My 10 Month Journey – Locked For Life

Your hair…its texture, its state, its look, its health, its feel…tells a story. Mine has been deprived of proper hydration over the past few months; now I’m in a re-hydration mode, and over the summer months, I will be trying to replenish all of the water it needs to experience a growth spurt and the sheen I know it should have. 

My grays, especially in my temple areas, have begun to show up and show out…wiry, uncontrollable, and rebellious. They don’t even want to hide within the confines of a locked tress-they just want to do their own thang. My locks continue to change in form during this tenth month. Not a lot of uniformity yet; thinner and longer locks on the top-thicker, plumper ones along the sides and back. 

I’m amazed by the many “looks” I can create, on any given day, although I do not “style” my locks. They are long enough to twist or braid; however, I believe that styling them in this teenaged phase may weaken my edges and cause undue tension in the back, especially along my nape area. I’ve worn enough updos and styles pulled off and out of my face to appreciate the free style of well…no style. This forehead is here to stay. I choose to celebrate it and its broadness-show it every chance I get. It’s a reminder; I really do have a lot going on up there, in this head of mine. 

Over this past month, I’ve stopped sleeping in the Loc Soc. I’m feeling the 48-year-old hormonal change of night sweats and the weight of denser locks confined in a tight space, so I’ve switched to just satin pillowcases, which seems to work well so far. I rotate crimson and cream satin pillowcases (imagine that ❣️), and they have given me a cooler head without much concern about the health of my locks. At my next retightening, I’ll ask my consultant if she notices any lint or buildup from my transition from the covered head to open air. As an extra precaution against lint, I do not wear caps, scarves, or hats on my head.

There is no appreciable difference in what I do to my hair in the morning. I still take a hot/warm towel (sometimes prepped with a squirt of Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint or Citrus Castille Soap) and move my locks to refreshen and “style” them in their free-style way. Most of the time, the humidity of my hot morning showers do the trick. I’ve stopped covering my hair with a plastic shower cap now that it is locked. 🎼🎧🎤 I never knew love like this before…

My hair is not fully locked all over, but coiled enough so that I do not have to fear the rain or getting it wet in the shower. The back is more locked than those stubborn curly top locks, so there are still so many different textures apparent within my hair. 

The picture below (black shirt, gold oval pendant necklace) is a good representation of my “workday hair.” A bit more “fluffed” and contained. Still with a bit of edginess and personality, I love the dynamic attitude of locked hair.

This picture (denim jacket, camo shirt-representing with the silver pendant) represents my “weekend hair,” which is slowly becoming my workday hair now that the school year has ended. I’ll be working much of the summer, and casual Monday through Friday will rule the summer work gear. Some days, I just can’t control the direction of one or two locks. I have stopped trying. 

A year ago, right before I decided to lock and started this blog about my hair journey, I was so preoccupied about my image, as a professional educator, and how locking my hair might impact people’s perceptions of me. While I understand that is somehow a real concern in this competitive world of titles, relationships, and performances, I no longer worry about whether my hair speaks something to others before I even open my mouth. My prayer is that I’ll have an opportunity to speak my own truths before they are assigned to me. However, I’ve spent this year learning, and in some cases, the hard way, that no matter who you are, how you look, what you have to say, and how your story has evolved, some folks will create an image, shape an opinion, write YOUR story, and choose to believe THEIR story of you, no matter its truth or fidelity. 

My hair tells a story, my friends, but it’s only a small part of my story. Such a small part…

Nine Months of Locks-Budding Phase

April 24th marked my ninth month with Sisterlocks, and my latest Retightening, on April 29th, was the first one that required no bundling or banding. Most of my hair’s ends are officially locked, and I should be able to shampoo at home between my retis every six weeks. I’ll admit that I harbor some mixed feelings about changing a formula that has worked well over the last nine months. I don’t sweat excessively, unless I am outside exercising (typically walking during the warmer months), and I am fortunate to not ever had scalp issues (dermatological or otherwise) which might require more frequent shampoos. My hair still seems to be thriving despite fewer shampooings over the past several months. We shall see… My concerns are that my hair will become more frizzy, begin to bunch, or unraveled edges due to my own manipulation. On any given day, the most attention my hair receives from me is a spritz or two of Tiffany’s Loc Jewels Natural Hair Mist (scented leave-in conditioner with tea tree oil) and a finger combing. 

Looks like I’m in Phase II-Budding from the descriptor. I touch my hair frequently, and the ends of each lock are varied; some are plumb and frizzy-some are tight and rigid-some are curly and wiry…just a mixture of hair textures and stages of transition.


