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Afro Answers: why we should be having fun with our hair in 2022

For this month’s Afro Answers, trichologist Ebuni Ajiduah wants us to stop taking our hair so seriously – it’s time to get excited and experimental this year.

22 Jan

Photography by Yossy Akinsanya for gal-dem / Peckham Palms

New year, new hair

Happy new year! Before we start, can we please bow our heads and pray that 2022 will not be a year of destruction and it is not a badly named sequel (as Hollywood has that covered with all the reboots)?

I usually start the new year with a dragging, listing all the things we should have left behind hair-wise. Long wash days (and the time between them), greasing your scalp, food hair masks are all behind us now – right? As we move forward, I want us to take a new approach to our haircare. The fixation on ‘healthy hair’ can make life as a natural hard. There are so many ‘don’ts’ – like staying away from certain ingredients or boycotting certain brands, which styles are protective and which are not – that just existing day-to-day can be a minefield. It gets really hard to figure out what you can actually DO!

The Internet will have you thinking otherwise, but going natural should give you more freedom and fun. 

When I coach new clients, they all have the same goals: length, fuller edges and healthy hair. Most of the time, they already have the third one but don’t recognise it. Hair is literally a bunch of dead cells. Once it exits the scalp it is dead, so trying to make it healthy is a bit of an oxymoron. But when was the last time you got excited to try a new style? Is the fear of bleach or heat holding you back from living your best hair life?

“Dye it a bold colour, buy a new wig or do a big chop and embrace your head shape”

If you do anything this year, have more fun with your hair. Dye it a bold colour, buy a new wig or do a big chop and embrace your head shape. There are so many options, you don’t have to conform. And this is where the bloggers and vloggers really excel. Your favourite app is full of hair inspo, pick one or two that you can try out ASAP either as DIY or with a stylist. 

And if you’re not ready for a permanent change or something dramatic, no problem! Start small with moving your partings from the middle to the side or raise that low bun to a puff. Add accessories, beads, jewels or coloured extensions to switch it up. Just do something.

Lots of us are working from home now, so we have fewer eyes and hands near us. Reinvent yourself and live your best hair life. If your hair breaks or gets damaged, no biggie, we cut it and start again! So I ask, what are your hair goals this time with the focus on fun? 

Do you love your hair?  

Think back to your earliest memory of getting your hair done. Were you sat between the legs of a woman relative with your head bent in awkward positions? Was Blue Magic smothered along your scalp? Is the hot comb being heated on the gas cooker while you hold your ear and hunch your neck in anticipation? Or do you feel the early burn of the relaxer, while you pace around the bathroom because you don’t want to rinse it off too early? Are your facial muscles taut from freshly installed box braids with burnt ends? Chances are, you have experienced one, if not all of these: the joy and pain of Afro hairstyling. The endless hours, numb rear and gathering of friends and family. 

These are often fond memories, but what has been the impact on how we view our hair and the treatment we accept? Does it have to be a painful, tedious process where our hair is forced into submission? What message does this send to us?

“Curating a more positive attitude towards your hair is important work. The needle doesn’t have to go from hate to love – just to neutral”

Many of these practices have been updated as we learn what is ‘good’ for our hair. But when life gets in the way and salon visits and hair treatments become infrequent, we label ourselves as lazy and bad. Why is the appearance of our hair so tied to our self worth? That is rhetorical! We mustn’t internalise the othering or hatred of our bodies. I appreciate the various natural hair movements that have sought to normalise, uplift and revere our natural textures, but I fear for those who are unable to fake it till they make it and find trying to love their hair a much harder and demoralising task.

There has been much written about the politics regarding the desirability of Black women versus Eurocentric ideals of which we are often reminded. How we are judged for our hair choices; for example, straight, long, wigs seem to equal self-hate. Add in hair loss or just ‘unkempt edges’, and you can expect to become the biggest topic of conversation. 

“Does it have to be a painful, tedious process where our hair is forced into submission?

My work is centred around helping Black women have a better experience with their hair, but I am disheartened at the negative view many hold at the beginning of our sessions. It is seen as a massive personal failure to not know how to do our hair, rather than understanding it is a skill that has to be acquired and refined.

When I first heard about the body neutrality movement, I learned how, unlike the body positivity movement which encourages love and adoration, it’s about viewing the body as a tool or vessel that is not intrinsically tied to our self-worth. Bodies change, develop and break all the time, regardless of how they are used. So does our hair. We can hope for the best, but many factors such as genetics and our immune systems will have the last say. Curating a more positive attitude towards your hair is important work. The needle doesn’t have to go from hate to love – just to neutral. 

Tips to practice hair neutrality:

  1. Remind yourself you are worthy of love and kindness, regardless of how your hair looks
  2. ‘Bad habits’ can be changed and are often just based on our current level of understanding 
  3. Hair loss doesn’t always mean you have done something wrong, it is more likely just your body being an opp