Hair our crowning glory – I was contacted recently by asking if I would add their link into one of my blogs, as in addition to fashion I also speak about lifestyles. On reviewing the subject matter, I felt compelled to share their link with my fellow sisterhood of women, in particular to black women.

There is a statement that says ‘our hair is our crowning glory’; at this juncture I would also like to point out to those women, who have chosen to shave their heads fashion or otherwise, what I have noticed is your face shines beautifully in definition of you. This is not a conversation based on who has, and who has not. As black women our hair comes in varying textures, styles, and uniqueness, from a level 1 crop, to an afro mane, blow-dried straight, to plaits, and braids – our uniqueness is on many levels, our hair represents just one of those gifts

Now to the subject matter of chemical hair straightener products, (aka relaxers), that contain components that are damaging to our health and well being, so much so they have been linked to the increase of cancer in black women.

I am not an expert on this matter in relation to the science; however as a woman who used to have her hair texturised under professional supervision, at the hair dressers, I do feel this is a matter for further consideration. When my hair was texturised using relaxers it was always at the hair dressers; I wanted my curls to be slightly looser and not as tightly coiled when in her natural state, it also meant that the rain and humidity would not revert my hair to an instant afro without my permission!

I followed all the protocol, regular treatment steams, every 8 weeks I would go for a texturised touch up to my roots, I invested in hair shampoos and conditioners that would provide additional moisture; yes my diet and drinking plenty of water was also part of my routine. I looked after my hair.

The occasion that was to change my mind forever, about using any form of relaxer in my hair was very simple. I had gone to the hairdressers for my usual touch-up to the roots, nothing unusual there, however it was on my return home that all changed. I went to bed that evening and as I lay my head on the pillow, I had the most intense burning sensation from the crown of my head, to the back of my neck. The pain was so severe that I had visions of raising my head from the pillow, and seeing my scalp left behind, my scalp felt raw, sore, and as I touched my scalp the burning sensation intensified, it was at that point that I heard a little voice saying ‘you would not put those chemicals on your face, so why would do you put them on your hair’?

The following day I went back to the hair-dressers and told them of my volcano experience to my hair and scalp, they checked my scalp, it looked perfectly normal, there was no residue to anything being left behind, the scalp was not red raw as I imagined it to be, nothing. I should add, my scalp had cooled down and was not as tender to the touch. They explained they had not used any new products, it was the same chemical hair relaxers they had always used on my roots, and there was no explanation as to why! However, I had already decided that night I would no longer have chemical hair relaxer creams used on my hair. My tight curls and I would form an alliance, and when I blow-dry my hair straight and the weather has it plans, so be it!

That experience was over 20 years ago, and I have not looked back since, in fact I laugh at myself as to why I ever chose to put relaxers in my hair in the first place! When growing up, the ritual was, on a Sunday I would wash and condition my hair, then my mum would have me sat between her legs whilst she oiled my scalp with Royal Crown (yes I am going back a bit) or LaIndia hair oil. I remember not being keen on LaIndia, it was a pink sweet smelling hair oil, that I was sure made those pesky flying gnats in the summer think I was their mating call! My mum would plait, twist and curl my hair in ringlets and I was perfectly happy with all of those styles.

So where did it change, and why did it change? All this talk about our hair being harder to manage, harder than what I have to ask? It’s easier to relax your hair and then style it, is it really? This is what I found to be ironic, even when I blow dry my hair now, I will always curl the ends, to give her bounce, I love the big bouncy curls, dead pan straight doesn’t work for me, where’s the life, the volume and body? When I plait my hair that in itself is another hairstyle, and when I pull the plaits out I am left with yet another hairstyle of waves, the same applies to when I twist my hair.

I ask again, what caused me to think that my natural hair was not enough, not acceptable, it would be easy to point outwards and say the magazines I came across when growing up in Manchester portrayed women of beauty to be of European standards, but I am not European in that sense, yes I am born in the UK, my parents are of West Indian heritage. I recall a geography class where I learned about the power of our hair; the teacher said that those of African and West Indian heritage have hair that is dense in texture due to the protection that our hair provides us from the sun, especially those being born closer to the equator.

I also recall my first black fashion magazine, it was called Black Sophisticates, an American magazine, Britain was way behind. I read that magazine from cover to cover, treating it as I see book restorers do with first editions, such is their rarity and importance, I didn’t wear the gloves mind you! And therein lies part of the answer, what I was seeing in the public domain did not reflect me, or even speak to me as a young black woman growing up.

I remember my mum and aunties wearing their wigs for fun and for a change, and yes the majority of them would wear their hair straight, having used relaxers. But they did not know that which we do today, or have access to such information. It’s a fact the increase in cancer among black women has risen exponentially over the years, and I am equally aware that some of these women may never have used a relaxer on their hair; however I am speaking to those who do, as I have been asked to share.

I have also noticed that a vast majority of my female elders now wear their hair natural, with no chemical processing. When I asked for their reasoning behind it, it was on two levels, one was for health reasons especially if they are taking medication, and the other was because they enjoy their natural hair and the choices they are presented with. Do you know what is crazy? When Elizabeth Taylor played the role of Cleopatra and wore her hair in plaits it was acceptable, when Bo Derek wore her hair in plaits in the film 10, it was not only acceptable but also fashionable. When Pattie Boulaye singer who came to prominence in the 70’s through the show New Faces, she wore her hair in plaits and was considered exotic!

My second reasoning as to my why, clearly was my way of thinking, not because I wanted to emulate the European standard of beauty, but because I was told it was an easier way to manage my hair, which makes me ask the ludicrous question, what does managing my hair mean? As I regained my senses and way of thinking, from my hair raising burning experience, and with the guidance of a still small voice asking me a very pertinent question, ‘if you would not put these chemicals on your face, why put them on your hair’? The answer was not that it was convenient or easier, but on some level it was acceptable.

Acceptable to a society that wants to define who I am, how I should wear my hair, and who I should be as a black woman, but at what cost, physically and emotionally? I went on holiday to France years ago and was staying at my friends gîte, the sun was blazing, I had a shower, washed and conditioned my hair, I decided to air dry my hair, I ended up with the most sexiest afro because of the heat, with the added protection from the sun, it brought me back to my youth, my heritage, my hair.

Do your own due diligence with the links provided, , plus there are lots of hairdressers out there who offer alternatives to chemical based relaxers, this is not a ‘do as I do’, more a, I was asked to share the information and I care enough about my fellow sisters to do so. Ultimately it’s your choice, it’s your hair.

I have updated this post as a result of being contacted by  they reached out as a result of this blog post.  Their article speaks about hair-discrimination, just when I thought I had heard it all!  I mean what gives anyone the right to suggest they know not only what ‘looks better’ but also decide ‘what is acceptable’.  I read their article and was gobsmacked… the link is posted above with regards to hair discrimination. Have you experienced this treatment?

Just remember you are beautiful, you are unique…

Let's keep the conversation flowing - thanks for sharing!