What is most evident is the growth of my hair over these nine months. My hair is longer and thicker throughout.

Evidence of budding is clear from the lock across my forehead in the picture below. My hair is soft to the touch and healthy.

All kinds of unruliness…typical day for me. #unbothered


It’ll be interesting to begin shampooing my own hair, and I’ll blog about my first time when it happens. Right now, I’ll just enjoy the teenage stage of my locks and embracing the freedom that comes along with a head toss and finger fluff! 

Eight Months – Loc’ed & Loaded

This year has been life-changing…already. I’ve undergone a lot of changes, both physically and emotionally, since the start of 2017. I’m 8.5 months into my Sisterlock journey, and nothing much has changed about my hair freedom and ease of style because my baby locks are still growing, maturing, and transitioning. I had my seventh retightening on March 15th, and I’m as much in love now with my hair as I was on July 24, 2016 walking out of the salon after two days of sitting patiently through my install.

Here are some pictures throughout February 2017 that showcase my hair, on any given day. My hair continues to evolve:

Fortunate for me, I’ve been on a personal weight loss journey as well, and 45 pounds of weight off of my knees and ankles since November has freed me to move, dress, and care for my mind and body in ways I haven’t been able to in the last decade. It’s noticeable in my face, but the smaller mid-section is my greatest joy. I’m experimenting with more colorful clothing now. Some days, I’m really “feeling myself.” Some days, I wonder if my hair may suffer from the weight loss. 

Not only has my physical body undergone some changes, so have my confidence and energy levels. I’m wearing more colorful clothing instead of fading into the neutrality of all-black everything. 

Below are some pictures I took on the day of my retightening. My hair is super thick, always has been, but around week five or six prior to my retis, there is no visible grid. That one “Superfly” lock in the front stands out; she always finds a way to grace my forehead. 😁


The picture above really emphasizes natural texture and natural color. I have pledged to stay color-free, and I still have many curly ends at month eight. I have enough locking and budding to leave me optimistic that my hair is doing what it should be doing after eight months. 

Here is a before and after picture that shows growth and thickness. The picture on the right is my install date in July 2016. The one on the left is my latest reti on Wednesday, March 15, 2017:

Here is a view of the back:

 

As I continue to spread my wings, move forward in all areas of my life, some days I question my decisions and reflect on what I should have done. My hair? I’ve never second-guessed that lifestyle change. All is well in a home without a comb or a brush. All is well with my Sisterlocks.

Seven Months of Sisterlocs – Pure Joy

Wednesday, February 1st, marked my sixth retightening (reti), and I am thrilled with the progress of my hair. My hair is transitioning through the budding and locking process, and it is still providing me with the most hair freedom I have ever known. 

The pictures below represent my hair two days before my reti, after six weeks. Typically, I retighten every five weeks, but I wanted to see if there was an appreciable difference in my hair (shedding, smell, feel, oiliness) if I waited another week to reti. There were no significant differences, so I will probably rotate the 5-6 week cycle for retightens. Be warned…most of these photos are untouched and filter-free. 😁

Before Retighten:


My hair is thick…very dense. Still very curly on the ends.

My grid is not noticeable at all.

The photo below shows a great contrast between my sun-kissed ends and my darker roots. There’s even a peep of gray in my temples (on both sides).

For the picture below, the bundling and banding process is simplified…as long as the ends are secure, we don’t spend much time prettying up the results for my retighten.


After Retighten:

Sometimes, I’m still amazed by my growth over the past seven months and how my locs are transitioning. The top two pictures (maroon tee) represent the day of my completed install. The bottom two pictures (salon drape) represent my hair just under seven months post-install, after my sixth retightening.


It’s hard to believe just over a year ago I did the big chop and my hair was just over an inch long-all over. I loved my ‘fro because it represented so much more than the end of chemically straightening my hair. It represented the changes I was poised to make in 2016 in my career, my health, my friendships, and my well-being. I had to cut some things and some people out of my life. My hair was a metaphor of transformation.


Since my last retighten in December, I’ve been experimenting with Loc sprays that I really like from Tiffany’s Loc Jewels (www.tiffanyslocjewels.com). Each of the three I have tried has a distinctive spicy fragrance, and all remind me of winter, the holidays, and grassy smells. I typically spray my locs liberally before showering at night and donning my Loc Soc to go to bed. Tiffany, the company’s namesake, is quite responsive and will communicate with you from the point of sale, throughout shipment, and beyond. I’m looking forward to a mild spring and warmer months to purchase a few fresher, lighter sprays. Check out her website. 


