I’ve been chemically treating my hair since the age of twelve. As a graduation present from Mom and Dad, I relaxed my hair at the age of twelve. On my way to Secondary Modern School, I really wanted to belong to “the cool” crowd. What was not cool? Going to “big kids” school with my natural hair, my thick braids.
Thanks to both my Grans, I have thick and beautiful hair. Of course I wasn’t proud of it at the time. All of the magazine covers graced with white women with long blonde hair, did nothing for my self-esteem. At that time, I thought, “In order to be pretty, my hair needs to be straight.” So, that was the first thing I did after graduation: buy me some Motions hair products.
Though I received many compliments about my natural hair, I wasn’t proud of it at all. It had to go.
I had long hair, very thick, Mom made sure I took care of it very well. The hours spent at the salon were excruciating. We’d leave the house around 10 AM, and I’d be done around 6 PM. I sat under that hair dryer for more than three hours, that’s how long and thick my hair was.
I grew up thinking that having “Black hair”, as in not-chemically-treated-hair, meant that I wasn’t pretty, would never find a boyfriend, would never get accepted. Sure, I was surrounded by strong Black women, both my Grans were, may they rest in peace. But, all of the women also relaxed their hair.
When I came to China in 2015, I knew Black haircare products were scarce in small cities like Xiamen (厦门). A friend of mine who lived here for ten years, warned me about this. The products can be found, but they are so, so, so expensive. She was in a much bigger city in the north, Chang Chun (长春). Access to those products was easier for her, that city has around 7 million people, Xiamen only has 1 million or 2 million (I need to check with Wikipedia). Yes, they are considered small cities in China.
At first it was OK, until I needed to relax my hair again after four months in China.
Dad sent me some haircare products, so I decided to do it myself. I’ve done it before, no big deal. But, my hair started falling out. I mean, REALLLLLYYYY FALLING OUT! I’m lucky I have thick hair, because at the rate that my hair left my scalp, I should be bald now.
When I arrived back home in July 2016, my sister kept telling me how hideous my hair looked. So, that’s when I made the decision to go back to my natural hair. I’d never used any type of fake hair before. Back in the day, I always said, “Weaves and “keep-away-from-open-flame” raids aren’t for me, I HAVE hair.” But, my pretty hair was unhealthy, and I needed to do something about it.
That’s when I decided to go back to my natural hair. I have to tell you, it’s not as cheap as I thought. Going natural is more expensive than chemically treating your hair. The products are so expensive, it needs more upkeep. And, the first year, you’ll probably look very funny with a very short hairdo. I can’t go too short, I wasn’t blessed with a nicely shaped head, so I will continue to do crochet for a year or two. Can you believe people here in China, who knew me with my short hair, thought the braids were my real hair? Makes me think of an episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
I sometimes wanted to be really mean when they asked me if it was my real hair. “You saw me with short hair less than four months ago, do you really think it can grow to halfway my back in that time?” One of my Chinese hairdressers told a guy in Chinese that Black people use fake hair, because it will take us more than thirty years to grow our own hair that long. LOL!
Anyone else on the natural hair journey? 🙂