I stopped relaxing but I didn’t want to get rid of my (remaining) length I don’t know why I was hanging on to it , I really don’t and my hair was in a terrible state when I would take out my extensions and wash my hair my relaxed hair was getting so tangled it was too painful so I eventually ended up cutting off most of my relaxed ends I had been thinking more and more about going natural and that was as good a time as any.
Thinking back on it I was transitioning but I did not know the term for it, I wore protective styles intending to keep wearing them until my hair was long. That lasted only about 8ish months during that time my Boyfriend asked my Father for my hand in Marriage, my dad accepted and we got Married on a TV show (yes it happened that quickly more about that in a later blog if I get any requests to explain it.) I had very short natural hair when I was getting preparing for my wedding and filming the lead up to the big day and I had worn along dark brown weave the entire time, for continuity I had to keep the same hair style, I could have pretended I cut my hair for my wedding day and rocked my short natural but I was not confident enough, I wanted a sweeping up do for my wedding day so I asked advice from a friend and she suggested we go lace wig shopping so one day we jumped in the car and went to Harlesden in North London to do some serious wig shopping! Luckily I knew exactly what I wanted and quite quickly I found a loosely curled, human hair, lace front wig in chestnut brown with light brown/caramel highlights. My hair on my wedding day did look beautiful but I wish I’d had the confidence to wear my short natural hair.