Thursday, 7 March 2013

My HAIR Story: Part II

"A while back I posted Part I of My HAIR Story.  Here's the concluding half, Part II.  I will consolidate both halves and add a new page/tab called My Hair Story now that it's all done."

My mums favorite grease to use on my hair was green Dax. I do recall on occasions that she also used Blue Magic but her favorite by far was Dax. I hated the smell of Dax and preferred Blue Magic but as my mum was doing my hair it was her rules that went!

My mum also had a crazy rule that when she was plaiting my hair that my hands were to stay completely out of my head. I am and have always been tender-headed so used to "ouch" and "oooch" whilst she braided my hair (really tightly!) and sometimes forget myself and put my fingertips on my hair to relieve some of the pain. Big mistake! If I did that I would get a tap on my hand with the  comb!!! I don’t know which hurt most, my head or my hands! It was even worse when I had extensions installed the initial attaching of the hair to mine hurt and plus it it always felt like my mum was standing over the other side of the room braiding and pulling my hair from the roots! I’m surprised I have any hair/edges left.

Now I am older and know that on my head I need to hold onto the root of the braid with my finger after my mum has attached the extension hair and don’t let go until the braid is finished.  I also remember it feeling like the last bit of hair that needed to braid just seemed to take fore-v-e-r.   I always used to think that my mum was making extra parts for no reason but when she’d finished it always looked on point with symmetrical parting and braids (it's something that I now also do when I braid my own hair which is ironic!).  Then came the 2-3 nights of painful sleep where I couldn’t even sleep properly because of the pain caused by the tight tight braids.

11-15 Years 

I think I started taking care of my own hair when I reached 11 years old and I believe my first perm (Jheri curl) took place either around the age of 10 or when I started secondary school. I remember having a fresh jheri curl on my first day at secondary school and the Jheri Curl Lady scalped me. I grew to really dislike her. She was truly the embodiment of a 'scissor-happy-stylist’. I use the word stylist loosely because that woman had no style and that was replicated in my sta-soft-fro'esque crop! I really didn’t look forward to her visits. She used to operate a mobile service and she would come and perm our hair – scalp us, take our money and then come back in another 3-6 months time. Despite this scalping, my hair thrived when it was jheri curled, it definitely loves moisture moisture moisture!! But even though it thrived and grew like weeds, I would always end up rocking a TWA after she had finished with me. It’s just making me mad to think about it so I’ll just move on…..

I’m not sure when I had my first relaxer, but I know it was with a Dark & Lovely relaxer kit. As my mum used to be old school, (i.e. no relaxer, no make-up, no mini-skirts until your older i.e. 13yrs old + although I think she was shooting for 16yrs old but I was quite a 'spirited' read: hard ears young lady back then) I think it was probably somewhere in my teens.

Before I started to relax my hair I used to regularly use the hot comb on my hair. I remember many morning when I was around 11 or 12 years old sitting in my aunties kitchen (her actual kitchen, not her nape!) taking it in turns with my cousin to pass the ironing comb through each others hair and then rushing out the door on our way to school.  Being in the UK this was invetiably in the rain which meant we often ended up with frizzy reverting hair by the time we actually got to school *shakes head*. We did it way too often maybe once or twice a week to counteract our straight style reverting quickly.

Whilst I was in secondary school, it was the done thing to bun so that was my go to style. We used to roll up a sock or tights and then attach it to our bun and then cover that with a bandana to form a bun cover. Nice!!! I started relaxing my own hair probably around 16yrs old and continued to do so until my mid 20’s. I didn’t have very good self relaxer processes. My hair was definitely over processed and as a result quite limp. I always tried to make sure it looked presentable though.

16-19 Years 

I got my first ever weave at approximately 16 or 17years old. It was with nasty synthetic hair but I thought it looked wonderful!!! I had the back weaved and the front plaited in inch plaits. I rocked that weave hard! I don’t know what I was doing to my hair underneath the weave at the time, whether it was relaxed, transitioning or natural. I didn’t have a braid/weave regimen – I just took care of the weave and my hair was taking care of itself. My poor neglected hair!!!

During these years I also dabbled in the delights of the Leisure Curl.... and I used to go to my local salon to get it done. I can’t remember having any problems with it. Like I said, my hair loves moisture and I seem to remember it doing pretty well when it was processed in this way. I think the only reason why I stopped getting it done was due to the cost and the fact that I was always kept waiting around in the salon. This was when I started going to my first ever salon for my hair care requirements as my mum had always been my 'hairdresser'.

