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. 

Week Eleven: Second Retightening Session

I am a member of two Sisterlocks social media communities that are very similar in name, so many of the members share dual membership within these social media outlets. I consider it a “community” of sorts; like-minded Sisters who share a love for natural hair and the maintenance of Sisterlocks. I see many posts that often challenge the path that my Sisterlocks consultant has advised. Because I trust her advice, and I have seen the fruit of her labor, I follow her advice to the letter. It makes me wonder, however, how or why the information varies so much, within the community, around the maintenance of Sisterlocks. For example, from the start, I was advised not to get my Sisterlocks wet unless I am getting them shampooed, after bundling and banding. On these pages, I constantly see posts advising newly installed Sisters to spritz their locs with rose water or water infused with natural oils to “add moisture” or to “style” them. I wonder if the daily water serves as an attractant for dust and any other airborne particles which may inhibit growth. Another example is when or if coloring your hair is advisable. I’m on the fence about color, in general, but most posts encourage Sisters to go for it…as long as your hair is truly locked. Most often, if you know that color appeals to your sense of individual expression, you should color your hair PRIOR to your installation so that, at a minimum, maintaining the roots is easier to do while the hair is locking. The thing about color is, if you’re fickle like me, when the color no longer appeals to you, you may be stuck with an even greater challenge and less appealing option, especially if you choose the “blond” family of colors-growing out light hair with very dark roots. I wonder if the coloring process changes the texture and feel of natural hair. I’ve only lightened my hair when it was chemically relaxed, so my experience differs. Coloring my relaxed tresses thinned my usual thick and coarse hair; it also changed the texture and feel of my relaxed hair.

Now that I’m eleven weeks in, I’ve had my second retightening at this point. I’m still convinced…installing my Sisterlocks this summer was the best hair decision I’ve ever made! 

Prior to my second retightening, my hair is thick and my scalp is definitely in need of a good shampooing. My grid is not visible; it is time. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016: The retightening begins after a long day of working. My hair is retightened and bundled in sections.

This left side is completely finished.

Almost two hours later, my hair is completely retightened and bundled & banded for shampooing. This time we retightened first, before shampooing. For the first retightening, we retightened most and finished some edges after shampooing. 

Post shampoo, my hair is towel patted to soak up some of the moisture, the bands are snipped away and finger-combed to loosen the bundles. Then, I sit under a warm dryer for about 4-5 minutes.

My scalp is hand-massaged and my hair is loosely styled using finger-combing. Here is the back of my hair.

Here is the front of my newly retightened hair.

Week Seven: Why am I obsessed with my hair?

One of my primary reasons for posting weekly updates is because I wanted to share pictures and my thoughts about my Sisterlocks progression in a very transparent way. I’m discovering that, from week to week, changes in my hair are not appreciable to anyone who is considering Sisterlocks as a lifestyle. Sure, I can post numerous weekly selfies and close-ups of my texture and loc changes, but they aren’t as noticeable as a monthly pictorial of what is happening with my hair. I’ll post the week before and the week after any scheduled reti; however, generally, you’ll hear from me less frequently. 

My hair is progressing nicely; the locs are stringy in some sections, but I’m told they will thicken over time. Oh…please excuse my fresh face and my red “goggles.” Those jokers are the truth! I can see  into TOMORROW! 😂😂

Here is a closeup photo of my locs; they look like little springy curls. My hair is lighter on the tips due to sun exposure. This fact is most noticeable in good lighting.

I’m still loving the ease and low, low maintenance of them.

During my pre-Sisterlocks research period, I encountered several women who were willing to share their hair journey with me. Through a series of mobile texts, mini-conversations, direct messaging on social media, I was able to ask questions to gauge my seriousness and final decision-making about this choice. Since I knew it would be a permanent one for me, I reached out to sisters who were wearing their locks proudly. I’ve been reflecting a lot on a discussion I had with a sorority sister who seemed guarded, although she stated that she would be willing to discuss her experience. I forced the conversation further one afternoon by telling her who I was considering as my consultant, and her response was simple, pointed, and short…”She is crazy.” Considering the ideological bond we share through our sisterhood, when anyone you admire makes an unapologetic statement such as this, it can cause some anxiety. I do not know the nature of her contact with my consultant, but it caused me to pause because I also had been privy to the exact opposite reaction from another sorority sister who uses the same consultant. It made me wonder, back then, who might be a bit off track? I chose my consultant anyway, based on my initial consultation with her, and I am glad I made the decision to trust my locs to her.

