I met Miqkayla, a 23 year old naturalista from Mitchells Plain, on the Cape Town Naturally group on Facebook. I liked her style of wit so today Miqkayla takes over as a guest blogger and tomorrow (15 June), she graduates with her BSc in Marine and Applied Biology. Hope you enjoy her story as much as I did. xoxo Mandy
I have very few pleasant memories of having my hair maintained as a child. My mom had her hand on my hair throughout my childhood. I remember, very vaguely, having to “sit still” and cry silently or on the inside so my mom or sometimes Aunty Jenny (our community hair dresser) could chemically straighten/relax my hair. I would complain that my scalp was burning and get responses like “Yes Jy moet maar uit hou, ek is noggie klaar nie” (You have to just stay put, I’m not done yet) or something crazy like “it must burn, that’s how it’s gonna work”. I remember the scabs I had afterward. Oh! The scabs that looked like someone had burnt my hair off or tried to glue my hair to my scalp, LITERALLY! I remember my mom trying to blow-dry my hair but she never quite mastered the technique so that my hair could blow in the wind and have it return to a somewhat attractive, normal-looking, non-electrocuted state. I remember having to lay my hair flat onto a chair, cover it with brown wrapping paper and have it ironed…the way you iron clothes. Worse of all, as if I hadn’t had it bad enough already, I remember the “yster-kam” (iron comb) that my mom would place on the stove, allow it to heat up and proceed to combing my hair with it in an attempt to straighten it. Did I mention that she would be combing way too close to my scalp and my neck would cramp up trying to avoid the occasional burn.
I find it rather sad that we do the most to achieve bone straight tresses at the cost of the overall health of our hair. Because as a consequence of these tried and trusted inhumane hair practises, passed down from generation to generation, I experienced frequent breakage especially along my hairline. And my mom and the other ladies in the community, somehow managed to convince me that this was all my fault. They would say things like “You tie your pom-pom too tight”, “You don’t swirl your hair enough at night”, “You don’t oil-treat your hair enough” and “You don’t put enough hair-food on your hair”.
Finally in my second year at varsity, after researching not-so-extensively, I decided to grow out my natural hair. I always wanted a wild bouncy mane full of curls, so at first I did it because it was part of the trend. Initially I started by transitioning, then I cut off a small patch of my relaxed hair at the nape to see what my natural hair texture looked like. I was pleased, until I finally decided to do the big chop. I discovered that I have two textures and that the hair at my nape was somewhat softer and looser and I was therefore deceived into thinking that I would have bouncy curly locks that I could wet and condition in the shower and have sleek defined curls. Instead I had 4C, very coiled, very kinky, wiry hair that didn’t grow downwards but outwards.
In the beginning I became such a product-junkie, thinking that there would be a product out there, a miracle potion that would help me achieve rapid growth. But now I see product primarily as a lubricant to make handling my hair easier. I don’t obsess over ingredients but I do agree that raw, unprocessed organic products are ideal. African tribal women in past grew their natural hair to the size of lion manes using products produced naturally from the Earth, all in the absence of the variety of branded products we now have on the market. Having this simplistic view has made me less obsessive over products and has made maintaining natural hair easier on the pocket.
I was fortunate enough to go natural under the favourable circumstances. I lived in a University residence. The community in around the University Of Cape Town (UCT) is made up of a very diverse group of people each with their own aesthetic. There’s a plethora of different creatives, cultures, trends and means of expression. So the environment was somewhat supportive by not being judgemental or voicing or displaying any disapproval of my hair choices. My mom, on the other hand disapproved and wasn’t too encouraging. Particularly at the initial stages when my hair was short and I had very little styling options. I was frustrated by it at first, I knew her reasons were way deeper than her not being up to date with trends – but let’s not get into a discussion on the fixation with European beauty standards. I got complimented more as my hair grew longer, especially from girls who I shared a similar texture with. A lot of people seemed surprised that it was all my hair and that it was this long. I learnt that it was because of a belief, particularly amongst black women, that 4c hair can’t be grown longer. But many 4c girls have proven this to be false and I plan on doing so as well.
I believe that it all boils down to your hair practises and techniques. Our hair and our scalps are very receptive.
If it doesn’t feel good then it won’t do your hair any good.
Don’t expect you hair to grow when you’re chemically and physically abrasive with your hair.
If you use a high heat setting directly onto your hair, expect burnt fried ends.
If your detangling-process is rough and you don’t start from ends and work your way up towards the roots, expect breakage.
Stay away from hair salons with impatient stylists that comb roughly through your hair. Tell them to put some “RESPECK” on your hair journey; I mean hair takes long to grow, at least, mine does.
Personally I prefer finger-detangling over everything but if you must, use a comb use a wide-toothed comb. On the issue of salons, I’d say learn to manage and style your own hair. Moral of the story, Treat your hair like fabric.
I also believe that protective styles and low manipulation styles are key! Protective styles protect the ends which is important because breakage occurs at the ends. Low manipulation styles are any style that doesn’t require you to handle/style your hair daily/frequently. For example, when I wear weaves/sew-ins my hair grows 3-4cm in 2months and I’d be maintaining that length because my hair was covered by the weave, my ends were protected and my hair wasn’t frequently handled.
Although I have dry, fine, low density hair genetically, my hair is way healthier than what it used to be when it was relaxed. My 4c hair is very versatile. I can make it appear thicker and fuller depending on how I style it. I’ve had a tapered cut and I’ve had bleached hair but I cut off the bleached ends and the tapered cut has since grown out. I don’t plan in colouring my hair again or cutting it again, I want it to be as natural as possible. I’ve been known to change my hair often, so I plan to serve looks and do more protective styling with wigs, crotchet braids and box braids.
And now to sound like every natural hair blog I’ve ever come across, no shade. Your natural hair experience is your own, it is subjective and unique. There are many different curl patterns, some get more publicity than others but learn to embrace your own. Natural hair isn’t hard-work. Keep it simple when it comes to product and styling and be patient. Don’t fuss over length; rather focus on the overall health of your hair. If fussing and stressing over the length of my hair could grow it, it would’ve been there already. The growth of your hair is something you don’t directly have control over so just learn to enjoy the experience.
At the end of the day it’s just hair, it will grow that’s what I keep telling myself. Your hair is always growing. It’s all about how effective you are at retaining that length. So stay moisturised, keep slaying, drink your water and mind your own bizznizz.
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