How Protective Styling Helped Me Love My Hair
A few weeks ago, I posted a story of my hair on Instagram. I was wearing an afro-puff on the side with curls popping out and the texture fine as hell (I’m a 4A-4B). Yes, my hair was particularly beautiful that day, especially since I’ve changed my hair regimen recently. I’ve received a ton of messages telling me how beautiful my hair is. With the most common question asked, “Why are you not wearing your hair like this more often?”
I don’t wear my hair without braids very often. It’s not because I don’t like it. It’s even the opposite. I’ve learned to love it since I went natural, nearly eight years ago. With ups and downs, bad decisions, and a lot of tested products before I found the brand I love. Shea Moisture became my go-to brand for my hair, switching products within the brand and sometimes cheating with other brands when I needed to change it up. But in ten years, the market has grown so much with so many new brands launching that it would be too overwhelming and challenging to try every single product coming out every other month.
However, the real reason I’m not testing as many products as I used to do when I started my hair journey is that I wanted to take a break. It became exhausting to try out new products that I didn’t know would work for my hair. When you sometimes spend 20 euros to buy one product, and it doesn’t fit, it is irritating and costly. I preferred to stick with a brand I knew would work on me anyway.
I learned to braid my hair as soon as I started to go natural because I knew it would be something beneficial during the winter, bad hair days, or vacation, and because afro hair salons can be expensive as hell. Thanks to all the great Youtubers who taught me. From the pre-poo technique, to how to twist correctly, to the importance of sleeping with a scarf. I learned so much, including how to braid. I don’t count the time spent watching videos at night, just before bed, or in the morning trying to find new “easy” hairstyles to do. Finally, knowing all those tips became my savior.
In all these years dealing with (and not dealing with) my natural hair, I’ve concluded: as a black woman, the state of my natural hair is directly linked to my mental health. How many times I’ve dealt with crying in the morning because the hairstyles I wanted to wear did not fit like the way I imagined in my head? And how many times I was late for a meeting because I was still doing my hair and not happy with the result? How many times, I came back home with a different hairstyle because my hair has inflated because of humidity? I was talking with a (black) friend recently who told me she feels the same. I was wondering maybe because we attach too much importance to the aesthetics, or perhaps because society never showed us that our hair could be beautiful without having sophisticated hairstyles? Maybe. But it also a real thing: “bad hair day” is not just about aesthetics, but it’s also psychological. In 2001, Yale University concluded to the fact that a “bad hair day” can hurt the self-esteem profoundly. I invited a psychologist in my podcast, “Miroir, miroir” where I try to deconstruct myth about representation, body, and beauty — she came to that same conclusion. The way we see our hair can affect profoundly the way we are going to move and act during the day, it’s more than “just hair” she said, it’s the representation of ourselves.
I don’t have the time I want and need to focus on my hair every single day. That’s a fact. Every night out. At every sleepover at my boyfriend’s. On every vacation. It’s exhausting mentally. So for me, wearing braids and playing with all the different hairstyles I can wear every three weeks with fake hair, has helped me a lot. Less more questioning in front of the mirror, wondering if I look okay, and way fewer delays because I couldn’t deal with my hair.
I love wearing cornrows, box braids, faux-locks, changing lengths, and colors because I can. It also became a self-care moment when I take off my braids because it’s a day where I watch movies and series, doing my hair care routine — a day when I take care of my hair. With bath oils and a mask, seeing growth, or realize that it’s time to cut off the breaks. I love this #haircareday because it’s also a day when I rest off. Mentally. Physically. And I don’t care anymore about how my hair looks. But more about how healthy it is and what is going to be my next hairstyle. Create my ritual makes me happy and mentally sane.
My hair is like any relationship I have, it takes time to find the right balance between giving and receiving, but when you catch it, it’s something worth the journey. I can say it now: I’ve learned to love my hair for the best, but the journey continues.
Image: Cyril Marcilhacy
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