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By Sandra Dodds

 

Saturday, March 21, 2015.

 

My comb broke! Not again I shouted in my head. I needed to get ready for work. This happened on a few occasions. I used to maintain the view that relaxing my hair would make life so much easier for me. However, I never knew how to properly maintain my hair (day or night). I would simply comb, brush and then tie my hair back in the morning. Before I closed the front door, I would then hope for the best (please, no wind today). I found caring for my thick hair to be a headache. I had a routine of visiting a hair salon every six week for my usual relax and trim. I recall feeling good for at least three days. Ladies - and I'm sure this refers to some men - you know when your hair feels so good and fresh, you can't help but play with the ends and occasionally run your hands through it. I used to do that all the time, just after getting my hair done. Day four and my hair would gradually start feeling coarse and unmanageable.

 

I have tried various hair styles. I went through a stage where I used to put my hair in a weave. I still recall the unbearable itchy feeling that resulted from having my hair in this style. I remember always having to restrain myself from giving my head a really good intensive scratch. I would see other women brave enough to do this in public. I would be too shy to talk to them personally and so I would silently mouth the words 'I understand' to them.

 

I generally had problems finding a suitable hairdresser. Just the other day, I reminisced as I told hairdresser stories to my mum. I told her how I found a really nice hairdresser in Walthamstow, East London. The prices were relatively cheap and I was so glad that the place was empty and quiet. I was in and out of the salon at quick speed. However, when I returned a few weeks later for a trim, the hair salon had shut down. On another occasion, I was at another salon getting my hair braided in an afro kinky style. This salon was based in South London (to protect the woman's identity, I have omitted the exact area). On this occasion, a man came in to the salon and instructed the hairdresser to take a letter. She refused. I instinctively touched my hair at that point and thought 'oh good, not much to go'. I started to feel slightly uncomfortable as the man started to raise his voice. I wanted to make a quick exit. In my mind, I was thinking whether this was worse than the time (at another salon) when someone tried to sell me lipstick and underwear. I told the hairdresser not to worry. However, in my mind I was thinking, 'blimey, what is going on?' A few minutes later, another guy came in and argued with the woman about not paying her rent. The hairdresser did eventually manage to finish my hair, although the front section looked a bit rough. Needless to say, I did not go back after that.

 

I tried to care for my hair as much as I could at home. I thought I was actually doing well and everything was fine. No one told me what my hair looked like at the back. I did not realise that my 'special hair scissors' made my hair different lengths.

 

In terms of beauty, I think and hope that I handled that aspect of my life better (at least to some degree). I sought advice from a beautician, who instructed me how to apply make-up and to achieve a more natural look. I learnt from other people's mistakes (sorry but its true). For example, I recall passing a black woman on the street, who wore an excessive amount of bright make up on her face. I will never forget the bright pink circles she had applied on her cheeks.

 

Just under two years ago, I fell pregnant with my little boy. I had heard that it was dangerous to apply chemicals to hair, as it could potentially cause damage to my unborn child. Whether it was true or simply a myth, I believed it. I stopped relaxing my hair throughout my pregnancy and braided my hair instead. After my child was born, I continued to get my hair braided, as braids were easier to style and manage in the mornings.

 

In addition, people kept commenting how good I looked (even though I felt like a hot mess at the time, as I suffered from fatigue!!!).

 

In relation to the issues that I had experienced in the past, I decided that I wanted to maintain the natural look. I did not wear make up on a regular basis and stopped relaxing my hair. I shared the wonderful news with friends. They directed me to YouTube for help, but I did not know where to start. I did not understand a lot of things. Firstly, I did not understand what my hair type was, or how that would affect the products I should use. I also did not know how to establish a suitable beauty regime – especially with a newborn baby. I decided to seek advice and go for a consultation with a trained hairdresser. After working out a plan with the hair professional, I honestly felt so empowered and in control of how I wanted to look. Don't get me wrong, I still do not know everything, but I am embracing the transition.

 

Another friend who also feels empowered is someone who taught herself to maintain her natural hair. She even sells beauty products online. It only made sense that we joined together and set up the company BlackHairBlackBeauty Ltd. We realised that we were not the only women to face hair and beauty issues. Many of the women we spoke to when carrying out field research, reported experiencing several problems. This included:

 

How to maintain natural and relaxed hair on an everyday basis

Knowing how to apply makeup

Understanding different skin types (such as oily and dry) and knowing what products to apply to the body

How to style their afro hair

Hair removal tips

 

BlackHairBlackBeauty LTD aims to provide learning opportunities for women of colour so they can also feel empowered in relation to looking and feeling even better about themselves. The company plans to deliver the following services:

 

One to one consultations

Taster sessions

Hair and beauty workshops

Pamper days

Seminars

 

All services are available to book online via the website: www.blackhairblackbeauty.co.uk

 

The company will launch in March 2015. The sooner we can help black women feel they are not on their own in this, and to feel empowered the better!!!

 

 

Thank you for reading my story! 

 

Sandra Dodds is a co-owner of BlackHairBlackBeauty LTD - www.blackhairblackbeauty.co.uk . She can be reached at info@blackhairblackbeauty.co.uk

 

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