So today is a double celebration!

Good Enough Mother cannot believe it but it’s true, today is another hair anniversary for me! Now I know anniversaries come once a year but since I fought so hard for this hair I’m going to celebrate at the 1½-year mark. Any excuse to eat cake!

So the back-story goes like this. My entire professional life I have used chemicals to straighten my naturally curly hair. I did it because that was more acceptable in the career field I was in (TV News) but I had actually been doing it since I was 16. Back then it’s just what so many black women did; the chemicals made it easier to manage the hair in certain styles and I was woefully under-informed about how to care for my natural hair.

So from the time I was 16 until I was 45, I went about every 6 weeks to have the curl chemically beaten out of my hair. Then I would use curling irons to flatten it more. Later I started adding color to the mix.  Needless to say, my hair was in pretty bad shape.

In November 2008, I was hospitalized with asthmatic bronchitis. They pumped me full of medication and when I got out, I headed right for the hairdresser to get, yet another relaxer. My hair had had enough. It started breaking and falling out in my hands. The hair at the crown of my head was about ½ an inch long, not a good look for anyone, much less someone who made their living on TV.

It was then and there I decided no more. No more heat, no more chemicals; I decided to go with what God gave me naturally. That was December 2008. In March 2009, I cut the remaining dead ends off and was, for the first time in almost 30 years, 100 percent natural.

It’s been a year and a half since I “big chopped” (the term used for cutting off the rest of one’s relaxer) and I have learned a lot in the process.

*PICK NON-SULFATE SHAMPOOS! Sulfate is the second ingredient listed in dishwashing soap. It is designed to remove oil. African American hair needs natural oils so stripping it only made the curls frizzy and dry. I use a shampoo from the health food store but there are many shampoos available at your local drug store. Read the labels. If it says sodium laurel sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, stay away.

*NO DIRECT HEAT: This is incredibly drying and bad for the hair. That means directional blow drying, hot irons, hot rollers, flat irons, etc. When I want to straighten my hair I used the old-fashioned roller set and a hair dryer.

* NO SILICONE PRODUCTS: These are found in conditioners and they provide the “slip” that you feel. They also can build up on the hair, requiring a clarifying shampoo, which has you guessed it, sulfates in it. So I just avoid them altogether.

* LOTS OF WATER, HAIR VITAMIN AND EXERCISE: You have to help yourself!

* PATIENCE! It will grow. Give it time.

I can’t single out any of these tips as the key factor in my new hair care regime – but it’s been a combination of all five that have really made the difference.

So good luck on your own hair journey – I urge you all to make the choices that are right for you and not to feel ‘pressured’ into looking a certain way. Bottom line – if it’s not good for your hair – it’s not good for you…

Anyway as a bit of fun, here’s a little slide show of my last 18 months of hairstyles…enjoy!