For as long as I can remember, I have always chemically processed my hair. There are some African-American women, that I know, that have always and may still prefer this process. Each individual has their own personal reason of why they use chemicals to straighten their hair.
This question has been brought to mind many times. Why straighten? Some say it looks better, more presentable, lasts longer than heated straightening, it’s easier to manage or many have just adapted themselves to it — a social norm they never really thought about.
Back in 2004 I remember keeping my hair braided for a little over a year. So when I took my braids out I had the tightest and thickest afro. A form I hadn’t seen in years.
Surprising? Yes. With so many years using chemicals, I had forgotten what it was like to have super thick kinky hair. I loved it. It was new to me.
But what I didn’t love was that the look just didn’t appeal to me. I felt it looked unkept. But of course I felt that way because historically and socially speaking it was actually considered unkept.
I was concerned my hair styling choices were limited if I were to leave it that way. For me it was either wear an afro or put two big braids in it. It was so thick that I couldn’t even pull it back into a ponytail. But my biggest concern was what other people might think.
After much hesitation and even after thinking about my journey to grow out my natural texture, once again, I “permed” it. Big deal? You bet. Because just like dreadlocks, when a person wants to go back to their natural hair from a chemical straighten, they have to start over.
The thing about these chemical perms for those who don’t know: It can be damaging if you don’t know what you’re doing. Chemical straightening strips the cuticle of your hair, which increases hair fall and makes it difficult to grow longer hair.
Present day, my last chemical straighten was three months short of a year ago. I have grown to love and appreciate my natural hair.
Admittedly, I still do not know what I will do with it after these braids come down. In the meantime it is exciting to think about.
D’Nieka Hartsfield writes for Clovis News Journal and Portales News-Tribune. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Facebook.