Monday, November 28, 2011

Naturalista's In The Military

 One of the reasons I wanted to attend last weeks expo in Kileen, was to see how many women in the military were wearing their hair chemical free and to assess the need for a natural hair stylist in the area.  I kept thinking if I were in the military, with such a huge responsibility of defending our country, would I even care about my hair?...and if I did, would I have time to take care of it the way I am able to now. Many enlisted soldiers and spouses are stationed abroad and have very little to no access at all to natural hair  products.  My love of hair care really made my heart sink at the thought of being in the military and not having access to products, what would I do?  I reached out to my pretty haired friend Victoria Teets who is the wife of an enlisted soldier currently stationed overseas.  She provided me with some insight on her healthy hair journey and some things she deals with being in the military. 

 Tell us a little bit about yourself:
 I am originally from Texas, currently living in Germany. I am the youngest of two girls. My husband is active duty military, & comes from a military dominant family. I practice Occupational Therapy, as well as a loving Mother to my son.
This time last year I gave birth to my handsome baby boy! I instantly began to experience post partum hair loss and excessive shedding. I masked the issue the best I knew how, as my hair was falling and breaking off right in the front. I cut bangs, wore side swept do’s...you name it, I tried it.
I remember watching a Dr.Oz show in Spring 2011 when he mentioned relaxers being extremely harmful and Black women should be relaxer free. I thought he had lost his mind! But as I listened, it all began to make sense!  My hair had always been thin in some areas & just limp and lifeless. I always desired fullness, but about 3 post relaxer I was back to limp & lifeless.  I was never aware of how much relaxers thin out the hair strands.  That show led my curiosity to YouTube.  I began watching videos & tutorials about caring for natural hair.  It really peaked my interest, but I just couldn’t do it.  So, I left the thought alone…for a while.  Around June the shedding and hair loss had not stopped.  I went to various dermatologists who verified, it was indeed due to post pregnancy hair loss & it would grow back eventually.  I noticed that when I relaxed, the thin areas were left nearly bald areas, which became terrifing so I prepared my husband.  I told him I would not relax my hair again in fear of being left bald. I have never had a bad relaxer experience and wasn’t ready to gamble with my hair.  I began to wear lace wigs, I did not use glue or tape, as I wanted to preserve as much of my hair line as possible.  Managing the two different textures was horrible for me.  On top of the shedding, my hair began to break horribly.  So, in September I decided to BC!  No one believed I would do it because I have always loved my hair but I believed what’s the point of having long hair if it is not healthy. I prepared myself mentally and emotionally and made the appointment...the rest is history!  I love my hair, short or not, its mine, I have claimed it, and I love it! I have not looked back.  My goal for my journey is HEALTHY HAIR! Of course who doesn’t want length? But I crave full, healthy hair.
2. How did you end up being in the military (in your case a military spouse). Where are you currently stationed? If overseas how do people react to your natural hair? My husband rejoined the military after we were married, I was in college and he was active duty. We are currently in Germany, hoping for a new duty station soon…very soon, lol.
There are actually many naturals here in Germany, so my decision to BC was not looked down upon, but I do get the occasional stares due to how short my hair is since the BC. It bothered me at first, but now I couldn’t care less. I feel free! My hair is so much more relaxed now!
3. Tell us about  your hair care regimen...shampoos, conditioners, fav style and products used. Since I am currently still at the mini TWA stage (about 2.5 inches) my go to hair style is a wash-n-go. Although I don’t actually wash-n-go. I recently started experimenting with accessories & hats.
I am a certified product junkie, lol But at the moment my regimen is pretty stable. I shampoo & deep condition weekly (Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla line) ACV rinse once a week (on wash day or mid-week).  Moisturize & Seal twice daily, using water, a water based moisturizer, then my Shea Butter mixture, and a hint of Aragon oil or Vatika oil for shine. For my water based moisturizer I use SheaMoisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie. To define my curls I use my homemade flaxseed gel… which I love! Once a month I do an avacado & coconut milk deep conditioner, & my hair loves this as well!!  At night I moisturize as usual with the smoothie & shea butter, then I seal with Jamaican Black Castor oil. I also massage the JBCO into my edges as well nightly.  I usually only co-wash once a week, sometimes two. When I do I use Avalon Organics Peppermint conditioner or Suave Naturals in coconut.
