I made a decision last December to embrace my curly, frizzy and typically unruly hair once and for all. After 31 years of meddling with my hair’s natural state of existence, I was finally ready to take the all-natural route.
My cultural roots are Egyptian and my hair is something of a cross between the thick frizz of African hair and the wavy-yet-smooth hair of those in the Levant – more toward the former than the latter. From a young age, I felt something was inherently wrong with my hair. As with most things in my life, when something is wrong I tend to try my utmost to set it right.
When I did leave it curly, I would have to wash it every morning because the curls would stay intact for only the day. As soon as I slept, my hair would completely lose its form and need to be re-done. But shampooing every day would quickly leave it dry and unmanageable. I would sometimes use a children’s relaxer treatment to smooth my hair and make it more controllable, particularly during the summer months.
After a lot of hesitation, last week I actually put mayonnaise in my hair on the assumption it might “add luster and vitality to dry hair”. Mayonnaise is made from oil, egg yolk and vinegar, all three of which are cited as good conditioners. Again, you have to get past the fact that you smell like a sandwich for the hour or so it is in your hair. Following a good wash and conditioning, the scent disappears.
Well, sort of.
If I left my hair completely natural – i.e. without any leave-in conditioners, serums or oils – it would look coarse and shapeless, with the odd ringlet evident only beneath a heaping mass of frizz. That would leave me a tad too dishevelled to suit my job as a research analyst or my typically shy demeanour.
I knew embracing my hair would be difficult; I had spent my entire life passionately trying to avoid my natural hair. But after the initial fright (I was actually terrified!) I’ve come to really enjoy this process of getting to know my hair for the first time and experiment with what makes it happy and sad.
A school girl growing up in Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada, I was surrounded by classmates with straight, smooth Caucasian hair. Straight, wash-and-go, blonde or brunette hair became my standard for what hair should be, and I carried that assumption through my life. It was my view that hair was best if it was straight, with the only alternative being natural, soft ringlets.
It took me years to learn how to blow dry my hair at home to avoid the expense of a hairdresser, and it never really quite looked, well, natural. It would not gracefully fall back into place after walking in the wind and the first scent of humidity would turn it into frizzy mess. Much of the time, in frustration, I would just pull my hair vigorously back into a bun.
|The dreaded blow dryer!|
This never-ending struggle finally reached its threshold last December. I was visiting my stylist for the first time in months and she said my hair had thinned a lot compared with last summer. It had fallen out a good deal in the prior months and her words were just an affirmation of something I already knew – my hair wanted, at long last, to be left alone.
From that day onward I decided I would not bring a hair dryer or iron anywhere near my hair, and I would try to put as few hair barrettes or pins in it as possible.
It took me about two months to figure out how to keep it presentable for a few days at a time to reduce the need to wash too frequently. I started exploring natural hair remedies such as using baking soda instead of shampoo, which damages curly hair if applied too often. Baking soda is a more gentle way to clean your hair and scalp. My hair has responded very well to a combination of baking soda and light shampooing.
It is quite moody when it comes to conditioning though. I need to condition my hair so that I can detangle it without too much hair loss. Conditioner also helps tame the frizz. Since my hair doesn’t respond to any product for more than a week, I try to rotate between serums, leave-in conditioners, olive oil, virgin coconut oil and a fibre paste to keep it as happy as possible.
|Oils, particularly olive, coconut and almond varieties, are great for nourishing dry hair|
I also try to deep condition my hair regularly with a variety of masks – some bought, some homemade –which, too, seem to work only intermittently. I tried Apple Cider Vinegar, highly recommended on many websites and blogs, but the scent is too putrid to justify.
A mixture of eggs and olive oil is also supposed to provide a good treatment for hair. But you are warned to rinse it out with cold water so the eggs don’t scramble. Unfortunately for me there isn’t really cold water in Dubai, so the egg did scramble and was a bit difficult to remove from my hair. Once I did manage to get it out, my hair was smoother-than-normal only for a day before it reverted back to being dry.
|Mayo is not just good on sandwiches, it is a great hair conditioner!|
I was very impressed with the results. For the entire week, my curls formed nicely with little frizz and needed very little additional hair product. It was so nice that one day a girl with similarly frizzy hair came up to me while we were waiting in line at a government office to ask what I use in my hair. She actually wanted to touch it. I doubt mayonnaise will be a magic cure for my frizz but I’ll let you know how it goes.
For my birthday dinner two weeks ago, I decided to blow dry my hair at home for the first time since December. After a six-month break from all of the aggressive styling, my hair had grown in longer, fuller and quite bouncy. Unfortunately it happened to be the most-humid day so far this summer in Dubai. By the time we reached the restaurant, my hair became frizzy and had lost the bounce. The entire night I was uncomfortable and eager to wash it and leave it curly again. I never would have imagined feeling that way six months ago.
|Too many hair products! Time to keep it simple|
What I have come to realise in the last six months is that natural, whatever that happens to be, is best. I have saved so much time and money by just accepting that my hair is going to look slightly – and sometimes considerably – different each day of the week.
It was truly liberating to discover that bad hair days are worth it if I can be totally myself. I love it that I don’t have to worry about humidity or rain or wind, and that I don’t have to plan ahead to ensure my hair is done on time for any event. In fact, I have fewer bad hair days than I ever did before, not because my hair looks glamorous, but because, for the first time, I don’t expect it to be more than it is.