Here is another closeup of the right side of my hair. You can see how the ends are really little curls…some dense, some loose, and some are just little hairy balls. I have some gray sprinkled on both sides of my hair, nearest my ear.

Now that I’m over trying to find a consultant who is appreciated by all or wondering what my locks will look like with my face, I can enjoy my new reality…that I can dress and go…no longer do I have to “do” my ‘do. It’s easy to be obsessed with your hair when you have Sisterlocks. It is the only hairstyle that has allowed me to be me, free, natural, and unbothered about what others think or believe about my hair. The investment, in my opinion, pays for itself over and over again in heightened self-esteem and acute self-awareness.

Week Five: What happens during your follow-up after install?

I’m still on a natural high and loving the freedom of Sisterlocks! I never have to wonder what I’ll do with my hair, and my hair will never be my excuse for not being ready at a moment’s notice. I’m never “having a bad hair day,” and my lifestyle is blessed by more opportunities to sleep longer (not fussing with my hair), get ready sooner (not wondering what to do with my hair), and spend more time doing the things I love on the weekends and after work (because I’m no longer a slave to the salon). 

These are pictures of my hair on Wednesday night, August 24th, the evening before my first retighten (follow-up after install). Grid lines are difficult to see.

On Thursday, August 25th, I had my first bundling and banding, shampoo after install, and retightening (reti).

Here is a picture of the bundling and banding process. Most of these locks were retightened, then bundled and banded (prior to my shampoo).

My consultant shampooed my hair using the Sisterlocks shampoo, massaged my scalp, and shampooed my hair twice more before my bundled and banded sections were taken down. Next, I sat under a warm dryer for roughly five minutes for my consultant to finish the reti around the top and edges of my hair.

You can see the difference between my reti’ed front here:

and last night’s pre-reti’ed front in the picture below. The grid is more apparent:

Here is the back of my hair, post-shampoo and reti:

My cousin, Randy (RJ) says I’ll be “throwing them locs in no time.” 😍

Here are a couple of side photos of my hair, post-shampoo and reti:

The entire process (bundling, banding, shampooing, and retightening) took about 2.5 hours. Our maintenance plan is for me to visit every five weeks for shampoo and reti. Between visits, I’ll use SEA Breeze Astringent for Skin and Scalp to cleanse my scalp. The astringent is popular for braided and locked styles as it gently removes duling excess oils and dry scalp cuticle. 

My first reti is in the books now! I’m still finding daily joys in my Sisterlocks journey! 

Week Four: Why can’t I shampoo my hair?

One of the strangest things about having baby locs is understanding when it is appropriate to shampoo one’s hair. Going from a twice weekly shampoo or co-wash to a scalp massage and ruffling of the fingers through my little locks is about all I do daily. I’m a member of a FB page dedicated to the care of Sisterlocks, and the opinions vary, as much as the lock lengths and personalities of my fellow sisters, about when is the best time to shampoo. Indeed, I’ve seen posts about everything from three (3) HOURS post-install to six (6) WEEKS post-install before shampooing. I wasn’t concerned about shampooing my hair during Week One and Two, and at the start of Week Three; there are no products being applied to my hair, so what was I trying to wash away from my scalp and hair? Product buildup and odor were not concerns either, but by the end of Week Three, I had slightly more scalp itchiness. I assume the natural oils from my scalp are the culprit. Now that Week Five is here, my hair doesn’t smell as fresh, but it’s not offensive. I’ve asked my husband for verification. ☺️  Never once plagued with dandruff or flaky scalp, my hair continues to grow, quickly, and from this picture, you can see that my scalp is not flaky although my hair has not been shampooed since July 23rd.

It makes me wonder-why some Sisters are able to shampoo soon after installation and others must wait weeks for the warmth of water and the soothing properties of shampoo.  Perhaps most shocking to me is that my hair remains “oily” although I have not added any oils since my install. I’m thinking about my ‘fro prior to install and how dry it seemed in comparison. I also wonder why Sisterlocks lend themselves to natural oils producing, but my ‘fro could not thrive without product to protect its fragile ends. Perhaps those curly ends, which are struggling to lock, are protecting my hair from its roots.

Above: The picture on the right (maroon tee) is my hair right after install. The one on the left is three weeks post install.

