For the last few months, I’ve gone round campus compiling hair stories from anyone willing to share them. Cheers to everyone who collaborated to make this post a reality- hair’s to you! (ha, ha)
Chris Peterson ’13
As you can tell from my avatar, I had hair when I started this job! It was always fine, but not thin, and very blonde and soft, often compared to a baby duck. Here I am on my first day of school some day in middle school. Most of the time, my mom would take me to Supercuts or whatever. In the summers I’d get a buzzcut to stay cool, and my baseball coach would rub my head and call me “chemo kid” because it looked like I was bald. Everyone laughed at the time…I guess the 90s were different.
As I got older my hair got darker and curlier (especially because I never bothered to comb it). But it felt sort of goofy and unruly and fit with my general comportment. Here’s a picture of me from my first year at MIT, at some event being accosted by brutally geeky middle school boys on campus for a UROV competition in June of 2010. At this time, I started going to the barber in the basement of the MIT student center, who would buzz me down to a 2 or 3 and then I’d just let it grow back.
A few years later, I briefly left MIT Admissions to go to grad school. I started gaining weight, which was kind of obvious, but what was less clear to me was that my hair was also thinning in the back. I didn’t notice until I went to Puerto Rico to surf on spring break after handing in a copy of my master’s thesis. The first day I was there. I sunburned through my hair so bad I got blisters. That had never happened before and there was no obvious way to fix it. I went for a consult at a hair doctor and they told me there was nothing they could do for me that wasn’t likely to be both expensive and ineffective. So I was just fat and bald and burned and it sucked.
It was a time in my life when I felt like there wasn’t a lot I could control, personally and professionally, so I decided to do what I could on both health and hair. On the health front, I started eating better and exercising; on the hair front, I bought a Wahl beard trimmer and started buzzing my own head no-guard, and eventually started shaving it in the summers. It was easier to put on sunscreen, to be sure, but it also felt like me taking a decision instead of letting my hair do it for me. Here’s a photo of me at nerd camp, with one of my nerd campers, 5 years apart, one in 2011 and one in 2016.
So nowadays, mostly my relationship with my hair is a relationship with its absence, which is by choice and the product of me trying to do some kind of agency. I used to miss my hair, but not so much anymore, except I never got the chance to dye it, so I had to get tattoos instead. Plus, it’s super easy to clean, because I just run my scrubby over my head and it’s fine. That’s my hair story!
Abigail Bancks ’22
To quote Cat from Victorious: My hair color has nothing* to do with my psychological problems!
I had a lot of things beyond my control happen in my first 6 months at MIT and had to figure out some new coping mechanisms to handle them. Turns out, bleaching and dyeing my hair is one.
First was PB&J. (hair 1) The day that I moved into EC after Interphase, I had a friend dye the underside of my then-brown hair purple. That, combined with my deep and profound love for peanut butter, led to me being nicknamed after a sandwich for several weeks. Then it faded, I bleached over it, and I waited until the time was right to do something else to it.
That time was about three weeks ago. Finals were Almost Upon Us and I decided that my hair needed a new look, so I pulled out my trusty Wella bleach and 30 vol developer. Two rounds of bleach later, my hair was this incredibly light, almost-white color that I could make even the most pastel colors pop on. Awesome, right?
Well, almost. Remember the bleached underside? I was very careful during the first application of bleach to not touch the lightened section, but I got ahead of myself the second time and completely forgot. As I showered out the second round of bleach, my hair fell out in sad, tangled, brittle white clumps. Panic ensued as I combed out what appeared to be half of my hair. At this point I was laughing maniacally, because really, what were the odds that everything could be going so terribly at once?
Ok, I thought, I still have some hair, so why not tone it? I sought out purple shampoo, but there was none to be found, so I settled on purple dye from a friend that was reputed to be a “very light pastel” color. Half an hour later, my hair was a very vibrant not-pastel electric purple. (hair 2)
I lived like that for another week until I realized that the rapidly fading purple only emphasized how broken and sad my hair (and the entirety of my pre-finals being) was. In another fit of finals-induced anxiety, I had a friend trim the broken ends of my hair and applied an ungodly amount of Splat Midnight Indigo. I’m still washing it out two weeks later, but damn, it’s vibrant. (hair 3)
I didn’t have the greatest first semester here, but I did learn that life’s way too short and unexpectedly terrible to not try weird, fun, sometimes ill-conceived ideas–especially in college, when no one will judge you for looking like a TARDIS just exploded on your head and ripped out half your hair. I’m glad that I figured that out early, when I still have ~3.5 years to try more dumb things, like writing about my hair instead of studying for the final I have tomorrow morning.
Michael Snively ’11
#3 up the sides and back and finger length on top.
Wake up, ignore hair, go to bed.
Rachel Fong ’12
Rachel made a comprehensive guide to dyeing hair, and went right down to the roots (ha, ha) of the process, breaking it down to how it works, and how to do it to get the exact result you’d like in three steps: bleaching, dyeing and aftercare. Her article goes by the catchy name ‘How to dye your hair like an Engineer’. I read through and was so mesmerized by all the chemistry that goes into it that I nearly took the plunge and dyed my hair purple…
Michael Yang ’05
When I was an undergrad, I wanted to dye my hair dark blue, so we bleached it as much as I could tolerate waiting (which was only until my hair was a brownish-blonde) and then added the dark blue dye. It looked good for about 2 days, after which the blue with the yellow became green, and I had (unintended) green hair for a month. It looked like I had moldy hair. That was the one and only time I dyed it.
