I first realized this when I was 20 years old.
There I was a pregnant college student, miles away from my mother’s expert hair regimen and too broke to redo my braids, staring at my natural hair in the mirror.
I didn’t have the slightest clue.
See, I wasn’t one of those girls who grew up knowing how to do hair. I didn’t have little sisters to practice on and the neighborhood grandma didn’t show me the secrets of perfect cornrolls. Nope I had a much different upbringing… my dad sold hair products. In other words, my dad sold beauty by way of chemicals.
He sold everything. He literally was a walking Sally’s Beauty Supply.
Any product, tool or hairdresser I wanted – I could have. My dad made sure his only daughter looked good (at least hair-wise) and my mother also obliged. When I left for college, I didn’t realize how much of a change it would be for me to lose that access.
Freshman year started off fine. I joined the ranks of the collegiate with a relaxer in a majority white school. By Thanksgiving I realized I hadn’t thought that through very well.. No car, no nearby black beauticians, and a conviction of ‘never give yourself a home relaxer’ left me desperate for a solution.
By November, I found the one black girl that did relaxers on campus… and let her give me a home relaxer in her tiny dorm room. (No, she didn’t have a license…)
Luckily my hair did not fall out, but after 6 months of hoping she’d make time to do my hair, I was through.
Summer break mom braided me up, and I transferred schools to a more diverse city and school.
Rocking the yarn braids, I was able to stay cute for about 6 months.. Pushing the limit as long as I could. Then the unthinkable happened. I got pregnant, and my hair was totally in need of some attention. (How was I going to spend $100 on my hair when I have a baby on the way??)
So, during the two month period when I
- Dealt with morning sickness
- Knew it was time to take my braids out and
- Tried not to fail my classes
I came across an article that suggested pregnant women not dye their hair. It was similar to this article about hair dye. The article suggested that the chemicals in hair dye are absorbed into the skin and possibly exposed to the fetus. For me, “possibly” was reason enough to avoid chemicals in my hair at all. Then the next realization popped in my brain.
If this article was for white women dying their hair, what about black women and relaxers??
I felt sick. As I stared in the mirror at the inches of new growth beneath my braids, I knew I wasn’t going to put another chemical in my hair.. at least not while I was growing a baby.
And so it began… for the next year I kept my hair natural, getting sew-ins or braids put in whenever I could afford to. My dad hated it and would often cringe. He was careful not to invoke my pregnant wrath though:
“You know, I could get someone to do your hair..”
“Do they braid?”
“You know I don’t deal with that sweety..”
“Hmm. No thanks”
I was not selling out my baby for a cute ‘relaxed’ style. Last I checked, my hair was a part of my body, and my daughter was depending on me to keep it clean.