At a very young age, I was taught that beauty is pain—but it was an exciting pain. As a child, I endured punishing neck pangs from hours of my head craned all the way to my shoulder to get the best waterfall braids. It was worth it just thinking about all the compliments I was going to get. I would get a new hairdo for every occasion—end of summer, back to school, school portraits, holidays, vacation. This tradition followed me into my adult years, and now before every trip, the first question I ask myself is, “What am I going to do to my hair?”
I went natural seven years ago, fed up with the pain in my scalp from relaxers. I stopped using the “creamy crack,” and dealing with my hair became less torturous but more difficult.
Tightly coiled 4B/4C hair is no joke. It’s the type of hair that coils so tightly that there is no such thing as using a fine tooth comb with it, and it’s highly susceptible to dryness and breakage. Hair prep before bed can take quite some time if I am doing a braid out, twist out or flexi rod set, and wash day can take up to four-plus hours. My hair can shrink up to 70 percent, so I tend to stay away from all precipitation and bodies of water outside of my personal hairspray bottle. Yes, that means no pool, beach, or hot tub Jacuzzi situation. Nah, it’s not happening with this hair.
All of this helps to explain why I have never gone on a trip or even to the beach without my hair being prepared in a protective style. It’s not easy for me and I don’t need that kind of stress when I’m supposed to be relaxing (no pun intended) on vacation. But recently I took on a new challenge: going to the beach with my natural curls out.
When I was invited to visit a number of resorts in West Palm Beach, Florida, for a preview of Spa and Wellness week, I planned to get my hair braided before I left. I had limited time—I was getting back from Barbados the night before the morning trip, and had a couple of hours to get to my hairstylist. I had my hair in braids under a full lace unit, but that wasn’t going to work for a five-day trip full of swimming and yoga classes—not with all that gel caked up on my edges.
But I didn’t factor sitting on the tarmac for hours upon landing and getting off the plane late. Therefore, I had no time to do my hair. I was shook. I had never been anyplace without my hair being done in a protective style. I got home, threw an armful of products from my natural hair cabinet (yes as a black beauty writer, I own one) into my suitcase, ran back to the airport, and embarked on a journey that would be one for the beauty books.
I had some interesting revelations along the way. Here’s what I learned.
1. My type 4C hair did not like chlorine.
Since this trip was centered on checking out spa and wellness offerings at Palm Beach resorts, I had my fair share of pool action and relaxing treatments. But I didn’t always have a lot of time in between them, which proved challenging, to say the least.
After jumping in the luxurious pool at Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa, I realized that my hair was giving off a wet, soggy odor I didn’t quite like. I unraveled the braids that were under the lace unit—they couldn’t be worn as a style because they were ugly and not professionally done—and then anxiously slapped on some Creme of Nature Argan Oil Flexible Styling Snot Gel, because it helps keep any and every natural hairstyle intact. With only 20 minutes until my massage appointment, I panicked and tried to get my hair into a bun. Trying to get my hair well moisturized, I put olive oil on it, and everything else of creamy texture on my vanity. (When you haven’t worn your hair out in a while, you tend to forget what products actually work well with your texture, especially in a water emergency situation.) I was trying every product I traveled with on my hair, but boy was that a bad idea.
Lying on the massage table I was hot and bothered as a mixture of product and chlorinated pool water oozed down my face. I hated the ghastly smell. And while my limbs felt relaxed, nurtured and pleased, my thoughts rang aloud as I repeatedly whispered to myself, “I can’t wait for this to be over so I can go wash my hair.” It was a yucky and smelly situation.
2. It didn’t mind the ocean water, though.
Thanks to the warm-water flow of the fabled Gulf Stream current, the ocean in West Palm Beach averages 78 degrees all year round. When I went swimming at Breakers Palm Beach Resort, I couldn’t believe how comfortable I felt in the sea. The water was so clear and so warm, that I just swam and swam and swam. And my hair kind of loved it! The salt in the ocean acted as a pre-wash scalp treatment that helped get the ton of product out of my hair. When I washed my hair later using Rene Furterer Karinga Ultra Hydrating Shampoo,my hair felt so good!
3. Hot yoga was a hot mess.
Initially, when I entered the yoga class at the Wyndham Boca Raton, I had no idea it was a hot yoga class. But I got the message when sweat began dripping from the top of my head just five minutes in. See the thing with 4B/4C hair is that it’s almost like a cotton ball fluff on top of your head. In the winter, it can act as a hat and serve great for heating purposes, but in the summer, it’s just too hot to have sitting on top of your head in no manipulative style. I pushed through hot yoga but dramatically dropped to the ground as soon as it was over. Hot yoga isn’t something I would do with a puff on top of my head again.