For so long, I have given so much power to my hair. I grew up believing that the length of your hair was a gauge for just how beautiful you were. The longer your silky pressed and permed tresses, the more attention you received. With my patchy, knotty crown and round, soft body I felt invisible for a long while. I believed that I never quite compared to the girls with loose curls; I actually convinced myself that I was dull.
What I failed to understand at the time was my single mother, who was both working and in school, just didn’t have time to tend to my temperamental hair. Purely as a function of efficiency, I almost always had extensions. I didn’t love the look of them, and secretly wished for luscious hair like the girls around me.
In high school, I gained control. I learned how to braid on my own and even how to install a weave, but I still didn’t have a full grip on my self-image. Throughout college, I continued this pattern of tugging-glueing-sewing (and eventually wearing wigs).
In 2007, I stared at myself in a mirror, took a pair of scissors and cut my hair off on a whim. Whirled into a panic a few minutes later, I ran to get a wig because it was my safe place. But I’d eventually come to love and nurture my teeny-weeny-afro.
In 2009 I launched a website and as I developed an online presence, my reader-base grew, and my hair got bigger. I allowed myself to latch onto this notion of “the higher the hair, the closer to God.” This new hair gave me attitude and personality that my straight hair just didn’t.
Then for a best friend’s birthday, we went on a girl’s trip to Miami. I thought it’d be a good idea to sew a wig onto my head. In my mind, I’d be in the water and partying and didn’t want to risk any chance encounters with a strong gust of wind or a harsh wave. When I returned home though, I uninstalled the wig and to my surprise…
…my scalp was raw. The weight on the front of my hair was too much and I’m pretty sure I was dealing with traction alopecia.
I’d been toying around with the idea of transitioning and cutting my hair off for a couple of weeks. Faced with myself in the mirror again, I stared deep into my eyes as I took a pair of scissors and chopped.
I was determined to detach myself from the standard of beauty engrained within me. As I snipped I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders, literally and figuratively. I was going to own who I was. I was going to learn how to love my face and my body without hair. I was going to face the world proudly with my head held high, not hiding behind curls.
Chopping my hair off started a conversation I wasn’t expecting to have, and at nearly 30, I didn’t realize so many women had come to the same place. We are not defined by our hair. This overall ownership of self has been a welcome opportunity for me.
But to be completely honest, this has not been an easy process. There are days when I look in the mirror and don’t feel my best. It’s now much easier to see the weight I’ve put on. When I have a blemish, I can’t cover it. And really, some outfits just look better with big hair. But you know what? Every obstacle is a learning experience.
I’ve learned to just let it go because there are bigger issues in the world than my hair. And (thanks to my Mom) I know the value of time and efficiency—the minutes I’ve shaved (no pun intended) off of my morning routine have been startling!
Within this transition, I’ve gained an appreciation for deep conditioning and working to find staple products that my hair texture responds best to. This self-proclaimed former product junkie has pulled in the reigns. My hair regimen has been reduced to a great no-sulfate no-poo and an amazing conditioner (both DevaCurl!) along with a simple flax seed gel. I’ve won back time to my day because I trust my products and I trust my instincts. My hair is healthy so I’ve been able to focus on other things, which has added immense value to my well-being.
This transition has been true, this transition has been real.
Have you ever big chopped your hair before? Or are you considering it? If you big chopped, what was the experience like? If you haven’t yet, what’s holding you back? Share your story with us in the comments below.
Kelly Augustine is a 20-something born and raised in NYC who loves to love life and to share her interests and experiences, mostly centered around her personal style with a focus on plus size fashion, beauty and cosmetics, natural hair, and NYC lifestyle. You can check out her blog here, or follow her on .