Texture Talk: 6 Local Women with Afro-Textured Hair Share Their Quarantine Hair Journeys

Collage courtesy of Danielle Campbell

The highs, the lows and everything in between.

Welcome to Texture Talk, a new weekly column that celebrates and deep dives into the dynamic world of curly hair, from springy S-patterns to densely-packed coils — because curly hair is far from one big category. This week, we asked six Canadian women with Afro-textured hair to dish on how they’re each coping with their unique curl care routines now that stay-at-home orders have shuttered hair salons and many go-to beauty supply stores.

Gloria Alamrew, communications specialist and freelance writer

Courtesy of Gloria Alamrew

Pre-Covid hair rituals:
“Pre-quarantine, I was a wash-and-go advocate through and through. I’ve always worn my curls natural and had never really been into protective styles much.”

Hair under quarantine:
“For the first few weeks of quarantine, I really fell out of love with my hair. Anxiety was high for me with the news and adjusting to the WFH transition. My hair was honestly the last thing on my mind. And after a while, my curls caught up to me, and I was surprised at how much they had gotten me down! Now that I had neglected them, I was legitimately sad. Recently though, I’ve started pouring more love back into my curls by twisting my hair for the first time. They’re perfect for doing yourself at home because there’s virtually no skill involved: as long as you can section your hair and literally twist two strands together, you can do it. There is something about the routine of washing my hair, brushing it out, sectioning, applying product to each section and then twisting the strands that is so calming to me. I hate to sound cliché, but it really does feel like a sacred moment of self-care for myself. Quarantine has given me the time to actually come back to my hair, and the ritual of styling and protecting it feels so restorative. It has honestly helped with my mental health so much.”

Winy Bernard, entrepreneur and podcaster

afro-textured hair care
Courtesy of Winy Bernard

Pre-Covid hair rituals:
“My BC (before corona) hair life was wonderful: I saw my hairstylist every single week for a blowout, sometimes twice if I had an event. I loved my hair; I loved my weekly appointments.”

Hair under quarantine:
“I had not done my own hair in maybe 30-35 years. I didn’t even have products for at-home haircare to wash or to take care of my natural hair. I am one of those people that was never, and will never be, an at-home, do-it-yourself person, so this has been extremely difficult and frustrating. I had to call my hairstylist and ask what products to buy at the drugstore, how to wash my hair and how to blow-dry my hair. The first time I washed my hair [on my own], I was very frustrated: It took over 3 hours, hair was everywhere in my washroom and the result didn’t even look good. It’s getting easier, though. I can’t say I’m very good at it, but I am doing my best. Now, my hair is always in a bun or slicked into a ponytail. I am so looking forward to getting back to some kind of normalcy that involves getting my hair done.”

Tasneem Nanji, artist, musician, writer and actor

Courtesy of Tasneem Nanji

Pre-Covid hair rituals:
“I have a couple curl patterns going on and I love that. Before quarantine, my hair routine sort of went hand-in-hand with auditions, and I have always worn my hair natural for the most part. I have two [curly hair] looks: One I get with a hair dryer and product, and the other is a completely air-dried natural look.”

Hair under quarantine:
“My hair has grown longer since I’ve been quarantined (it tends to grow pretty fast), and when it gets this long, it starts to get harder to manage. I gave myself a trim last week; the split ends were getting to me! I’m wearing a lot more buns and braids in this Covid era, which is new for me. I don’t feel like they’re as authentic of a look in terms of my personality, but I am also learning I am more than my hair. Lately, I keep thinking I should master how to cornrow my own coiff! I’ve been looking to icons, like Sade and Stevie Wonder, who have beautifully worn their hair pulled back and braided. I’m finding a lot of strength in knowing that hair like mine is versatile and can be worn a myriad of ways. Time to hop on a YouTube tutorial!”

