When I was five years old, a playmate straight up asked me if my mom was my babysitter and that’s when I realized I loved being different.
A) Because babysitters are AWESOME, and B) I’d noticed that many people at Mount Hope Day Care were “of color,” (absence of color is actually black, but whatever). I thought I was lucky with two different looking parents.
My luck with my parents' two different hair types is a different story.
My absent dad was black. As for my mom, I remember being four years old and her driving us to a seedy dance club. While I watched my mom whip her curly Jewish, silky-brown mermaid-hair around in the corner with the DJ, I can only remember being strung out on the rainbow light reflections bouncing off the disco ball and glowing on her rosy-milk complexion -- and her hair, which was so different than mine.
I always imagined I’d grow into an exotic statuesque, silky smooth sex kitten like my mom, but after my period manifested at age 9, that dream died. Acne, oily hair and thickness began to take over my biracial being and I tried everything to suppress its beastly appetite. This was also the same year my mom first tried to “relax” my hair.
At first, my mom tried to do it herself with at-home kits like Just For Me, but eventually she met friends or friend’s neighbors who would do the treatments. For anyone unfamiliar, a relaxer is a routine chemical burning of the root hair follicles, so that one supposedly ends up looking acceptable to their peers around the world.
At age 16, I decided that the four-hour salon charade was over. I wanted to stop wasting my conscience, my mother’s money, and everyone’s time trying to get them to accept the “prettier” version of myself by chemically altering my hair. I was going natural and no one could stop my curls from breaking hearts and taking names.
I didn’t know what I was getting into with hair maintenance -- and for many years I relied solely on misguided advice from untrained stylists, until I learned what worked best for me.
It turns out the big secret is: ALMOST NOTHING. And no, I don’t mean like: “Oh, a few squirts of really expensive conditioner and the occasional Moroccan Oil dab.” Real talk: NADA goes in or on this bad boy but shampoo and conditioner.
Strangers always try to start a conversation by touching my hair (please don't) or asking me some jumbled form of this question: “How do you get it to do that?” Sometimes it’s totally sweet that they forget English grammar because they’re hypnotized by my spirally hair, but I wonder if they know what they’re really asking.
It’s a pretty commonly worn hairstyle these days. Being Jewish and African-American, or whatever my other half is, I was told that I have a mixed hair texture. Based on this, I’ve discovered that sticking to sulfate-free products and ultra-moisturizing, scalp cleansing shampoo and conditioner formulas works best. Then I usually just blow-dry and go.
Like buying groceries for my IBS-ridden insides, I try to keep my hair products simple and organic by buying gluten-free, sulfate-free formulas. I usually shampoo with the sulfate-free Jason Natural Products Tea Tree Scalp Normalizing Shampoo and condition with the DermOrganic Daily Hydrating Conditioner
I recently tried a sample pack of Aveeno Pure Renewal Shampoo and Conditioner and boom, it did all the magic I had hoped: It defined my curls, while keeping my scalp clean and moisturized.
If I knew then, what I know now and someone was chasing me down with a scoop of scalp peeling chemical cream, I would’ve said “Bitch, is you CRAZY!?” and whipped my natural badass ‘do at them.
I will never change for anyone besides myself. I promise ME that.