Real hair stories…Told by real people…That’s what you can expect from Design Essentials new Real Talk Series, an exciting blog segment in which we chat exclusively with everyday women and men willing to share their unique hair journeys through open and honest conversation.
In this blog post, communications professional, Camille Villegas, shares how she unknowingly damaged her hair by allowing a non-licensed professional apply a chemical relaxer on her box colored hair. Camille would have never imagined it would take a total of 4 years to repair the damage.
Design Essentials: Give us the back story on how you unintentionally damaged your hair.
Camille Villegas: My freshman year of college I let a classmate color my hair with a box color then two months later she relaxed my hair. At the time I thought she had a cosmetology license, but she didn’t. You know back then you couldn’t just go on Instagram and look at someone’s work, and I didn’t use good sense to ask, let me see your cosmetology license.
I had always gotten my hair done by my Aunt, who is a licensed cosmetologist. So, I assumed my classmate knew what she was doing.
Anyway, the day before I was supposed to get my hair relaxed I asked her to use a relaxer I was familiar with because I knew it worked. She insisted that we use a professional relaxer. We went back and forth, I didn’t want to use the professional relaxer because my hair is fine, so I didn’t need a strong relaxer. But I gave in because I really wanted to get my hair done. It was a big mistake.
Design Essentials: Were there any red flags when she applied and processed the relaxer?
Camille: When she was applying the relaxer, everything was fine. There was a little tingling, but there was no burning. Then when she was rinsing out the relaxer, I tugged to feel my hair and a good amount fell out [in my hands]. It was a red flag. But I still didn’t really know how bad the damage was until she rinsed the relaxer out completely and started to blow-dry my hair.
I remember the blow-drying being very hot and my scalp was so tender. I asked her to stop and something inside of me finally knew something was wrong. At that point she let me look in a mirror and I was in complete shock when I saw my hair. My hair had falling out in chunks, especially on the left side of my head. I looked like a plucked chicken.
Design Essentials: How did you recover from the damage and begin to repair your hair?
Camille: My hair had always been shoulder-length and I loved it. After the damage, I completely shut down from everyone because of my hair. I was so depressed and distraught. Luckily at that time, a new hair and scalp oil treatment had just came out. So, I used the oil and oiled my scalp constantly. I went to the beauty supply store and bought a bunch of colorful silk scarves and wore them in an Erykah Badu style because I couldn’t just wear my hair out.
I started transitioning with twists and braids because I wanted to go natural, but my family talked me back into a relaxer. I tried a asymmetrical bob then pixie cut, but I wasn’t comfortable with the cuts because my hair wasn’t healthy, it still felt so week and brittle. So, I went back to transitioning with half-wigs and crochets.
But then the second mishap happened [long sigh]. I took out my crochets and didn’t detangle my hair before getting into the shower. As soon as I wet my hair, my relaxed ends tangled up badly. I tried using conditioner, but nothing worked. So, I big chopped my hair myself with kitchen scissors.
Design Essentials: How did you feel after big-chopping?
Camille: I was like, what did I just do [laughs]? My hair was so short, and I had no idea what I was going to do. But I went to a professional stylist that gave me a nice shape. I stocked up on cute headbands, accessories, and kept my make-up together. I just wanted to look as feminine as possible. Psychologically, I had to fight to love myself with short hair. It took a long time, but eventually I felt liberated.
Design Essentials: You worked hard to repair your hair after years of damage and currently still experiment with color and thermal styling. Your hair looks beautiful and healthy, what’s your secret to preventing breakage?
Camille: I don’t play games anymore with my hair. All my pillows are covered with satin in case I’m too tired to put my scarf or bonnet on. I wash my hair once a week and I buy high-quality products to moisturize and detangle my hair. I steam treat with a steamer and deep condition my hair weekly. When I thermal style, usually once a month, I get it done professionally. I don’t thermal style my hair on my own at all.
Design Essentials: Looking back on the entire situation, what would you tell your younger self to have possibly avoided the hair mistake and what words of encouragement would you give others dealing with the same issue?
If you’re going through the same situation, first remember to love yourself. I blamed myself a lot for damaging my hair and it was depressing. But remember it will grow back. You just have to be patient and I encourage seeking a professional stylist during the process.
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