Thursday, September 25, 2008

Shampoo - Rinse - Repeat

The morning comes misted. A brisk nip is in the air. This is the perfect day to relax my hair.
With my head leaning forward at the weight of my massive afro, I take out the box of chemicals. I have been meaning to do this for a while now, but the weather was too hot. No, wait. It is not the heat. It is the humidity. Yes, this is what everybody says. The dreaded humidity had played havoc with my hair. Think of it as a bad frizz day - times ten.

Like a six-grade science project I’ve been slacking off at for the past three months, I open the box to make sure I have everything I need.

- Relaxer. Check.
- A creme activator. Why does that sound so naughty? Whatever. Check.
- Conditioner. Check.
- Orange Shampoo. Check.
- Gloves. Check.
- A wooden spatula that is actually a flat wide popsicle stick. Check.
- Instructions. Check.

Then I go through the list of things that I am suppose to have but wasn’t included in the box.
- Comb. Check.
- Petroleum Jelly. Now I know this post is starting to sound naughty. Oh well. Check.
- Towel or cape. Why? I’m not doing Dracula’s hair. Silly me. It’s for drying. Check.
- And a whole bunch of other stuff. Check if I feel like using it.

Now I come to the part of the instructions listing the warnings. Always fun to read, it tells me to follow the directions carefully to avoid skin and scalp irritation, hair loss, hair breakage, ear or eye injury. Then it goes on to say the product contains alkali (caustic) and may cause blindness. Oh, and the best part of the warning. The obvious part . . .

Hair is flammable. Keep hair away from sparks and open flame at all times.

Yeah, I kinda knew that already.

With no sane adults supervising me, I gleefully go to work mixing the chemical relaxer and creme activator. Then I slap it on, huge white globs dotting my dark hair everywhere. I smooth it in, then almost slap my head at my forgetfulness. I’m supposed to be timing how long this stuff is in my head. In too short, the strands will not relax. In too long, I BURN MY SCALP. I have had this happen before - at a salon. The stylist was so busy gossiping that she didn’t pay attention to the time. When I woke up the next morning, I had scabs all over my head without the help of open flames.

I look at the nearest clock estimating I have no time left since my head feels like it is charring inside an oven. I turn on the water, rinsing out as much as the chemicals that I can. Then I shampoo.

The world turns pink. Well, not the entire world but the relaxer does. I put the orange shampoo on the white relaxer and it turns varying shades of pink to let me know that there are still chemicals in my hair. I have to keep shampooing until the foam turns white.

So I rinse and shampoo. There is pink foam in the sink. I rinse and shampoo again. Pink foam in the sink. Rinse and shampoo. Still pink in the sink.

I’m fed up by now but there is not much I can do. I have to get those chemicals out of my hair. I am near tears in my frustration, until a big plop of white foam strikes the counter. It is white.

YAY! I rinse the shampoo out for the fifth time. It is a new world record. I’m usually good for at least three more rinses. In celebration, I treat my hair to a nice long conditioner, which means I forgot to time myself again. With strands almost dried out, I wash one final time. Then here comes the most complicated step in the process. The styling.

I brush my hair back and slip on a rubber band to make a ponytail.

Was it worth possible burns and blindness to relax my hair? Well, think of it this way.

Unrelaxed hair - A gigantic afro with birds nesting inside.

Relaxed hair - Strands are an actual 5 inches longer than before the process. The length is past my neck and a little below my shoulders. Wildlife must relocate . . . easier to clean up birdseed.

Time it took to relax hair? Estimated - 35 minutes. Actual - 1 hour and 19 minutes.

Conclusion: Shaving my head would have been easier.


  1. Thank you, my darker shade of gray friend. I've always wondered about that process, as it's not something too many lighter shade of gray people do. Very interesting to read about.

  2. lol Oh Michelle, I'm very familiar with this. I have a sister that had beautiful curly hair and hated it. So she straightened it all the time. You would think they could come up with something not so harsh nowadays. She hurt her hair and her head many times doing this.

    This is the one time I truly envy men...they can cut their hair very short or shave their head and it's perfectly acceptable. I want to know who coined the phrase, "a woman's hair is her crowning glory"? Sure put a burden on us!

  3. Yay for the new record! Five inches? Yeah, I think it was worth it. I wish I could get five inches today--my hair dresser butchered me last time. I'm a little scared to go back.

  4. Suldog: You're welcome. I like sharing trade secrets of the darker gray world, so long as I can get less time than Martha Stewart during her jail sentencing.

    Sandra: I've cut done on using it. You're suppose to do so many touch-ups and I know it can't be good for my hair.

    I never heard that phrase about "a woman's hair is her crowning glory." Makes me want to go out and use my fist to crown the person who came up with such nonsense.

    Natalie: Hairdressers? Arggh! I had a butcher back during highschool who believed himself the next fashion guru and wanted me to shave one side of my head while leaving the other side neck length. I refused, but he kept cutting my hair shorter and shorter as if trying to be sneaky about it.

    I long for the days when my hair was middle of my back length. But I know I'll never reach it again without hair extensions, which totally freak me out.

  5. Basically, the phrase comes from The Bible, 1st Corinthians, 11:14-15.

    "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is glory to her?"

    I've had some problem digesting that one. I sported very long locks when I was in bands and such.

  6. Suldog: Okay, I'm imaging you with long hair, tossing it over your shoulder in slow motion as the girls are raving.

    If they had had rock bands during those times, I'm sure they would have made an exception for guys like you.

  7. My Darker Gray Friend:

    Come over to my place and take your award :-)

  8. rats... your last line was MY line :P lol

    your post count is ALMOST 100!

  9. Wow. A peek into the Inner Realm O' Beauty. I, for one, appreciate VERY much the hoops all y'all of the female persuasion jump through to make yourfineselves beauteous. And I'm no less amazed, too.


  10. What's with all the awards? It's just hair...

    Laughingwolf: I know. 100 here I come.

    Buck: This is just a little peek. Just think how long of a post I would have made if I was a runway model. Everbody would "run away."

    Ha! I can make puns too!

  11. G'day from Aus Michelle, slipped over from Laughingwolf's. I love this post. I have incredibly curly hair and had it chemically straightened once but they dyed it as well and it started to fall out! Free haircuts for a year. Gah, I've learned to go with the 'fro!

  12. I'm beginning to feel guilty about just stepping out of the shower and just allowing the day to dry my hair...usually. Chemicals scare me. So does all that work. Thanks for sharing :)

  13. Baino: G'day to you! I'm glad you stopped by. I'm surprised those people did that to your hair. It usually says it in the insturctions not to use dye. Wow! Sorry to hear it happened to you.

    Thanks for stopping by! :)

    Hillary: Don't feel bad. Besides the straightener, I usually do the same thing. Brush it back and tie it off right after the shower.


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