When I was six-years old, I got my first relaxer. I used to scream and cry when my mom tried to wash and comb my hair, so I guess she was at the end of her rope. She took me to a hairstylist and I remember walking out of the salon and feeling like a supermodel. My hair was so straight and so swingy! I loved my hair from the age of six until…let’s say 13. And then all of a sudden, it wasn’t good enough anymore.
Those teenage years can do a number on a girl’s self esteem. Suddenly, it didn’t matter if my mom or my aunties thought my hair looked pretty anymore. It mattered more what my friends thought. It mattered more what boys thought. I felt less than pretty, and so I started over-processing my hair. A note of advice to parents—leaving your rebellious teenage daughter alone with a creative hairstylist can lead to a case of doing the most with the least. We experimented with every color of semi-permanent hair dye you can think of, and ruined a few of my school uniforms in the process. We had fun, but fun came with a cost.
Back then I didn’t care if my hair was healthy; I just wanted to look fly. And all that fly caught up to me big time. Because of the repeated use of relaxer and hair color, over time my hair pretty much stopped growing. It became thin and limp. I wasn’t thinking about the health of my hair or scalp at all, just the style and that process led to split ends, minimal hair growth, dull, damaged, lifeless hair and a problem with dry scalp and flakes that took me years to get over. If I could turn back the hands of time and tell myself not to do the most to my hair, I would. It took me a long time to settle into what it is right now—healthy, natural hair that has its own style and flavor that’s indelibly me, because it was who I was born to be.
Afrobella was the natural hair blogger at AOL’s Black Voices and a writer for Vogue Italia’s Vogue Black website. She has also presented keynotes at several major media expos and seminars.