Real Hair Stories Nadia Williams: Young black woman with shaved hairstyles wearing a green top and statement earrings

Why Cutting Off All My Hair Was The Most Liberating Decision I’ve Ever Made

Sometimes an unthinkable decision can be the most empowering.

While short hair isn’t revolutionary, in the black community, the idea of anyone willingly cutting their hair to a short crop still feels somewhat taboo. It could be that we’ve been conditioned to think of ‘long is beautiful’, so we are trained to think that keeping length is a must at any cost. However, for 38-year-old Londoner Nadia Williams, the decision was taken out of her hands, after years of straightening and relaxing had severely damaged her locks. What Nadia didn’t expect was that her ‘unthinkable’ decision also became her most empowering.*

I’d been living in extensions for over two decades when I realised they were destroying my hair. Somewhere during all the years of adding eye-wateringly tight braids, having my hair ripped out – sorry, ‘blow-dried’ by overzealous salon stylists and literally having my follicles melted by toxic relaxers, my lovely, thick ‘problem’ hair had given up the ghost.

Real Hair Stories Nadia Williams: Young black woman with braided hairstyle wearing glasses
Nadia’s braids hid a multitude of ‘hair sins’.

I discovered that my hair was patchy and too weak for weighty extensions. Traction alopecia had started to set in and the damage was irreversible. I knew I’d end up bald as a coot if I didn’t take immediate and drastic action. I didn’t want the big chop: I had no choice.

It was bittersweet – to think I’d wasted so much time and money (and hair) trying to ‘look better’.

Everyone really liked my new haircut, but it was my brother’s reaction that stood out the most: “It looks miles better than it did with all those pieces of rope.” We both laughed, but it was bittersweet – to think I’d wasted so much time and money (and hair) trying to ‘look better’. Sometimes, it makes me feel sick to think about it.

Real Hair Stories Nadia Williams: Young black woman with shaved hairstyle wearing a patterned dress
Nadia with her newly cut hair.

Initially, my new hair cut was a big adjustment. As ridiculous as it sounds, I felt the need to overcompensate for fear of being mistaken for a boy. I made extra effort with lipstick, eye makeup and earrings just to make sure there was no room for error.

Nowadays, I’ve eased into my style. It takes mere seconds to wash and go, which is a definite improvement on the entire weekends I used to have to earmark as ‘hair days’. I feel more confident with shorter hair and I think everything looks more fashionable because of the cut. It’s like an instant wardrobe update without spending the cash!

This is exactly how my hair and I are supposed to look.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked my hair – but I also fell into the trap of believing it was ‘difficult to manage’. The process of cutting it off forced me to face some hard truths. There was a real fear about how I’d be perceived (both by myself and others) and a sense of mourning for the hair I had ‘lost’. So much of my self-esteem and sense of identity were bound up in my hair.

Now, I feel more beautiful than ever before, because I accept myself exactly as I am. It’s been a long road, but it’s been utterly liberating. This is exactly how my hair and I are supposed to look.

Top Product Recommendations for Natural Hair

TRESemmé Botanique Air Dry Curl Cream

Great for taming frizz and enhancing your curl pattern, the TRESemmé Botanique Air Dry Curl Cream is a naturalista’s must-have. Apply to damp hair and allow to air dry naturally for maximum curl definition.

TRESemmé Botanique Nourish & Replenish Hydrating Mist

No matter how short your hair, always make sure to keep your delicate curls protected and hydrated with a leave-in conditioner. We love the TRESemmé Botanique Nourish & Replenish Hydrating Mist, which is enriched with coconut milk and aloe vera.

*As told to Jeanette Nkwate.

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