When I tell people that I’ve been natural my entire life they’re usually a bit shocked. But the truth is I’ve always been on my natural journey. I wasn’t allowed to perm my hair when I was little. So, by the time I became an adult and had full control over my natural hair I still didn’t jump ship. Now, this doesn’t mean that I never ever thought about doing it though because I did many times.
On my mum’s side of the family the Guyanese side everyone has lots of hair. I’m talking all types of curl patterns, thickness, slickness you name it they had it. Hair was a big thing for us and was like that for as long as I could remember. My Nan and great aunts took their natural hair care very seriously.
However, my mum was much more adventurous because she wasn’t afraid to shave, cut it off or dye her hair. Mum said she was never really phased by her hair growing up even though she had lots of it. Till this day her motto is “Hair comes and goes so just do your thing”. My natural hair journey is a little different so I’ve broken it down into sub sections for you to see where I’ve come from.
The Early Days
“I’m rough and tough with my afro puffs” was a song made up by my God-sister Danielle. Together we’d prance around the landing of our estate singing this with our fresh blow outs on a Sunday. At the time I was 4 and she was 12. I was carefree, and didn’t have a complex about the length of my hair. The innocence of childhood is bliss until you start to acquire a better understanding of the world and your individuality.
From about the same time I became aware that my skin tone was different (you can read about that journey here) shortly after came the realisation that my hair was too. Understanding the difference of skin tone was much easier to digest than why my hair wasn’t long like everyone else’s. As I reflect now at 28, I can vividly remember those feelings of confusion and sadness about this.
I just didn’t understand why my hair was short, thick and kinky. It chokes me up a bit because if I knew then what I know now it would have saved me lots of tears. But such is life and today I’m grateful for what that experience taught me. Ultimately, my desire for longer hair became the biggest blessing in disguise.
The Secret Formula
When I would complain about the length of my hair my mum or Nan would always tell me the same thing. “Jenna your hair is going to grow just be patience” It didn’t matter how much I moaned that was always their response. But things hanged for me when I found out what I needed to do during the waiting process.
I was told if I greased my scalp often and wore my headscarf to bed every night my hair would grow. Once I had that information, I was determined to keep my up end of the bargain. I made it my personal mission to do what I needed to do for my hair. In return it made me responsible and it taught me how to care for my hair.
It’s hilarious that I told me this and I honestly get why I was. You and I both know growing long hair is much more complex than greasing your scalp and wearing a tie head. However, my mum & nan were right because my hair didn’t fact grow like they said it would. It picked up in length and that length honestly came together with age and a hair care regime.
During my primary school years my life was split between two houses. I lived with my parents Monday -through Friday and I spent practically every other weekend with my Nan. Those weekends at nan’s consisted of trips to the Salon. It was a routine that I grew to love because I saw my hair grow.
Canerows & Braids
Canerows became my go to style from the moment my hair was long enough to plait. Funny enough I wasn’t allowed to wear extensions. In not entirely sure why but I can vividly remember my dad not being fond of things being ‘put in my hair’. I understand my dad’s stance on the matter but it’s crazy to me how much politics surrounded my natural hair and its care growing up.
Anyway, in the year 2000 my mum went against my dad wishes and I got extensions for the first time at age 8. J-Lo was my favourite artist back then and after I saw her hair braided in the ‘love don’t cost a thing’ video I was mesmerised. Mummy did the style for me and I can remember the big fat grin I had on my face looking at the finish product in the mirror.
Throughout the rest of primary school and my secondary school years I wore my hair in Canerows. My mum wasn’t able to do the popular styles like criss cross and snake that were circulating at the time. But she did try a ting and I really love my mum for that.
Luckily for me my best friend at the time found a hair dresser named Angela. The moment Angela put her hands in my hair everything changed. Angela had growing hands plus she could do all of the bashment Canerows styles that were popping. I went to an all-girl school and when I tell you hairstyles were just as important as iPhone’s are today.
My parents were quite strict so I wasn’t allowed to slick my hair with gel, diamontes or wear colourful braids. So, for me having the best Canerows was a big deal
By the time I turned 15 my hair was a decent length. In fact, my hair was where I always wanted it to be. But sadly, I wasn’t really interested in my hair like I was as a child. I still loved my natural hair but weaves now had my attention.
On my 16th birthday I got my first weave. After a whole lot of begging my mum granted me my wish. Your first weave and your 16th birthday is a big thing. To experience those things in one go felt like I had won the lottery. Even though my first weave came with a few restrictions.
