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Why I stopped combing my hair (image heavy)

August 5, 2011

(One that has been sitting as a draft for a few weeks, but I was prompted to finish today.)

Or, “I fought my hair, and the hair won”.

Actually, I haven’t stopped completely, but I usually only comb to detangle before getting in the shower now. Sometimes just to get loose hair out before that makes it snarl up, since with the texture it doesn’t shed much on its own. This afternoon I got startled at a glance at my hair in the mirror, a few minutes after combing it out to get in the shower. So I grabbed my phone and pointed it at my head, to illustrate why learning to take care of curly hair is an excellent idea. Any metaphorical value is just gravy.

You see, my hair used to look like this pretty much all the time, when I was still trying to comb it into submission when it was long. (Not so much brushing, since brushes get stuck in it and pull it out!)

I’d been wearing it twisted into a bun for several days, so that stretched the curl out more, and there are even more poky-out ends than usual. (Including bunned-up at night, since it’s not long enough yet to reasonably braid back, but plenty long enough to get annoying trying to sleep with it loose.) But the ends do that to some extent anyway.

And I used to have a lot more hair; from the vitamin D deficiency, I’d estimate that between a quarter and a third of it has fallen out over the past few years. With any luck, new growth will be noticeable soon; at least it seems to be growing again, rather than hovering around shoulder length for a couple of years. But, yeah, imagine lots of extra bushiness. It’s also less dried-out and prone to frizzing now that I know better how to deal with it and have not been slathering it in chemical dyes. Not that it doesn’t still try to bush and frizz…

BTW, it’s still got the rusty faded henna, as is really noticeable in this shot. I like the results, but not nearly so much the plastering strange-smelling mud on and then walking around with my head swathed in sweltering plastic wrap for 6-8 hours. (Just can’t sleep like that, at all, based on trying it with Special FX. :-|)

It also gets a certain weird, stiff movement to it when the curl gets stretched out, and pieces will poke out rather stiffly.*  Here, some of it is trying to reach out for the plant:

What it had in mind, I do not want to know.

"Oh no! Save me from the Horrible Hair!"

Actually, I don’t seem to be able to help having what looks like grim and/or startled as a default expression. Especially when doing stressful things involving cameras. But, that did seem entirely too apt. 😉

You can also probably see why the curl pattern trying to reassert itself kept getting interpreted as “filthy and stringy”–even before it dried from washing. (Not that there weren’t other factors with the main person who kept saying this kind of thing and generally hating on my hair–and at least once claiming that I couldn’t possibly have washed it and making me get straight back into the bath so she could do it herself, so I didn’t embarrass her with my filthy-looking hair–but…) It does start looking a little stringy and clumpy in a not-so-pleasing way when it’s trying to separate into curls again.

This one made me want to cry with the “illusion of no chin (or maybe multiple)” thing, flinching from the camera,  but gives an unfortunately good view of what happens within a few minutes of combing it out:

A useful answer to that is not, “Comb it again! It looks like it’s never even seen a comb!”.

Honestly, I am pretty baffled now that anyone ever managed to miss that its being curly was the “problem”. But, I guess if you’re caught up enough in viewing something as a problem and maybe finding somewhere to place blame for it…

(Finishing up later.) That day, I ended up having to go out before climbing in the shower, to get to one shop before it closed. And, indeed, maybe half an hour after the other photos (and after pulling it back again in a claw clip), I couldn’t help but notice that S-spirals were trying to spring up again on the top of my head.

Reflection in a shop window. That shopping centre/mall actually has *two* different curtain shops. Our house in the only one in the neighborhood without lace curtains in the front window now--since the cats kept climbing and pulling them down.

I also used to have no idea why my hair is really prone to snarling and matting, to the point that I’ve had to get it cut down almost to the scalp more than once because sections will basically felt up together so that there is no way to get them unsnarled. (This has also happened to multiple relatives with the same hair type. And professionals with gallons of conditioner and more patience than any of us have never been able to fix it without a big chop, try as they will.) Answer: disturb the curl pattern by repeatedly trying to comb the curl out, and it tries to wrap back around itself in a way that snarls and sometimes locs up. Shed hairs caught in there will also contribute sometimes to the (paraphrased from Pratchett) apparently inevitable “neatly put away garden hose mysteriously coiling around the bicycles and tying them together in the shed overnight” effect.

You can deal with this by just keeping it cut too short to do that–while complaining that you have such “bad” hair that you can’t wear it longer, and about how it wants to stick out at “strange” angles all over your head from the root lift when it’s short. You can go and get it permed neatly and uniformly to deal with the deranged hedgehog look. (A popular option among female family members, actually…)

I was going to say, "Look, kids--no product!"--but I think I did use some gel to try to make it hedgehog in a more uniform way. My mom's was just long enough that it had gotten heavy enough to fall over and look clumpy instead. Mine just defaults to a swirly natural fauxhawk at that length. 😐

Or you can find out why it’s behaving like that in the first place, and learn how to deal with it on its own terms. That is the approach I prefer these days. Much less time, energy, frustration, money, and frankly self-loathing is involved–and it actually works.

In case anyone was wondering how mostly kinda loose Boticelli curls could possibly loc up using the “freeform method” (i.e., without any assistance required, rather some to prevent that)…

(Lightened a bit for detail, since it was still half wet)

And how can they turn into big locs–sometimes up to a quarter of your hair– that pull at your scalp in a painful way? A couple from earlier today, while my hair was trying to dry strangely all around, which prompted me to finish this post in the first place.

Stretched out some to demonstrate. Two curls coil around each other tightly, and a third tries to get into the act. Every coil like that encourages more curls around it to join in. It's actually hard to see there, but the two-curl coil is like that to the scalp.

It’s not always obvious at a glance when that is starting to happen, because it sort of hides among the other hair. (That one is in one of the underlayers of hair, too–which is where my tighter curls mostly live.) Then shed hairs get into the act, etc.

The cats climb that curtain, too. 🙂 Its mate and the heavier drapes did get taken down (repeatedly by one cat, actually), but even with the sagging that one's better than having neighbors able to see in the whole sliding door!

And, indeed, if proto-locs like that start forming, the worst thing you can do IME is to try to comb or brush it out. (Bicycles, hoses…) Trying to gently unwind them with your fingers–hopefully without disturbing the curl pattern much and creating stray, unclumped hairs that will tie it all together!–is usually the best strategy for me. Today, I just left it alone because from experience I could tell that messing with it would make the situation worse.

So, yeah, hopefully someone who doesn’t know what to do with their “unruly” natural hair might gain some benefit here. And a lot of this applies equally well to other parts of/situations in life.

“[T]here is no such concept as ‘chaos.’ Rather, there are only as-yet-unrecognized patterns”#, indeed.


* A similar effect (if less pronounced, with much looser curl starting out) to why I suspect some people with other hair types apparently assume that Afro-textured hair is much coarser than it really tends to be. Mine’s very fine, but looks coarse next to some I’ve noticed. Relaxed or otherwise straightened hair just does not behave the same way as naturally straight hair, and less bouncy movement != wiry texture. I even notice that with flatironed non-curly hair.

One Comment leave one →
  1. kimmy permalink
    November 20, 2011 12:38 pm

    good stuff

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