The Courage to Go Natural / Melissa Bon

7 years ago by


Erik Melvin

I should tell you how uncomfortable I’ve felt about my hair since I was 6 years old. As a child, my hair grew so slowly, most of the time people thought I was a boy. I was evolving in an environment where most of the girls had straight hair, and I had a tiny afro, with very little curls. I used to ask my mother why my hair wasn’t similar to my friends’ and she’d reply that everybody is different, and that I was beautiful just the way I was. I didn’t believe her at the time.

Through the years, like most teenagers, I was doing everything to fit in, to hide any trace of difference. I went through it all: color, perm, straightening, bad products. I literally killed my hair. I thought that changing my aesthetic would give me confidence. But I was young and had a pretty bad conception of beauty.

My family and I used to spend every summer in the south of France, in Aix-en-Provence, at my grandmother’s. I was so frustrated having short hair that I begged my parents for almost an entire week to get (what I would now consider hideous) braids with extensions. They finally gave up the fight and we headed to the hair salon. They must have known how uncomfortable I was with my hair to agree to wait this long. I remember thinking the braids were so pretty, especially because it was the first time I felt the weight of hair on my back.

We got back to my grandmother’s and I immediately dove into the pool to escape the hot weather, but as soon as I entered the water, my braids began to fall out. I started screaming with anger, I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t stick to my head. I eventually realized that my hair was too thin to hold them, and over the next week, they continued to fall out. I decided these braids would be a battle and I would win! Until there were only two braids left in my hair, which I decided to keep (imagine how crazy that made me look ha!). But these two braids ended up in a knot which became my worst nightmare. My mom tried everything she could to take them off but it was impossible, so we decided to shave all of my hair off…

After that ordeal, I opted for a green towel, secured with a hat. I was insane and I continued this technique for many years.

The good news is I’ve recently surrendered and left the hair battlefield behind. I came across an old friend last summer who had hair that looked so healthy and beautiful, a result of a cut and moisturizing treatment from Devachan salon in New York. I knew I had to try it, and on my trip to the city last week, I managed to get an appointment. And let me tell you, I love the result! Maybe I’ve grown from the uncomfortable 6 year old I used to be, or maybe it’s the result of embracing yourself rather than resisting, but for the first time, I’m choosing to keep my hair natural and I feel more confident than ever.

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  • I have finallyvreached the ‘late thirties’ club and I too notice that my skin has been less than radiant or ‘lacking lustre!’ Are there any affordable, cruelty-free products to help get my glow on?! Thanks ladies! <3

  • Hi Nadine!

    Coconut or Almond Oil should do the trick! Coconut oil leaves more of a sheen on your skin, where as Almond Oil soaks in a bit more. If you have oily skin already try the Almond Oil, but other wise I think coconut is your best bet. That’s what I use! You can get either of them at the local market. Make sure it says “organic unrefined/raw/virgin oil”. Good luck!

    Tori x

  • Coconut oil is actually comodogenic which means it can clog your pores if you have skin that is prone to break outs. If you want that extra glow and DO want to use oil as a base…Make sure you find an oil that doesn’t clog your pores.

    My tip is to take whatever moisturizer you usually use for your face and mix in a very tiny drop of Vaseline or Lucas Papaw ointment. Make up artists use this combination a lot, whenever the runway direction calls for “dewy” skin.

  • I just turned 39, so I understand the dull late 30’s skin thing. My skin hates coconut oil, but it loves marula and avocado oil. Both of these (esp. marula) make my skin look more moisturized and glowy from within. I mix a few drops with rosewater in my palm before massaging into my face- this helps to trap more water in the skin. Also, a vitamin C serum underneath the oil can really help with glow. Mad Hippie makes a nice, natural one.

  • Vaseline on your face has a higher risk to cause breakout, plus it is not natural at all. I would recommend jojoba oil that is not comedogenic. I also love to mix rosehip oil with argan oil. I am 31 and it is good for my skin. I remove my make up with coconut or jojoba oil with a wet warm cloth. Natural oils all the way!

  • Mamavalveeta03 December, 9 2016, 10:18

    Nadine, please listen to the advice from Tatite!!! Natural but non-comedogenic is the way to go. That, or Erin’s suggestion of Marula oil. (It’s good, but makes me break out. Find what works for you!) NO Vaseline!!!

    Melissa, your hair is beautiful! Definitely “Street Star worthy”!!! It makes me sad to think of you – or any little girl of African descent – trying so hard to fit some arbitrarily [white] determined standard of beauty. I’m glad you found a great salon that steered you toward your own, individual natural beauty. Love yourself…You’re worth it! (Have you read Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”? Please do!)

