Long, bodacious, thick and bountiful hair - in most cultures and societies - is something a lot of women crave. Women of all races are able to turn to extensions to achieve the illusion of fuller hair. Thick hair is a sign of health and beauty; and to achieve that outcome, we do what we must.
When it comes to our hair (African/curly hair - either chemically treated or natural) there is not only a strong desire for thick hair, there is also a strong desire for longer hair. Today I want to address that this desire, and the actions we take, will definitely have an impact on the long term state of our hair.
I am yet to meet a woman in my specific demographic who hasn't had braids put in. Granted there are the rare few, but majority of Kenyan women have had braided hair and/or a weave put in at one point or another. In East Africa, we are fortunate enough to have professional braiders who are able to achieve the most beautiful and unique braided extensions. They are easily found, they are fast and most importantly they are affordable... oh-so affordable! As such, wherever you are in Nairobi, at this moment.. you won't go five steps without seeing a lovely Kenyan woman dawning a head full of braided extensions. When it comes to weaves, the price range is not as defined, but there is a weave for every wallet ;)
Not only are they a relief to have on (for long periods at a time), they create the illusion of thick, sexy, beautiful hair, and - should it be your wish - longer hair! What's not to love about them! Some would go as far as calling them lifesavers... and the best part is, come that day you take them off, you can't help but be proud of the natural growth you have gained. Ah, good old braids and weaves...
But then, come removal day, you notice something... your natural bun/ponytail isn't quite as thick as it used to be... also you could have sworn your forehead used to be at least three fingers width from your hairline, five - maybe six years ago, now its four fingers away! Mild panic begins to ensue... But you brush the thought off and enjoy your hair for whatever amount of breathing time you're used to before having your braids/ weave redone.
Breathing time sucks... your head looks tiny and out of place. There is no such thing as a cute hairstyle - it takes over half an hour to try and look fairly decent each morning. The weather hates every attempt at looking cute and there is nothing in your wardrobe to compliment that ridiculous shrunken-head feeling you have going on. What's a girl to do! You start to miss your braids/ weave.... You recall the easy life you led not so long ago... you NEED your braids/weave and by golly you're going to get them done. May the good Lord help anyone who tries to get in your way. And So you get them done; and once again, all is right with the world.
Press repeat. This is a process set on permanent loop.
I know I love my braids.... and... things..
There is a dear price to pay for all this... As time ticks on, your hair WILL thin out. There is no sugar coating it. The thick illusion you so crave will only take away what natural thickness you once had... and JUST like creamy crack, extensions become the only relief you can fall back on.
I am not here to tell you that extensions are evil and to stop getting them done altogether. I just want to reinforce the sad fact that over dependence on braids and weaves will take their toll on the hair you so long for. This is especially true for us Kenyan naturals. Some of us rely on extensions as "protective styles" (we know we do!)... as earlier mentioned, they are so easy to get done, and the psychological effect is downright addictive.
Nyachomba and I have healthy hair (or so we like to think)... over the years we have managed to learn our hair and scalp to a level where we have come to master the delicate braid/ weave balancing act. However, we can't say the same for all of our readers without some hesitation. We have therefore decided to incorporate more 'healthy' protective practices into our regimen; hence the mini-twists and corn rows. We want to show you that, although braids/ weaves are the easier choice, they are certainly not the better choice when it comes to protective styling. I for one believe that braids should be seen as a luxury that you can have done on specific intervals/ periods. Like, December holidays down at the coast, for example!
how cute is she? source
That said, we want to invite you to join us. Let's form our own little Braids Anonymous help group... I must warn you now, withdrawal will be a b*tch, but we will be here for you, for each other! There is life outside braids/ weaves.
We would like to know your thoughts on the matter.. Thoughts, questions and comments are welcome as usual.
Enjoy the long weekend my darlings.