Ethan Munden ’20
But cutting it myself is really nice because I have more control over the way it looks and it’s convenient because I can cut it whenever I have time. It also saves me like $20 a month which is nice.
The only bad part is that cutting it by myself can be kinda tough sometimes because 1)I don’t have any formal experience so I really just wing it lol and 2)It’s hard to cut the back of my hair because I need two mirrors or else I use my phone camera and a mirror. There have been times where I just go for it though and check how it looks after and fix up whatever looks weird. But I mean I never see the back of my hair so I don’t think it matters too much.
Selam Gano ’18
My hair type is 3B (according to the naturally curly hair quiz, which I highly recommend: https://www.naturallycurly.com/quiz). Many people have multiple hair types on their head, so I’d say mine has kinda both 3B and 3C curls. My hair is medium-porosity, which is to say, it fairly easily accepts moisture and can keep it in for a couple days before I need to thoroughly condition my hair again. Low porosity hair typically has a tighter cuticle, and tends to be difficult to moisturize–some people find that conditioner only penetrates their hair strands with the aid of heat, such as shower steam, or they might use a heated conditioning cap.
My hair strands are also relatively thick, and my hair is quite dark in color–many people, when you look closely, have more visibly brown hair rather than almost-black. I think this comes from the Asian side of my family lol.
My routine uses almost exclusively TGIN (Thank God It’s Natural) products (though I’m in China right now, and so I’ve kinda just been using whatever I can find if I run out of something)
lightly wet hair throughout with spray bottle or fingers
apply TGIN Green Tea Super Moist Leave-In Conditioner
do some mild finger-detangling
(sometimes) apply hair oil, I usually use argan oil from ogx
My hair and my scalp (and my skin in general) is typically dry, so I wash my hair about every 3 days, and I shampoo maybe once a week. I also deep condition my hair
(if a shampoo day) shampoo using TGIN moisture rich sulfate-free shampoo
Condition with TGIN Triple Moisture Replenishing Conditioner
deep-condition with TGIN Honey Miracle Hair Mask for 3-5 minutes/rest of shower (it should probably be longer but I am lazy). I rinse out maybe half the conditioner and leave the rest of the product in.
T-shirt dry–which is where I wrap my hair in a T-shirt and just let the T-shirt absorb the water for a while.
Apply leave-in and hair oil if needed
If you have dandruff or a particularly itchy/dry scalp, I’d look into scalp scalers and scalp oils. A scalp scaler is really just a chemical exfoliator (your scalp is just skin, after all), so I use the same one I use for my face–The Ordinary 7% glycolic acid toner. Any AHA or BHA (alpha- or beta-hydroxy acid) should work fine. Aesop makes a fancy rinse-out scalp oil, you could probably use rosehip oil and be fine.
I always finger detangle my hair. I rarely use a comb now. I don’t know where in the Culture Norms brushing your hair got linked to hygiene(?) but like, it’s just hair, for curly people especially, as long as all the knots you can feel are out, it’s fine. I occasionally will go through with a large-toothed comb to just really detangle everything, but I never use brushes or fine-toothed combs anymore–frizz and damage :P
The important thing when drying your hair is to NEVER do that thing where you aggressively try and dry all the parts of your head by rubbing the towel all over the place (even if you have straight hair). Recipe for frizz and damage. Just wrap your hair and let the cloth absorb the water, it’s not the end of the world if it’s not completely dry (in my case that is greatly preferred actually). I typically use a T-shirt because the fibers aren’t as rough and it won’t catch on your curls, but if I’m lazy/traveling/clothes are scarce for some reason, a towel is fine too. I air-dry my hair after that, but if you want to use a blow-dryer I’d recommend using a diffuser, with low heat.
And finally (shameless plug) here is an introspective blog post I wrote on Medium about hair.
I have 4C hair- the kinky, coily type with about two hundred different curl patterns. It sometimes makes me want to curl up and dye (ha, ha). After years of suffering from heat damage and hair strands weakened by strained braids, I trimmed my hair, ditched heat treatment totally and decided to take a break from braids. Braiding is also really expensive in the greater Boston area. I wash and deep condition my hair weekly then set it in twists, hold it up with bobby pins and hope for the best. I have been known to experiment with bananas, rice water, avocados and eggs in the name of organic hair treatments. Dealing with my hair is exciting and expensive and it takes tons of patience and tender loving care, but with lots of olive oil readily available in my hall’s kitchen and Cantu hair cream, it’s way easier than I thought it would be.
I’m not a fan of wigs and weaves, probably because my mother can’t stand having weaves in her hair either, and I’m turning out to be a lot like her in many ways. I also challenge myself to find ways to deal with my natural hair instead of hiding it away because at the end of the day, that’s who I am- the kinky, tangled mane on my head that defies gravity growing upwards instead of downwards is a huge part of my identity, and it’s beautiful if nurtured well.
These are two fantastic hair days I had this semester:
Predictably, this post had to come to a rather split end- have a hairy Christmas and a nappy new year!