Shedding Hair and Shedding Fear

I have wanted to shave my hair since high school, when I met a beautiful, free-spirited friend who sported a perpetually shaved head.  I have decided to shave it now because, after finishing my PhD at Stanford and having my first child, I now know that I can take on much more than I had imagined, and I’ve been trying to put everyday fears aside.  

I’ve been attempting the things I have always wanted to do, but have been too afraid to try.  Following one lifelong dream, I tried out for a punk band, failed, and then helped form my own.  On the career front, I aimed my thesis paper for the highest impact journal and negotiated for a bigger salary. In general, I have been working to live a life free of the fear of things that don’t warrant my fears.  

Additionally, as a parent, I have been working to teach my little son to trust himself, to distinguish between the crucial, elemental fears that help him to survive and the useless fears that prevent him from living a life full of boldness and new experiences.  I am preparing to teach the same to my in-utero daughter someday.  All of this to say, it was time to face the fear of exposure I had always felt at the thought of shaving my head.

After reading my sister’s brave and honest post about the experience of shaving her own head, I started to think more about what that fear signified for me.  It wasn’t only aesthetic or practical.  I don’t often worry about being insufficiently feminine, and pregnancy has gotten me past many of my fears of a dramatically changing body or appearance.  

What I fear is being seen by others as dangerous, untrustworthy, or unfamiliar in a threatening way.  I realized that I have worked hard to keep up the appearance of normalcy, modeling my career, aspects of my personality, and my relationships to avoid appearing too “fringe”.  

Why?  Because when I was 14, after periods of major depression and a few destabilizing manic episodes with elements of psychosis, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  At the time, I was told by people whom I loved and trusted that having a mental health label would mark me forever as an “other”, unlike the people around me, and this planted the seed of the shame I have carried about my diagnosis.  

Compounding this, before learning to manage my disease, I was outwardly marked by it.  In middle school, when everyone was striving for normalcy or a way to fit in, my lack of impulse control and sometimes erratic behavior made it hard to cultivate and maintain friendships.  

High school was easier – I found a niche that fit my unpredictability, learning to channel it into a type of apparent fearlessness that attracted friends.  But the cost was a perception by my peers that I could not be trusted, that I was flaky and spacy, that I had chronically poor judgement.  My erratic behavior led one friend to quietly ask another why I constantly acted like I was on drugs.

 In addition, I was cutting myself regularly, but trying to hide the scars from friends and family.  I wanted to be perceived as “fun crazy”, not “crazy crazy”.  This continued into early college, culminating in flunking out of my freshman year and a suicide attempt that landed me in the ER for several days, first unconscious, then incoherent.  This prompted an intervention by my panicked family that resulted in a several month stay in a dual treatment rehab clinic for mental illness and drug abuse.  Afterwards, I spent several years in and out of inpatient psychiatric treatment facilities.

 For the first time, I recognized that people I loved were afraid for me.  Their fear felt like a daily burden, and I was determined to turn things around and show everyone that I was fine, that I could function and take care of myself.  However, after several years of stability, I had an extended period of psychosis that introduced a new, more deeply internalized fear.

 At the time, I was working as a teaching assistant to middle schoolers, struggling to keep myself together and trying to reconcile my irrational thoughts and feelings with the real world around me.  Years of hearing terms like “bipolar” used to describe someone unstable and irrational, of hearing stories of young people with mental illnesses doing dangerous and violent things, of media and popular culture feasting on tales of unstable women who harmed their partners or children, had left me with the sense that I might be someone who could not only be feared for, but be feared.

 Now I felt that I could no longer trust myself and my perceptions, and I became convinced that if I were exposed, people would literally be afraid of me.  After recovering from this psychotic episode, I found a medication that provided long-term stability, discovered running as a way to dampen the remaining highs and lows, and went back to school to become a scientist.

(photo Constance Brukin)

 I now work in a profession where dependability and trustworthiness are my most essential assets, one that relies on careful and methodical thought and analysis.  In addition, I have become a parent, one of the greatest responsibilities a person can undertake, one that requires consistency, self-control, and again, trustworthiness.

 I am privileged that by now my disease is, for the most part, hidden, that I can pass unnoticed through most of my life.  But when a senior scientist with no knowledge of my diagnosis makes jokes to colleagues about my “having a mood disorder”, or when I make errors that call my dependability into question, I feel panicked and unmasked.

 Similarly, dyeing my hair has always seemed a bit risky and potentially unmasking, but it is increasingly socially acceptable.  To be a woman with a SHAVED dyed head seemed to represent a much more dramatic non-conformity, a way of renouncing societal norms and intentionally standing out as someone who goes against unspoken rules of fashion and gender.  It seemed like something that could out me as fundamentally different from those around me.  