  • Jeanine January, 4 2017, 3:25

    Jojoba oil, period.

  • Your hair is beautiful!

  • Il n’y a rien de plus joli que le naturel et cela te va à merveille ?

  • “The Hair Battle”! I held up the flag and surrendered about 5 years ago…I felt as though a brick had been taken off of my chest. I was also a victim of the beautiful, braid brigade…lol! I just couldn’t do it any longer. Between the 8 to 10 hours in the chair getting it done and the time spent trying to take them out… it was utterly exhausting. After 40 years of straightening, perms and extensions I can truly say that I’m finally happy with my hair. Now, if I had your beautiful face Melissa, I might have surrendered a long time ago:).

  • story of my life too …

  • As somebody with pin-straight hair (think Cher from her heyday, and when I was younger, it was just as long and as thick), I have always dreamed of gorgeous corkscrew curls like yours. I had perm after perm, often at my mom’s behest….which only reinforced that straight hair was a curse.
    Enjoy what you have.

  • What a beautiful woman! That was my first thought when I saw the picture. I understand the struggle with your hair, I’ve got my own. But in the end who cares if your hair is not perfect, you should try to accept yourself for who you are (flaws included) as there are more important issues to worry about. That’s what I try do, but of course it’s not always easy.

  • I really admire your choice to go natural! Hiding and not liking your hair, just makes things worse. I’ve been natural for a year now and it’s one of the best choice i’ve made. Loving and caring for it changes everything.
    Love to you Melissa ??

  • *Sigh* Sad thing is, this is a wisdom that cannot be passed on but only gathered through experience… I wish your picture and your words could have an impact on my teenage step-daughter’s obsession with straightening and box braids, but I know it does not work like that, and she’ll have to damage her scalp, and health, and waste hours, days, weeks and money getting braids and wigs sewn onto her head in order to, hopefully, one day, find herself and love and care for who she simply is and what she has. So many hours that, in my opinion, had been better spent laughing, dreaming, reading — anything, really, but those desperate attempts at obeying the soul-crushing injunctions of dominant culture.

  • I so identify with your story, very much mine too, unlike you I still “soldier on” with Blowdrying it straight inbetween a weekly Monday after work Blow Dry at my local salon. I spend a fortune on Keune and Kerastace moisturising hair products… Somehow straighter hair seems more professional for my career in sales …..if we are in another country on holiday I will occasionally leave it in its natural state of thick Bunny Fluff ….use lots of product to tame it and then tie it up with hair slides My first question when booking into a hotel is “where is the closest hair salon” Once I retire I will cut it really short, and dye it blue

  • Depuis que j’étais toute petite, je rêvais d’avoir les cheveux raides aussi (mes cheveux sont plutôt ondulés et très fins). D’ailleurs, même adulte, je continuais à me faire des coupes qui ne vont qu’aux cheveux raides, mais je n’ai ni la patience ni l’envie de me faire un brushing tous les matins. Autant vous dire que le résultat était assez triste. Mais il y a deux mois, j’ai décidé d’aller à un bon salon de coiffure et de laisser le coiffeur me faire une coupe totalement inédite qu’il m’a assuré qu’il irait bien avec la texture naturelle de mes cheveux. Elle est magnifique et j’en suis totalement ravie. Cela m’a vraiment aidé à accepter mes cheveux et à les aimer tels qu’ils sont. Donc je comprends tout à fait cet article.

  • Hi Melissa…
    Love the hair in the pic!!!!
    Self acceptance is a wonderful gift of life, I am glad you own it now!!!
    Besides, really, curly hair are just so so beautiful!!!
    Lots of love,


  • I have blond, really straight hair.
    I’ve always thought it would be so cool to have black curly hair.
    I guess I’m the one who always wants what she doesn’t have. :)

  • You are so beautiful! I’ve recently made peace with my curls, too, and it makes such a difference – so much energy to give to more fun things than fighting with my hair!

  • Le coup de la serviette verte!!! Même problème pour les mêmes raisons sauf qu’à la place, moi j’enfilais le col d’un pull que je laissais donc coincé au niveau du col, ce qui fait que le reste constituait mes cheveux textiles, manches comprises;

    Bon je l’ai fait jusqu’à l’âge de 10 ans environ

    Pour m’apercevoir en grandissant que les cheveux longs ne me vont pas. Mon max actuel est le carré épaule que je lisse ou laisse bouclé selon mes envies.

    Les cheveux bouclés c’est bien justement parce qu’on a le choix: bouclés ou lissés.

