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Beauty & Fashion

How Keratin Treatments Reconnected Me To My Type 4 Hair

“You’re shaming the ancestors by being ashamed of your hair.”

Intimidating words from a natural hair influencer I scrolled past on Instagram. They’re also a thought process I fully believed well into my late 20s – or so I thought.

My early years at Howard University didn’t agree with my lifestyle. My hair was big, but fine. Long, but not flexible. Workable, yet disobedient. Aside from not having time to bargain with mischievous curls ahead of 8 a.m. classes, the peer pressure was on another level. Howard girls have been known to carry themselves in the best-polished light. We’re changemakers in society, but trendsetters on the regular. It’s a vain, materialistic truth that I’m not ashamed to be proud of. So I questioned, who was I to contradict a century-long stereotype?


Natural hair after keratin treatment Natural hair after keratin treatment Courtesy

For years, I fought against getting a perm. Health concerns aside, it just felt categorically “anti-Black.” On the other hand, I was completely over my 4B hair and the disrespect it came with: constant frizz, never behaving, and never blending with my sew-ins. My frustration became a gateway into damaging habits. For a time, I got sew-ins and resorted to perming my leave out just to avoid the hassle. It was desperate (and embarrassing), but had to be done in order to withhold what an HU woman represented.

Moving to Los Angeles birthed an even more empowered version of myself. If you’ve ever been a Black woman living in LA, you know the standard of beauty is very monolithic. Ironically, the shared resentment we have from being mistreated based on misogyny is also what bonds us. Sometimes, it feels like wearing our type 4 hair loud and proud is a boisterous “F you” to society. Unfortunately, that pride comes with a lot of responsibility.

Keratin treatment

Keratin treatment

Courtesy

Black women have an unspoken duty to love themselves no matter what. We side-eye women who wear colored contacts. We categorize women who get BBLs. And people with nose jobs or Botox? Straight to jail. It felt impossible to find a safe place to be vulnerable about any of my physical insecurities. Let’s be real. How can you picture something nicknamed “creamy crack” being socially acceptable? Many will say, “it’s just hair.”

But the conversation is bigger than that. Admitting I didn’t like one of the most obvious things that connected me to my culture was a painful reality to accept. I wasn’t allowed to feel or complain about it. I definitely wasn’t allowed to change it because I’d be “giving into the patriarchy’s standard of beauty,” meaning I didn’t love myself. So I forced myself to suffer through self-consciousness, afraid of displeasing MY people. That was until I heard about keratin treatments.

Applying keratin treatment

Applying keratin treatment

Courtesy

Keratin treatments hit the scene in a very dramatic way. Primarily by people warning consumers about the risks that come with it. Many people don’t acknowledge that keratin is a protein that the body produces naturally. The treatment uses a keratin-based product that produces straighter and/or smoother hair (results vary depending on thickness and length). The formula typically has little to no smell, and rather than getting washed out, like the perming process, it’s sealed in with heat using a blowdryer, followed by several passes with a flat iron.

Call it fate (or TikTok’s algorithm), but the hysteria around it was too intriguing to ignore. A treatment that reduces frizz, adds shine, and can loosen curls with reduced breakage as the cherry on top? It sounded like the hair gods were finally listening. I had to get one.

Monica Jones of Beauty by Monica took me into her chair and under her wing. Though she educated me on the misconceptions behind keratin treatments and brought awareness to formaldehyde chemicals, my only thoughts were, is this actually going to work for me? Is this cheating? Can I still call myself a natural hair girly? Then it hit me. Does any of that really matter?

\u200bHair washed after applying keratin treatment

Hair washed after applying keratin treatment

Courtesy

My hair is mine to do whatever I choose to do with it. Every crown is unique; no one’s is one size fits all. After the first keratin treatment, my confidence blossomed. Yes, partly because my curls were visibly a level looser and allowed more versatile styles. But also because I evolved as a woman. Every relationship changes as we grow, whether for better or worse. I choose to take control of my relationships including the one with my hair. We got to re-introduce ourselves to each other, allowing a clean slate with more patience and compromise.

I threw away the outside noise that made me question my blackness. Embracing my natural hair was considered “living in my truth,” but ironically, that wasn’t the case for me. I was lying to myself and did more harm mentally with the pressures I adopted. We already face challenges day-to-day that are out of our control. We need to be open-minded to people with basically no "c" hair getting braids because “Black people can’t own a hairstyle.” We have to support non-Black women getting surgery to create the physical attributes Black women naturally have and were once called “ugly” for. We’re to be understanding of people getting spray tans cosplaying as mixed race to be racially ambiguous.

Post Keratin treatment

Post Keratin treatment

Courtesy

Meanwhile, dark-skinned women are still getting blocked from certain nightclubs. For some reason, it’s socially acceptable for other ethnicities to not “live in their truth,” but not Black people. The short end of the stick is constantly handed to us by others with the expectation of just being grateful for an opportunity, acknowledgment, etc. If no one’s going to give us grace, we must grant it to ourselves.

There’s nothing shameful about wanting to change something about ourselves, whether it’s internal or external. Black women are the strongest people on this Earth. And while strength is found in acceptance, it also lives in vulnerability and our unapologetic pursuit of pleasing ourselves before anyone else.

Post Keratin treatment

Post Keratin treatment

Courtesy

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