Some of my earliest memories take place in a Black beauty supply shop. Memories that live through my senses; the sweet smells of chemicals, the stringy feel of the alleged 100% human hair extensions. But what’s most present in my mind’s eye are the beaming smiles of the beautiful Black women and girls on relaxer, butters, oils and pomade packaging. The beauty, while in their faces too, was in their hair. Long, shiny, straight, healthy looking strands of hair that were a vessel to their joy.
My hair never looked like theirs, as much as I tried, so I thought I had problem hair. As if to preempt my disappointment, there were products that promised a solution that could fix it. I used moisturisers and oils to offset the dryness, sprays for body and movement. I used shampoos and conditioners sparsely in order to maintain the moisture that they were said to strip.
Eventually, I decided to go natural to undo the damage caused by years of relaxers and tight braids and weaves. Again, I looked to beautiful curly haired Black women, but this time on YouTube. They adopted holistic approaches to natural hair care, ones that seemed to free them from the chemicals of the beauty supply shop and direct them towards nature.