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Childhood Hair Traumas Effect on Our Lives : For parents and non-parents

It’s a curly girl thing.

Even if you’ve never heard the term “hair trauma”, as a curly girl you know EXACTLY what it refers to. And here are a few examples

⁃ Being made fun of as a child because of your hair

⁃ Being burned as your hair was straightened with a hot comb

⁃ Having dried puss on your scalp from a relaxer

⁃ Being told by a salon they don’t service your hair

⁃ Crying during your hair styling experience on a regular basis

⁃ Being in severe pain after the hair experience has ended

⁃ Looking at every woman publicly known as beautiful and none of them having hair that looks like yours

The above was the absolute norm when I was growing up. You just didn’t even think about it. You’d see a friend in school with a fresh hair style, see a matching fresh scab on the side of their head and know you all share similar war stories because you leave the battlefield of “hair styling” with similar wounds.

At the time we didn’t think of it as traumatic; we thought of it as getting our hair “pretty”, but that in itself is traumatic.

Everyone has their insecurities- but the magnitude of brain washing that has to happen for a collective of people, from all around the world, to be insecure about one thing they all have in common, seems insane. For decades, we were insecure about our curly hair. And while living in the DMV area it can easily be forgotten that we still grapple with effects of decades of hair trauma. Just because we look good doesn’t mean that we ARE good.

As a professional natural hair stylist for over a decade, here are a few examples I am too often a witness to when it comes to the effects that your childhood hair traumas have over your current views on your hair- and even worse your children’s hair. These examples are from real life in-person or over-the-phone conversations I’ve had with clients and/or potential clients:

"My son started locs and I’d like to bring him in because his hair is looking too nappy."

"I know you all do natural hair but you’ve probably never done hair as rough as mine. "

"I need to warn you that my daughter’s hair gets extremely tangled and it’s a lot to deal with. "

"I need an appointment because my hair is just not a nice texture and I need someone who can tame it."

"I just need straight back cornrows for a wig. My natural hair isn’t pretty enough for me to wear."

Your son’s hair is NOT too nappy. We deal with thousands of textures every year, I’m sorry to tell you your hair is NOT that special. Your daughters’ hair is NOT difficult. It is because you view it as such that it appears to be that way. We are not here to “tame” your hair, we’re here to enhance your hair so that it brings out the best features in you, the top feature being joy. Your hair IS pretty enough to be worn; your self-esteem is just not in a place where you are ready to fully be on display to the world.

All of the above are because at some point we were fed a lie that our hair isn’t “pretty.”

At N, we laugh at this lie. BUT as graduates of psychohairapy we do not laugh at our clients who believe the lie because we understand they are speaking from a place of past traumas. We listen to you, but we don’t agree with you and we do our best to pivot your mind to see textured hair differently.

One way that we try and stop the perpetuating cycle of hair hate is to not allow crying and or yelling in our salon. For any parent who books a child’s service we let them know that if their child starts to cry or yell or scream we will stop services immediately. If the child is unable to calm down we will not continue and the parent would be responsible for the payment of the service.

We do not want children to think that tears and pain are acceptable associations with getting their hair done. It should be an enjoyable experience that ends with a smile. Not a battle that ends with a smile. In most cases the children start crying before the comb or even the water even touches their hair. Proving that the tears and the “act” have nothing to do with actual pain but past experiences that they associate with pain.

We believe education is the key to breaking the cycle. So here are three tips to get any parent started with doing their child’s hair. Coming off the pandemic, many babies are being added to this world and we hope a few moms will start their child’s hair journey off right:

Tip #1: When it comes to the shampooing + styling routine of your child’s hair, make sure you plan and allot double the amount of time you think is necessary. This will allow for you to take your time and for your child to understand this is a bit of a sacred practice.

Tip #2: If your child is in any pain, pause. Take a moment to check in with them and ask where does it hurt. Do not pull, yank or tug at their hair. Do not in anyway imply that crying or pain is part of the process. Use your fingers to gently separate their strands if a comb is causing pain.

Please Note: Typically- it’s not the comb, it’s the user. But if you’re not using a wide tooth comb, it may be the comb LOL

Tip #3: Extend grace to yourself. Learning how to rethink the ways you view and handle hair is not an easy task. This is deep work of generations being undone. Take time with yourself as you extend patience to your child and their hair.

Here are three tips for the non-parent.

Tip #1: Seek Professional Help - falling in love with your textured hair can be an experimental styling task but you don’t have to do it alone. Natural hair stylists do this all day. Find one that matches your vibe and let them help you on your journey.

Tip #2: Look At You- spend time staring at yourself in the mirror so you can see how beautiful you are. And take in the twists and curves and bends of your strands that you’ve been gifted to make you uniquely you.

Tip #3: Extend grace + patience to yourself. Learning how to rethink the ways you view and handle hair is not an easy task. This is deep work of generations being undone.

We at N love working with all textures, curl patterns, and hair types. We are not intimidated and we promote loving you for you. Share this blog with a friend, a fellow curly, or anyone who can benefit from rethinking the way she thinks about her hair.

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