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MY NATURAL HAIR JOURNEY: SHANAYE SMITH Featured

  • Written by  Shanaye Smith
  • 2 comments
MY NATURAL HAIR JOURNEY: SHANAYE SMITH

For years I told myself I was going to go natural. My mom permed my hair when I was 10-years-old after she said it became unmanageable, so straight hair was all I had ever known.

But I always envied people with naturally curly hair and wondered if that could ever be me. I’d seen photographs of myself as a child with my natural hair but it was too far back to remember knowing it for myself. Then in 2009 I travelled across the water to the UK for college.

It was my first time being away from home and everything I knew, including my hairdresser. Becoming a student again at 22-years-old was a huge shift for me, and a big hit to my wallet, so I would have to start caring for it myself. But I couldn’t wait to get back home at Christmas for a touch-up and a blowout. When I sat in my stylist's chair she asked what products I was now using and I responded, “Whatever is in the £1 sale bin."

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I’ll never forget the look on her face! I returned to school and knew I was in for the long haul. It would be summer before I would be home again for another touch up. Lonely, boring nights in my dorm room eventually led me to YouTube where my fascination for natural hair was ignited. There was a world of beautiful black curly headed women who not only embraced their hair, but knew exactly what to do with it.

I started spending hours on end watching tutorials about styling and moisturizing, things I didn’t currently practice with my own hair. After contemplating for ages I decided to give it a try. I mean what did I really have to lose? On my next visit home, I decided I would switch to texturizers instead of perms, thinking it would give me the “best of both worlds” between natural and straight hair.

With this came a new experimental phase of protective styling, clip-in weaves and an obsession with wand curls to give me a desirable curly look, and of course to back straightening when I just couldn’t be bothered to do anything else. It worked for me for a while but as time went on I started to realize just how damaged my hair really was from the years of chemical processing and heat.

If I truly wanted to embrace my natural hair I couldn’t straddle the fence with it.

On January 8, 2014, I started on my journey to becoming fully natural. I started a six-month no heat challenge, the longest time I had ever gone. I visited a hair shop in London and spent more than I’d wish to admit on a slew of hair products. It only took me a few days to realize this was not going to be easy.

Transitioning and trying to handle my hair between two different textures had me in an ugly phase. My hair never looked right and definitely didn’t look anything like the girls in the videos I watched on YouTube. Buns became my best friend. But I was determined to transition and get through the process.

After a few months I decided it was time for the big chop; the only way to really get rid of the years of damage and bring some balance to my two different textures. It was the scariest yet best decision I’ve ever made. For the first time in my life I finally loved my hair, and treated it as such. In all the years of having a relaxer, my hair never really seemed to grow past a certain length, but I am now three years post big chop and my hair is longer, healthier and happier than it’s ever been!

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If I had to go back and give myself advice it would be to enjoy the process a little more. I would spend less time being caught up in images of other womens seemingly perfect tresses and understand that everyone’s journey is unique and beautiful.

Going natural not only helped me learn about my hair, but to discover and embrace who I was as a young black woman. It helped me to realize that I didn’t have to conform to society’s standards of beauty, to truly accept myself and enjoy the versatility of my curls whether it’s a good or frizzy hair day.

I hope to one day start a blog where I can express my passion for natural hair and encourage others along their journey. Every day is still a process and I’m constantly learning new things whether it’s a new technique or discovering a new product, but it’s genuinely something I wouldn’t change for the world. 

2 comments

  • Jesse
    Jesse Thursday, 20 July 2017 16:57 Comment Link

    Hey now

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  • Jonelle Smith
    Jonelle Smith Thursday, 20 July 2017 15:14 Comment Link

    Proud of you Shanaye. It wasn't easy but it was worth it. And of course the hair looks amazing. Thanks for encouraging me in my own natural hair journey. Mama

    Report

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