How to Avoid Shrinkage

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I saw this article in one of the black hair magazines. I think Black Beauty and Hair. And it made me laugh. ’10 ways to beat shrinkage’. You can stretch your hair any which way you please but if you want to ‘beat’ shrinkage then you have to plain and simple get a relaxer and turn your hair into something that it isn’t.

This pervading narrative that we should set ourselves up in opposition against our hair – to tame it, to manage it – is just unhelpful. It’s another variation of the litany we have heard over the centuries: ‘our hair isn’t good enough as it is and we should change its natural characteristics’.

I get why people don’t like shrinkage. From a practical point of view it can introduce a lot of tangles to your hair and from an aesthetic point for view people often prefer to show off their length.

But is there a more subtle layer of complexity at play? Is this aesthetic desire to avoid shrinkage a desire to fit into dominant society’s mold and have hair that is longer and therefore more acceptable by it’s standards of beauty. Is there a sub conscious association between length and beauty? Maybe, maybe not.

But shrink is what afro hair does. And to spend time and effort trying to eliminate that characteristic and stay ‘natural’ is a fool’s errand.

Normally when I speak of such matters people claim I don’t have the right to. They invoke the ‘it’s alright for you and your good hair shit’ but my hair looks like it does because it’s moisturised and stretched and fairly long. Even I don’t know what its like to wear my hair out and come back in the evening with it looking the same way. Shrinkage is my norm.

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Supporting Black Owned Hair and Beauty businesses

Beunique Hair Care doesn’t appear to be trading anymore.

I was looking for an image to use in my wash day blog – and I got a 404.

I haven’t delved too deeply to find out why but I can only imagine that profitability and turnover came into the equation somewhere.

I started buying it about 2012/2013.

And continued to pick up some of the moisturising cream whenever I was at a hair show.  I bought it online once I had access to the paypal option.

At £18-19 a pop for~360ml it wasn’t cheap but it was a quality product worth the expenditure.

I think the bespoke product is always going to struggle with scalability and unit cost against the bigger brands.  And now that the L’Oreal’s and the Garnier’s know that there is money to be made in the natural hair business they are on that band wagon and pushing the specialist Black owned business off the road.  Their £4 per 300ml of conditioner is going to win hands down against a product that costs 3-5 times as much especially when you need to count the coins.  Even I have to be pragmatic and use a cheap conditioner before using the luxury product on clean hair sometimes.

But I try to support black owned hair businesses where I can.  I’ve bought Beunique, Root2tip, Neno Naturals, Shea moisture (before the change), Crystal  face products.  I buy my Shea butter from Shea Butter Cottage.

The holding page on the website implies that the brand will be back. Who knows how and when? But I really hope it is.

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Afro Hair – Wash Day – 6th November

 

The Products

 

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The Process

I decided to wash my hair standing up today and without a pre-poo.

So straight into the shower I go with my hair in about 6 loose plaits.

I fully saturate my hair with water and then go through each section with Neno Naturals shampoo before rinsing each section.

I leave the shower to apply the TRESemme naturals.  I undo each plait and replait with conditioner, detangling as I go.

I carry on with household business for about 2 hours before I rinse it out.

This time its head over the bath with a bowl and bucket.

T-shirt on the head for about 30minutes before undoing the plaits and working in the Manoi oil leave-in.

I left these to dry for a day and a half before re-moisturising with Beunique’s moisturising custard and banding my hair in about 19 sections.

 

My hair banded up with an old pair of tights

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These (above) lasted a week, I moisturized the ends with Beunique Moisturising custard throughout the week.  I then undid them (below).

 

 Stretched Afro hair with banding after a week

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I was planning to fluff up my hair and wear an afro but in the end I left it out (above) long enough to take these pictures before spraying with water and plaiting it up.

 Plaits after banding – 10 days post wash

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I planned to undo the plaits last Tuesday (10 days post wash) and have a very big fluffy afro but life got in the way.  So now these (above) have been in for 10 days plus and it’s over 21 days since my last wash day.

Entirely not ideal but then neither is washing my hair without the time or inclination.  It is definitely better for its health to stay a bit drier and a bit dirtier.  So today I will un-plait and moisturise (below) and try to find time to wash this week.

