Hair Stories: How Shay Myrick Used Natural Hair Care As Therapy

Self care begins with you.

Mental health is so important, and while it is highly suggested to take advantage of going to therapy, there are other ways in which you can find solace through self-care. Ask Shay Myrick of Brooklyn, New York. She used natural hair care as therapy to get her through a dark moment in her life.

We spoke to Shay to get the full rundown about how she turned the way she cared for her hair into a therapeutic experience that led to a breakthrough. Read on:

natural hair care as therapy: afro hair
Afro goals. Photo courtesy of Shay Myrick

All Things Hair: What inspired you to go natural?

In 2014, I decided to do a big chop and cut my hair into a tapered shape. My goal was to finally be free of relaxed hair and start to create fresh new curls. I scheduled an appointment at a respected hair salon, H2 Salon in Brooklyn, and let my stylist have fun with the process. I remember feeling fearless as the wisps of cut hair fell to the floor. This was the right decision for me; I was sure of it. She finished the tapered cut with natural curls that spiraled to the right of my face. My hair had honey brown and blonde highlights all throughout the tresses—truly a work of art!

After wearing my hair relaxed and tucked under weaves for over 10+ years. It felt great to rock just me and my natural hair with the intention of adopting this lifestyle forever.

Have you experienced any struggle with your hair? How did you overcome?

Even though I loved my newly cut chopped hair, it took a while to fully be proud of the new style. It was a new way to see my face framed without anything to hide behind. For years I never experimented or tried a new style outside of my comfort zone. I would wear a relaxed ponytail or bun or the same a sew-in weave style for many years. The haircut brought on varying degrees of length in the first year which resulted in awkward styles and experimenting with different products. I learned quickly that I would need to surrender and let go of my attempts to control this process.

A breakthrough occurred after I realized the therapeutic nature in the care for my hair. While looking for my first job out of college with a dream of moving to New York, I put a lot of stress and pressure on myself which ended up taking a toll on my mental state. Calm moments were found when I could quiet my mind and focus on mixing homemade conditioner remedies or take each strand and twist it from root to tip for a twist out. I realized that no matter the curl pattern or the job I had at any time defines who I am. I learned to embrace every version of myself in this process of natural hair discovery.

What does your hair mean to you?

My hair is an extension of who I am and is a physical representation of how I show up in the world. Each style is vibrant and is a personal expression of creativity that demonstrates my versatility as a Black woman.

natural hair as therapy: shay myrick braids
Photo courtesy of Shay Myrick

All Things Hair: Do you have a signature hairstyle?

My look changes so much throughout the year. I look at each trial and sometimes error as a part of me to own as my signature style. It’s fun to see how my hair reacts to different products—it truly has its own mood swings. At the end of the day, I am me with straight back cornrows, a blonde highlighted silk press, long box braids, and a free-flowing afro. I’ve become obsessed with rocking braids or natural styles and fully embracing me.

All Things Hair: What advice do you have for young women who want to express who they truly are through the way in which they wear their hair?

My advice is to never give up! Your hair care is an avenue of creative expression and can be fun. Never let anyone say your hair is difficult to manage. Take the time to learn what works for you and go from there. There aren’t any rules to abide by so learn what feels right for your hair and your budget.

At the beginning of my journey, I used Shea Moisture religiously. In all honesty, even Instagram hashtags like #braidstyles, #naturalhair, #naturalhairstyles, and #teamnatural helped me to build a structure for hair care. This also helped me learn more about the community. I suggest finding a hairstylist you vibe with to identify a good trim schedule. Have an open dialogue and ask questions. I know this process can be tough but I truly believe it’s worth it!