I can probably count the amount of times my hair has been cut by a hairdresser on one hand.
Growing up I was lucky to have a mother who, despite being white and not knowing much about afro hair, took it upon herself to learn and learn fast.
Many a Sunday were spent sat with my mum on the floor, chatting whilst getting my hair greased and plaited ready for school. As a result, my hair grew very long. Waist length in fact.
It was thanks to what we would now refer to as ‘protective styling’ and I can't thank her enough for not allowing me to be one of those mixed race little girls I often see with desert dry, unloved hair.
Trips to the hairdresser were rare. My mum might have cut a couple of millimetres off for me reluctantly once a year, but that was about it.
My earliest memory of a trip to a salon didn’t result in any trimming whatsoever. The hairdresser waved a fine tooth comb in my face and my mum marched me out of there quick time! The fact is, as much as she might have been willing, the hairdresser didn’t have a clue about afro hair and my mum wasn’t about to let her baby girl be their guinea pig.
That memory has stayed with me all my life. And it’s perhaps partly for that reason I became so good at doing my own hair. If you want something done well….
Fast forward to 2005 when, having spent my teenage years undoing all my mum’s good maintenance by getting my hair relaxed and cutting it to my neck <sighs>, I decided it was high time I checked in on my ‘fro once again and began the transition process.
My beautiful, springy curls were back in no time. And before I knew it, my hair was back down to my shoulders, au naturel. Once again it was time to learn.
I immediately reverted back to my beloved protective styles. Braids, weaves, faux locs, you name it. I wanted my hair to be natural but ironically I wanted it to be hidden away. Big hair, DO care.
Recently though, I looked in the mirror having taken out my latest protective style and realised, my hair may be long and natural but it is not healthy, nor am I happy.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at doing your own hair, everyone needs a little direction from time to time and these days there is definitely more help out there compared to when I was growing up in the Eighties.
I found my help by the way of a hairdressers called Shirley Valentine in Manchester that specialises in afro and mixed race hair. My curlfriend Josie had recommended them to me (Check out her Instagram, her hair is awesome).
For the first time in almost two years I had my hair cut.
For the first time in 33 years, I had my hair cut properly.
5 things I loved about my first proper hair cut
1. My hair was cut dry and cut to be worn curly!
It makes total sense. Afro hair is so springy, if cut wet you will end up with more than just a trim and it will probably not be even. In the past I now realise I’ve only ever had my hair cut to wear straight. No wonder it never really ‘sat’ right when worn curly. This time my curls were given the respect they deserve.
2. Layers were cut in…
I’ve always found that the top and front of my hair seems to grow slower than the back and underneath. And it’s for that reason that I spent all my twenties trying to make the top catch up with the back. Actually, if you want to wear your hair curly layers are where it’s at! Just look at the difference in my before and after pictures. Debbie, my hairdresser, took all that heavy bulk out, gave me instant volume and still didn’t lose much length. She’s a magician. My hair is now poppin’!
3. Every strand was attended to…
I have never looked at the ends of my hair and not found a little split end or one of those annoying fairy knots. The process was so thorough I now can’t find any. And trust me, I’ve looked.
4. Advice was given…
It’s all good getting your hair cut and going home to shake it around in front of the mirror like you’re in a hair advert. But it’s how you treat it in the following weeks and months that matters. My hairdresser gave me lots of advice about styling, products and how often I should get it cut. It’s every 12 weeks by the way. My jaw was on the floor, but as she said “better keeping the ends trimmed regularly than needing a huge chop once a year”.
5. I trusted my hairdresser…
Sometimes in life, you just know. Before I arrived at the salon I’d planned the speech I was going to give her about my hair, the dos and don’ts, the maximum amount in millimetres that I was willing to let her cut off, the ten types of hair textures on my head, the way my hair shrinks after washing, my hair fears, hopes, aspirations. It was ridiculous. After our consultation in which she told me her vast experience, I sat in the chair, took one look at her as she ran her fingers through my dead, lifeless ends and said “You know.” And she really did. I think it’s important to trust the expert and go with your gut feeling about them.
Now a few days post haircut I can’t believe the difference it’s made. BC (before cut) if I wanted to wear my hair curly I’d have to wash it or wet it every single time. There was no way I could go a day without wetting it, applying products and then blasting it with the drier. It’s been three days now and it’s as good as the day she cut it. I wake up, shake it out from its pineapple and go. My ends no longer struggle to curl correctly and the layers have meant I no longer have to fight for volume. In addition I’ve also started reassessing what products I’m using after Debbie recommended looking into natural products and oils and instead of avoiding shampoo, like I used to before, using sulphate free non-foaming shampoos because “your scalp needs to be clean in order for your hair to grow.”
This week I’m going to be trying Flourish hair butter and Bloom hair oil as part of my new and improved natural hair journey. I will definitely go back to protective styles now and then, but it feels good knowing it wont be because I can’t cope with my curls.
Lynda Moyo blogs about hair and beauty at www.maneofyourown.com and shares hair tutorials on her channel www.youtube.com/c/LyndaMoyo