Monday, April 5, 2010

The Inevitable Hair Emergency Post


I grew tired of my braids and suddenly wanted to bring my 4 month stretch to an end and get a perm (i.e., permanent relaxer) this week. I called my usual girl and scheduled a hair appointment for Saturday afternoon. In my excitement, I unbraided my hair on Thursday night so that I'd have time to moisturize it, comb it out, and just let it breathe before the relaxer. My roommate helped me take my braids out. I forgot to mention to her that "taking out my braids" literally meant I was taking out the weave and she squealed the first time she held a newly loosened piece of weave in her hair lol!

I text the girl to confirm what time she was coming on Saturday and proceeded to make plans to debut my hair this weekend. Friday night, as I sat looking over the Nile at the rooftop bar w/ a scarf firmly tied around my un-coiffured head, I received a phone call from her telling me she couldn't make it on Saturday and asking if we could reschedule!!! My head started spinning! Having planned my entire weekend based on having my hair done by Saturday afternoon, rescheduling was out of the question!

When I arrived home, my roommate and I desperately tried to call around and find someone who could do perms. By 1 am, we'd exhausted all our options and the only people who might be of any service were asleep. Resolutely, I went on the internet and searched for a link or mention of a black hair salon in Cairo. Finally, at almost 4 am, I faced the truth: Egyptians could flat iron the heck out of curly hair but no salons specialized in relaxers.

The next morning, my roommate offered to call around again but I stopped her; it was time for me to face the truth. I wasn't going to find someone else to do my hair at the last minute. It was time for a Plan C: Self Perming. The idea of putting a chemical on my hair alone scared me senseless! This could either go really well or really badly! I remember an old episode of a Ricky Lake or some other talk show where the guest explained that all her hair had falled out because of a bad perm! GULP!

In preparation, I sent my cousin in Brooklyn a text message via GChat and asked her to walk me through the steps. She sent me directions but I felt like I needed a little more help. The gravity of what I was contemplating attempting alone was like doing heart-surgery with table utensils! I needed to be prepared or face the rest of the weekend with an untamed mane that would scare Big Foot. I went on Youtube and watched a few self perming videos and then found a great link on Hairlista with thorough step by step directions. After watching and reading sufficient tutorials and hyping myself up with disingenuous female empowerment songs as preached by Beyonce and Lady Gaga, I had one last thing to do: recruit my [white] roomie as an assistant.

I convinced my roommate that her presence and contribution was vital to my success in order to a) to make sure I didn't miss a spot, especially in the back, b) do anything I couldn't do myself  c) to warn me if clumps of my hair started falling out unbeknownst to me d) to call the paramedics if things went horribly wrong. Out of genuine, morbid curiosity, she was more than happy to help and watch. She even wanted to record it so we could put it on YouTube or this blog but I didn't want any evidence left behind, in case everything went horribly wrong. As I parted my hair into fours and  prepared everything I'd need, I handed her the jar of perm and activator and asked her to mix it until it was smooth. Afterward, we were ready to begin!

Starting in the back, I worked a little bit of perm into the new growth at my roots. My roommate watched and pointed out where I needed to apply more perm. After getting through the back, I got a little bolder and took off my gloves to apply perm in the front. Not protecting your hands and fingers is not recommend but since I couldn't see the top or back of my head, I needed to be able to feel the different hair textures as I went along.  I worked the perm in nicely only on the new growth and added it to the nape of my neck and front edges last.  Thus far, nothing bad happened so I relaxed a little and waited 20 or so minutes while the perm worked its magic. During that time, I applied a light protein conditioner to my already permed ends as my stylist in Miami always did to so that they could remain healthy.

The next step was to wash it out with the neutralizing shampoo. I explained to my roommate that she would  first wash out all the perm, then lather my hair, rinse, and repeat until the lather was no longer pink signaling thaat all the perm had been washed out. I leaned my head into the tub as she used our shower massage nozzle to wash the perm out. We held our clumps of hair rinsed out with the perm!!! Breathing a sigh of relief, I relaxed as she finished off the process.

