Every other week there's some new hot hair trend, and many even contradict one another to the point that it all becomes annoyingly insane. It's almost like that scene in The Wiz where the leader of Oz keeps changing the "in" color by the minute and the dancers maniacally prance and shift to keep up, causing a sense of brainwashed hysteria.
One minute natural hair is the thing. The next it's straight and wavy wigs and weaves. Then the trend shifts to short cuts and baldies. Locs have even gotten their shine---especially the faux ones. And don't get me started on chemical processes, "top" product ingredients, and coloring.
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I've become so bothered by the contradictory messages regarding which way to go with my hair that I've even come up with crazy songs to illustrate the madness.
Sing it with me, ladies: *Insert Beyonce's "Signs" melody*
Coconut, peanut, grapeseed, sesame, sunflower, mint, and lavender, oh!
Olive, argan, marula, wheat germ!
Please no grease! I love just oil!
Raise your voices and cue Beyonce's " Check Up On It" melody:
Girl why ya gotcha hair lookin' oh so dry?
Won't you come and put some grease up on it!
(Watch me put some grease up on it!)
Go on, put some grease up on it!
(Gon' and slap some grease up on it! )
Grease that scalp and moisturize it.
Grease it up tonight!
We've put our hair--and mental health--through it all. The roller coaster ride goes from "Black Is Beautiful" Afros, to the "good hair, bad hair" debate, to the dreaded creamy crack, to glued-down tracks for body and length, to sew-ins and fold-over installs, to wearing full-on fake scalps and lace frontals. Some of us have done all this in one year! (And I know I'm not the only one! Just take a look at the DMX challenge. I rest my case.)
Even research reflects that black women experience more anxiety about their hair than their white counterparts, are constantly scrutinized and discriminated against due to it, and still face social pressure to straighten it to fit in or advance.
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I mean come on! I'm tired and my hair is, too. Every time I finally get on one hair train, the hair "gurus", "influencers", and "stylists" are already on to the next one.
If you've found yourself experiencing hair loss or damage, spending your last dime at the beauty supply store, crying about your hair every week, throwing a temper tantrum at the salon, or trying to force your hair into styles that are super-uncomfy, you have hair fatigue, sis, and you need to read on.
Let's just do like Fantasia told her man to do back in the early 2000s: Go ahead and free ourselves! Here are five key steps I took in accepting my hair and finding peace:
Turn YouTube Off...For A Bit
I love all my hair influencers and how-to kitchen-ticians, but when I find myself prompted to run to the beauty supply store more than twice a month or I'm forcing my short 3C strands into styles that are damaging (like that super cute, extra-long sleek ponytail that's popular all over the Web), I fast from watching those videos.
I try to stay away from them for at least a week, and I even delete the YouTube app from my phone.
Once I've come down from that high of hair modification (which is really a manic episode of insecurity and probably a symptom of a larger issue), I write down my feelings, why that hairstyle is just not for me (and why that's OK) and go back to my mainstay carefree style: a curly, barely-threw-water-and-conditioner-in-it wash-and-go.
Start Loving--And Accepting---The Hair God Gave You
Some of us won't even let our natural hair do what it do. You want that silky "mixed chick" curl when your hair is full of gloriously thick 4C coils. You want those Lemonade braids or Passion locs when your strands can barely stand the weight of braid extensions. (Yes, that's me.) True, the natural hair movement has ushered in a lot of self-love, but it has also brought comparison syndrome and delusion.
Sis, just go with the flow. If it's humid, let the curls pop and the frizz come. If it's coily and a bit nappy---yep, I said nappy, which is not a bad word---let it be beautifully nappy. If it's loose and stringy, wear those elongated curls with pride.
I've learned to embrace products and styles that work with---not against---my hair texture, and I no longer follow trends that don't accommodate my natural crown. Some slick styles mean I'm constantly going to be re-laying baby hairs that are clearly fighting against the globs of edge control I'm attempting to force upon them. Uh, hello, sis: That's a sign to just let the baby hairs be. (Also, what's this obsession with baby hairs anyway? Some of us don't have them to begin with, but that's a whole other story. I won't digress...today.)
Choose A Fitting Protective Style---And Stick To It
I can't tell you how many times I've ripped an itchy $500 weave out of my head that I had no business getting in the first place. Again, it's all about motives and accepting reality. TBH, I hate fussing with my hair and not being able to touch my scalp. Lesson: If sewn-down wigs or weaves aren't your thing, don't invest in them. Try a protective style that does more protecting than agitating.
And you don't have to wear a wig or weave to "protect" your hair. You can easily just minimize the heat and styling of your hair with bantu knots, natural cornrows, twist-downs, or clip-ins. Add a few satin-lined hats or silky scarves to your wardrobe. Find the protective style that works for your mental health, lifestyle, and schedule, and just get great at making it last for a few weeks at a time.
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Consult A Real Expert...A Dermatologist or Licensed Stylist
Again, sorry "influencers", but it's time to give a huge nod to trained experts. One good conversation with a doc or trained (ie. licensed) cosmetologist, and your manic hair-changing days are over. I've found that talking with someone who can specifically discuss my lifestyle, health, habits, scalp, and hair type has helped me choose what's best for my hair in the long run. By doing this, you can keep the same regimen for years with no problems, and it's a bit easier to tune out the noise of trends (and uneducated opinions) when you already know what truly works for you and your hair.
Besides, all those hair-type generalizations can be wasteful banter for someone, for example, who has a mixture of more than one type, is pregnant, lives in a place with dry, hot weather most of the year, and just started a new job. The products and practices that work for that person might not work for the next sis. A great licensed professional who can suggest ingredients or products that meet your current hair and scalp needs is a God-send.
Save The Higher Maintenance Styles For Special Occasions
OK, OK, so I can't just blame influencers and marketers for my manic hair habits. I've also used the excuse that I just like to change my hair so often because I get bored easily and want to keep my hair fresh and laid. The older I get, the less inclined I am to believe that lie. Wasting time and money in a salon only to become frustrated with a style that isn't well-suited for everyday---or even weekly---maintenance just doesn't make much sense anymore.
I still like to feed my creative side---and keep things laid and slayed---but I now save certain styles for weddings, vacations, and stuntin' situations like class reunions. I've stopped trying to live like a celebrity---changing my hairstyle like I have Kim Kimble on speed dial and Beyonce's beauty budget. Instead, I focus on other things that bring me joy and a long-term return on investment like putting money into my budding business, studying for my graduate-level coursework, budgeting for travel adventures, and prioritizing my wellness. Hey, what's a good hairdo worth if the mind under it is all messed up?
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