4. What are some issues you face obtaining natural hair styling services and products if stationed over seas include shipping issues and prices. If stationed in the States, include styling restrictions for enlisted females. The biggest issue I face with products availability is the shipping! Many, many, many sites do not ship overseas. Now even if one is stationed in Korea or Germany, it is still considered the U.S. because we are U.S. territory (government). Even with that being said many companies do not ship to us. Generally, when using your U.S. military address you are charged priority shipping and I usually receive my products in 1-2 weeks. When I find things that I must have & cannot get around the shipping issue, I simply ship to a family member, and have them mail it to me. There is a way around everything…you may have to pay a little more, but there is a way.
There are products on the German economy here such as Aloe Vera juice/gel, & select essential oils that can be purchased if shipping is an issue with those items.
5.What are some things those who are civilian Naturalistas can do to make your journey easier when stationed overseas (product drives, YT tutorials for regulated styling, stylists contracting with the
Government to provide on base salons?)
If we didn’t have access to You-tube here in Germany… I don’t know what my hair would look like right now! LoL There are some really great people on YT, that offer great advice and tips to Natural sistas! Too many to name them all, but I have my faves and Facebook is also a life saver. There are many natural hair groups/bloggers there as well that offer wonderful advice & style tips.
I absolutely love to see various groups/organizations having product drives for the naturals that are deployed. It is hard enough purchasing products overseas in general, so being deployed makes it that much harder. Not to mention what the extreme heat does to their hair, plus the inability to keep a stable regimen sometimes. So product drives are a definite plus. Having a natural stylist on post is something I would LOVE to see! There is a definite need for this service. Because not everyone can do African American hair and surely not everyone can style Natural African American hair. Fingers crossed on that one.  I am sure many enlisted Naturals would love to see that happen as well.
6. Do you feel men in the military respect women who wear their hair naturally? What have been one of your experiences in dealing with your enlisted peers/ spouses? I have not personally encountered any of these issues, but there are many natural spouses here in Germany. So many to where they have formed a new Natural Hair Group! We are on face book listed under: “My Crown N’ Glory-Naturals” As well as a natural hair salon that is American owned, which hosts Natural Hair meet-ups annually & sells some natural product lines. So there are a few support options for us Naturals way over here  ~The curls don’t define the girls~ ;0)
7. What is the most positive experience you have had being a Naturlista who is enlisted or spouse of an enlisted soldier? What impact do you hope embracing your natural hair has on others? The most positive experiences I have while being natural & a military spouse is going to various military functions and have my husband tell me “You look pretty” or “I don’t care what people think about your hair.”  His support throughout my journey has helped me a great deal.   I have always had a nice length of hair framing my face, so to not have hair at least ear length was a huge adjustment for me. I have since embraced and accepted the new me. I love my hair, and wouldn’t go back to relaxers if I were paid to do so.
8. Anything you would like to add in closing? Quotes, poems, enlighting passages? Prayers for others? Our hair is unique, unique in the sense that no other culture has kinks or curls like ours! I say embrace your natural kinks and curls. Embark on a healthy hair journey, because African American hair DOES grow!!


To all the enlisted Naturals and military spouses, being natural and stationed overseas can be challenging. Utilize the support that is available via internet and search for sites that will ship to us. There are plenty...Good luck & Best Wishes! Happy Holidays!

I heard you LOUD n' CLEAR Victoria...I'll be sure to make sure I participate in the next product deployment drive in my area.  I'm also working on getting more information about how to become a stylist on base for Naturalistas like you.  It would be my pleasure to give back for all the sacrifices you and other enlisted soldiers/spouses do to make life here in the States a better place.  I appreciate all of you!!

2 comments:

  1. WOW! I can so relate as I am a proud army wife. My whole focus for going natural began in Germany where we were stationed for 5 years. Lack of everything is an understatement when living abroad. I will definitely be participating in a product drive for our deployed service members. This was a very inspiring post. Big thank you to Victoria and her Husband for their service!

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  2. Thanks so much LaChristin!
    ~Victoria~

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