On August 26th, 2012, I cut all of my hair off. Prior to the “big chop”, my hair was chemically straightened, or relaxed. In this relaxed state, it was relatively low maintenance. I’d wrap it up at night with bobby pins, throw on a satin bonnet, and in the morning, I’d remove the pins and comb my hair down. It was good to go! Every six weeks, I’d get the straightening treatment once again, at one of the few beauty salons in my area that catered specifically to afro-textured hair.
Now that my hair is not chemically straightened, it has required a lot more maintenance. Before getting the kinky twists that I have now, each night, I moisturized my hair with an oil and a hair lotion, flat twisted my hair, and then fluffed it out in the morning. Every couple of days, I’d wash my hair due to the amount of exercise I was doing each day. The washing process itself took close to half an hour each time because of detangling and deep conditioning. In short, catering to my natural hair seemed to require more maintenance and thus more products.
In order to properly groom my hair, I needed a shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, oil, and moisturizer. But not every product takes to my hair type. In the same way that not every lotion hydrates every skin type and not every dish satisfies every belly. Maybe those weren’t strong comparisons but I think you catch my drift. Because my hair is prone to dryness and breakage, I’ve looked for products made specifically for my hair texture. My first-year here, I had no other choice but to work with the “Ethnic Hair Care” section in CVS. That section took up, and still takes up, roughly 1% of the aisle dedicated to hair care. Of course, those products were more expensive than usual. This was the only place students with similar hair textures to mine could get the products they needed, unless they commuted to Target in Hampshire Mall. Though even the selection at CVS was, and still is, minimal. As a result, I begrudgingly shelled out the money, when I had it, to avoid dealing with imminent breakage. Soon afterwards, I quit and begin wearing my hair in two twists each day so that I could avoid having to maneuver it as much. My hair suffered.
Thankfully, last year, a professor at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, named Erica Wilson, opened up a hair store called “Head Games”. Head Games is located directly adjacent to the Starbucks in downtown Amherst. It’s across the street from CVS, in fact. Inside of the store, there are products for curly hair textures. Some of those products are even made by hair concocters in the area. In addition to that, there are extensions ranging from braiding types to weave types. There are also straight and curly wigs. To top it off, there are even hair accessories like blow driers and hair tools like combs and spray bottles.
Erica, having a full head of coiled hair herself, is essentially an expert on curlier hair types and is well-informed about the products that she sells. The majority of the products that she sells, she tries out on her own mane first. She doesn’t push any products that she doesn’t know first-hand are well-made products. In fact, after talking a bit with a client about their hair texture, and potentially taking a peek at their hair, she’ll point towards the products that are most suitable. For those who are uncertain how to use those products, Erica does in-store demos so that clients aren’t struggling as soon as they leave the shop. She even conducts those demos for free. You can’t get that at CVS or Target!
For those who are unable to do braid styles on their own heads, she braids and twists as well for a fee. The style that I’m currently wearing, kinky twists, was installed by Erica. She even offers to do hair in the comfort of one’s own home. She did my hair in the comfort of my own summer room in Hitchcock dormitory! Erica has a lovely personality and has contributed to many a great conversation. While she did my hair in the kinky twists, once we grew weary of talking, after the third hour, we both laughed while watching The Office. Bonus points for a stellar sense of humor.
Erica has plenty of contacts in the Amherst area so if there’s a request she can’t fulfill, she’ll be sure to refer to someone who can help. Don’t settle for that CVS shelf! Check out Head Games!