Monday, December 2, 2013

Fierce Hair Feature

Niquinn's Hair Story
Why did I decide to go natural?
I decided to go natural in the winter of 2005, and I haven’t looked back! I had a few friends who were relaxer free, and I began going to a stylist who specialized in natural hair. We began growing out my relaxer, and the two texture differences (straight vs. natural) were too much for me to handle. I did notice my hair was healthier and thicker at the roots where my hair was relaxer free. My 25th birthday (Jan 2006) was the last time I remember my stylist flat ironing my hair with the two different textures. Two weeks later, I decided to wash my hair and “do something” with it but the two textures were too difficult to manage. It was a Saturday and I called my stylist requesting an emergency “Big Chop,” but unfortunately she was unable to schedule me that day, so we decided to do it on Tuesday. I went to her salon after work on Tuesday (I didn't tell anyone), she chopped off my hair and I had a fade!  It was extremely liberating and I loved it. At the time I was a Pre-K teacher, and one of my students told me I was ugly. Of course he didn't know any better, he was only 5 years-old, and he had been conditioned to believe that hair equates beauty.

I decided to stop using chemical relaxers because I wanted something different. Chemical relaxers are both damaging and dangerous, and when I was relaxing my hair, they were expensive. I remember paying $100 once for a relaxer at a hair salon in Dallas, and my stylist stated that he was giving me a “discount” because I was going to Essence Fest (*side eye*). Now, my hair ALWAYS looked good, but it was a process that was not only time consuming but costly. There was too much preparation before a relaxer: don’t scratch your scalp, don’t get your hair wet, touch up 6-8 weeks so breakage won’t occur, etc. Now that I am natural, I can scratch my scalp and wet my hair daily if I choose.

Currently, I do have a stylist but I usually do my own hair (cost: FREE). I know what I like, and I am gentle with my hair unlike some stylists. I can leave the conditioner in my hair as long as I want, and there are no time restraints. I do use natural products and I make my own hair/skin cream with a shea butter base. My dad purchases the shea butter for me at a location in South Dallas (he won’t tell me where because he states that I won’t need him anymore if I can get it on my own). A tub of shea butter is $10 and it comes in blocks/chunks. I place the chunks of shea butter in a pot on the stove, and melt the shea butter on low heat. There are tutorial videos online exhibiting how to melt shea butter, and it is important to take your time and DO NOT BOIL the shea butter. Once the shea butter is melted, I remove it from the stove top and add my natural oils: olive oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, almond oil, and castor oil. I use equal amounts of oil (approx ¼ cup each), but there is no science to it. Once all of the oils are incorporated, I place the liquid back into the shea butter container and place it in the freezer until it solidifies. Once solidified, remove from the freezer and store it with your other hair/skin products. This batch lasts approximately 3 months, and I use it on my face, body, and hair. I also like avocado oil but that can be pricier than the other oils, so just puree a ripe avocado with olive oil and place on your hair as a masque. I believe that if I can eat it, then I can place it on my body/hair. Now, I also use commercial products, especially for conditioner washes (aka co-washes). Below is a list of products I use:

Coconut Oil (hair, face, and I place a tablespoon in my protein smoothies)
Shea Butter Mix (hair, face, and body)
Jamaican Black Castor Oil (hair and face when extremely dry)
Jojoba Oil (hair but mainly face)
Coconut Milk (conditioner for hair)
V05 Conditioner (great co-wash and conditioner)
Derm Organic (Shampoo & Masque)
Queen Helene Cholesterol (conditioner)

Hair Masque Deep Conditioner Recipe (place on hair before washing, sit under heated dryer for 15 minutes, but a heated dryer is not mandatory): Mix equal parts of conditioner, olive oil and honey, distribute evenly throughout your hair, and use conditioner cap (this mixture is sticky). Wash and style hair as usual!
It took two years for my hair to grow back to its original length before the big chop. It is a process growing your hair out, and the in between phase is the worst. I moved to Philadelphia for graduate school, and I believe that I met some of the best natural hair stylists in the world in Philadelphia. There were more women in Philly than in Dallas who were natural, and more salons that catered to natural hair. After I moved to Philly, for the first few years I continued to regularly flat iron my hair, another styling option that is damaging if too much heat is applied. My ends were permanently straight due to the damage of the consistent straightening with a flat iron. I didn't notice anything “abnormal” until my usual hairstylist went on maternity leave, and a friend in Philly recommended her stylist, Anika Thompson-Staples (ALT Hair Care). I scheduled an appointment, and Anika told me that my hair was damaged, it smelled “burnt,” and there is no such thing as “training the hair.” I know we have all heard hair stylists say, “We are going to heat train your hair,” and in my book that means “we are going to heat damage your hair.” The only remedy for damaged hair is to cut it, and that’s what we did. Anika chopped off the straight ends (approx 6 inches), and she recommended that I wear coils and twist sets. This was the first time I truly wore my hair natural and discovered what my hair could do. I currently only straighten my hair twice per year when I need a good trim (I usually trim my own hair), and I request that the stylist doesn't flat iron my hair too straight. A good way to tell if your hair is damaged and has been altered is after you wash it, and if the curls are now straight, it has been damaged. I have heard that henna or other products may be able to “repair” heat damage but I never tried these products for that purpose.
Chemical relaxers are DANGEROUS and POISONOUS. Studies have shown that relaxers have been linked to uterine fibroid tumors and early puberty, and the population that is most affected: black women. This is no coincidence, and the base for a relaxer is sodium hydroxide: a strong base that is corrosive and causes chemical burns. Nothing you place on your body or in your hair should burn!

          Did you receive any flak for going natural?
I did receive flak from a few family members and friends, but they were unenlightened and allowed Western ideals to define their idea of beauty. I am not a Barbie! I had to realize that and work with what God gave me. I would also like to add that in my experience, it has usually been my own people who have more of an issue with my hair than other races. I don’t like to look like other people. My hair is different, it makes me unique and I need to embrace it on both good and bad hair days.

      What is something you wish you would have known before making this jump?
      Life is a journey and hair is a journey too! Hair is expression, and it is always evolving. There is nothing that I wish I would've known because it was a journey then and it still is a journey today. What worked for me two years ago may not be working today, and what I am doing now with my hair will probably evolve next year. What works for my hair may not work for the next person, but it’s good to share hair stories and hair products in order to experiment. My motto: “If I can eat it, it’s good for my hair.” So, I recommend more women experiment with hair smoothies.

      In your opinion, what is the best thing about being natural?
      There are so many good things about being natural. I am not worried about the rain (it actually makes my hair look better and my curls POP). I am not worried about sweating, swimming, or any other physical activity that may disturb my hair. I like the styles that I am able to attain due to the texture of my hair.

         What are your thoughts about this natural hair trend?  Do you feel as though it's a trend?
      I have heard about the “natural hair trend,” and I don’t like that it’s being considered a trend. It’s the way my hair grows out of my scalp. I am not a trend. I am not revolutionary. I am not Angela Davis (a few people stated I reminded them of her, definitely a compliment but I am ME). The word trend as it relates to natural hair should never be used again. A trend may refer to a fad, and fads die out. No one should look at natural hair as a fad, and think that it will die out. Natural hair is NATURAL, it’s beautiful, and it deconstructs all little girls’ beliefs about Western beauty standards.
          Any suggestions/tips for other women thinking about this natural journey?
It’s a journey not a destination! It won’t be easy because you have to reshape your thinking regarding your definition of beauty. I’ll end on this note: Do you because “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

 Thanks Niquinn for sharing your story!

1 comment:

  1. Niquinn is truly wearing her glory. She's an inspiration to me.