Natural Hair: The Gateway to my Healthy Lifestyle

"Healthy mind, healthy spirit, healthy hair."

Unlike most, my journey to becoming healthier didn't start with eating right and exercising, it actually started with my hair. When I was in the 6th grade, my mom put a relaxer (AKA perm) in my hair to chemically straighten it. The goal was to make it easier for her to manage. The active agent in most relaxers is a strong alkali or an ammonium thioglycolate. These chemicals break down the chemical bonds of the hair shaft, disrupting the elliptical shape and reconstructing the bonds, which can cause the hair to become very brittle and break off. Not only does it damage the hair, but there have been several studies that have suggested the relaxers can have a lot of negative impacts on overall health. After reading a lot of blogs and watching tons of youtube videos, in February 2013, I decided that I was going to go natural. Partially to be healthier and partially because my hair was starting to break around my edges. And I needed my edges.

So my plan was to "transition," which means I was going to stop getting a relaxer, but I wasn't planning on cutting my hair. I was just going to have curly roots and straight permed ends. But God had different plans. Within 6 months of me not getting a relaxer, my hair was breaking off really bad. Like falling off in my hand bad. (Side note: the same thing happened the last time I tried to go natural, so I went and got a perm, I wasn't mentally ready to cut all my hair off). With a much needed push from my bestie, I nervously cut my hair. Go and check out my IG @Dr.KristianH, the very first picture I posted was me a few months after I cut off all of my hair. And go ahead and follow me and like a few pictures while you are there. :-)

I realized that I had not seen the natural texture of my hair since I was 12 years old, and I honestly had no idea on how I was going to manage my kinky curls. I didn't even know what products to buy. So I started researching the best products for natural hair. For a minute, I was a bit obsessed and become a product junkie. But I discovered that one of the most important things when selecting hair products, is avoiding products that contain any of the following chemicals:

  • (1) ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL which will dry your hair out and break it off
  • (2) MINERAL OIL & PETROLATUM which is a derivative of crude oil and coats the skin and hair just like plastic wrap
  • (3) PEG (polyethylene glycol) which is potentially carcinogenic
  • (4) PROPYLENE GLYCOL (PG) whic is the active component in antifreeze and breaks down protein and cellular structure,
  • (5) SODIUM LAURYL SUFATE (SLS) & SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLES) which may be damaging to the immune system
  • (6) DEA (diethanolamine) MEA (momoethnanolamine) TEA (triethanolamine) which are hormone disrupting chemicals and are known to form cancer causing nitrates and nitrosamines
  • (7) FD & C Color PIGMENTS which animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic
  • (8) FRAGRANCE which has many of the compounds in fragrance are carcinogenic or otherwise toxic
  • (9) IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA and DMDM HYDANTOIN which are just two of the many preservatives that release formaldehyde (formaldehyde-donors)

After taking such great care in reading the labels of my hair products, I started reading the labels of my other favorite health and beauty products -  toothpaste, make-up, deodorant, body wash, etc. Over time, I switched all my products to be more natural. I went from Dove Deodorant to Crystal Essence Body Spray, I switched from Crest Complete Multi-benefit toothpaste to Tom's Flouride-Free Antiplaque toothpaste, and I switched from Ambi face wash to Black Soap. (I will write another post reviewing all my new found favorite products in much more detail.)

From my health and beauty products, I moved into my kitchen. I started reading the labels of all of my favorite foods and I realized that I was eating a lot of chemically altered and man-made versions of food. If I was worried about getting cancer from what I put on my body, I definitely need to take a closer look at what I was putting into my body. This is where my clean eating journey begin. I grabbed a big black garbage bag, and threw out almost everything in my pantry and refrigerator. If the ingredients included words I couldn't pronounce, if there was sugar (in any of its many forms), or if there was more than 5 ingredients, then out it went. As I changed my diet, I had more energy and I was less irritable. The dark circles around my eyes started to lighten, and I haven't seen an "eye-booger" in years. My taste buds were also changing. I found myself craving a spinach smoothie or green beans instead of macaroni and cheese or Oreos. My pineapples started to taste sweeter and some of my old school favorite desserts, like the T.G.I. Friday's Brownie Obsession, didn't taste the same. It was entirely too sweet and almost tasted fake. And of course, I started to loose weight. But it was healthy weight loss. In the past, I would just cut out carbs, loose weight really quick, just to gain it all back a few weeks later. For the first time, I was changing my eating habits, not to loose weight, but to be healthy. This mindset shift meant the world to me. A mindset shift that all started with my wanting to save my edges.