January was the month I had my first protective style installed as a natural. To this very day, it is still my absolute favorite look on me — next to my signature green braids. I wanted to try this new “crochet braid” trend that was popping up around me but I wanted to try faux dreads even more. As always, I went back to the web and looked for “crochet faux locs”. The results weren’t as helpful as they usually are… Nevertheless, I had made up my mind. It was a Saturday, the 9th to be exact. My mother took me to my aunt’s, who took me to the hair store. We picked up five packs of pre-dreaded crochet hair (or whatever you would call pre-styled hair), and went back to her house. I can’t quite recall what I was intending for my braid pattern in terms of “wearability”, but I wanted the front to be cornrowed back and the back to be braided horizontally. After a lot of clarification, my aunt went to braiding. And yes, it did hurt. My aunt deals with her own hair and that is all. She occasionally does my cousin’s hair but I can see the pain she is in when I sit and watch. There was no water, there was no moisturizer, there was no detangling cream; there was only the coconut oil I had coated my hair with the night prior after a thorough wash. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my aunt, so I made sure to equip my hair for whatever may come.
Once we got past the raking and braiding, the actual crocheting went smoothly (and painlessly… er, significantly less painfully). I had to make sure I had some sort of color because I always do; I had picked out the color closest to my hair color and a lighter honey blond. There wasn’t a specific pattern to color dispersion, just a “make sure they aren’t too close”. When we had finished, I had a plop-full of big, long “dreads”, by which I mean tightly coiled curls. When I found out they weren’t as loc-like as I wanted them to be, I wasn’t completely bothered. In fact, it excited me a little. The very next day, I had a plan: I will wear these “dreads” for three or four weeks, and when I get bored of them, I’ll cut them down a size and separate the curls. Never have I ever been more excited to become bored of anything.
Daily wear and care was another story. Because the hair was so bulky and I no longer had a “shapeable” hairline, it was either wear a headband, side-part or have some face fall, or tie it back with a scarf. I only had one headband elastic enough to make it onto my head, so when it fit into the color scheme of my outfit, I’d wear it with all the hair to either side. A side part was a one-time thing, after learning how sparsely the hair was crocheted. We had ran out of hair so my aunt had to spread the dreads out more than expected. Thusly, a side part exposed the braid underneath and the side-part was a no-go. In conclusion: I wore my hair tied back regularly, using a scarf that didn’t match anything. I grew tired quicker than I did bored. Then, the fourth week rolls around.
I never felt so comfortable and happy having scissors so close to my face. No, I did not shave my head, despite the temptation. Friday, I went straight home after school and practically ignored my homework entirely until the next day. During the four weeks, I had already gotten curious and cut and separated two or three dreads into curls, so when time had come, I was more than impatient. But I took my time, measuring how much I wanted to cut according to where it would fall on my shoulders. I used some of the snips to fill in the gaps a 6th pack of hair could have filled. Then I began separating after I put on a movie — I didn’t bother to before because I needed a mirror. When I was done, I fluffed through my hair to see if I had missed anything. I almost shrieked when I looked in the mirror; I had this head full of Shirley Temple curls in an afro-like shape. I took pictures and sent them to my hair mentor and best friend, a few other people, and plastered it anywhere I could. I loved my “new” hair.
The style was supposed to stay only for two weeks but it felt more like three and a half. I wasn’t sure what to do with my own hair once I took the crochet hair out. I didn’t mind the extension of course, but eventually I figured something out. I decided I would flat iron my hair so I could give it a trim. Another Friday rolls around and I began tending to my hair, taking the curls out and undoing the cornrows underneath. Before I took the braids out, I felt my head for a little. There were these two bald-feeling patches behind my ears, where the braid pattern split. I waived it off of course but it bothered me in the moment.
I went through with my current wash process, and boy does it feel nice to have warm water run through your scalp after a long term protective style. My heat protectant of choice was another Cantu product, their protectant spray. Perhaps it was because it was my first use, but the “spray” came out as a stream. I was confused, but I coped. I spritzed it onto my hand (a lot of it), and rubbed it through my hair until I felt my whole head was well coated. I grabbed my blow dryer, the concentration nozzle, and my Denman brush and a comb. It was such a trying process, it hurts my arms to think about. I’m more than sure blow drying my hair without a comb nozzle will produce fit arms quicker than bench-pressing. My comb nozzle was a generic attachment I bought separately and it almost hurt to learn it doesn’t work for any of the blow driers in my house… Enough about biceps and blow driers, onto burning myself.
Because I’m such a jumpy, easily heat-frightened person, flat ironing my own hair was probably a good decision. The flat iron made the sizzling noises I hated, but I watched the color of the smoke closely with each pass: white smoke is steam. That means the heat protectant and coconut oil products are doing their jobs. As I got closer to the sides of my head, especially where my ears were, flat ironing became more difficult. My hair was significantly shorter there, and this plus a bulky flat iron does not equal easy. I tried to make sure I finished the sections that I couldn’t see as quickly as I did the shorter sections. The entire flat ironing process was mostly regretting not asking someone to help me and arguing why doing it myself was a good decision. And a lot of jump-scares a.k.a sizzling. I did finish eventually. Seeing my hair after the fact reminded me that my virgin hair doesn’t take to flat irons the same way as my permed hair. The major thing was getting it flat enough to trim precisely.
I wore my flat hair for all of four days before reverting. I hated myself for it, but I didn’t have a choice. My scalp was majorly irritated and I wasn’t sure why. I tried to think of anything that could cause it but came up short. The following Tuesday, I rinsed my hair and wore my shrunken hair the rest of the week. From then, I didn’t try too many new styles or products; the small spots behind my ears had lost about half their length so regrowth was my biggest goal. My theory was that the crochet hair that kept snagging was actually pulling at those patches. That was my only crochet style, and as much as I enjoyed it, I didn’t see myself reinstalling another set for a while. With few changes here and there, I continued my basic routine of washing on Friday or Saturday and styling for the week. My next style wouldn’t happen until Prom Season came around.
Caption: A slideshow of process pictures; please excuse the background and expressions I made