The Big Chop

Embellie writer Sheila explains how she took one bold leap…in Qatar of all places.

My Personal journey to natural hair was defining and bold to say the least. When I decided to take a pair of scissors over my head and do the ‘big chop’, I felt like I was finally finding my lost self. Honestly looking back I can’t even imagine that it took me ten good years of enduring the ‘burning’ and the bad smell of those chemical relaxers to break into freedom! Anyway no turning back now. Let me pause and explain something about the hair structure that will help us understand what happens when we give in to relaxers beckoning us with the promise of easy styling, easy management and above all fashion.

Natural hair is composed of dead protein cells called keratin which is made up of hydrogen and sulfur bonds. The hair shaft is made up of three layers; the medulla, the cortex and the cuticle. The medulla is the innermost layer, it’s not always present in every hair shaft and its role is almost non-existent. It’s not affected in any way by hair products. The cortex is the middle layer, It determines the hair colour because that is where hair pigmentation settles and this layer is affected by hair dyes and relaxers. The cuticle is the outermost layer and is porous in nature. This layer reflects the state of your natural hair.

When chemical relaxers come into contact with the hair, it penetrates through the cuticle and settles in the cortex. It permanently re-arranges the hair structure by breaking its sulfur and hydrogen bonds (keratin) changing it from Alpha (natural) to Beta (relaxed) keratin. This is an irreversible process.

Hair that has undergone this chemical process needs extra care compared to natural hair because it’s prone to damage from environmental factors such as dust, heat or even humidity. That means natural hair is easier to manage after all. All you need to do is observe some simple basic rules religiously.

Here are some of the basic steps:-

Shampooing;- Due to its tight curl pattern, natural hair tends to dry a lot faster, therefore it’s important to choose a good shampoo more preferably a 2 in 1, that is both cleansing and conditioning. But the choice of your shampoo relies heavily on the condition of your natural hair.

When choosing a shampoo for dry hair, it’s advisable to go for a shampoo that contains oil, such as shea butter, tea tree oil or nut oils. This will help in coating the hair cuticle trapping moisture in the hair shaft. Watch for shampoos comtaining Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate, this ingredients are harsh and strip hair of it’s natural oil causing excessive drying.

Also try to use filtered water as Qatar’s desalinated water is very harsh.

Conditioning;- There are three types of conditioners, surface conditioners which are rinsed off almost immediately, deep conditioners which their absorption is enhanced by steaming and finally hot oil treatments. All this play an important role in hair care, it balances the PH of the hair especially after shampooing and smoothens the cuticles to make detangling and combing easy. At this stage it’s wise to gently detangle your hair using a wide toothed comb to avoid hair breakage.

Moisturizing;- gives your hair a shiny healthy look and makes it easier to manage.

Trimming;- Make it a habit to trim your hair at least once every six months. This is because as hair grows the tip gets damaged and splits. Apart from making hair look untidy, it makes hair break a lot more.?

It’s incredible how many ways natural can be styled. The options are limitless, ranging from locs (aka locks, dreadlocks), braids (single plaits), twisted strands, cornrows and even weave ons. All this styles are amazingly beautiful and very presentable. They protect your hair from damaging environmental factors and whats more! They are ‘shake and go’, absolutely stress free!