I did it anyway.  Here is why, and here is what I have learned.  First of all, while for practical reasons I must still sometimes tread carefully when talking about my mental illness, in shaving my head I am renouncing the shame of this disease.

 I am powerful, I am a survivor.  My experiences have given me a perspective that is unique and important.  As I have increasingly outed myself, I have met women who share my symptoms as well as the fear of what their disease will mean to others in their lives.  THEY are powerful, THEY are survivors, THEY have taken their lives and transformed them into enriching, successful, connected existences that anyone would be glad to call their own.  

Like me, every one of them has been afraid to talk about their own experiences, and every one has been inexpressibly grateful that someone else is talking about theirs.  We are afraid of owning one of our greatest accomplishments, surviving and thriving with this disease, because we live in a society that questions womens’ emotions, experiences, and perceptions, and pounces on any excuse to invalidate them.

My beautiful naked head symbolizes a shedding of my fear of who I am, and a symbolic shedding of the fears of all women with this disease and other mental illnesses, of the stigma that keeps all of us (your friends, your neighbors, your parents, siblings, and other relatives, and maybe even yourself,  millions of your fellow Americans, over one billion people on this planet) hidden away from the world cowering in fear of discovery.  As the brave, beautiful, and bipolar Carrie Fisher demonstrated with her words and her example, we are all many things; for some of us, one of them happens to be mentally ill.  Or, as Walt Whitman wrote, “I contain multitudes”. I am a mother, a scientist, a runner, a musician, a wife, a sister and daughter, a friend, and someone with bipolar disorder. And I am not afraid.

Check out Brook’s Transformation from a few months back HERE.







New Wash, Rainbow Hair Colorist Dream Cream

Hi babes. I have been working with this cool independent hair company out of New York City called Hairstory Studio for a few years now. I originally was attracted to what they were doing because the visuals stories of hair transformations that they show in their instagram and quarterly magazine, and their Less is More philosophy on washing hair.

They launched their brand with a product called New Wash, which is a botanically blended and expertly formulated cream hair wash that doesn’t suds or lather…….And I tried it out and loved it.

It may confuse some of you who come here for no-shampoo inspiration to see me talking about another product for sale, but hear me out. I am a real skeptic, but I gave it a chance and I wanted to share today what I love about this stuff called New Wash, and the way the company works and why it is a dreamy opportunity for Hair Colorists.

I signed on as a hairdresser affiliate for Hairstory, meaning I make a small percentage of each sale that comes through their website when I am listed as a referral at checkout. I knew that in my clientele and readership, there was a place for a non-shampoo system that wasn’t quite as crunchy as the Baking Soda/ Cider Vinegar technique. And, because I do so much rainbow color and bleaching, I needed an alternative wash that was a bit more color/chemically treated-hair friendly.

I soon learned that it was with the rainbow hairs is where New Wash REALLY shines, and it has become an essential tool in my hair color kit as a base for mixing color and for using to gently wash and condition brightly colored hair without any color loss or buildup.

And as a colorist and affiliate of the company, I earn enough points from the sales of it to my color clients that they send me my own large bag of New Wash for free whenever I need it, and so I am able to use it exclusively in my color formulas. Thats right. Every bowl of color I mix is made in a base of New Wash. Why do I love it? Because it is the PERFECT consistency for color application, it glides on the hair beautifully, it is creamy and smells wonderful like roses and black tea, and it isn’t filled with chemicals. It is a rainbow hair colorists dream cream. 

(this is a transformation done using New Wash as my color mixing base)

While a bottle of the product may seem costly for the first time buyer, what I tell people is this: When you invest the time and money into rainbow hair, you need to also invest in a care plan for it, so that you get the most out of it. When you have bleached and colored hair, you need to wash it much less often and you never want to strip it. With New Wash, a little goes a LONG way so your bottle of product will last a long while and your hair will be so much happier and more hydrated and colorful.

With that said, hair stylists, and colorists, I hope that you will register here today for your free bottle of New Wash to try out, and make sure to let them know that How-to hair Girl referred you! Affiliates like these are how I make a living and continue to share my experience here with y’all. If you are a client, friend reader, sign up today for 25% off your first purchase.

And, just FYI, Hair Story Hair Balm is my hair’s favorite balm.

Check out my Instagram today for a custom color mixing video demonstrating my favorite ways to mix with New Wash!

xo, RJH

Queen of Color Transformation and the Rainbow Afro, Words with Leysa Carrillo

Leysa Carrillo is a incredibly talented Cuban-American hairstylist whose work has really caught my attention this year. She works at Atelier by Square Salon in Las Vegas, where she weaves her magic with natural curls and rainbow colors into the most beauteous hair transformations. 

