if I had To sing just one Beyonce song for the rest of my life, that would be “I like my baby heir with hair and afros.” “From formation

My 15-year-old self was on her way to celebrate her own thi when the song was released.rd The birthday of natural hair was completely sunk by the results of a combination of poor capillary management skills and questionable products. Of course, Queen B gave me a much needed confidence boost.

The truth is, I’ve never had my kinky hair straightened for so long. I used relaxers (ie harsh chemicals that straighten curls irreversibly) throughout my childhood and only stopped when the accumulated breakage was too much to handle.

My mom and I tried every damage control strategy we could think of, from eliminating the use of relaxers to reducing processing time. And yet, my hair wasn’t growing.

I reached peak unhealthy hair growth in 8th. grade, when we finally decided to take a leisurely pause. My mom cut my hair down to its natural roots so I could grow it back with a healthy foundation, especially since my plan was to introduce the new generation of harmless relaxers after a while. Have to try.

Me in eighth grade, on the left. My hair was very thin and fighting for its life. On the right is me in ninth grade, a few months after getting rid of my damaged hair and wearing a protective hairstyle.

Photo courtesy of Cara Doumbe Kingue

My desire to relax my hair again wasn’t rooted in the fact that I disliked my curls. Thankfully, I grew up in a family that has a sane relationship with natural hair. My problem was that I was chasing a certain aesthetic.

These girls were absolute goals. Little did I know it was inaccessible.

I didn’t want to look exactly like my other straight-haired classmates. I wanted to look like the stylish (but unfortunately often overlooked) black girl in all those TV shows and movies. I wasn’t confident as a teenager, and I felt that “fitting” the beauty standards most prominent in my community would help me.

Since I didn’t have loose curls and I wasn’t old enough to wear, in my mother’s eyes, my only solution was to find a way to properly handle and style my hair. Even if that meant being a guinea pig for some chemically engineered product.

But my mind started to change when a group of boys at my school started making fun of some of the hairstyles my mother had created to help protect my hair. I was struggling to keep my head up whenever I wore braided styles – which ironically became a trend among white social media influencers just a few years later.

I needed some representation to empower myself, and that led me to learn more about the “nappy” wave, the French version of the natural hair movement whose portmanteau is “natural” and “happy.” came from

To me, there was nothing like seeing confident black women with their natural hair in whatever style they wanted without second-guessing themselves. Inspired by them, I found my new aesthetic: freedom.

Fatou N’diaye, also known online as Black Beauty Bag, was among the bloggers who played a huge role in my natural hair journey.

However, it was not an easy road in its beginning. I wanted the Afro of Inna Modja (a French singer) and Solange Knowles, the braid sport of my ancestors, and the product lines of my favorite bloggers. All this while still learning new habits, having never dealt with the texture of my “real” hair myself.

Facing the mirror for hours to get something out of my hair sometimes leaves me frustrated, often tired, but never embarrassed. Especially not when Beyonce was reminding me to be proud of my heritage.

With more maturity, I learned how to style my hair, and from there it became my playground, my unique way of expressing myself.

Whether It'S In Its Natural State In A Certain Style (Left) Or In Between Making Two Braids (Middle), I Finally Learned How To Enjoy My Hair To The Fullest.  However, Every Now And Then And For Fun, I Find A Wig To Completely Change My Aesthetic… But This Time Without The Chemicals.
Whether it’s in its natural state in a certain style (left) or in between making two braids (middle), I finally learned how to enjoy my hair to the fullest. However, every now and then and for fun, I find a wig to completely change my aesthetic… but this time without the chemicals.

Photo courtesy of Cara Doumbe Kingue

Recently, while shopping for products at my usual beauty supply store, I began to wonder if I might have hair. ever It looked like it was advertised on the resting boxes. Felt something. Perhaps the fact that I always saw good results with other hair care methods.

Twitter was quick to give me a response, and one I didn’t expect: the girls I dreamed about always had natural hair and literally only had silk presses. It’s a simple blow-drying method that my mom knew and could have prevented years of chemical use.

The whole thread explains everything.

And the tweet below was one of many “hair revelations,” with some in the comments wondering if a lawsuit might follow.

Needless to say, I felt disgusted.

There are many reasons to wear relaxer styling, and I would never judge those who prefer it as their main method of hair management, but there is no denying it. Maybe many people who used Casual were just looking for it. Advertised results.

It’s not a rare experience among women to happily use potentially harmful products to achieve a certain look (you have to suffer to be beautiful, they say), but when it comes to the predominantly black When it comes to cosmetics used by women, the lack of oversight is astounding.

You may wonder if relaxers are that bad if, like in my case, you only have to cut your relaxed hair when it gets too damaged.

But We do not yet know the extent of the damage. There are some indications, such as higher rates of alopecia in black women, and some recent studies show that. Increased risk Development of uterine c*ncer, for example, while using them. But that’s about it.

Not only have entire generations been troubled by relaxants, but their use can also inadvertently cause (or develop) health problems.

I ask myself if, as a black woman, you can really be free from your hair when some businesses decide to lie, when there is a lack of studies on the long-term effects of hair products and When society is still struggling to define a healthy relationship with a woman. beauty

Despite stopping relaxers about 10 years ago, I can’t help but feel uneasy when I think back to those “hair-ruining” years of my life.

I would never blame a kid, then a teenager, who saw nothing wrong with blindly using questionable products to look “cool”, but I think more transparency, more representation and With more information, I would have made a choice other than resting. my hair

And, unfortunately, I’m not the only black woman who feels this way.

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