I have curly hair.
To those who know the struggle, this post might be relatable. To those who have been blessed with naturally straight hair, this might seem almost comical. If you are someone with straight hair, and have no idea what I mean when I talk about tangles and wildfire hair, count your blessings and skip this post. If you have too much experience with tangles, bent combing devices and untamable hair, Comrade, I understand your peril!
So after a week of travel and generally being busy, I conducted a wild experiment today. I washed my hair (without conditioner) and using a brand of shampoo I don’t normally prefer. This by itself would not be such a horrendous thing. I then did the unthinkable. I let the hair loose, and after it had dried partially, slept through the better part of the afternoon with the hair in that state. Not to mention refusing to tie it up in a bun, I woke up in the later afternoon resembling a wild creature that looked murderously overworked.
Eyes bloodshot, hair askew and posture (hopefully) frightening, I did full justice to the blog’s URL. Yes. Once you have averted your eyes back to the text here, I am going to list out my evening’s experiments in steps. Having found out that I had done some kind of permanent damage to my hair by not conditioning it and then combing it and putting it into a bun, I tried for the obvious steps in damage control.
Step 1: Applying copious amounts of hair oil
While this might seem like the first logical thing to do, the only thing it actually did was make me look like I had applied something really gross and greasy on my hair. I have the habit of applying special herbal oils in my hair in the hope that it would grow to be anything longer than the neck length rope it currently is (when braided), but as they say, it is an ongoing quest. But the hair oil technique works well only when the hair has been properly conditioned, which in this case it was not. So? The hair helpfully knotted itself into clumps and I finally related well with this statement.
“Hagrid was wearing his best (and very horrible) hairy brown suit, plus a checked yellow-and-orange tie. This wasn’t the worst of it, though; he had evidently tried to tame his hair, using large quantities of what appeared to be axle grease. It was now slicked down into two bunches – perhaps he had tried a ponytail like Bill’s, but found he had too much hair. The look didn’t really suit Hagrid at all.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Step 2: Taking the strongest comb to task
This step requires an additional warning. Never attempt this with your favorite comb. Lesson learnt the hard way. The hardened plastic comb I took for this was freshly purchased and had survived my cousins playing twang with it. The game where they hold the comb with one hand and bend it with the other only to release it on an unsuspecting victim so that maximum damage is achieved. Just putting things in perspective, the comb that lasted this brutal game for nearly a week failed after its tenth foray into my scalp. What did I mean failed? The teeth broke and got stuck in my hair. If you are imagining how that is a possibility, it really does happen. When the hair (collectively) is stronger than the poor plastic of the comb.
Step 3: Realising plastic is useless. Switching to something stronger.
In this case it was a wooden comb that was lying around in the house since the dawn of the ages. It might also be because the oil had finally seeped in, or maybe the plastic comb had worked some of its magic, the wooden comb worked better. The hair finally looked like I could let fingers inside to loosen the strands. That is definitely an achievement. In case there is any doubt.
Step 4: Using fingers to undo the tangles
As they say, this works best if your fingers aren’t stubby. Having no such luck, I had to make use of what I had been bestowed with. It took nearly half an hour for me to make some sense of the mess. When I did, my whole being was tired out by the exertion.
Step 5: Trying to use a fine toothed comb on the hair
If this does not work immediately, repeat steps 3 and 4 until the mess is cleared. Then use this method to finally obtain the texture where the individual strands of hair are visible. The hair should be semi frizzy and look like it had been conditioned. If this effect can be achieved, you have won 90% of the battle.
Step 6: Plaiting the hair immediately
The importance of this step cannot be emphasized enough. Every second the hair is left untamed, the chances of the tangles appearing increase a million fold. Hair strands are like earphones in this regard. If you leave them unsupervised for even minutes, the chances of the hair going even frizzier and entangled are high.
Thanks to well wishers, I really did try two ideas (once long ago, so long ago) that backfired immensely.
Using a hair dryer. I have done it in the past and it has resulted in nothing but disaster for my hair and I have watched my little world burn as the strands fell out faster than usual.
Washing the hair in this state. This is done in the hopes that it would be relatively easier to comb through wet hair. But washing the hair immediately after washing it, without any intervening processes except drying, will surely only make the scalp dryer and more prone to disastrous bad hair days for about a fortnight.
Did I tame my hair? Yes, as best as I could. For within two days, I would go through half the ordeal yet again, with a mixture of exasperation and pride.