Friday, May 23, 2014

Manufactured Self Loathing: How It Connects To You


I often find myself on what I like to call, "Google tangents."  Google tangents are when I sit at my computer or laptop and Google anything of interest or that makes me curious.  I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person that does this in today's world of free WiFi and smart phones, so I'm pretty sure you all know how starting one Google search leads to another and another and another, which is why they become "tangents" in my book.  By the end of any one of these, I almost always feel like I've gained a couple bachelor's degrees from learning so much on one subject.  It was on one of these Google tangents that I was recently exposed to the phrase, "manufactured self-loathing."

Pretty self-explanatory, manufactured self-loathing refers to the feelings of inadequacy consumers are often faced with when exposed to advertising.  This can be associated with any product, but the beauty industry is the biggest source of these toxic emotions in my opinion.  If there was no such thing as eye liner, how many women do you honestly think would feel like their eyes were lacking "depth" or weren't "interesting" enough?  If the hair relaxer or flat iron had never been invented, would the majority of women of color still feel that the only "acceptable" way to wear their hair is stick straight?  Without advertisements for skin bleaching creams, how many dark skinned people would actively seek a way to remove layers and layers of pigment?

So how does this concept of manufactured self loathing - advertisers and product manufacturers convincing people they genuinely need their products or services when they don't - have anything to do with the natural hair movement?  Well, I would argue that there would be no need for a natural hair movement in the first place if we had never been convinced to dislike our natural feature of Afro textured hair.  So many of us have been conditioned to automatically dislike or even despise many of our natural features, we don't even question it.  "What are you going to do with that mess on your head?"  "Did you mean for your hair to look like that?"  "Why would you want to have nappy hair?"  We have these hurtful, disrespectful, and thoughtless comments hurled our way so often, all it takes is a quick Google search for "How to deal with natural hair haters," for lists of tips from women who are forced to endure it on a regular basis.  How long are we going to put up with this?  How long are we going bite our tongues when our friends, mothers, sisters, doctors, and television ads tell us we are less than, or not as beautiful as our non black counterparts?

I was inspired to write this post because I'd like to give my readers some food for thought in the hope that a simple message will resonate and be shared so we might see some change in the way we see ourselves.  YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, NATURALLY!  ONLY YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IT TO MAKE IT TRUE!  It doesn't matter what some TV ad said about that new straightening system.  Why do you need to straighten your hair in the first place?  Is there something wrong with how Mother Nature made your curls and kinks?  Personally, I believe every person on the planet was divinely made, so to say there is something wrong with our construction is blasphemous and I'm not even a Christian.  Appreciate your beauty.  Don't fall into the trap of believing there is anything wrong with you that can be fixed with a purchase off a store shelf.  Love ALL of yourself.

With that being said, what do you all think about this topic.  Is manufactured self loathing real, or not something to be concerned about?  Have you realized anything you believe about yourself is a result of this phenomenon?  Leave your thoughts below. :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Texture Discrimination?? Or Defeatist Mindset??


Okay y'all.  If you follow any of the popular natural hair blogs, I'm sure you've heard by now about the video titled, "So Over The Natural Community & Texture Discrimination," by popular YouTuber Jouelzy.  Essentially, Jouelzy is arguing that YouTube content creators with a kinkier hair texture will never be as popular as YouTubers with looser textures because that is what the majority of those in the natural hair community prefer to look to for information and inspiration.  From what I was able to gather, Jouelzy feels like she should be more of a household name in the community because of the size of her subscriber base and the quality of the content she produces.  On one hand, I can understand that.

I am a YouTube content creator myself, so I understand how frustrating it can be when you spend three and half hours shooting and reshooting footage for a video, then another three sitting in front of your computer or laptop cutting and rearranging tracks, adding background music, voice overs, picture in picture effects, captions, and not to mention creating custom thumbnail images in an entirely different program, just to watch it sit on the internet and get an average of 20 views a month.  That can be seriously disheartening.  And one can't help but to wonder what the reason for the seemingly disinterested audience might be.

But there is a fundamental part of her argument that I can't help but take issue with.  By arguing that she isn't as popular as she feels she deserves to be because of her hair texture, Jouelzy comes off a bit defeatist to me.  There seems to be an underlying assumption that people are intentionally avoiding videos that feature kinky-haired or 4c naturals.  I just don't think that's true.  It is up to the YouTuber to create content engaging and eye catching enough, and on trend with what people are searching for to be successful.  If the hot style of the month is a 3-strand-twisted-bantu-knot-out and you're posting "How To Do a Two Strand Twist" tutorials, the vast majority of natural hair-related traffic will not be seeing your video.  There is quite a bit that goes into optimizing a video for maximum views.