Things were pretty easy from this point on.  I did a protein deep conditioner using Africa's Best Organic Olive Oil Deep Conditioner with my heated cap for 30 minutes to strengthen my hair. After washing out the deep conditioner, I applied Motions Nourish Live-In Conditioner and my favorite Wave Nouveau Moisturizing Finishing Lotion then did a roller set and let it air dry for most of the day as I did other things. Once I removed the rollers in the evening, I had soft and bouncy curls but the clip from the magnetic rollers had left an indentation in my hair that I really disliked. I took this opportunity to nourish my scalp with pure coconut oil and massage it in as I tried to decide what to do... Although  I was trying to avoid applying direct heat to my hair, I decided to flat iron the dents out. Unfortunately, finding both my American flat irons dead on contact with the higher voltage in Cairo, I was left with only one other option to get my hair completely straight, the Dominican blow-out. I usually avoid Dominican salons because this technique puts a lot of strain on the hair and can cause thinning over time. It took me a long time to do the blowout on my own because I kept stopping once the heat got too hot. Once I was done, my roots were straight but my hair felt dry and I didn't really like the end results. I decided to moisturize again and apply some hair gloss to regain the sheen I'd lost from the heat. At this point, I finally settled on an overnight roller set again with hair pins this time to avoid the dent.  I wanted bounce and curls when I styled it for brunch the next day.
 The next evening, I borrowed a flat iron and straightened it, wrapped it and  tied it with a silk scarf for the night.. Here are the end results of the flat iron:

It was a harrowing experience but I am glad it went well!! I've learned to do my entire regimen-wash, conditioning, roller set, and styling- on my own so perming was the last stage before I become a complete hair guru! For those of us with relaxed hair living abroad, learning to take care of your hair on your own is important to maintain healthy, manageable hair...Maybe my roommate and I will open a mini salon in our living room for the black women in Cairo lol


Matt said...

Wow... Just wow. I was always amazed at the ladies in Liberia that would go and get their hair styled 3 times a week, especially considering how long it takes each time. If it were me, I would just shave it bald. Shows what I know right?

Dr. L said...

I suggest you take all of these blog entries and turn it into a book. This is too clever. I am thinking about dreds. Of course, this is a thought and the execution of it would further indicate to my parents and family that I have issues.

Frenchie said...

Google lets you print into a book of blog post but if I got a book deal, that would be fab :)

you are always changing your hair lol...

Jessica (Matt's friend) said...

You are a brave soul...there is NO WAY i would be able to perm my own hair. I don't even have friends or my own mother perm my hair, only my stylist. I was living in Israel for 6 months and I struggled with how thick my hair got. I love that you roommate was so involved :) My roommate in Israel use to stick her hand in the back of my head for it to get stuck because it was so thick. HA! Good luck with the hair care in Egypt.

Nikita said...

Dang girl!!! That's awesome that you were able to perm your hair on your own, but your post really made me chuckle!!

I should try and convince you to come over to the "dark" side and get dreads... They sometimes present their own set of challenges in terms of maintenance and styling but I love them!!

Frenchie said...

@Jessica My roommate was really a good sport! gotta love her. My mother doesn't have the same hair texture as I but she learned to perm my hair as a child. Knowing that she could do it gave me a little more faith in myself lol

@nikita I used to want dreads sooo bad when I was 15. what scared me was that dreads aren't so simple to change up. In highschool, my Rasta friend spent 2 weeks taking her dreads out with a needle...I'd rather deal with the creamy crack lol

Asian Keng said...

Omg... so Matt kept telling me I had to read what you wrote about 'black hair care' and while I'd had an inkling it was complicated, I didn't even understand half of what you said. I used to be so jealous of my black friends who could braid/cornrow their hair because it always stayed in place (imagine trying to braid slippery asian hair), but upon second thought, I think I am pretty satisfied with washing my hair every few days and letting it air dry slightly frizzy.

I shall never complain about my hair again.

Frenchie said...

LOL It really isn't as bad as it seems. A also tried to add useful links to explain some of the terminology. This was my first time so there was a lot of trial and error. A relaxer is only applied about every 6 weeks (I usually wait longer than that, i.e., stretching)and it shouldn't take much longer than getting highlights on any other texture of hair, for example.
After the perm, how you take care of it is up to the individual. I usually wash once or twice a week, do my conditioning regimen, and then air dry. No hassle. Other people prefer other methods.

BTW, I've seen what my Korean friends go through to get a perm for curls. You can't fool me! I'd never want to sit through THAT lol

Renee said...

Hey, I ran across your page as I was looking for a salon in Cairo that caters to black hair in the Dokki district. I didn't have any luck either and I'm really tempted to go to city stars and buy a box of relaxer. I don't think I'm brave enough to do it though so I may keep my twists longer. Please update if you ever find a salon for 'us':)

Frenchie said...


I haven't found a salon that does relaxers yet but I'll keep inquiring and update you. Many Egyptian women have the same texture hair as us so you dont have to go all the way to City Stars for a relaxer. All the local drug stores and the supermarkets like Alfa Mart in Dokki carry it.

If you just want your hair straight, any Egyptian salon can flat iron it (their specialty) for you. It costs about 20LE. I've never tried this method but others I know who have tried it do speak favorably about it.

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