At around 19 or 20 years old I 'unintentionally transitioned' to natural. I didn’t have a reason for doing so, I just didn’t bother relaxing my hair for over a year, possibly two. I don’t recall it being an issue for me to transition, in fact my hair behaved very nicely! I don’t remember tangles. I don’t remember breakage nor excessive shedding, but then again I probably would have just thought it was normal. All I remember is my hair reached about shoulder length. I was bunning constantly and straightened my hair using my curling tongs/curling iron to get it to be more manageable and easier to tame.  I could get my hair to resemble relaxed hair when I used my curling tongs and I didn't have to use many heat passes. This was back in the day when I didn’t know what a flat iron was and I don’t even think they were sold in the shops and even if they did, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it!!!

My 20’s  

I haven't got a clue what I did with my hair in my 20's.  If I am honest I was having too much fun to give a toss about my hair!  I know from pictures that I had a myriad of weaves, cornrow extensions, curly braid extensions, wavy braid extensions and the good old faithful bone straight relaxed hair. I also had a really radical short crop, which I called my 'lezza cut' because I seriously looked like a dyke!  At that time my hair was so damn short and I was wearing mens clothes.  This was back in the 90's in the day of Karl Kani T-Shirts, Fila trainers and rolled up jeans!  I looked a hot mess!  Anyway, before the radical cut my hair had grown to shoulder length.  It wasn't particularly healthy although the reason for the cut was due to fashion, not the health of my hair.

In my late 20's I ventured out from being a 'DIY stylist' and started going to a trained professional.  This was the first time I had done so since my teens.  I always tried to look after my hair and had long been a product junkie.  I was uber concious about about people in salons not washing my hair right, i.e. piling my hair on top of my head and smooshing it all together, creating tangles.  The only reason I went to my stylist is because he listened to my request for this to not happen.  After a couple of trial runs with deep conditioning treatments etc I felt he could be trusted to relax my hair.

I instantly fell in love with having someone else do my hair!!!

I had regular relaxers and trims every 5-6 weeks.   During this time I exclusively used Keracare products and really made a good attempt at keeping my hair looking good.  At one point my hair was even healthy, in fact it was healthy enough to have low-lights and bleached high-lights put in (my hair stylist point blank refused to put colour in hair that wasn't healthy bless him (i.e. if your hair was breaking no colour or bleach for you ma'm until the condition of your hair improved.  My hair looked great and really healthy, I even had family members asking me if it was a wig because it looked sooo good.  It wasn't to last though..............

My 30’s 
During my early 30’s my love affair with the stylist was still going strong.  I had to drive about 20 miles to get to his salon and used to go like clockwork to get my relaxer done.  I was even on time for my appointments and I never had to wait more than 5 minutes! Trust me, I loved going to him.  He is a gem of a stylist - I always gave him a hard time when it came to getting my fringe/bangs cut. I would seriously sit there with one eye open watching-his-every-snip of those scissors - I didn't want to be leaving the salon with jacked up hair that I'd paid for - no not this lady!

My stylist always relaxed my hair well, didn’t burn me and only cut off as much as I said. I was never one of those to say, don’t cut my hair. I always encouraged him to cut as much as was needed to help it remain healthy (looking) hair. In hindsight, think I was the scissor happy one in this particular relationship.

I stayed as a loyal customer of the salon for about 7 years and introduced many friends and family to the salon. I never got a freebie though – but he did always do his best to fit me in if I made a mistake and came to the salon on the wrong day or got stuck in traffic and had to reschedule. He never even charged me for being a no show when that happened once. I think he valued my regular custom and we are friends.

I used to pay in the region of £50-60 for a relax and trim and circa £35 for a treatment with blow-dry and roller-set. When I got a roller-set this used to be followed up with a blow-dry and then straightening using the Marcel irons. My hair always felt and looked so good.

Unfortunately my nape was suffering badly though. It always felt so dry. I didn’t know what to do with it. It was literally broken off to just a few millimeters in length and it was so bad that I couldn’t wear my hair up. I tried not relaxing the back for 3 months so it would catch up. It did catch up but as soon as I relaxed it again and the new growth started coming through it broke off all over again and continued to do so for a period of about 3 years. It never improved whilst I was going to the salon. I kinda think that those wash basins that you have to lean backward into didn’t help matters. Not only were they uncomfortable (I have whiplash) but I think they were also contributing to robbing me of my hair!

These pictures were taken a few months into my HHJ and my nape was starting to grow back at this point but trust me prior to that I only had little pepper knots back there in my kitchen!

During the final year of being salon dependent,  I noticed that they started to use electric ceramic flat irons on my hair.   They also implemented a system whereby when you had a relaxer they would rinse it out (good), add Affirm 5 in 1 or Affirm Sustenance to your hair and let it sit for 5-10 mins (good), neutralised with neutralising shampoo (good again) but they would skip the final moisturising conditioning with which they used to do with KeraCare Humecto!  I noticed this straight away as I thought it had been a mistake but was told by my hairdresser that they had stopped using the final conditioner as it was pointless due to your cuticles being closed.  I have since learned that this isn't strictly accurate - yes the cuticles are closed but you should follow up protein conditioning  treatments with a moisture rich one.