Besides all the technical skills it requires for one to make visually appealing videos, there is also a personality element.  To her credit, Jouelzy does address this briefly toward the end of her video.  She states that she understands that her personality may not be compatible with many people, but essentially, it shouldn't matter because of the quality of the content she makes.  To an extent, there is some truth to her statement, but I think it downplays how important it is to be able to connect with a wide range of personality types if you want to appeal to an extremely broad audience.  Jouelzy has what I would describe as an "in your face" personality.  She speaks rapidly and loudly.  Sometimes that makes it difficult for me to understand just what she is saying.  She also has no problem using profanity in her videos.  These characteristics may be why she doesn't appeal to as many people as she thinks she should.  I can't presume to know for sure, but that is my experience.  I enjoy the content she produces, but I simply can't subscribe to her because he personality is way too much for me.  I'm pretty sure there are other natural women out there who feel similarly.

Then there is also the motivation factor to consider.  People like to support YouTubers who they feel genuinely care about connecting with and providing good content for them.  If you say that the only reason you started your channel was to receive free products, people won't feel like you're posting for them, you're posting for companies.  And whether the opinions expressed in the review are honest or not, if the motivations are perceived as being dishonest, you've pretty much already shot yourself in the foot.

There have been a ton of response videos posted on YouTube since Jouelzy originally uploaded her rant, and some of the responses have lead me to think there isn't really a discrimination issue so much as there may be one of a defeatist mindself. Kinksgalore, another YouTuber, stated in her response that people don't want to see "thin, kinky hair" like she has.  I take issue with that because I, myself, have very thin kinky hair.  But I never wear weaves, wigs, or extensions of any kind, and only flat iron my hair a couple times a year.  I'm PROUD of what grows from my head and that radiates from me.  My followers don't seem to have a problem with MY thin hair.  They celebrate it along with me because I see no need to hide it, and would rather learn to work with it to make it thrive.

At the end of the day, I think we can all achieve whatever we desire to.  And if 80k+ followers aren't enough for Jouelzy, she can kindly send them my way!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Should You Seal The Strand or the Ends??


Lately I've been seeing quite a few blog posts around the internet about sealing the ends of your hair to retain moisture.  This isn't a new idea, but I was just wondering if I'm the only "Natural" that takes this advice a step further.  I always apply my sealant over the entire length of my hair, root to tip.  I may apply the oil a little lighter at the roots, but I never skip that section altogether.  I learned very early on in my Healthy Hair Journey that moisturizing products alone don't do enough for my hair unless that product is extremely thick, or designed to be a rinse out conditioner.  "Regular" leave ins and moisturizers only keep my hair soft and hydrated for a limited amount of time before the water simply evaporates from my strands.

Recently, Ouidad, owner of the Ouidad line of hair care products, stated in a panel discussion that oils do not actually seal the hair, only suffocate it.  Now, honestly I knew better.  I can still remember the physical experiment we did in first grade where we put water in a cup with some oil next to another cup containing only water, and watched for a few days as the oil-covered water stayed at the same level and the other simply evaporated.  That is why the idea of "moisturize and seal" made so much sense to when I initially learned about the method over 3 years ago.  I've had much success following this routine of water+oil, but after hearing Ouidad's remarks, I wanted to see if there was any truth to them.  So, the following wash day I did everything I normally do except seal after moisturizing.  I didn't even seal my ends.  What were the results?

SUPER dry, dull, matted hair!  Without putting that final layer of oil over the length of my hair, it didn't matter what leave in conditioner or moisturizer I used:  the hydration wouldn't stay put and the lack of lubrication from not applying my oil made tangling and matting a breeze for my strands.  Even though I pretty much knew what would happen to my hair, I wanted to experience for myself what leaving oil out of my natural hair regimen would do.  And I can honestly say I'm glad I did it.  It simply reinforced what I've learned thus far.

But, after doing this little experiment, it made me wonder if sealing the entire length of the hair strand is really necessary.  Logically speaking, the ends of the hair need to most tender, loving care because they are the oldest.  The ends of the hair emerged from the scalp longer ago than any other portion of the shaft, and accordingly have been subjected to much more wear and tear.  This is why the hair's porosity (ability to accept and retain moisture and chemicals) increases as we go down the hair shaft.  There simply aren't as many cuticle layers protecting that last inch of hair as there are at that first inch at the roots.

