I just realized that it’s been a while since I posted an update on my 4c hair, particularly how it has been doing since my hair setback. Setbacks are easy to identify, but we often try to fix them without assessing their cause. That’s right, in order to figure out how to come back from a setback, you first need to figure out what created it. Relying on topical treatments to fix the situation or even the very same practices that caused the setback in the first place, will only set you back further.
In 2018, I thought that my hair was doing well, that was until I decided to do a length check. Not only did I find that I didn’t gain my usual inches, I actually lost several.
Thankfully, I identified some factors that contributed to my hair not flourishing and I have been working on correcting the situation.
The first cause that I identified was due to hormonal changes. Being a mom of four, I definitely have seen my fair share of ups and downs when it comes to hormones and their effects on my hair.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through different hormonal changes. Increased levels of estrogen and progesterone can lengthen the hair growth cycle for many women. These hormonal changes can reduce the amount of hair that is shed. Hormones can alter a woman’s hair colour. They can also change the feel of a woman’s hair making her hair oilier or drier.
After pregnancy, as the hormones return to pre-pregnancy levels, many women experience postpartum alopecia. Postpartum alopecia happens when the hairs that didn’t shed during pregnancy are finally shed. It’s believed that approximately 90% of women experience some form of postpartum alopecia.
With 10 years of back-to-back pregnancies behind me, I’ve gone through multiple cycles of increased hair growth and shedding. This created a lot of stress on my body. I breastfed each of my babies and when I breastfed them my menstrual cycle was suppressed. I breastfed each child past their first year of life. My final baby, I breastfed until she was almost two. If you do your calculations correctly, that’s almost three years without a menstrual cycle and two years of having another life dependent on my nutritional stores. By the time my cycle came back, my hormones were working hard to balance themselves out and normalize.
At times, I struggled to eat and at other times, I ate plenty, but I wasn’t necessarily eating nutrient dense foods. It’s quite possible that because of extended breastfeeding I suffered from malnutrition without realizing it.
A year later, my body is still working hard to get itself back to how things were, but I try not to be too hard on myself. We often tell new moms that it took nine months to grow a baby and that they shouldn’t be concerned with achieving a “snap back” body. I tell myself that it took 10 years to grow my family and therefore I need to be patient with nurturing my body.
If you know me, you know that I am hairstyle challenged. As much as I love two strand twists, one of the main reasons that I “live” in them is because I don’t know how to create other creative protective styles. So when I want to try something different with my hair, I usually wear a low-manipulation style like a twist out or a braid out.
These past few years, I’ve made attempts to vary my look on social media by wearing my hair loose. Ponytails, asymmetrical updos, faux hawks…as lovely as these styles are, my hair cannot handle being loose often. When I wear my hair “open”, it shrinks, it gets tangled, and it’s difficult to comb. The result is that I have to take out my scissors to remove knots and I’m left with a lot of broken hair. To avoid this, it’s best if I wear my hair bound as much as possible.
Even though I love experimenting with my hair and posting pictures and videos of the results, I must learn to better balance my loose hair styles with my bound styles so that my hair can continue to thrive.
In addition to the changes that I experienced from bearing children, I also had to deal with the real stress of growing a large family. When you’re asked to think about large families, noise, fights, and financial responsibilities often come to mind. However, there is so much more to consider, like the emotional support and nurturing each one needs as well as being supportive and caring to my husband.
Like many women – with or without a partner or children – I focused too much on supporting everyone else and I let my personal needs go to the wayside. Competing schedules and priorities, lack of sleep, and an inconsistent diet only led to mental and physical stress.
Stress can disrupt your internal system and it can cause your hair to go from the growing phase straight to the shedding phase. Stress can also deplete the nutrients that flow through your scalp and through your hair, which can lead to breakage.
Unfortunately, these life stresses are taking more time to control than some of my other hair challenges. However making time for myself is helping to elevate my spirits and improve my overall physical well-being.
Just Being Lazy
I’m not going to lie: After realizing that I’d experienced my first setback, I got caught up in my feelings and stopped taking care of my hair in the way that I knew that it needed to be cared for. I stopped moisturizing my hair regularly and didn’t tuck in my ends as much as I should. Obviously, this was not the best strategy for nursing my hair out of a setback.
I’ve started taking progress pictures, again. I’ve also been journaling the steps that I’m taking to care for my hair, each week. In doing so, it’s becoming obvious what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to taking care of my hair. In this way, I can pinpoint the good habits that I need to carry forward.
My 4c Hair Update: What’s Next?
Once I was able to identify the potential causes for my setback, it gave me a starting point from which to develop a strategy for taking care of my hair. It’s been a slow process trying to recover my hair, but it has been a great experience learning my “new” hair’s new needs. Over the past two year, I’ve had a wonderful time learning about herbal and botanical treatments and experimenting with ayurvedic hair care recipes. These treatments are breathing new life into my hair!
I am making myself a promise to keep moving forward on this journey and to reach new milestones by addressing the issues that created the setback in the first place.
Have you experienced a setback? What did you do to get over it?