Sandra Parker, corporate learning and development consultant

afro-textured hair care
Courtesy of Sandra Parker

Pre-Covid hair rituals:
“My hair has been relaxed for a very, very long time. Before quarantine, I had my hair relaxed at a salon by a stylist every six weeks. Between stylist visits, I washed my hair myself once per week. After washing, I blow-dried and then straightened my hair with a flatiron – basically doing everything my stylist does, but not nearly as well. Between home hair washes, I try and heat style as little as possible, so at night I wear a silk bonnet and sleep on a silk pillowcase. This really helps to hold my style so that I don’t have to use a flat iron each morning to fix it.”

Quarantine routine:
“Like everyone else – I have no stylist. I’m totally on my own. My last salon relaxer was in mid-February, so twice the time between my regular touch-ups has elapsed. Hair washes now take longer, since my hair is more delicate with the new growth. I’m leaving conditioner in my hair longer and using a deep conditioning mask more often, too. I bought a boxed relaxer kit at the drugstore a few weeks ago. It’s been a million years since I’ve done my own hair, but things were getting out of hand. I bought it hoping I wouldn’t have to use it, but that day came a few days ago. My last few hair washes were really frustrating and my hair was much harder to manage. I watched a million YouTube videos on DIY hair relaxing; I didn’t trust the instructions that came with the kit. I then summoned all of the bravery I had and I relaxed my own hair. Thankfully, it turned out OK and my hair didn’t fall off. Hopefully the restrictions on salons will end soon so that I can have my hair professionally done again.”

Collette “Coco” Murray, university education administrator by day, dance educator, mentor and performer by night

Courtesy of Collette Murray

Pre-Covid hair rituals:
“I’ve had dreadlocks for over 20 years. Before quarantine, I would go to my loctician three times a year for a treatment, cut and to wear various petal-loc styles, twists and updos. I have yet to see my stylist this year, so thank goodness I don’t have any highlights or hair colour to treat.”

Hair under quarantine:
“With the abrupt shift of working remotely and quarantine life, I was frustrated because I failed to stock up on products. My locs were stressed and lacklustre at the beginning due to dehydration. I needed some advice as I structured my new home routine, so I reached out to my loctician to check in on how my hair was doing and expressed my worry. Finding products that work for locs can be a challenge. I needed tea tree shampoo, castor oil and a shea butter scalp conditioner. He recommended where I could order stuff online (something I don’t normally do), and I also had to be strategic in finding a store close to home that sold products for Black hair: On my social media feed, some Black women share tips on local West Indian or African grocery stores that carry suitable products. Currently, I’ve been setting my hair in loose curls using rollers and I moisturize my scalp and locs every couple days with a shea butter conditioner. I wear them up in a bun, an updo or a ponytail most of the day, but allow them to flow freely, especially for most Zoom meetings. I’m not wearing any new hairstyles yet, but I may rock some Bantu knots over Zoom one day! Quarantine hair has been a bonding experience. Instead of constantly being on the go, I’m now forced to stop and take a few hours of self-care. A good TV binge-watch while I go through my hours of washing, deep conditioning, re-twisting and styling at home is worth it. I love my locs, my cultural ways and the freedom I feel wearing my hair this way is how I cope with my upkeep.”

Bunmi Adeoye, publicist

afro-textured hair care
Courtesy of Bunmi Adeoye

Pre-Covid hair rituals:
“Just before lockdown, I decided to be adventurous and do my once-a-year blowout and also put in a colour, which I feel wasn’t the best thing for my hair (I’m now experiencing lots of shedding and maybe heat damage). I don’t know, though, because I haven’t been able to go to a salon and get someone to look at it and assess!”

Hair under quarantine:
“Being left with the aftermath of potential heat damage from the blowout and colour (that I don’t love), I’m figuring out how to rehab my hair and get it back to good health. I’ve been doing more protective styles: twists to twist-outs, braids to braid-outs, intense detangling, protein treatments (twice so far in lockdown) and weekly deep conditioning. My immediate work team has now seen my hair in twists, twist-outs and space buns over Zoom meetings, and I get a lot of Slack messages, like: “OMG, your hair looks ah-mazing!” It makes me smile. Someone recently said that I change my hair every day. There was one time, though, I had to leave the camera off because I didn’t have enough time to rinse out the deep conditioner and my hair was under a plastic shower cap. People don’t need to see that JUST yet!”

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