  • I’ve been wearing my afro hair in its natural state for almost 2 years now. I love it. It’s soft and springy and the healthiest its ever been. I have the tiniest, tightest, corkscrewiest curls that I never knew I had due to all the years of straightening. YouTube has educated me on how to take care of my natural hair and I will be eternally grateful for the natural hair community I’ve found there. One day I just decided I’d no longer be a slave to my hair and I slowly started cutting away the relaxed ends within a month’s time. When I was finished cutting I had about 2 inches of hair left. Now I have about 10 inches of hair and it’s slowly becoming less and less maintenance. Because I became concerned about growing healthy hair, it made me cultivate an even better diet. A bettet diet has made everything better. I’ve also adopted this “no longer a slave” approach to many parts of my life. Its liberating. It’s a total re-education. So going natural with my hair is one of the best things I’ve ever done.

  • Hi Shana,
    which website, specifically helped you? I am planning to revert to natural at the end of next year, when I will be retiring. All info on what and what not to do would be useful. Thanks for your help!

  • I like your hair a lot! I think you should totally go natural and have no doubts about it!

  • I have toyed with natural looks for the last 15 years or so. It can be a difficult choice and finding the right hair care routine takes time but I always feel the most “myself” when my hair is in a natural state. Thankfully social media has made it a lot easier to find info, but it can also be overwhelming the “black hair care” industry is massive! And somewhat intimidating.

  • Sarah Rombouts December, 9 2016, 12:11 / Reply

    You are exquisite, Melissa. I can relate; however, caucasian but having thin but super-curly hair. I understand the dilemna of wanting to fit into the crowd. The eighties and nineties look of straight blonde, Paltrow and company…being called a “poodle” was not fun after a day at the pool. Thankfully, my Jewish grandmother from Flushing, delivered a striking blow and said, “We are all different, and those differences will tell a story of intrigue and also jealousy. Get used to it!” Thank you for sharing, Garance.

  • Melissa, like many other who have read your story i have spent 42 years working through the process of finding out that it’s ok to love the crazyness of my hair and curls. I work in Finance and also found that a blow wave provided me so much more confidence. However i found that i was not living my life after a while as everything revolved around the weather and my hair. I damaged my curls so much it took me 4 years to grow it back and find my routine again .. it made me remember that there were times when i loved being different. So now i totally go with it, and funnily enough there are just as many people that love my hair this way as others do when i have had a blow wave … but now i like not being the same as many others. My partner is much happier because i am enjoying life more and doing more with him regardless of the weather ???? Enjoy being special you look beautiful.

  • SO. MUCH. YES!! Cheers to you and your gorgeous hair! :-D

  • Bonjour

    J’ai eu le même problème pendant toute ma vie d’enfance et adulte. Depuis 7 ans je suis au naturel. Au printemps, dernier j’ai aussi lancé un premier produit d’une gamme capillaire pour enfant aux cheveux bouclés. La crème capillaire Les Mimis.
    Notre objectif est d’ammer les enfants à aimer leurs boucles dès leur jeune âge…
    Comment puis-je vous envoyer un échantillon ?


  • I completely feel your past pain. While my hair grew pretty long, it was a lot of hair – thick and curly yet soft. When I was young and wore an afro I looked like cotton candy. It blew away with the wind. The whole wash and straighten process was an all-day Sunday event. Oiy! And then I got it relaxed and tried cutting it myself. Not good. What I realized with hair like mine/ours is that it is healthiest when not much is put in it. No-poo shampoo (sulfate-free), natural conditioning oils, no or vey little heat, no color. It’s almost as pure as my daughter’s.

  • The grass always seems greener on the other side, at first. Your hair is gorgeous!

  • (I hope you won’t take this the wrong way)

    It was so nice, reading an article about natural hair on the blog !

    Merci beaucoup Garance, d’y avoir pensé, et merci à Mélissa !

    J’ai adoré la vidéo “What is French beauty”, dans laquelle j’ai découvert Mélissa (pardon, je ne te connaissais pas du tout), tu es aussi belle que ta voix !

    Garance…je suis contente que tu écoutes ton instinct, concernant tes cheveux. Je sais que ce n’est pas évident tous les jours, et que souvent tu as envie de juste tout couper, pour que ce soit plus simple.
    Mais tu as l’air vraiment épanouie, it gives you a special glow, et tu n’en es que plus belle.

    Bonnes vacances à toutes et à tous !

    PS : Pardon pour le mélange Anglais et Français, c’est juste que parfois, les mots ont plus de sens en Anglais qu’en Français…

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