Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Cycles of Damage

After wearing my hair (publically) natural for over four years now, it’s hard to even imagine not being natural.  But, I have to say, it took a lot for me to get to this point.  For several years, before I took the “natural plunge”, I often admired natural hairstyles that I saw other people (both females and males) rockin’.  I wanted to go natural, over ten years ago, but every time I planned to do it, I’d find some reason not to.

I remember, about a decade ago, a male coworker friend and I had both planned to start loc’ing our hair together.  He was growing his fro’ out and I think I was wearing braids at the time, with my natural and/or transitioning hair underneath.  We had planned on calling up a loctitian and scheduling an appointment to get our starter locs.  But, every time, we chickened out.  He’d get his fro cut down to a low fade and I’d either get my hair braided again or go back to the perm.

With all that wishy-washy stuff, eventually, the ultimate decision basically was made for my own hair, through recurring cycles of hair damage.  It was as if my hair was saying, “Alright!  Enough of this madness!  No more relaxers!  I’m not putting up with this anymore!  Get off the creamy crack, Yo!”

For me, the cycles of hair damage began around 1994, when I was in my early 20’s.  In hindsight, I can tie many of the cycles of hair damage to life-changing experiences.  As my life went through transitions, so did my hair.

I began experiencing breakage in the top, or crown, of my head.  Somebody told me that was the “nerve spot”, where the hair is affected by stress.  Well, that was easy to explain.  I was extremely stressed out, working on a job I absolutely hated! 

When the breakage wouldn’t seem to stop, I had my hair cut short, to let the hair to grow out the same length all over.  Relief finally came when I changed jobs later that year.  (Whew!  Thank ya, Lord!)  The funny thing is, the new job was, literally, right across the street from the old one AND I actually took a $4,000 cut in pay just to get outta that place!  Now, I know some people might think taking that much of a pay cut is crazy, but...if I hadn’t left that job...oooohhh!!!  Let’s just say, I needed to do that to keep my sanity!  And I can honestly say, to this day, I have absolutely NO regrets about making that move.

I’m not saying that the job was THE sole source of my stress (knowing the person I was back then, there was probably something else going on with me), but making that transition definitely did some good.  Not only did my hair grow back, but my skin cleared up, my demeanor and attitude improved (I may have still been somewhat of a drama queen back then, but I was so much more pleasant to be around...well, at least I think I was.  Hmmm, might have to ask some of the people who were around me then.)  AND I lost 50 pounds!  (Being all stressed out on that other job, I had regained all but 13 of the 35 to 40 pounds I had lost a couple of years earlier.)  But, most important of all, I had PEACE OF MIND...priceless!  Now, that’s when I got a true revelation that money ain’t everything.  And on top of that, I didn’t miss a beat financially.  God had my back!

Problem solved, right?  Yeah, for a while.  Even though my hair-breakage issue did seem to go away then, I did eventually go through those cycles of damage again in later years and several times.

I shared that experience to demonstrate that although the “creamy crack” (chemical relaxer) can often be the primary culprit of hair damage, it may not always be the ONLY factor.  Stress, as well as diet, also play key roles in the health of our hair, whether natural, relaxed, or somewhere in between.  We, naturalistas and transitionistas, can be sittin’ up here with totally chemical-free hair and still experience the same type of breakage (I’m speaking from experience).

Whether we’re experiencing damage/breakage or not, I believe we should occasionally take time to evaluate our lives and ask ourselves:
  • How well do I manage the stress in my life?
  • What do I need to change?  What can I do to eliminate the stressors in my life?
  • How is my diet?  Am I cultivating my temple (my body) with healthy life-giving foods or am I stuffing it with a bunch of junk and poisonous substances?
  • Am I drinking enough water?  (Our bodies are made mostly of water, so we need to make sure we are well hydrated.  And yes, not drinking enough water can affect our hair.)

Let’s love our bodies and love our hair by not only putting healthy things in them, but also by eliminating the negativity, stress, and drama from our lives.  You know what they say, “Garbage in, garbage out!”  Let’s get the garbage out of our lives.

Let’s also try to find better ways to deal with unavoidable stress, such as not giving in to negative emotions, not caving in to emotional eating, not allowing negativity and words of “doom and gloom” to come out of our mouths, and most importantly, learning to cast our cares upon the Lord (I Peter 5:7) and PRAY!  PRAY!  PRAY! (I Thes. 5-17)

I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to comment.  Have you experienced this type of “stress damage”?
Also feel free to drop me a line via email ( for suggestions on topics you’d like me to cover in the future.

(Contains excerpts from "TranZitions: Revelations on My Journey to Natural Hair and Freedom" by Y. T. Jones)