April 1st was the kickoff of Curls of Joy's "Know Your Hair, Love Your Hair" Challenge (http://curlsofjoy.blogspot.com) and I decided to participate. This was right on time, coinciding with my own personal challenge, which I titled my "Healthy Growth & Length Retention Challenge", which I began on March 2nd.
My overall goal is to achieve growth/length retention and overall healthy hair. I want to learn more about my hair and truly become more acquainted with it, learning what the best methods and products are for it. And last, but certainly not least, I want to go back to enjoying my natural hair journey, as I did...well, even more than I did, in the earlier days of the journey. As a part of my "dual challenge", I'll be tracking my progress through pictures, keeping a hair diary, and blogging.
Now, some of you may be wondering why I'm saying I need to get more acquainted with my hair, after all these years of being natural. (I was back and forth between natural and relaxed hair since 1999 or 2000. I've been relaxer-free since 2004 (except for that brief stint with a texturizer in '07), and publicly natural since 2007). "So, shouldn't you know your hair and how to handle it by now?" you may ask.
Well, I've discovered (and I'm sure many of you have, as well) that as our natural hair grows, much like a child, it goes through different phases, demanding different treatment, different products, and different methods in each phase, taking on its own personality, often misbehaving, not doing what you want it to do, trying to get its own way. You love it, because it's yours, but...well...sometimes, you enjoy the journey and sometimes you don't. But, the more you get to know it and what makes it tick, the better you're able to gauge exactly what you need to do to keep it in line and make it respect and obey you. And ultimately, you want to find that "happy medium", where you're both happy and have a drama-free relationship. That's what I want!
I felt I needed to do these hair challenges, because I had reached a crossroad with my hair. It was getting thicker and fuller, and that's great! I'm very grateful to have a head full of hair. But it didn't seem to be growing as long as I thought it should be. And it was becoming harder to manage.
It's interesting that I really took notice of the lack of (visible) growth when a male cousin of mine mentioned (in late 2010) that I had been wearing twists ("these things", as he called them) for a while, and that it seemed like my hair should've been alot longer by then. I say "visible" growth, because, as many of us naturals have noticed, we often experience significant shrinkage (when the hair draws up, appearing much shorter than it actually is). Anyway, I explained the shrinkage issue to my cousin, but I really had to think about it myself after that...why isn't my hair longer by now?
I'm not saying that my hair wasn't growing at all, because it was, but it just wasn't as visible or happening as fast as I thought it should have. Granted, a lot of things have happened in the past couple of years that may have affected the state and wellness of my hair...long bouts of unemployment and/or underemployment, financial difficulties, deaths in my family, minor yet relevant health issues, relocation, disappointments, etc... These things may have affected its growth...I don't know. I did have some breakage over a year ago, but only in the top/crown of my head (something I've mentioned in previous blog posts that occurred during stressful times in my life), but as I mentioned above, my hair has continued to grow thicker and fuller.
I digress. Sorry! Back to my pre-challenge issues...I cut my hair in early 2011, because of all the knotting on the ends. And for the past several months, I found myself having to trim my ends every three or four weeks, because of knotting and raggedy ends. I was also having a really hard time combing through my hair, unless it was wet. It seemed that no matter how much I trimmed my ends, they kept knotting up. Obviously, with all of that trimming, my hair didn't have much chance to show its growth. In addition to these issues, after washing my hair, when it dried, it often felt hard and rough, especially if I wore it loose, in an afro.
A couple of months ago, I sought the advice of a couple of well-known natural hair experts, as well as reading natural hair blogs regarding the issues I was having, and watching YouTube videos. I'll include the advice/new knowledge I received and details about products and methods in separate posts, as I track my progress. But, I will say, the new-found wisdom I received has made a tremendous difference and has made maintenance of my hair much less of a headache. Stay tuned! :-)