One thing is true…I’m still enjoying my hair journey and what Sisterlocs mean for me. Everyday I notice something different about my hair, and I celebrate the freedom from hours of styling and the inconvenience of waiting to be seen, shampooed, colored, dried, or styled. Everyday I’m grateful for the ability to transform myself…still.

Five Months In…Be You. Be Ready.

Yesterday, December 22, 2016, marked my one year “naturalversary.” Five years ago, no one could have told me that I would have worn a natural, an Afro, for some seven months and transitioned into another natural lifestyle, Sisterlocks. Amazingly, what the ‘fro lacked in daily styling ease, Sisterlocks has returned to me 100-fold: a freedom that I have not known in this lifetime until recently. 

My baby locs are finally beginning to transform and well…lock. I’m noticing textural, color, and density changes. My hair is much denser, thicker than usual at the roots, and many of my ends are light brown as if I had dipped them in a pot of honey. My hair has less volume at this length; it’s almost stiff, and my consultant states that these changes are a natural part of the locking process. Some of my locs are thin, almost stringy; some are plump and wiry. While my babies still manage to find some sort of shape, due to my ‘fro’s original tapered cut, I’m attributing some of my hair transformation to pre-menopausal, hormonal imbalances that I’ll just have to endure while my Sisterlocks are finding their way. 

Before Fourth Retightening:

After Fourth Retightening:


I see locs everywhere I go. I’m not sure if I’m noticing them more now because they are my reality or if I’m just paying more attention to others, a transparency piece of my school leadership training, and I am more in tune with others. At times, I’m obsessed with the beauty of locs of all types-especially if they are uniform, colored, or intricately adorned or styled. I feed this obsession through my social media contacts. I’m beginning to understand that not all locs are created equally and that my appreciation for all locked styles extends to my newfound pride of being a natural, by choice. It’s much easier to see the beauty in others who look like you or those who are traveling a similar path; silently, it is so life-affirming. However, when I think about some of the ignorance and self-hatred that manifests from “hair shaming” and personal decisions to stop using chemicals to straighten one’s hair, I’m amazed by some of the social media posts I see…daily. 

As I approach the mid-century mark in a couple of years, I recognize that I’m really from the “old school” way of thinking-I’m either all in or I’m all out; there are no gray areas of commitment for me. The decision to “go natural” is a very personal one and one that requires a steadfast commitment. The commitment, however, may or may not be a permanent one. It will, most assuredly, be temporary if you have not taken the time to rationalize your decision-making and pinpoint for whom you are, ultimately, making the decision. 

If you find yourself polling your social media friends about whether or not you should wear your hair in its natural state, you’re not ready. It’s fine to seek the opinions of others, but the lens through which you commit will be fickle if you allow others’ opinions to impact your final decision. If you can’t commit to a hair regimen that includes an introspective look at your own perception and image, you’re not ready. You truly have to own the decision to wear your hair in its natural state and embrace your natural hair – for what it is and for what it ain’t. If you look back at photos of your relaxed hair, fixated on the days when you could just “comb and go,” you’re not ready. The best gauge of future actions are present actions, as well as the actions you embrace from your past. Love that 2002 relaxed prom pixie from afar, but love on that massive, coily, frizzy, nappy twist out you’re wearing in 2016. If a wig or weave gives you the styling ease you desire, and what’s natural (or transitioning) underneath it never sees the light of day, you’re not ready. Being partially committed is not being fully committed; any relationship expert can tell you that. In order to be you, you must be unashamedly ready. 

Why? Because you’ll be bombarded with all kinds of questions about why you decided to “go natural.” These questions will come from those who are near and dear to you, as well as virtual strangers who want to question your decision. Some people will be curious and their authenticity will be apparent. Others will be rude and their insecurities will shine a bigger light on why your decision to be you is 100% about your own readiness. Your “momma-nem” will be some of your harshest critics because straight hair represents an uncomplicated existence, an ease that makes them comfortable. Years ago, a preacher man told me that I would never get a husband if I kept cutting my hair. His intentions were good, I suspect, but for a lesser woman, his words may have tainted her worldview about relationships, in general. You may even encounter the unsettling sting of your own man/significant other turning up his nose at your natural hair; he didn’t sign up for nappy and lets you know every chance he gets. My point is…unsolicited advice, insensitive messages, and peace-snatchers will follow you wherever you go. Be You. Be Ready.
Internally, wearing your hair in its natural state will be a war that you may just have to fight…until that very moment, that explicit second, that actual point in time when you will not give one damn about what others think about your hair. Honey, baby, sugar, chile…Be You. Be Ready. 

