3-Day At-Home Hair Rehab, Part 1: My Hairstory

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While we’re all sheltering in place, I’d like to share a gift with you that not only made my hair miraculously healthier, fuller, and more vibrant, but also my life. Think of it as a three-day hair detox or spa even. Treat yourself. How often do you have three hours to focus on that potentially glorious mane of yours? I know you didn’t have any big plans this weekend. And I promise you can do this while still attending your virtual happy hours. Get ready to be amazed (really!) as you begin a journey of rebuilding, regenerating, and revitalizing your hair.

But first, a little background. I never set out to write a guide on hair. But I kept getting asked how I had achieved such healthy curls, especially at my age. 

It all started when I moved from Venice Beach to Seattle and found a new stylist. At our first appointment, she ran her fingers through my hair, getting acquainted. Speaking to my reflection in the mirror, she said, “You have thin hair.” Shocked, I asked, “Do you mean my strands or my actual head of hair?” “Both,” she replied. I just about fell out of the chair. 

When I returned home, I examined my hair in the mirror. Alarmed, I could see that it was receding, my part was thinned out, and my crown had a semi-balding section. I knew I had inflicted some damage from bleaching, heating tools, and keratin straightening, but I had not grasped how bad it was. I recall sitting on the edge of my tub, deeply concerned that this was what my hair might look like for the rest of my life. On that very day, I made a decision to win back my hair.

I am not a hair expert but instead an everyday woman who was fed up with investing years, tens of thousands of collars, and precious time only to find myself with expensive straw atop my head. Through extensive research and application, I have compiled a body of knowledge that has completely transformed my hair. Allow me to emphasize—my hair isn’t just improved, it’s transformed. I’ve managed to render my hair unrecognizable, even to my own mother. 

Speaking of mom, when I was a kid, she used to always say, “Do you know how many people would kill to have hair like yours? So thick and curly!” My response, “Good, they can have it!” My braids weren’t just thick, they were like frizzy explosions clouding around my head. My hair was always in braids, twists, pony-tails, or pigtails. I had already decided, early on, that I absolutely hated my hair and wanted it to be different. 

I’d also learned that if you damage your hair a bit, it’s easier to manipulate. Oddly enough, damage, in my mind, was a good thing. In my teens, I constantly cut and box-dyed my hair. I don’t think there was a time growing up that I didn’t emerge from my mother’s bathroom with kitchen scissors and a new hairdo. 

In between these phases, I would visit my aunt who owned a salon, and she would straighten my hair with the latest hair relaxer on the market. Occasionally, I would drugstore-relax my own hair, and it would turn into rubber-like strands that broke off when I blow dried it. The process of chopping it all off would start all over again.

When I reached my twenties, I decided to cut my hair quite short. Think  Halle Berry, circa 1990. I wore my hair with just a few inches for about 9 years. I would attempt to grow it out but every time it reached 3 inches, I felt like a chia pet and cut it off again. It was easy to maintain, and I wound up getting lots of compliments on the style. People thought it suited my face.

But by the time I hit my thirties, I really wanted to grow my hair out. I started getting my hair lifted a few shades, then colored, and finally highlighted to frame my face. A typical day of styling included blow drying, a straightening iron, and products galore. My hair never grew past armpit length. Everywhere, in my home and my car, I’d find hair. Full strands and broken strands, all over the place. 

When I was around 35, I went to see a new stylist, and she recommended hair extensions as a way to transition into long hair. Sounded good to me. $1500 later, I had goddess hair, and I loved it. I went in every few months to get it maintained, and she colored my hair to match the extensions. Ka-ching. Another $600 or more dollars. Besides it being a costly solution, it didn’t solve my problem. My hair was worse and wouldn’t grow past my shoulders. 

A decade later, I decided I really needed to deal with my hair. I didn’t want to have to keep wearing extensions. I also lost hope of anything making a difference. But I knew I needed to confront the elephant in the room, so I found a stylist who specializes in caring for hair in transition. She assessed my hair, and we came up with a strategy—to put the extensions back in, while focusing on the health of my hair as we transitioned out of them. Great! We had a plan and started taking action.

She would bring me new products, share what she was observing, maintain my extensions, and color my hair. Guess what? It did get longer. It grew a few inches past my shoulders, but it looked dull and frizzy, and it couldn’t hold a curl. Feeling discouraged, I wondered if I’d missed the magic window of opportunity to have healthy hair. I felt defeated.

That moment was the start of a year-long journey of research, leading me to the thickest, shiniest hair I’ve had since I was a little girl. I not only restored my hair’s health but I have regained its full thickness. My hair is so thick, in fact, that if I part it you barely will see my scalp. I also have successfully transitioned into 100 percent non-heated styling tools and naturally curly hair. When I say my hair is curly, it is really curly. Thick coils of wooly hair.

To say I am happy is an understatement. Yes, I know it’s only hair and it does not define me. But when you’ve been struggling with damaged hair for decades or you start losing it from a hormonal imbalance, for example, it’s quite personally jarring. Hair is not something you can really tuck away. It’s right there, like the nose on your face. It’s touched by your lover, it’s stared at from every angle when you stand in line, when you’re on a zoom call, or when you go to the store.

For some of us, it is also cultural. It connects us with our history. We are defined by our hair in many ways. What I hope to convey is that regardless of your hair’s texture or type, healthy = happy. Whatever the outcome you wish for, the most important one to me is your health.

Next, I’ll dive deep into what I’ve learned, in 3-Day At-Home Hair Rehab Part 2: Hair 101.

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