I thought he must know what he is doing being the professional but after that step was omitted that is when I saw a complete nosedive in relation to the health of the rest of my hair.  I started suffering from shedding which caused significant thinning on the right hand side of my hair.  I should have spoken up but I didn't I just carried on handing over my hard earned cash, whilst drooling over the long healthy hair of his sister who was also a stylist at the salon.  I loved her hair so much that I started booking my appointments with her instead, desperate for a solution to my shedding woes (and secretly hoping that her hands were magic and some of her long hair magic would work its way into my strands!).

This continued until I stopped going to the salon.

Although they look like I am in love with myself, this set of photos shows the condition of my hair towards the end of 2009 very healthy looking, blunt ends and bone straight.  I'm not gonna lie - looking through these pics had me lusting after my bone straight relaxer days!

This time in my hair life coincided with me discovering clip in extensions and then realising that I could easily make my own!  I made a set out of Jazzy Remi hair and still had them more than 6 years on.  I only recently made a new set because I needed to change to a brand which had a texture more like my current texlaxed hair.

My trusty clip ins with my bone straight relaxed, blowdried and flat ironed hair!  My hair was about to start screaming but I wasn't about to hear a thing - I was lovin' this look and the flowyness of my hair was awesome.  I was not moisturising my hair anywhere near as much as I should have been to maintain the flowyness!
Mid 30's with clip in extensions

Mid 30's with clip in extensions

Mid 30's with clip in extensions - yes I loved these clip ins!!!

I actually wore my own hair sans clip ins most of the time but for a night out I can say I usually installed my safety blanket hair pieces.

My ends always looked great during my salon visiting days

Towards the end of this hair decade in 2010, upset with my broken nape and increasingly thinning right hand side of my hair, I started to learn about healthy hair care practices.  I was searching on YouTube and came across Ateeya, Nunavane, Miss Kibibi, Hairlista and of course Keep It Simple Sista (a.k.a. Kiss).  I was hooked!!!  I then embarked upon my HHJ about a week later in July 2010.

April 2010.  My hair looks kinda healthy but it wasn't my nape was really broken which made my ends look a lot thinnet if I didn't cut my hair to collar length in the front.

I cancelled my next relaxer and decided to go back to my DIY days, but this time armed with knowledge which wasn't just based on the ideas of one person, it was based on the experiences of hundreds of women all with a common goal and amazing camaraderie that truly astounded me.  The fact that women, black women, with long hair were willing to share their tips and secrets to healthy hair and retaining length blew me away.

For the first 6 months I jumped on just about every bandwagon there was, unleashed my semi-dormant product junkie ways and I quickly saw results in the improvement in the health of my hair. I was moisturising my hair regularly, stretching my relaxers and texlaxing.  Then low and behold my nape area started to grow back.

Unfortunately the quick progress was short lived because I became very anemic and battled shedding and breakage for the next year.  My hair continued to grow but was thinning so I had to cut off alot of my progress.  I along with the excessive shedding I have suffered under processing and other setbacks.

I have gained knowledge of how to correctly stretch a relaxer, many different protective styling options and how to take care of my real hair whilst in and after having my hair in a protective style.   I have learned how to cornrow and how to install extensions.  I now realise exactly why it used to take my mum so long and why that last bit of hair always took for-e-v-e-r to finish.

I am only at the start of my journey and although frustrating at times I have been having fun with my hair.  I take care of it and am no longer stylist dependant.  I care of my own hair and although it’s tough sometimes, when I get good results I think to myself  I DID THAT!

I love blogging about the highs and lows of this Healthy Hair Journey and I can't wait to find out more about healthy hair care because I am Simply Into My HAIR....and I love everything about taking care of it.

I will add more photos to the My HAIR Story page as and when I find them and scan them in.  



  1. Oooohhhh, great story! It could totally be mine! I know at one point in my 20's, I discovered weave and every photo for about 5 years all you saw was me with weave in my hair!
    Could you do a post about anemia and how it affected your hair? I actually started my journey because of the shedding from my anemia.

  2. @amija


    I did a post a while back when I first discovered that there was a link between low iron levels (anemia) and hair loss/thinning/dryness. I have added a link to the post here

    I also added this post about a year ago when I was fed up with constant shedding following two operations which were carried out under general anaesthetic, the post can be found here.

    General anaesthetic can cause hair loss as it shocks the system significantly and this condition is caused telogen effluvium and I suffered from this for a number of months following my operations.

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