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Cutting HmG's Hair...big mistake?

Before the Chop
After the Chop

When HmG let me know she was ready to do her own hair, I thought there was something special I had to do to make it easier for her.  I remember brushing her soaking wet hair into a ballet bun for a competition and thinking to myself, "this is a whole lot of hair." Would HmG be overwhelmed?

HmG's hair grows naturally in layers, but all of her layers were long.  The layer from her crown to nape stretched down to her waist.  She has a lot of strands and each strand is thick.  I thought to myself there was just no way she could handle it.  We talked about it briefly and decided to chop off three inches, hoping it wouldn't be too noticeable to others.

First, the chop was very noticeable to others.  I was dismayed to watch HmG explain over and over why her hair was suddenly so short.  She had to explain it for months.  After a few months she stopped thinking a hair cut was a plausible answer and simply agreed that her hair was much shorter.  This would have been no big deal except that while no one said it directly, their dismay was clearly communicated.

Second, her hair was more manageable but it was also very different. The shorter length shrunk more, making HmG's hair look even shorter than we expected.  If her long hair shrank 40%, her shorter hair shrunk 60%.  Add to that the breakage HmG experienced while learning to detangling without ripping her hair out of her head, and we were easily working with a five inch chop as opposed to a three inch one.  The styles HmG loved looked very different, and disappointing since she was aiming to look the way she had always looked.

Was it a mistake?

Yes--and one I won't repeat with her sisters.  I quickly learned that shorter and more manageable hair is an inevitable part of the learning process once our girls start handling their own hair.  HmG didn't need the head start I gave her.

I regret making her have to adapt to new hair when she would already have to adapt to a new process.

I regret calling so much attention from others to her, by having her hair look so much shorter. At 14, HmG's  self consciousness was already understandably hormonal.

I regret not trusting her to have her own experience, and overcompensating for a negative outcome.

I regret not talking to her more about it.  Neither of us are afraid of hair cuts, but I'm not sure she understood the change involved in cutting off that much of her hair.  I'm not sure I understood it.  I never expected her shorter hair to shrink more.

I am thankful that HmG is very adaptable.  The process has been very forgiving and her hair is growing back with a vengeance.  I am reminded again that no stage of learning is void of mistakes and that it feels fantastic to get up and keep trying.  At the end of the day, a hair cut is still just a hair cut, because nappy hair grows back just like any other hair.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. At a practical level I had no clear idea that the length would have that kind of impact on slowing shrinkage. At an emotional level, as a white mom of a mocha princess, I feel a lot of stress around doing her hair in healthy proper ways. It eases me a bit to see someone as well versed as you show that all of us can make mistakes from time to time. I hope you get how I mean this, and that this is not coming from a place of disrespect!

  2. Hi Mocha Mom,
    I am the vanilla mommy to my chocolate 2 yr old princess. I'm terrified that I have done something wrong with my daughters hair. It seems that her hairline is just growing in. I would said all of her hair kindof forms a "mohawk" with her sides/front/some of the back just 2" in length coils. Our "go to" style has always been puffs and I feel like the pattern in which her hairline or thinner hair (not texture but volume of it) is in is because of the puffs! I would LOVE to send you a picture of what i'm talking about and get your opinion. The LAST thing I want to do is continue doing something that is not healthy for my daughters hair. If you have time, please email me at kathleenellis79 at gmail . com.
    THen I can send you a picture. I'll actually take some tonight. THANK YOU for this blog. I hope to hear from you! Blessings, Kathleen

    1. I think I can picture what you are describing even without the picture. If you were doing the same puffs in the same areas each time, the stress of being pull taunt in exactly the same way all of the time can cause breakage. Hair slips out of the puff all around. Depending on how long you leave them, the loose hair can become brittle and dry. It helps to change the pattern around regularly and give the hair a break from time to time by doing an entirely different style like twists or braids--even an afro can be a break. Don't worry--time and TLC will help fix the problem. Can you do twists? They are loose enough to cause very little strain to the scalp. Even if her hair is uneven, I would twist the hair that is long enough to work with the shorter hair will grow in. I would just keep the short hairs clean, and moisturize them along with the longer hairs but leave them alone as much as possible until they grow long enough to work with without overly straining them. My oldest daughther had this kind of damage from me pulling her puffs too tight and over styling. It took some time but her hair grew back in just fine.

  3. Hello
    It looks like you see when you get comments so I thought I would take a chance you'll see this question :-) I've written before, I have three daughters and you've helped me learn so much about natural hair care. My oldest however is in Middle School now and would like to have her hair pressed once in a while (ok...a lot! but I won't let her :-) My question for you is this since I know you used to have relaxed hair---how do I best care for her hair during the week when she it pressed? We wash and do a deep condition treatment before I press it. I have a pressing oil which says it has shea and coconut oil in it and then recently I noticed the first ingredient is petroleum! Any suggestions on how to press it with the least amount of damage or what to do during the week?
    Thanks tons!
    Julie A

    1. I would be out of my comfort zone giving advice on how to care for pressed hair. I think it can be very damaging so I avoid it completely.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. You live and you learn. I love that she is so adaptable.

  6. I have a step daughter who is half African American, half Caucasian. I am trying my hardest to keep her hair healthy and grow long while her bio mother is doing the opposite. Her bio mother and I are both Caucasian, and I have for the past year been researching and doing what I am being told is all the right things, while all she does to it is wash it and then uses a protein gel in it. She doesn't moisturize it at all. When she comes back to our house after the weekend, and now a long time frame since it is summer break, her hair is fixed, whether it be braided or whatever "interesting" design she chose to do to it, but it is to DRY and frizzy that it makes me sick. What do you recommend I do to her hair while she is here, that may help it while she at her mother's house. Also, she just recently told my husband that if I do her hair again, that she will chop it all off because she claims that everything that I do to it is causing it to fall out, when in reality its everything is ISN'T doing! But at the end of the day, I am not concerned if she does choose to chop it off because I believe that it has gotten so damaged, that what I do doesn't even always help.

    1. Your situation sounds very difficult. Would it be possible to sit down with the bio mom and show her what you have learned? It sounds like you two are in conflict with each other and your daughter is caught in the middle. I think if you arrive at a place of compromise, it will be better for everyone. Changing how we manage our hair can be so difficult when we've been trained for a lifetime that bad practices are necessary. Your daughter's bio mom is not unusual in her approach. If she is not ready to go through the process or doesn't believe in it--no one can make her. I would do damage control. Now you know what to expect. When she gets home from a visit, follow your regimen. Try to put in styles like braids or twists before a visit so bio-mom may not feel the need to do her hair at all.


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