Knowing this, I can understand why many women choose to seal only the last few inches of their hair, but in my personal experience doing this causes two distinct issues:  1) My hair will feel softer on the ends from oil's lubrication than it will higher up on the length of my hair. 2) My hair will begin to tangle and mesh closer to the roots, while the ends stay defined.  I'm sure you can understand why this is a problem.  Who wants to walk around with soft, shiny, defined ends and rough, dull, tangled hair from mid-shaft to roots?  Certainly not I.  But every head of hair is different, so what works for me may be bad for another head and vice versa.

What do you ladies think?  Should we be sealing the entire length of our hair or just the ends?  Or should some of us be foregoing the sealing step altogether?  Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Are Naturals Too Harsh On Stylists... Or Nah??


It has been almost two years since the last time I let anyone else style my hair.  Since completing my transition, I've only gone to a professional stylist twice:  once to even up the big chop I thought I was prepared to do myself, and once for a trim.  Both times the stylist made my hair look cute, but didn't give me what I asked for.  I called the salon in advance both times to make sure that they would be able to style my hair similar to how I style it at home.  That is, stretched and moisturized, not a wash and go.  Of course, both times I was assured it would be no problem to style my hair in a stretched state because this salon was supposed to specialize in curly hair.  

Needless to say, I was given a wash and go that more closely resembled a picked out Afro than an intentionally curly style.  And the Deva Curl products used on my hair made it feel waxy and dry.  Not something I enjoyed at all.  I honestly would rather have my hair chock full of shea butter, weighed down, and stretched than "lightweight," dry, and fully shrunken.  I thought that with this salon specializing in curly textures. my almost $70.00 would be money well spent.  But apparently, it still holds true that I will have to be the only person around that actually knows how to give my hair what it needs at any given time. 

Putting the fate of my crowing glory into someone else's hands just because they say they know what to do with it is just asking for trouble.  So, it was with this fact in mind that I recently Googled natural hair salons in my area, hoping to find one that didn't just work with "curly" hair, but actual Afro-textured hair.  I found one very close to me and read up a ton of reviews for it, most of which were glowing.  So, I figured that if other naturals were having such a great experience with this establishment, they must understand the needs of natural hair and cater to that.  So I went ahead and booked myself a consultation.  I had already learned how bad it was to schedule appointments with people I had never met so I hoped to alleviate any anxiety I might still have by meeting with the woman in advance and getting a feel for who she was as a stylist.  Boy am I glad I did!

My "consultation" went so badly, I left this message in the "Contact Management" section of the website.  As a courtesy to the salon owner, I have changed the name of the salon and stylist in question for publication on the blog:

I just wanted to explain why I was dissatisfied with the service I received here in the hope that things may improve.  I have been natural for just over 3 years and have not had my hair professionally styled in almost 2.  My hair is about waist length when flat ironed and very highly textured.  I called the salon to schedule a consultation because I wanted to sit down with whoever might be doing my hair before booking an actual appointment in order to gauge her ability and mentality where natural hair was concerned.  In my experience, mindset in natural hair care makes all the difference.  
I expected to receive a confirmation phone call the day prior to my consultation, but did not.  This was my first hint that this would not be "an upscale salon experience" but I didn't let it deter me.  I arrived for my consultation and was informed I'd be meeting with [Ashley.]  She walked over to me and asked "what you havin' done?"  I informed her that I was not looking for any services, I simply wanted a consultation.  We sat at the front of the store and I asked, "So what is your philosophy on natural hair?"
She responded, "What you mean?"
I rephrased, "How do you approach natural hair?  Like, how do you handle it?"
"You mean like, what products I use," [Ashley] asked. 
At this point I was almost certain that I would not be utilizing her services, but I thought I would give her a third and final chance to impress me with her prowess.  She did not.  I went on to explain that I was looking to understand how she treated natural hair differently from chemically treated hair and she again went back to the product discussion, telling me that she uses what the salon supplies, Mizani.
I said I'd never used that particular line of hair care products, so I had no judgment on it for natural hair.  It was at this point that [Ashley] began to offend me.  She told me how "it seems like everybody is tryna be natural now."  But "with how some people's kitchens be with those naps and beady beads... some people just need to go back to the creamy crack.  Not everyone needs to be natural."  
Personally, as a natural hair advocate and aspiring cosmetologist, I was amazed she would be so flippant with a prospective client about natural hair.  I'm not sure if she picked up on my emotions, because I maintained a smile on my face through the entire conversation, but she did try to clean up her remarks slightly by telling me that it looked like I have "good hair."  Again, this is an offensive term in my eyes.  The implication was that I and some others are blessed with genetics that make our hair "good' no matter how it is treated, while for some it is the exact opposite.
I'm sure [Ashley] wasn't thinking about her statements in such cut and dry terms, but that is how they were received.  And as a hair care professional, I would think she would exercise a little more discretion and tact when talking about the hair textures of the clients she serves.  I found [Salon Name] by Googling "natural hair salons in [my area]."  I don't think women with natural hair would like to pay to have their hair taken care of by someone who disparages their texture, tells them to go back to chemically processing, and complains about her fingers hurting from dealing with such "rough" hair all day.  Rather than offer her clients education on how to properly care for their hair at home so it won't be so "rough," it seems like [Ashley] would rather laugh and ridicule.
If your salon truly does strive for five, this is a poor representation of that mentality.  I hope this comment will be taken seriously, and something will be done to impress upon all the [Salon Name] employees that how you speak and even think about the hair you are taking care of makes a huge difference in the overall experience of the client.