 

 Plait take down after 10 days (l); Plaits re-moisturised with Neno Naturals leave-in (r)

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My First Time – part 2

Wearing a headscarf to work

Part 1

I don’t feel any way about going out with my hair ‘unfinished’ and wearing a headscarf.

I recall a query and a question or two from my family.  ‘You went to work with your headscarf?’.  ‘Yes, I’d say proudly, defiantly’. 

I’m not sure how much of an option that was for my mum’s generation.  It wasn’t something that my mum ever did but she did wear an Angela Davis afro for years.  It wasn’t something that my 40+ year old cousin ever does but she works in the corporate world.

I worked in health and social care at the time and most people think that’s why it’s possible – ‘You wouldn’t do that if you worked in a bank or in a corporation’, they say.

And it’s partly true, for all its inefficiencies and incompetence the social care sector preaches the embrace of diversity.  So they are unlikely to make an issue of a headscarf-wearing staff member because they know they shouldn’t.

And the truth is I’ve never worked in a corporate environment so I can’t factually answer the question of whether I would wear a headscarf in that environment.  Hypothetically I’d say yes.  I’d wear my headscarf, but we all know that there can be a chasm of difference between what you say you will do in a given situation and what you actually do.  But the older I get the more comfortable I am presenting my true self to the world.

But equally I’m not naïve…

I do know that wearing a headscarf brings out certain assumptions from people: that English isn’t your first language that culturally you are more African then European (and all the stereotypes that come along with that).  If my headscarf isn’t dressed up ie it’s not co-ordinated to my clothes and or I’m out and about in my house clothes – then I’m an African.  If I’m dressed and styled then I’m black British there is a world of difference in how I’m treated.

Wearing a headscarf marks me out.  But it’s often a conscious and deliberate choice I make to wear one.  Yes sometimes my hair is still drying under there – and I know not to do an afro when wet.  But often I’m demonstrating my blackness.

 

 

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My First Time – part 1

Wearing a headscarf to work

The first time I wore a headscarf to work was in the summer of 2003.  I was in my late-mid 20s.

I’m hazy about the details that preceded the decision but…

I woke up one summer morning in 2003 and I decided that I wasn’t going to do my hair that morning.  So I left on the black polyester headscarf that I’d slept with and went to work.  It was the first time that I wore my headscarf to work.

I’d always been very diligent about ‘doing my hair’ for work.  So the comments and stares weren’t surprising but they were tiresome and uncomfortable none the less.  Coincidently I wore my head scarf the first time another colleague did the same and people thought that it was some Black heritage day – that was my favourite laugh-out-loud observation of the day.

But the fact is the headscarf is an everyday fact of life for my Afro hair.  You come to my house early or late enough in the day I will be wearing a headscarf.  I now wear it most times in between as well.  If I don’t have anywhere to go where doing my hair will suit the aesthetics of the outfit more than a headscarf, then it stays on.  I have more headscarves than I have shoes.

It’s a practicality borne of the fact that it doesn’t make any sort of sense to do my hair every day before I leave the house. I don’t have the time, patience or inclination.  I’d rather be out for a run or on the bike.

Or if I’m leaving the house later in the day – I feel there is no point taking down those sleeping braids just to put them back-in less than 6 hours later.  I’ll save the time and manipulation for another day.  So I’ll wear the headscarf or just go out with my hair in 5 braids.

I’m not going to pretend that Afro hair works into the cycle of everyday styling I’m going to keep it real.  There was a time when washing and re-doing my hair was confined to the weekend.  Now no.  I’ll go out with a T-shirt on my head while a deep condition is going on underneath.  I’ll wear the headscarf because my wash plaits are still drying underneath.  Winter 2012 to 2013 I wore a headscarf every single day to work.

Part 2 

The Vegan Calculator

 

I came across http://www.thevegancalculator.com.

It’s brilliant. You type in how long you have been vegan (years and months) and it calculates how much of the earth’s resources you have saved since that time by not eating animal products. The metrics are litres of water, kg of grain, sq. m of forest, Kg of Co2 and animal lives

I was a little bit surprised by my numbers (which you may or may not be able to see above). I was surprised that they were so high; my veganism over three years had saved 1,155 animal lives. That’s almost an animal a day.  So I otherwise would have eaten the equivalent of a chicken a day as typical omnivore. That’s a truly shocking fact.

The statistical source for the calculations is http://www.cowspriracy.com/facts