Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shine On! -- SOLHSista Ryna

Welcome to the first of our Hair Profile Series! It's very important to see how the moisture-balance system works on different hair types.

The first SOLHSista to shine is my dear friend Ryna. As mentioned in my hair story she introduced me to the ingredient knowledge I needed to start my healthy hair journey. She's also the best example of someone who's hair type is normally considered too coarse to grow long and healthy. Both of her parents are West African and she has been blessed with the beautiful skin, bright smile and strong hair of the African people. So what put her on the healthy hair path? Let's see!

Hi Ryna! Thanks for being the first hair profile on The After Party! Please, tell us about your hair journey. What was your experience with hair as a child?

As a child, my mom did my hair. I wore my hair in braids on and off for several years until I was in the tenth grade. 

By then, I had gone back and forth several times from having natural hair to relaxed hair. I would keep my hair braided until it was about shoulder length, and then have the urge to relax. I would beg my mom to relax my hair until she gave in. After all, I wanted to fit in with all the kids at school. So, I would rock my newly relaxed and flat-ironed hair in a ponytail just like all the other girls at school, not realizing that my hair was vanishing before my eyes! I would rock that ponytail and bangs until my hair broke off to ear length. By then, my mom would braid my hair again; slowly trimming off the relaxed ends as time went by, swearing never to relax my hair again. But sure enough, when my hair grew out to the coveted shoulder length, I would beg for a relaxer and so the cycle would repeat.

Over and Over again through the years, I just thought we (black women) had drawn the short straw when it came to hair; we were cursed with difficult hair, hair that would never grow past shoulder length and was impossible to maintain. I just figured I was bound to wear braids for life.
Do you think having braids for so long helped your hair, harmed it, or a little of both? 

I would say a little of both. On one hand, wearing braids allowed my hair to grow and flourish in its natural state.  Yet, it also prevented me from really learning about my type of hair. Looking back on it, wearing braids was just sort of a quick fix, a disguise for my real hair. It allowed me to have that coveted shoulder length hair in a matter of hours, without really working for it.  Although wearing braids continually was a sure fire way to grow my hair, I did not realize that it was not the healthiest for my hair. Upon removing my braids in every two or so months, I would notice how dry and brittle my hair felt. I just figured that's how our hair was: dry, and brittle.  Little did I know I was depriving it of essential ingredients:  moisture and protein. With my lack of knowledge, my quick fix was to just grease my scalp, and slap some pink oil lotion on my hair and call it a day. 

What made you start your healthy hair journey?

Well, the final straw was when I had finally achieved armpit length hair after weaving my hair continuously for two years for my wedding.

My Weave

I was extremely happy with the length of my hair, and was determined to take care of it. I figured my biggest downfall in taking care of my hair was my usage of heat. Heat was the enemy!  So, I would flat iron and blow-dry my hair only once a week, shampoo and deep condition once every two weeks, and grease my scalp and hair daily.  I was doing everything right...or so I thought.  Despite following this regimen, I noticed on a daily basis that dreaded hair in the sink, on your clothes, and on the bathroom floor. My hair slowly but surely broke off from armpit length to right above neck length in a matter of 4 months. Feeling extremely frustrated and hopeless, one night I decided to search the Internet for a solution. I figured I wasn't the only one struggling with this problem, right?  Not long into my search, I stumbled upon a social network site called "Fotki". There, I found several women who were chronicling their hair journeys, many of them, with struggles just like my own!  The thing that made this so fascinating was the proof.  I saw countless pictures and videos of women whose hair had been nasty, thin, straggly, and ear length grow their hair to an almost unbelievable bra strap length. It was AMAZING!  Thoughts and questions immediately flooded my head: What were these women doing to their hair? What products were they using? And most importantly, were they mixed or had they just been blessed with "good" hair?  That night, I can tell you that I stayed up until 3am reading and taking notes on all the information I was learning. And to answer my last question, NO. These women were not mixed! They were full-blooded sista's just like me.  Day after day, I would continue to research.   I scoured (healthy hair) sites and found that they all pretty much had the same information. With results like armpit length, bra strap length and even waist length hair, I had to give it a shot!  

How did you begin? And what's your hair type?

 I began my hair journey by first learning my hair type, and its needs. From there, I learned that I have type 4a hair, kinky and coarse.  I then narrowed down from all four sources which products I was going to use on my hair. By now, I knew what kind of products my hair needed, what to look for in a product, and what to avoid. With all that information, I was able to build a healthy hair regimen.  I threw away all my hair products that I owned that contained harsh chemicals or filler products. And let me tell you that meant all of it had to go!  In addition, I trimmed my hair to make it even and to make sure all my split ends were gone. After all, if I was going to make sure this really worked, I needed to start with a clean slate.  I went and bought all I needed to start my hair journey, and to my surprise, it was only about 5-6 products, which was a big difference from the 20 or so products I had collected over the years!

What results have you seen?

I can honestly say that after a week of following my regimen, I noticed that my hair felt moisturized. It was a feeling that I thought I knew, but clearly didn't.  My hair did not break as much as it used to. Those tiny broken little hairs in the sink, on my clothes, and on the bathroom floor slowly started to disappear until they were gone! I only noticed shedding, which I had learned was a natural, healthy process of the hair cycle. I followed my regimen religiously. And after 3-4 months, my hair was back to just above shoulder length! And the rest is history. 

Fast-forward 3 years later.  Now, I am able to enjoy my hair at a full and healthy Armpit length and hope to reach bra strap length by the summer.  

 Wet 2011 (APL)

Low and behold, the girls on “Fotki” were right! Black women are not cursed with unmanageable brittle hair.  Knowledge is power!  You can have the hair you've always dreamed of!

 March 2011
Thanks Ryna!  Shine On!