My mum wouldn’t allow me to have a leave out and the weave couldn’t be long. When I look back at my first weave in pictures, I cry with laughter but back then you couldn’t tell me nothing. When my 17th birthday came around my mum eased up and finally gave me the green light to have weave with a leave out. Mummy also gifted me with Virgin Indian Remy bundles straight from America. Now if you know anything about weave that was a big deal.
Weaves became part of my hair journey and I wore them from age 16-26. Wearing weaves for nearly a decade certainly came with many highs and lows. The fact that I was natural I took many things for granted and in the process and was sometimes harsh on my hair. Excessive heat on my leave out, sometimes no breaks in between weaves, irregular trims etc you name it I did it. However, despite all that madness my hair would always find a way to bounce back as well as retain length.
The downside of weaves
A year and a bit into to wearing weaves I noticed that I started to develop an unhealthy attachment. I was a bit iffy about sharing this but I’ve grown from it and I’m passed that stage of my life so it’s cool. This unhealthy attachment wasn’t intentional and I was totally unaware of it until one day at home I made a comment along the lines of “I don’t look good without my weave”.
When I realised the depth of what I had said it left me left me feeling very uneasy. The fact that I subconsciously felt like I didn’t look as good with my natural hair but better with weave was worrying. I knew I needed to get my mind right because I wasn’t born with weave attached to my head. I’m not sure how it happened but for a short time weave gave me a false sense of identity and confidence.
This isn’t the case for every woman and it’s certainly not the case for me today. But I did go through that phase and I feel like it had a lot to do with the way my type of natural hair was portrayed at the time. But that discussion is for another day.
I was disappointed in myself and I knew my Dad would have been to, especially since he had always taught about loving myself unapologetically. It was an uncomfortable but necessary revelation. I started to ease off the weaves and start wearing my own hair more. I went from wearing weaves every month to weaving my hair 3 times within a year.
August 2020 will mark two years since my last weave. I’ve cut them completely out and my hair has never been happier. I do miss weaves from time to time but my hair is doing much better without them.
I officially entered the wig game back in 2013 when closures and frontal wigs started to become extremely popular. I ordered curly hair from Ali Express, dyed it Ombre and watched one Youtube tutorial and made my first wig. Wigs literally changed the game for me. What I love most about wigs is the convenience and flexibility they give me. All while allowing me to protect my natural hair and stick to a tight hair care routine.
I prefer closure (5×5 – 7×7) wigs opposed to frontals. Only because I’m not a fan of gluing wigs down. I can never do it like the hairdressers do it which is frustrating. Another reason I’m not a fan of the glue is because I want to protect my edges. Also being able to take my wig off at the end of the day to let me scalp breathe is why I’ll never look back.
How my hair is doing today
These days I alternate between my natural hair and wearing wigs. I do throw braids in the mix now and again. At age 28 I can say I’m comfortable and at peace with my natural hair then I’ve ever been.
The last 4 years I’ve taken my natural hair care journey to the next level. Following a crazy break up I suffered major hair loss due to stress. It was such a crazy time for me and losing my hair in the process made things 10x worse.
I managed to pull through and so did my hair. Never ever did I think I would suffer hair loss at the age of 24. It was a lot for me to digest but it gave me the chance to start a new hair journey. Today my hair is in the best condition that it has ever been in. There is so many things that I do differently e.g. no heat, no weaves, using products that actually work for my hair type etc.
I’ve acquired so much knowledge about my natural hair just from watching YouTube and Instagram. My mindset towards my natural hair evolved for the better and I’m extremely pleased.
20 things I’ve learned throughout my natural hair journey
- You are not your hair
- Long hair doesn’t necessarily mean healthy hair or a better life
- Trim your ends regularly
- What works for someone else might not necessarily work for you
- Short hair, long hair, no hair it is what it is do you
- Natural hair loves water
- Shrinkage is not the enemy
- Invest in the hair that grows from your scalp before anything else
- Natural hair is not unprofessional and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise
- Heat Doesn’t Equal Heat Damage
- A consistent hair care regimen is a major key to maintaining healthy hair
- Anything in Excess is Damaging
- Wash your hair regularly
- Feed your scalp often
- If you don’t know what to do with your natural hair chances are, you’re being lazy
- Low manipulation styles are where it’s at
- Don’t be afraid to try new hair styles
- Detangle your hair with your fingers
- Protective styles don’t guarantee hair growth
- Never take your hair for granted
Lots of Love