First published in 2012
Thus marks year two of my dreadlocks. Taking charge of my own hair; cleaving myself from a lifetime of hairdressers and salons and eschewing hair straighteners is, without doubt, the best decision I could have made regarding my hair.
In these two years I’ve been free of weaves, braids and I have gently cultured my hair into thin dreadlocks. I’ve cared for my mane using Head and Shoulders shampoo, available at any supermarket and at a fraction of the price of specialist Afro hair products.
While many people choose to go to professionals to begin and maintain their dreadlocks, to me the true definition of “going natural” has been breaking free of the bond to hairdressers and products. No longer do I have to sit in queues on a Saturday afternoon, shudder at the price of a retouch and try neither to weep nor scream when I catch sight of yet another hair disaster in the salon mirror. In over two years I’ve not had to sit in an under ventilated cubicle, jammed between the legs of an underpaid young woman for two days for reed thin braids that will perfectly imitate long hair. These would last but for two months, after which the slow agonising process of unravelling hundreds of these braids would begin.
Now, not only I am no longer subject to the moods, skill and salary of a hairdresser, but also I’m free from the perpetual quest for that ideal hair product; the non-oily moisturiser, the relaxer that doesn’t burn or the ultimate cure for dandruff. Standing in the chemist pondering the newest line of hair products and their price is a thing of the past. The hunt is over for silk hair caps and ties, the perfect human hair, heat protection serum and list of items too dull to name.
Above all, I have finally achieved the dream of wash-and-go hair. My hair does not dictate showers, swimming, exercise, and very importantly here in Finland, my hair will never be an excuse for avoiding the sauna.
Thus I have come to a revised definition of “natural hair” as not just the absence of hair straightening but the nurturing of a new perspective of Afro hair and its politics and psychology. Natural hair as I have redefined it is not for everyone. To some women the weekly trips to the salon are a rite of womanhood – like cosmetics – and beauty is not about ease and freedom. Thus even un-straightened hair must be complex, fussed about and costly.
After two years of ‘being my own boss,’ my hair is shoulder length and my hairline perfectly intact. During this period I don’t recall seeing a flake of dandruff, chasing a persistent itch or having to dab at sores or wounds.
In summary, the true meaning of natural hair is freedom.