A Year In Locs

I realized a few weeks ago that it has been a year since I started my locs. WOW. Over the past year, I’ve learned a lot, tried a bunch of things & discussed how much I love them.

Starting my locs was a multi-year progression. This story starts way back in 2006, when I moved to Orlando from Atlanta. In Atlanta I had a great stylist that I saw every 2 weeks (thanks to her generous student discount) & my hair was pretty great. I moved to Orlando & decided that I wanted to take care of my hair at home instead of trying to find a new stylist. In 2007 I discovered the hair board Long Hair Care Forum & I was instantly hooked. I joined the community & learned a lot abt taking care of my relaxed hair at home. I went through the requisite product junkie (PJ) phase & tried out lots of things – Phyto products, lye relaxers, rollersets, Dominican products (which were plentiful in Orlando), color rinses, henna, cowashing, oil rinsing, Aphogee treatments, MSM/biotin/hair vitamins – you name it, I tried it. Some things worked, some things didn’t, but by 2008 I had grown out my hair a considerable amount & was down to bra strap length, which was an achievement for me. Towards the end of 2009, I began to get bored. Sure long hair is nice, but the protecting styling I did to retain that length left me with few options. At the same time, I kept seeing women with these beautiful heads of natural hair – long or short, kinky, curly, coily, or frizzy – I thought it was all gorgeous. So I decided to go natural, simply because I needed a new challenge & I wanted the beautiful hair I kept seeing.

December 2008 was my last relaxer – it was Organic Root Stimulator lye relaxer to be exact. I read LHCF & tons of blogs to learn how to transition, what to expect, what products to use, etc. I kept a hair journal which allowed me to track what products & techniques I liked & didn’t like. After about 8 weeks it became clear that transitioning was going to be a challenge. My natural texture & my bone-straight relaxed hair were very different & didn’t play well together. I began to cowash daily to tame my hair & also keep it moisturized. My natural hair laughed at my attempts to blend the textures, through techniques like rollersetting & flatironing the roots. So I woke up on a random Sat in April & decided that I was gonna big chop, that day. And I did. I went to a salon & had the stylist chop off all my hair. She asked if I was sure & I said yes, and I walked out with an itty bitty little 1-inch fro.

Going from long hair to short hair with a completely different texture was an adjustment to say the least. I learned quickly that I have several textures in my head – in the back my hair is very 4a, making perfect little corkscrews & shrinks quite a bit; moving forward, my curl patterns loosens & in the very front, it barely waves & doesn’t shrink at all. With hair that short, the easiest thing for me to do was to cowash everyday, apply a little conditioner, and throw on a scarf or headband. The great thing about living in Florida with my TWA (that’s teeny-weeny afro) was that I could leave the house in the morning with wet hair & it would be dry by mid-morning. For the most part, I loved my TWA – I rocked pretty scarves & got lots of big earrings & made sure everything else was on point. But I didn’t have that hair to hide behind & I had to get used to that feeling of being exposed, of just putting my face forward. I went through my insecure moments & my moments of “I’m tired of this short hair!” and during those times, I went & got my hair braided or put into kinky twists. And then I’d take them out & my hair would be a bit longer & we’d go forth from there. I tried lots of products – Oyin, Qhemet, Karen’s Body Beautiful, ORS, you name it I tried it.

In January 2010 I moved back to Minnesota & that’s when I knew my hair routine would change. No more wash & go, so that’s when I started doing two-strand twists. My first twists were TINY cause my hair was still really short & it would take me forever. I spent the spring in braids and the summer exploring twisting & twistouts. I also flatironed for the first time & my longest layer was shoulder length! I experimented with stretching via a blow dryer before twisting (it was a fail – I got breakage & still had shrinkage). I alternated between 3 months in braids & 3 months of loose hair & settled into an easy routine with my hair. It was pretty simple – apply deep conditioner, detangle w/Ouidad comb & put in big twists, sit under Pibbs dryer, (co)wash in big twists, quick condition in shower, towel dry, twist wet hair with Qhemet product & air-dry. Easy peasy right? Naw playa – by the end, it was taking me 3-4hrs from start to finish EACH WEEK! Who has that kind of time.

And that is what led me to locing. It was either locing or another big chop, and while I missed the ease of my short hair, I wasn’t really interested in that look again. I like having a certain amount of length. And I saw locs as a new challenge, a new experience for me. What’s funny is that I was very adamant about not starting locs when I first went natural, but after 3 years, I decided to take the plunge.  First I researched the various methods to start – comb coils, two-strand twists, braids, free forming, etc. I knew I wanted a more manicured look & for a while I was leaning towards microlocs, like Sisterlocks, but I decided at the end to start with two-strand twists. I originally did my own two strand twists, then went to a local shop to have my parts re-established. And I just left them in. That’s it. Didn’t do anything else. And my locs were born.

Once my locs were started, my next hurdles were how to take care of them and how to maintain them & incorporate my new growth. The care part has been really simple. Because I started with two-strand twists, I didn’t have to keep them dry & so I began daily rinsing or spritzing with water, sealing with a bit of oil, and washing once per week. As for the maintenance, that’s been more of an evolution. Originally I was going to twist, using gel. My first retwist went well, I used a method I found on YouTube & I did a good job. But after a week, I was ready to get my head wet & when I did, my poor retwist went down the drain. I needed a new method! That’s when I discovered latching – basically it uses a tool to thread the loc through the hair at the root. You follow a particular pattern (2-point, 3-point, or 4-point rotations) & that tightens your loc & incorporates the new growth. My first latching session was a struggle! I used a latch hook & I had some issues, mostly with accidentally latching locs to each other because I wasn’t careful with where I placed my latch hook. So I screwed up a few locs that way & had to restart them. For my next tightening, I invested in a Nappylocs tool. It reminds me of a needle – you thread your loc through the eye of the tool & use the sharp end to thread it through the base of your loc. The Nappylocs tool gave me much more control & also kept me from latching locs together. Since then I’ve been using the Nappylocs tool with great success & its my preferred method to maintain my locs. I’ve also had to deal with stray hairs & such, and I found a great method on Youtube on how to incorporate those stray hairs into your loc – check out this video & this one too.

So I’ve got a year under my belt. Its been a good year – I’ve learned a lot, my locs have grown & changed & I’m very happy that I took the plunge. I have my moments of loc envy, and sometimes I wish they were longer, but I love them still. I don’t miss my loose natural hair at all, even when I see gorgeous heads of hair. My plan is to keep them for at least 3 years & see how they mature, and then go from there.

So here’s my loc progression over the year…I’m looking forward to the next year & continued growth.

Day 1! My locs fresh from having my parts re-established
My first retwist! I could see my parts again.
With my sorors in December – I wore 1 side pinned up a lot
I think this was Feb – see how fuzzy they are?
They shrank & got fuzzy but I still loved them
I’m posing with the fab author Tayari Jones & I love the way my locs look here.

On to year #2!