It’s #ThankfulThursday and I want to share a snippet of my testimony.
Please know this wasn’t easy to do or share. Some called it brave, some called it bold – it all started with me being plain tired! I am liberating myself and I welcome others to join me. Not by doing exactly what I did, but in finding your own way to be free, whatever that means for you!
And so it begins…
Hair and skin issues have been my worst nightmare since I was a child. A combination of hereditary hair loss patterns and tension styling landed me in a position of seriously exploring hair transplantation. After years of being picked on as a child, I always sought beauticians who understood something about hair loss/prevention and hair care. As a teenager I had a lot of skin issues, which I finally got under control with Accutane (now isotretinoin). There is no worse feeling than to be going through puberty and adolescence dealing with visible skin/hair issues. I got stares and questions. And kids can be just plain mean. I always saw hairstyles I wanted to wear, but because of my alopecia, I couldn’t wear any of them. And of course, folks would ask questions like, “Why do you always wear your hair the same way?”
I was still getting relaxers when a dermatologist explained that I had seborrheic dermatitis. My skin would form dry patches on my face (resulting in discoloration) and scalp (as really bad dandruff). Dermatologist prescribed all types of creams and shampoos. I found a beautician who focuses on scalp and hair treatment who I visited weekly. Things started to get better, but my temple area wasn’t really growing. I finally found a trichologist who made her own products and customized hair oils based on the clients’ needs. We even tried electrical pulse treatment (yes, like Jack Nicholson in Anger Management!)
The honest truth is that I stopped some of these efforts because they were soooo expensive and I could not maintain them. (We won’t talk about all the money spent in hair products with claims of regrowing hair!) When I moved to NY for my post-doc and had challenges finding a beautician out in the middle of the forrest (where I was living and working), I had a moment like Sanaa Lathan in the movie Nappily Ever After, and cut it all off in tears in my bathroom with some scissors. But with my hair loss on the sides, I wasn’t comfortable rocking it. So I wore head wraps – every….day. Finally, I got tired of that and found someone to help me with the natural transition, and I graduated to headbands. Headbands brought on HEADACHES 🤕! I realized I couldn’t go on torturing myself with the headaches so we used a texturizer to loosen my 4f pattern to attempt to cover the sides (yes, my natural hair is super tight and coily I have self-proclaimed 4f).
In the end, I wasn’t feeling comfortable OR confident because it still pretty much exposed my thinning. What better next step to avoid going back to the relaxer than a full on wig?! I bought wigs from the store, ordered some online, and then finally found someone to make a custom unit for me! I’m sure those of you who have done any of this know this is $$$$$$$! So I wore those until I encountered my first windy storm where I was concerned about the security of this unit on my head!!!! I couldn’t have my hair flying off in public (we’ve seen enough videos of that!) So I started getting them sewn on, and then only to be reminded that my scalp needs regular shampooing to prevent extreme irritation and dandruff. It seemed that I kept running into dead ends where my hair was concerned (no pun intended 😬).
When I moved to hot and humid New Orleans, I knew I couldn’t go on this way much longer. The units were soooo hot! But I really didn’t want the relaxer again. Guess what I did next? I got a relaxer, despite my deepest desire to stay away from the chemicals on my scalp. At that time, it felt like the only way I could be free! And for I while, I felt much more free wearing my own hair (similarly to the women who visit Razor Chic in ATL!)
But eventually, the reality of my skin and scalp condition resurfaced with flare ups and really REALLY bad dry scalp. Once again, I found someone to do the scalp and hair treatments while I was getting the relaxer, but deep down I was so tired of this cycle. Fast forward, I had a biopsy and my new dermatologist diagnosed me with Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (talk about a tongue twister). We talked about my journey and my options and decided on a new treatment, Platelet Rich Plasma injections. This was a formal way to determine how likely it would be for the hair to ever regrow in my thinning spots. After several months of these painful prickly injections, we decided to stop. We talked about hair transplant options and I decided to let that option sit for a while.
When my grandmother passed unexpectedly, I needed to go back to SC for her funeral. Days prior I had just gotten a relaxer and my scalp was so dry and scabbed. I was back on the cycle in my mind plotting my next step (going back to wigs was the latest thought). I decided on a temporary fix – quick weave (if you have NO clue what I’m talking about, just Google!) I met this new stylist and she is very familiar with women struggling with various types of alopecia (hereditary, traction, chemotherapy-induced, etc). We talked about getting a wig, but I told her I was contemplating just taking it all off! The second time I went to her and we were reevaluated my hair condition, I told her I was seriously ready to be free of this burden. I had text her a wild style (for me, at least) – but she didn’t think I would really do it. At that moment at the shampoo bowl, I said “I’m ready.” She said, “Let’s Do it!”
We revamped our entire original plan for the appointment and I got my freedom! The women in the salon that day were amazing cheerleaders. My stylist even had Alexa to play “I am not my hair” by India Aria featuring Akon! There was a healing happening in that chair as that music played and she released those chains!
I am not looking for affirmations (although I am so touched by what I have received so far.) I did this for ME and all the women out here struggling to keep a certain look while torturing their skin and hair and their minds! As Minnie Ripperton said, “I just want to be free!” I know I may get questions, but now I get to share a little more of my story with the world.
What I do ask is that you all be mindful of the jokes you make about people and hair loss/thinning. It is a traumatizing thing to go through, particularly for women who have so much pressure on our physical appearance. What woman doesn’t want to feel beautiful and be told that we are as well? Well, sisters, let me tell you. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL HONEY! Your truest beauty starts with YOU, the inner you – and how YOU feel about YOU. I started affirming daily who I am and who God says I am. I am a daughter of the most High King! What God sees is all that matters. Don’t get me wrong, I prayed and prayed and PRAYED for a miracle. What ended up happening was that I became consumed by the weight of my issue and that weight carried into every area of my life. No, I haven’t given up on a miracle. I still believe in miracles! I am using this step as a reset – I will be more regimented with the treatments my dermatologist has prescribed, and also making some dietary changes that I believe are good for my overall skin condition.
Your issue may not be external like mine, but I know you have something. Everybody has SOMETHING! Some may say I’m brave. Some may call me crazy. But the reality is, I am ME, and SHE is FREE!
Today, I CELEBRATE FREEDOM
Dr. Jay’s New Do (inspired by this amazing model – unknown)
Transformation Lab: Makeover Beauty Salon
Hair: Sherell Randle
MUA: Nysha Carter