As Coco Chanel once said, “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself." When I finally decided to take a dive off the deep end in January of 2016 and cut my own hair, I knew right then and there that I was either having a meltdown way ahead of midterms, or that I was finally on the road to better hair care, healthy living, and newfound confidence. What I'd soon learn is that thankfully, it was the latter.
Before I get into the specifics of this game-changing cut, let me rewind a bit. In high school, I begged my mother to allow me to perm my hair, not only to keep up with the Joneses, but to eliminate the daily and weekly maintenance it took to maintain a straightened, polished look and completely eliminate my natural frizz, because, to me, it was unattractive. I wanted bone-straight hair like the models and actresses I saw on TV, and wanted nothing more than to take away the focus from my insecurities (awkward Short Black Girl here, hello!), and put it on what I believed at the time was my most attractive feature (long hair, don’t care). After months of persistent begging and whining, my mother finally caved in and gave me permission (and the funds needed) to perm my hair.
At first, I loved it. I loved how thin and straight my hair was and how it glistened and lathered in the shower when it was time to wash my hair. I even decided to get highlights to amp up my new look and keep the good times rolling. But what I had once believed was the best decision that I had made in the first 16 years of my life turned out to be a disaster. My beautician never prepared me for the maintenance that was necessary to maintain my perm. At the site of new growth, I would instantly book an appointment for a perm touch-up, or reach for the flat iron which dually damaged my hair severely.
By college, the length, luster, and body my hair once had was gone. I hid under weaves, snapbacks, and bucket hats—I was like Matilda's dad with his pork pie hat Superglued on. One day, while taking a weave out of my hair, I noticed how bad the damage to my hair actually was as it was shedding and breaking apart right in my hands. I spent all my time, effort, and money to be my idea of beautiful, when in reality, I was damaging the beauty that was already there. It was this realization that pushed me to take matters into my own hands (literally).
My decision to cut my own hair was a life-changing epiphany that altered the way I viewed myself and my inner dialogue in terms of what hair maintenance meant to me. Over the last three years, it's gone from being a dreadful chore—like eating vegetables as a child—to being as satisfying as watching Tiny Kitchen videos on YouTube. What is now dubbed “The Big Chop” turned out to be the ultimate reset button for how I approached beauty and re-defined what being beautiful and attractive actually meant for me and the lengths that I would go just to be considered aesthetically pleasing to society. The cut itself wasn't the hardest part of transitioning from unhealthy damaged hair to luxurious locks—it was finding the patience and self determination to accept myself and my hair in its natural state.
After I cut my hair, I paid a visit to my doctor who told me that I had an iron deficiency and very low calcium and vitamin E levels. At this time, I began taking my hair maintenance and health so seriously that I researched online the effects of vitamin deficiency on hair growth, and lo and behold, there was a huge correlation. According to The Vitamin Shoppe, vitamins C and E help prevent radical damage in hair follicles, while vitamin B is well known for making your hair stronger. Deficiency in iron, zinc, and biotin, can lead to hair thinning, and hair loss, and less commonly, alopecia. I started taking over-the-counter supplements, but I still didn’t think it was enough. If my body wasn’t giving my hair the nutrients and vitamins needed to grow long and healthy hair, then it only made sense to make sure my hair received it by manually putting it in. This is was what inspired me to begin using a natural hair mask and using household items to creatively and effectively give my hair some much needed love and attention.
Every other week of the month, I would use a natural hair mask of two well-beaten eggs (extra eggs may be necessary depending on hair thickness), two tablespoons of mayonnaise, and one tablespoon of honey to restore the moisture in my hair (and join forces with mineral supplements to add the much-needed vitamins that I was missing to my hair). Eggs contain sulfur, vitamin B and protein, which are all needed to grow thick, and healthy hair. Mayonnaise contains an amino acid called L-cysteine, that is said to build keratin, which is a type of protein in the hair that promotes growth and strengthening. Honey, an emollient, locks in moisture, which boosts growth, and reduces breakage.
Although mixing this mask was a bit messy, I was able to restore the body of my hair in a little under six months and add two inches of length to my hair in a year. In fact, I went from having thick, 4C kinky hair, to bone-straight permed hair, to sleek coily 4B textured hair in a matter of three years. My hair went from having split ends, no edges (ugh, not the edges!), and damaged strands barely touching my shoulders to healthy moisturized coily locks that, when elongated, now run past my bra strap.
Nixing perms and taking care of my hair really allowed me to embrace my curls and, more importantly, myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love a long weave or wig just as much as the next girl, but I no longer need it, and in reality, I never did. The realization was freeing as I no longer feel the need to look or be anyone else but myself, and I’ve truly fallen in love with my best self. Now, instead of using my money on perms, I splurge on DevaCurl B’leave In Curl Boost and Volumizer ($20), Calcium Bentonite Clay ($30), Taliah Waajid Curl Cream ($9) and Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Shampoo and Conditioner ($21) to maintain, define, and intensify my curls. (Not to mention, this also saves money each month to buy the everyday natural necessities/products on my grocery list to make sure I’m giving my hair the nutrients and vitamins it needs to continue growing, thriving, and making me proud to be me.)
Something changed in me post-Big Chop where I no longer wanted to put the same effort into finding new weave hairstyles and sit for eight hours getting boxed braids, but rather spend that energy (and money) on seeing my hair in the best state it’s ever been. Beauty truly begins when you decide to be yourself and accept yourself in all forms, and, truth be told, I've never felt more beautiful.