 I'm hoping that after reading my review, the owner of this establishment will speak to all of her employees and explain why making disparaging comments such as those I heard is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.  Part of what made me Google natural hair salons in my area in the first place was the doubt I had about whether my previous salon experiences would be repeated if I went to a different establishment.  I can't say they were  because this stylist didn't actually touch my hair (which was something I expected her to do for a consultation, but whatever) but I think they very well could have, had I not insisted on having a consultation first. 

At one point I was wondering if my insistence to be my own stylist and keep my hair out of other people's hands was over the top or irrational, but now I see that my concerns were well founded.  I'm not saying that there are no stylists in my area who are competent with natural hair, but I haven't found one yet.  And now I see just how important it is to consult with someone before letting them anywhere near my head with a comb or some scissors.  Now I know that my paranoia is well founded.  If a stylist can't pass my initial "test" or answer my questions to my satisfaction, she can't do my hair.  It's a simple as that.  If you find yourself needing or wanting a stylist for your natural crowning glory, please interview the person you are considering first.  I promise it will make a world of difference...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"I Would Rather $$Buy$$ My Fabulous..."

Who doesn't like retail therapy?  I know it's typically deemed a woman thing, but seriously.  Can all men really claim that spending money on things you want for no other reason than, "it made me feel better" is something they never do?  I don't think so.  And even though this is a blog dedicated to a decidedly feminine issue, I think in this particular instance, we can all understand the issue at hand to a certain extent.  Even the frugal among us understand retail therapy.

That's why I'm currently grappling with something said to me.  I should be able to understand it, but I'm seriously having trouble reconciling myself to accept it. The it in question is something a coworker recently said to me.  I was walking past her while she was having a conversation with someone else and revealed that she just spent $500.00 on some hair bundles and is currently waiting for them to arrive.  I was completely flabbergasted!  Flummoxed!  Amazed!  Even when I had a relaxer, as the woman in question does, I simply couldn't understand spending that kind of money for such a "shallow" reason.

I no longer think that spending money one one's self for reasons of beauty, self esteem, and self image is shallow, but where is the line drawn?  When does it go from retail therapy to exorbitant and unnecessary spending?  When I heard my coworker's plans to have this "fabulous" hair installed so she can say, "I woke up like this" on Instagram, it honestly made me sad.  I told her as politely as I could that there is no need for her to spend that kind of money on hair of all things when she has plenty of strands growing directly from hr head.  She responded that her hair "can't grow past [her] shoulders."  I'm pretty sure most of you reading this know that that isn't true.  Just about everyone has genes that allow hair to grow to at least mid back length.  Perpetually shoulder length hair is a tell tale sign of self inflicted damage!  Change your hair habits, you change your hair!  When I voiced this, I was just met with "Girl, ain't nobody got time. It takes too long."

That's why I'm having such trouble understanding the mentality that says it makes more sense to deplete my finances for someone else's hair rather than put in a little effort and grow my own for free.  You can either spend over $500.00 (because I'm sure she still has to pay for the install) and have "nice" hair for maybe a few months and have your own hair stay the same length year after year, or you can save that money and have your own hair getting longer and longer with each passing year.  I just don't understand what would make someone choose the first option other than believing that the second option isn't really possible.  It's unimaginable to me that someone would make that decision for any other reason.