Week Seventeen: Third Retightening 

Wednesday, November 16th was my third retightening. I’m still excited because my consultant told me that my hair has finally started to lock in some areas. When I look at my hair, I see hundreds of tiny, elongated curls. The interlocked hair, which is the lengthening, isn’t the exciting part. What’s exciting to me is how my unruly, mind-of-its-own hair seems to twist and bend and sway in the ways most comfortable to it. During this one-on-one time with my consultant, I confessed my biggest secret: I do nothing to my hair, I mean nothing, except wear my Loc Soc to bed, fluff and go. 

One week prior to my retightening, it’s pretty clear that my hair has grown a lot over the last five weeks. The two photos below show how my grid has simply faded into the background due to the thickness of my hair. Since I believe that the edges of my hair are among the most fragile and delicate areas, I do not manipulate my edges by gelling or brushing them so that they can freely grow and thicken. We’re all born with the hairline we have, but since beginning my natural hair journey in December 2015, my hair’s edges have become stronger and more defined.


Two weeks before my retightening session, my hair seems a bit fuzzier. The three pictures below are closeups of the multiple textures (and natural colors) of my babies.


A few days before my retightening, I snapped a couple of selfies showing the thickness of my hair at its roots. It almost looks like my ‘fro days…puffy everywhere, healthy for sure.


For this latest retightening, I was immediately bundled and banded BEFORE shampooing. My hair was retightened, this time, AFTER my shampoo. Below are a few pictures from my Wednesday night retightening.

Finished product – first three photos

Retightening in effect (prior to shampooing) – next two photos


My hair has been growing like a weed over the past several weeks…at week 16.5, four months into my Sisterlocks journey, I am astounded by the stretch. Here is a comparison shot of the right side of my hair and the back of my hair, mid-July (top two photos) vs. mid-November (bottom two photos).

Not only has my hair growth been tremendous, I am learning that over-manipulation, product buildup, and too frequent shampooing can be enemies of the maintenance of healthy and natural tresses. Length has never been the goal for me, but thick, healthy hair remains the aspiration in my late-40’s. If length is a buy-product, I’ll embrace the changes ahead of me well into the half-century mark. It’s not just hair…or is it?

In my next entry, I’ll take on this quote and what it means to me:

“In particular I want to talk about natural black hair, and how it’s not just hair. I mean, I’m interested in hair in sort of a very aesthetic way, just the beauty of hair, but also in a political way: what it says, what it means.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Week Fifteen: Progressing Slowly, But Surely

I’m not a procrastinator, but it seems as if I am always running, walking fast, or rushing somewhere. Turning 48 years old recently has left me wanting to slow down, just a bit, and be more intentional about caring for my needs. I’ve been swamped with staying afloat at work, and I haven’t made an opportunity to sit down and just…write. How’s my hair? I definitely got 99 problems, but my Sisterlocks ain’t one! Interestingly, I’ve had so many moments of reflection over the past month, but I couldn’t find the energy to reflect AND write until now. I want to talk about progression, in general, and how slow progression, in particular, can be most fulfilling. 

Do you ever think back on any period of your life when you were young and carefree? What did that feel like? What was happening slowly for you…and you were fine with the snail’s pace? I think about my college years, the giddiness of first love, the first apartment I struggled to maintain, buying my first home, the first few road trips I took with my sorority sisters, the newness of career change…I think about my hair and all of the progressions I’ve experienced just over the past year. 

My hair continues to do its own thing; my babies are in a puffy stage now…slowly progressing. I am still enjoying the fact that I do virtually nothing to my hair. It’s not long enough to “style,” and its messy, carefreeness is what I most love about this hair decision. A quick rub to loosen my flattened locs in the morning when I remove my Loc Soc, a brief scalp massage at night to stimulate my follicles and encourage blood flow before applying my Loc Soc, and a 5-6 week retightening and shampoo are all I need. 

Here are more closeups of my baby locs. Still curly, for the most part, not fully locked…but slowly progressing.

I’m seeing progress in the growth of my hair. Here I am during Week One – so excited about the journey! 

And here I am in my current state, Week Fifteen, and I can definitely see the growth. Progressing slowly, but surely. 

Work Day Look

Best Hair Decision EVER. Play Day Look.