I found her on Instagram, and have been following her ever since, excitedly watching her crank out incredible work. Then, at the BTC One Shot Hair Awards in Austin last month, I happily watched her win an award in her category alongside Chita Beseau, another incredible hair artist for Collab of the Year. I reached out soon after to see if she would let me feature her here on HTHG, and she agreed. Thanks Leysa for sharing words with us!

Where are you originally from? where do you live now?

I’m originally from Varadero a little Beach town in Cuba. I live in Las Vegas now.

Why did you leave and how did you end up where you are now? 

I was a part of a show called “Havana Night” and we used to travel all around the world.  Siegfried and Roy discovered our show back in Cuba and fell in love with it so they offered us a contract here in Las Vegas at an old hotel and casino called the Stardust. The Cuban government gave us an ultimatum and said we could no longer perform and go back-and-forth between the US and Cuba…….There were a lot of political things going on between the countries so we decided to come to the United States as political asylum’s.

How has the journey of moving to this country as a very young person shaped you?

It was very hard at first.. I came without knowing when I was gonna see my family again, new culture, no knowing English but now I feel like I’m living the American dream. Somebody. pinch me. I’m grateful.

What ideas/wisdom/beliefs around hair were you raised with?

I wasn’t really raised with any believes around hair/beauty.

I think the fact my mom never knew how to deal with my Afro made me have to get really good at hair at the early age!

How did you find your interest in hair, and when did you start dabbling in hairstyling?

My show ended and I didn’t want to continue traveling and going to different auditions, so I was looking at what was available for me knowing that my English wasn’t the best and having had no college experience, I went to school for interior design and then Beauty School.

What is it about working with hair that inspires you the most?

I’m so inspired to create! I love everything about textured hair, colorful hair, anything having to do with fashion!! Seeing people’s faces at the end of any services…

What is your favorite kind of hair to work with? why?

My favorite kind of hair to work with is definitely textured hair. I love everything about the curl of hair and curl pattern specifically because I can relate to it, I feel like a lot of people need help with it because they don’t understand it.

What tips/tricks/ products do you swear by?

My best tip that I can give is definitely a good diet and drinking lots of water.

What is your own hair care ritual like? 

I wash my hair once a week, I use a mask as my conditioner. I use a lot of product in my hair and I love to enhance my natural curl I don’t use any heat with my hair.

Have you always worn your hair natural? If not, tell us about your natural hair journey……

I have always worn my hair natural. Of course I have straightened it as a girl a few times,  but 90% of the time my hair is natural and it always has been. I was too poor to afford wigs and stuff as a kid!

Tell us something that we may not know about what it is like to have such dynamic and beautiful hair with such deep history and roots?

I brush my hair just with my hair mask in it.

I think when people see my hair first they always think it’s complicated or difficult but when you get to know it and understand it, and when you truly love curly hair it’s one of the easiest to work with.

what do you love most about your hair?

I love my routine. It is super simple and I wear it natural and what can be better than bracing your natural hair?

If your hair had a spirit animal what would it be?

A Lion, of course

What would you tell a woman who just came to this country and wants to work with hair?

Go to school, don’t stop learning, continue your education even after school. Don’t give up. Anything is possible.

What could this industry do a better job of?

I would say that the industry can do a much better job of uniting all of us. I think in the past couple years social media has started to make that happen but I would like to see more of it.

Tell us a little bit about the salon you work in, and what a day behind the chair is like.

My salon is very innovative and  very modern. We are always keeping up with the new trends, continuing all of our education taking lots of classes with stylists and educators coming through here to keep us all updated. We are like a big family, always helping each other and also we take care of the community. I do find myself always busy no matter what..For some reason, I can’t figure out why I never go home when the sun is still out. I do a lot of transformations, so my days are usually filled with multiple sessions of each appointment so I stay very very busy.

Leysa, thank you for sharing a little look inside your hair life! We love your work, and can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

Be sure to check out more of Leysa’s magical hair creations on Instagram!


xo, RJH

Henna for Natural Texture Hair

Hi babes! Here is a guest post from Patrina, natural hair blogger behind

She reached out to see if I would be interested in publishing a guest post and of course, I said hell yasss because I have been so thirsty for some natural texture hair blog love to share here at HTHG.

To begin with, I want to acknowledge that The Natural Hair Journey represents something deeper rooted for women of color ( if you are a woman of color, you already know this on such a real level )  And many white folks don’t know the beginning of it myself included, but I am striving to understand more.

I want to honor and hold space for those journeys here, because I really feel that bridging an understanding gap between all of us can be achieved in a big way, through our hair. And, because natural textured hair is so beautiful and unique and dynamic, and requires a different ritual of care.

Thanks, Patrina, for sharing with us your favorite way to use

Henna for Natural Textured Hair. 

Photo by Kevar Whilby on Unsplash

Henna is one of the most useful things in a naturalista’s cabinet. It’s not just a hair dye. It’s a power-packed nourishing ingredient for strengthening the hair that comes from the Lawsonia inermis plant.

