I have been fitness sista for years and never before was I ever concerned about the state and health of my locs.
That was until I left Jamaica.
Whether it was because, I no longer had my stylist who would call me when I was due for a visit, or, I now had to deal with changing temperatures and seasons, one thing was for sure, my locs started to show signs of unhappiness.
I’m talking about breaking locs, receding edges, dry scalp (this made me cry), and generally rough feeling hair. Add to that not finding a stylist who not only understood hair but could produce the kind of neat, fresh and lasting styles I was accustomed to. Even with me washing once a week, moisturizing, using every kind of oil I could get my hands on and sometimes styling (cornrows and updo’s), it seemed like my hair still hated me.
Having a melt down over my hair was not something I’d ever thought I’d do. But there I was…more than twice…with scissors in hand ready to chop it all off.
I was talked off that edge and went instead with making the locs shorter in 2015 and getting an undercut (i.e. shaved sides and back) in 2016.
It seemed like a good compromise at the time.
Now in 2017, I’m still struggling. I’m just no longer a wreck over it.
Somehow over the past 6-7 months, I’ve minimized the anger coming from my hair. Whether it was because I chose to be more patient and less emotional over it or I decided to give my hair a little more TLC than I’ve personally ever done, I have no idea.
What I can say, is that I’ve finally figured out a few things that may have contributed to the downfall of my hair. Some of it may be things you ‘naturalistas’ already knew, but for this fitness sista who had other people take care of her hair for a long time, it was my ‘education’. One I clearly needed to get.
Headbands, Scarves and Hair Ties Are Great Until They Aren’t.
It’s a no brainer that these are perfect for preserving your hairstyle during a workout. The ties and headbands do well for keeping hair off the face and neck as well as reducing the risk of hair catching on equipment and clothing. Scarves help to tie hair down keeping styles fresh and frizz at bay.
The catch? Use the ties and headbands too often, in my case everyday, and they begin to wear on the hairline. Too tight a ponytail or bun and that hairlines starts to pull away from hair roots, giving that receding look.
If you sweat heavily in your head, like I do, scarves will simply trap excess moisture and leave your head fully soaked which can either make frizz worse or ruin your fresh style.
Now, I remove ties immediately after a workout and avoid wearing bands outside of a workout. Scarves are used in non-fitness scenarios where I am not likely to be sweating.
Protective Hairstyles Work For Weeks Not Months
As the name suggests, these styles protect the hair from the damage or stress caused by daily manipulation. As a fitness-sista these offered not just versatility in styling (still low manipulation), but saved me time in doing so, required very low maintenance and helped promote and retain my hair’s growth.
My go-to protective styles of three strand twist, twist and bump, flat twist and cornrows stood up to long days of teaching classes, workouts and generally hectic active days. So much so that for at least 3 weeks, I could go without washing or needing to groom my hair.
The downside? I would keep these in maybe a little too long. Now I understand why I’d get regular calls from my stylist (and here I thought she just missed seeing me).
Leaving my hair untended, especially with sweat and product buildup, had the opposite intended effect i.e. tangling, breakage and excessive dryness.
Now, since I’ve started doing my own hair, I’m lucky if these last a week, thankfully because I don’t have the mad skills my stylist did.
Moisturizing Really Works But Expect Some Residue
It’s no secret that you lose moisture through sweat. So it makes sense that to maintain supple and lustrous locs one has to add back said moisture. A well moisturized head of hair will likely be soft and silky, be less prone to breakage and dryness and grow like the fertilized ground it is.
Since I sweat profusely from my head, it’s no surprise that this was and continues to be one of my biggest struggles.
Leave in conditioners have done a good job for day to day maintenance especially after workouts and provided I’ve dried my hair before applying. Oils and oil based moisturizers on the other hand have been great for sealing in moisture from root to tip, when applied before bed and I’ve wrapped my hair in a satin bonnet/scarf.
The downsides? I end up with more buildup than I’d like from the leave in which eventually turns into flakes. I sweat out (all the oils) come the next day during a workout, hence my consistent use of headbands. And on the nights I don’t wear a scarf, which happens often, I end up with greasy pillows.
This is probably the only thing for which I’m still trying to find a balance. When I do, I’ll let you in on it too.
Finding A Routine Is Necessary
By taking the time to figure out what was working and what wasn’t, I created a routine to fit my lifestyle. As a result, it seems to have lessened that ‘angry hair’ feel.
That gives me hope that I am on the right track.
Whether my hair will return to its former glory days or not, I couldn’t tell you.
Truth is, I’m no longer attached, and maybe I am ready for a complete change. Who knows what it will be.
But if the past 3 years of life uprooting changes has taught me anything, its that they can be freeing, even if you don’t think so immediately.