The picture above was taken just moments ago (Sunday, August 21st) prior to the release of this post. I spend a lot of time with my cousin, RJ, and he thinks my hair is progressing as it should. Because I have decided that my consultant will maintain my locks, I will wait until her cue for my next shampoo. I suspect within the next week or so, I’ll be sitting in her chair. I’m pleased that my hair has grown about one half inch since my install a month ago. While that’s not surprising growth, it is a healthy start to the length that will, eventually, giving me the styling versatility I want with my Sisterlocks.

Until next week….

Week Three-What’s going on with your hair?

Have you ever made a decision that was just for you? A decision that was so selfish, so self-absorbed, so about you and only you? As women, we rarely consider how we are impacted by our own decision-making because, more times than not, we are making the best decision for the wellbeing of others, not necessarily for our own wellbeing.  Women express ourselves in multi-layered ways. Over the years, I’ve worried less and less about what others think of me; however, my career and my work with students and with teachers has always been the image I most strongly clung to in order to define my worth. Since I decided in my mid-30’s that parenting a child was not going to be one of my life experiences, I dug in deep, face forward, toward the goal of being the best educator I could be. It’s in me, it’s my calling, it’s what I think about when I am happy, and it’s what I think about when I am sad.

But, what does all of this have to do with my Sisterlocks. Well, as my hair continues to transform, so does my opinion about my hair and my womanhood. Here’s an up close photo of my baby locs on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 right before bedtime.

I understand that my baby locs require a certain amount of healthy eating, sound nutrition, water consumption, and general care, which will maintain a healthy look and growth for years to come. However, I’m really talking about that internal stuff. You know, how you feel about yourself-no matter the condition of your hair.

Here I am on Thursday, August 11, 2016 returning home from work. The gray hairs are quite noticeable now as they wrench away from the confines of each baby loc.

You can see how my babies have thickened throughout, but especially on the top. My current pictures, for Week Three, are pretty reminiscent of my ‘fro a few weeks earlier-kinda frizzy, kinda disorderly, kinda free.

But, what’s going on with my hair? When I decided to Big Chop in December 2015, I took a huge risk. For some time now, I have understood that my husband, Frank, was not too fond of short hair. It wasn’t quite clear to me if his distaste for short hair was connected to short natural hair or just short hair, in general. In my mind, I kept going to a space of when we first met, I had shoulder length hair, but for the bulk of our dating experience and for years prior to even knowing him, my hair was always short and relaxed. I remember when we got married in March 2012, by August 2012, I came home with a short, freshly cropped, relaxed ‘do. He hit the ceiling.

For me, when I decided to wear my natural hair, the shedding of my relaxed tresses left me feeling a bit vulnerable. I knew, even before I did it, that it would not be well-received by my husband. Internally, I struggled with, “Is this really about him not liking short hair or is more about him not liking me with my own natural and short hair?” Therein lies the struggle-the one of unconditional acceptance of the person you profess to love. So, if Frank’s issue with my hair was really about him not liking me, in my natural state of being, the battle, the risk, the sacrifice was truly worth it to me. He was going to love me, as I am, or he would have to face himself, his biases, his God to justify why I was suddenly unattractive, unworthy, undeserving of his love-ALL BECAUSE OF MY HAIR. That’s when I understood, for the first time, that it wasn’t really my problem. It was his. What’s perhaps more important here is that, on more than one occasion, he expressed his distaste for my ‘fro. I dealt with it, I stood by it, but I didn’t shrink from my decision. I was going to do what I wanted to do with my hair. Period.

Here are some photos of my hair on Friday night, August 12, 2016. I had been outside for several hours for a football jamboree. I sweated quite a bit, but my hair seems relatively unscathed.

Where my hair is its thinnest, across the very front and closest to the temples on both sides, the grid pattern is still noticeable.

In the back and very top, I would have to manipulate my hair to see the grid pattern. The change in just a few short weeks is jarring. Sometimes, I’m not very sure what’s going on with my hair, but I know that whatever is happening is welcomed and a part of the process.

Which brings me back to my original question: What’s going on with your hair? My Frank asked me this question a week ago today. It’s very interesting to me because I have not felt compelled to share one iota of my hair transition with him since I big chopped last December. In fact, when he asked me, in that very frank way he addresses me, I was a bit startled. I began to explain what my hair is doing, what my hairstyle is called, why it is a perfect choice for my lifestyle, and I even showed him several pictures of my favorite “LocEnvy” divas who are enjoying the personal and styling freedom of Sisterlocks. His only reply? “I like it. I can live with it.”