Traveling Natural: My Hair Story
I guess this post is long overdue, huh? The past month has truly been a time of reflection for me, especially pertaining to the message I want to send with this blog. From fan mail to social media comments and blogger consultations, I realized a few things:
- You want to hear ALL of my story
- You want free stuff and travel advice
- You want to figure out how to care for your natural hair and health (lupus) while traveling
Okay y'all. I hear you. I will be adding posts about how I care for my hair and health while abroad. No fancy videos but just real information on solutions to the challenges I face.
One thing I've learned while traveling with natural hair is that my hair reacts to every country differently. It's quite difficult to create a regimen when my diet, the quality of water, availability of water, humidity, and climate are constantly changing. With that said, I aim to share a post about my haircare for every country and show you new products I'm using for that specific climate and area. I hope you find it super helpful and easier to travel with your natural hair.
So I guess I'll start with my story and where I am now with my hair:
I am Puerto Rican with semi-coarse fine hair. My mother had a lot of African-American best friends and loved their versatile methods of haircare, so at six years old I was getting boxed relaxers after begging to make my hair straight like the daughters of my mother's friends. After five years of home haircare, my mom found comfort at a Dominican salon down the street that her best friend frequented.
She loved that place and swore her hair was getting healthier by the second! It seemed to be growing faster and it was certainly shinier. So my sisters and I followed suit in middle school, making weekly trips to the salon. My hair felt longer and I loved watching the new growth appear in between relaxers as proof that my hair was growing fast. We got relaxers every 3-4 months and the salon used the same tub of extra strength relaxer on every person in the salon, regardless of hair type. It wasn't until I lost some hair during chemo years later that I realized thin, flat hair wasn't healthy. However, when my hair grew back it was a texture unbeknownst to me! I hated it and couldn't wait for a relaxer again. But this time the experience was different: I didn't feel like my hair was beautiful. For three years I got relaxers every 3-4 months and noticed my thin hair was always breaking off and practically non existant in photos. Pulling my hair back tightly in a bun didn't help either. And straightening it looked awful.
So one summer I refrained from relaxers, wore my hair as a wash and go, and only pinned back the front with two bobby pins for three whole months. I hated wearing curly hair because I always had bangs (to cover my Tyra Banks forehead), so it was a process to learn to live without them.
That alone made a huge difference and I realized my previous habits were harming my hair's health. My wash and go curls grew wider and wider.
In the four years after that revelation, I decided to only relax my hair two times a year (instead of four) to retain frizz control. I saw a difference in growth but still some thinning. Then I decreased to once. Even thicker.
Then I messed it all up. Last summer I dyed my hair blonde to try something new and have more curl color definition. I loved it! Until I realized it fried my already damaged hair and I had to chop most of it off. Following the cut, I left to Costa Rica for two months without heat nor relaxers in a humid environment that only had cold showers. Shockingly, they were perfect conditions for my hair and my teeny Afro-curl puff grew fast! But my hair never quite made it that far past my shoulders. Even with some great haircuts and fast growth, I was forever a shoulder length gyal!
When I returned home February 2015, I ran to a hair salon to get it straightened and trimmed professionally so I can see how long it really did grow. The hairdresser was intimidated by my hair and gave me a blotched bowl cut. A BOWL CUT. there's not even a photo for this because I was so angry.
I had to start all over. I went home and cut off any remaining blonde hair and tried to even out the bowl, and am now here, three months later, trying to go fully natural while traveling the world.
My goal is to have curly hair past my shoulders once I figure out what my texture even is (those curl type charts are confusing but it seems like I'm a 3C or thin 4A on a dry day), be able to wash and go, as well as find the perfect twist out for my texture (none of those videos work for my hair!). To be honest, I loved my once-a-year relaxed curls. I would do it from a store bought kiddie relaxer for 10 minutes and be good for a year. It eliminated frizz and reduced shrinkage. But knowing what's in it makes me uncomfortable and I really want to live a healthier life. I hope I can stay strong as I hit my one-year mark.