It’s exciting to think that Ancient Egypt and India used henna in their hair regimens and that it’s still being used today. I love going back to the basics with the products I use because they are a pure, natural, and a pleasant step away from the commercial products on the shelves. Plus, you know it has to be good if women have been using it for thousands of years.

When I first started using henna, I only wanted to cover a few gray hairs, but what I discovered was something way beyond a hair dye. What I found is that while most hair dyes break down the protein in hair, henna works to strengthen and condition it.

Henna won’t color your hair, so if you’re looking for a significant change, you won’t see it. It’s more like a slight tint, which is perfect if you just want to give a minor reddish tone to grays to make them less noticeable.

But like I said, henna is so much more than a way to dye your hair naturally. It works to coat the hair and fill in gaps on the hair shaft. Henna is not a protein treatment, but it is similar because it repairs and protects weak and fine strands.

How to Find Quality Henna

The first step to getting started with henna is to find a quality product. Looking for henna can be confusing because there are many products to choose from, and the one in the conventional hair dye box looks like it will be the easiest to use.

However, it’s the pre-mixed henna you want to stay away from if you want the most natural and potent product. Henna that comes in tubes and tubs most likely has dye, additives and other junk you don’t want in your hair or body.

Instead, look for henna that comes in powder form. Jamila and Nupur are two trusted brands you can use for pure henna. Real henna requires you to do some work, but it will be worth it in the end because your hair will be shinier, healthier, and tinted without the use of chemicals or other harmful ingredients.


Figure 1 Photo by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash

How Often Should You Use Henna?

I must admit, I don’t use henna as frequently now as I did in the beginning. It’s a long process that can easily take one full day to complete. Now I only use it when I feel my hair needs it, or when I’m in the mood to treat my hair to a proper conditioning.

Aim to use henna once per month to strengthen and condition hair if you’re new to using it. Applying it more frequently could lead to breakage. Henna has a drying factor, so you always want to deep condition your hair afterward.

How to Make and Apply Henna

One thing about henna is that it’s messy. You’ll want to avoid applying it in your bedroom or anywhere that doesn’t have hard surfaces. You can clean it from the shower walls, but you should cover your bathroom counters and floor with newspaper to make it easier to clean up.

Make the henna the day before because it takes about 12 hours for the powder to activate. Here are some excellent ingredients to mix with henna:

Peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, or tea tree oils. These four essential oils will add an antifungal and antimicrobial layer to your henna mix for excellent scalp health. Peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary essential oils work well to stimulate the hair follicles and get the hair to grow.

Coffee or black tea. Caffeine helps to stimulate the scalp, and the dark colors of coffee and tea deepen the shade naturally.

Cinnamon or paprika. These two herbs will change the tint of your henna to more red or cinnamon brown.

Apple Cider Vinegar. Mixing ACV with henna will help to balance pH and restore the overall health of the hair shaft.

Avoid mixing coconut or other hair oils in with your henna because it will change the texture and make it difficult for the henna to grab onto the strand.

You’ll need about ½ cup of liquid to one package of powder, but be sure to read the instructions on your particular package.

Henna may react with metal, so use a plastic spoon to mix. The consistency of your henna should be like yogurt, and it should be smooth. Blend well. Then let the henna sit covered at room temperature for 12 hours.

The henna will be ready to apply the following day. Part your hair into sections and coat the hair thoroughly with the mixture. Then cover with a plastic shower cap and leave it on your hair for 1-8 hours. The longer you leave it on, the more the colors will have a chance to tint your hair.

Use a moisturizing shampoo to wash the henna from your hair. Then rinse, and voila—all done!


Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

I always follow a henna treatment with a deep conditioner because the henna can be drying. I usually add ingredients to a natural store-bought brand. Every head of hair is individual, unique, and has its own characteristics. Adding your choice of ingredients to a store-bought moisturizing deep conditioner is a way to customize it to fit your own needs.

My favorite ingredients to add to deep conditioner are honey, peppermint, eucalyptus, avocado oil, and jojoba oil. These additions are fantastic for drawing in moisture and nourishing the scalp and hair shaft. I leave the deep conditioner on my hair for at least two hours, and then I rinse and detangle in the shower.

Henna will make your hair softer, shinier, and stronger. I’ll be the first to admit that using henna is a long process, but it’s worth your time to try it at least once.

Now, it’s your turn to discuss. Have you tried henna on your natural hair?


Patrina is the founder of; a blog to educate and inspire women with natural hair. Patrina just celebrated her 10-year natural hair anniversary, and achieved her goal of waist length hair. With the knowledge she has learned over the years she is dedicated to share her knowledge, and experience to educate women who wish to have moisturized, healthy natural long hair.

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