But it is possible.  I'm living proof!  I was the girl with thin, damaged, broken off, shoulder length hair.  I knew nothing about proper hair care.  I thought my hair was the length it was because of my genetics, not what I was doing and NOT doing to it.  The state of one's hair, no matter how poor or desirable, is the fault/responsibility of none other than the person whose scalp it grows from.  Ladies, please don't concede defeat before you've even made an effort to improve the state of your hair.  It CAN and WILL grow as long as you'd like it to.  Just give it the treatment it needs to get there.

Review:: Cantu Argan Oil Leave In

Hair Oil: Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Good Hair = Good Hair Habits, Bad Hair = Bad Hair Habits



This post is going to be a bit of a rant, I warn you now.  If you don't like opinion posts/rants, feel free to navigate away from this page, I won't be upset. Now that we have that out of the way, lets jump right in.

It's no secret that as a general rule, black women struggle with their hair.  Length retention is almost nonexistent for many black women and stagnant length is something most of us just come to accept as a condition of our genetic predisposition.  Basically, black people don't have "good hair" genes, or so most of us have been told.  We believe that our DNA dictates that we will have short, unhealthy, dry, brittle, unattractive, undesirable hair for life and there's nothing we can do about it.  I myself can even remember telling a white classmate in middle school that I wished I had hair as long as hers, but would likely never achieve it because black hair just doesn't grow past a certain length.

Nowadays, I know better, and so do many black women but the majority of us still hold on to those misconceptions that lead us to have negative self images where our hair was concerned, and convinced us that only certain lucky black girls and mixed kids got "good" aka desirable hair.  The majority of us still believe that black hair, in its natural and unprocessed state, is only acceptable on little girls below school age.  Our little boys rarely even get the opportunity to grow their own hair, being conditioned to believe there is something wrong or inappropriate about males who allow their hair follicles to actually do what they are programmed for and produce hair.

To me, all of these things serve as a reminder of the inferiority complex ingrained in people of color the world over, since the transatlantic slave trade.  I know many people the frequent hair care blogs, forums, and websites hate when others draw connections between slavery and the current state of black hair across the African diaspora, but if the shoe fits...  We were taught that everything about us, from our skin color, hair type, facial features, spiritual practices, clothing, and even language was wrong and less than.  When these lies were internalized, the outcome was the mistreatment of not only our hair but our entire bodies, as well as a loss of knowledge for how to properly care for them.  So instead of focusing on water, aka moisture, as a key component to a healthy hair care regimen, we put excessive emphasis on greases and oil based products that actually do nothing to truly moisturize our beautiful and delicate strands, only sealing it in or out.  Instead of being patient, loving, and gentle with our hair, we manhandle it, believing that this rough treatment is necessary for our "rough," "tough," and "nappy" hair.  And to top it off, we further abuse our tresses by frying them with flat irons, blow dryers, and curling irons.

After being denied true moisture, literally ripped from our heads, and fried to oblivion, it's no wonder most women of color have very short, brittle, damaged hair.  I didn't even mention all the high tension, neglect fostering styles we like to wear that make us feel like we can go weeks, sometimes months, without doing a thing to our real strands, like cornrows, braids, weaves, and wigs.  We are so convinced that beautiful, healthy, long hair is only a matter of genetics that we completely remove the human element from the equation.  We don't want to admit that we may actually be at fault for most, if not all of our hair woes.  We want to believe that we can chronically neglect, abuse, and mistreat our hair, and still have it grow long and thrive.  Sorry to tell you, but because afro textured hair is the most delicate of all known hair types, how it is treated day in and day out will determine its health and length over time, not DNA.

Being related to someone who is of Native American, Latin, Asian, or European decent does not make an individual any better than someone who claims nothing other than Black or African ancestry.  And it certainly doesn't guarantee "pretty" or "good" or easily managed hair.  Someone may be born with an aesthetically pleasing curl pattern, but if those responsible for their hair care don't properly moisturize it, rip it when then attempt to comb, constantly fry it with hot tools, put too much tension on it from tight braided styles, and neglect it for weeks at a time, it will visually reflect all the bad treatment it receives.  That's when the more judgmental among our community take the opportunity to call someone's baby "nappy headed" or say they have "bad hair."  I'm certain most of you reading this would be surprised at the complete 180 a persons hair can do when bad practices are thrown out and replaced with good ones.  If you want good hair, employ good hair care habits.  If you think you have bad hair, take a look at how you treat it then ask yourself if it's really your hair, or its owner that's bad.