My hair- a memoir (plus tips on achieving happy hair)

This is a very personal account of my journey to hair self acceptance. My purpose of this post is not to tell anyone how they should maintain their hair. Rather, I hope that it will remind you to love and accept your hair the way it grows, and that you will find my tips helpful.

 

“You have such beautiful hair!”             

“What products did you use on your eyebrows?”

“Your eyelashes are so long!”         

“Your hair is naturally straight, it must be so easy to take care of.”

 

I have always had a complicated relationship with my hair. As you can see, I have a lot of it. And as a woman in the modern world, I am constantly being bombarded with advertisements for a million and one products to remove, grow, improve, maintain, love, and hate my hair. I remember seven-year-old Dagny, eyes heavy at 5:30 am, struggling to sit up as mom secures her hair into a ballet bun before she had to go to work. She was still too young to do it herself. I remember eight-year-old Dagny, tucking her legs under the subway seat on a hot summer day. She was wearing shorts, and was embarrassed about her dark black hair on her pale skin. I remember twelve-year-old Dagny taking out her ballet bun in geometry. Shaking her head in relief as her teacher asked: “Wow, you really need all of those pins to keep your hair up?” Her curly-haired friends next to her only needed a fraction of the ones she used. I remember thirteen-year-old Dagny, sitting patiently in a chair, finally experiencing the moment she had been waiting for all her life- for her eyebrows to be tamed. With every small prick, with every hair Juan removed, she was one step closer to being happier when looking in the mirror. He was her personal fairy god mother, delivering something much more meaningful and lasting than a dress. I blocked out the age I was finally allowed to shave, but I do remember promising to allow my daughter to do it as early as she wanted. My next major hair event would come years later, after growing my hair to hipbone length. At nineteen, I decided to donate nearly two feet of hair. My hair was sectioned into four parts, and I almost cried as the first one was cut. With that cut, I released years of bobby pin abuse, and found new sense of “me” without a protective blanket of hair around me. The first night I washed my now shoulder-grazing hair was a liberating moment. I never washed my hair so quickly before. At twenty-one I am now back to hipbone length hair, and I have discovered threading. I can now joke about not having to use products on my eyebrows, and I feel comfortable without mascara. Accepting what my body does naturally took years of embarrassment and self-loathing. Coming from a mixed heritage background, my Asian mother simply never understood how to help me with maintenance, as I clearly inherited my hair pattern from my European/Jewish father. Save for my straight, black texture she simply could not relate to me, or to my feelings of insecurity. Cutting off most of my hair gave me a chance to start over, to learn to be gentle and patient with my hair. I hope my story reminds you to be more gentle with yours.

 

Easy hair care tips

Stop being mad at your hair.
Your hair texture is perfect the way it is. And yes, it is natural to be covered in hair no matter how many razor commercials are trying to convince you otherwise. In order to achieve beautiful looking hair, understanding your personal hair needs is imperative.

Be gentle.
Pulling, tugging, and yanking have no place in a healthy hair care regimen. Avoid harsh chemicals and pulling on your hair at every level of care.

Ditch heat.
Try to avoid heat styling as much as possible. The more you damage your hair with heat tools, the more you will think you need them to make your hair “look good,” and you will be stuck in a damaging cycle.

Get rid of harsh chemicals.
Read ingredients lists, knowing that the list goes from highest to lowest concentration. Familiarize yourself with controversial chemicals. Lastly, try to treat the problem instead of masking it. For example, try using a hot oil treatment for frizz-free hair instead of taming fly-aways with silicones.

Less is more.
While it may sound unthinkable to some, washing your hair less is very important for hair health. Your natural oils nourish your hair better than any product, and mechanical/ frictional damage can occur from over washing. While it may take an adjustment period, your body will eventually realize its oils are not being stripped away constantly, and it will stop overproducing oil.

Rethink your pillowcases.
If you are lucky, you will spend about eight hours asleep every night. That’s about one-third of your life! That is a lot of time for your hair to make contact with your pillowcases, so it is important that you try to swap out your (moisture sucking) cotton pillowcases for satin or silk pillowcases. They can be found online or at discount stores such as T.J. Maxx. These pillowcases will allow your hair to glide with less friction, therefore reducing damage. At the very least, make a loose braid. Never tie your hair too tightly to sleep or you can do more harm than good.

Nourish from the inside out.
Healthy hair is low on your body’s priority list. All other vital metabolic reactions will happen before you grow healthy hair so make sure your diet is full of whole, fresh foods.

Be patient.
Hair grows at an average of 0.5 inches a month. In order to see growth, maintaining a good moisture/ protein balance will help prevent split ends, and therefore you will need fewer trims. (And no, trimming your hair does not make it grow faster, more on this on a later post).

I wish you a peaceful hair journey!

 

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