My Wash Day Is A Reminder To Be Gentle With Myself

For Black women, Wash Day isn’t a routine — it’s a ritual. From the products we choose to the spaces we create, the time we spend caring for our hair connects us to ourselves, our culture, and the people we want to be. Our latest subject, Jordan Emanuel, a professional model, mental health advocate, and Playboy’s 2019 Playmate Of The Year, explains how her wash day provides her with time to appreciate her natural beauty after being diagnosed with alopecia at the height of her modeling career. This story was told to Aimee Simeon and edited for length and clarity.
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The beginning of my journey with alopecia started in 2018. I was announced as Playboy’s Playmate Of The Month — and two weeks later, my hair was in the worst condition I'd ever seen. My hairline was gone for basically a year.
During this time, I was super dependent on wigs and wore a full lace-front wig for my Playmate of the Year shoot. I was at a proud and exciting time in my career, but it was emotional because I was supposed to be feeling and looking confident and I was struggling internally. It’s a testament to how hard the job can be. You’re supposed to be bringing this client’s vision to life despite the things you are going through. 
Photographed By Amandla Baraka
Coming out of that situation was challenging. Years leading up to being diagnosed with alopecia, my hair was the longest and healthiest it had ever been. I worked hard to keep it natural and to grow it to a certain length. It may sound crazy, but my hair felt like an accomplishment. So, when I began to experience hair loss, it took a physical and emotional toll on me. 
However, this experience has given me time to gain a new perspective and to look inwards. When my alopecia was at its worse, I was so mean to myself and on the brink of shaving my hair off completely. I ended up speaking to my friend, who has alopecia totalis, and she’s dealt with it much longer than I have. She didn’t have a choice about going completely bald, and it made me think, Would I have ever spoken to my friend about her condition in the way I speak to myself? I would never be so cynical or critical to someone I care about, so why do I treat myself that way? It has taught me that your hair isn’t a definition of who you are. 
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Photographed By Amandla Baraka
I was putting so much pressure on myself about my hair and its progress that it became counterproductive. I was so stressed, and I don't think my outbreaks would have lasted as long if I had been gentler with myself. Once I started taking that pressure off of myself, I went for another round of intralesional corticosteroid shots with my doctor and started seeing growth. I haven't had shots since, and that was one year ago.

My Wash Day Diary

Before quarantine, I got my hair done by a stylist every two weeks. I was constantly getting my hair done for shoots and work. Now, I appreciate that I've had more time to care for my hair, my skin, and my body. My hair has gotten a break from consistent styling and manipulation. Allowing my hair to breathe has been so therapeutic.
My routine typically starts the night before. I create a hair mask for myself with a blend of pumpkin seed, coconut, avocado, and peppermint oils. I mix in some conditioner to make the mixture a bit thicker. I slather that on, put on a shower cap, and apply some heat with my blowdryer to open up the hair shafts so that the oils penetrate my follicles. I sleep with this mask on. 
Photographed By Amandla Baraka
The next morning, it’s time to get to the real work. I always start my routine by turning on some music to set the vibe. Lately, I’ve had "Mr. Right Now" by 21 Savage and "Pastor" by Quavo and the City Girls on my playlist. I start by rinsing out my pre-shampoo mask from the night before. I’ve found that shampoo really dries out my hair, so I use a co-wash instead. Once my hair is clean, I use a deep conditioner and leave it in for the duration of one song. I like to comb the deep treatment throughout my hair and separate it into four sections once it’s rinsed out. 
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Photographed By Amandla Baraka
Once my hair is conditioned, I let it air dry for a few minutes before applying a heat protector. Then, I spray my hair with the same oils from my pre-shampoo treatment, minus the conditioner. After properly combing through all of the oils, I gently blowdry my hair in small sections. When my hair is all dried, I typically just slick it back into a loose bun.
Photographed By Amandla Baraka
I also take my skin care very seriously. I sometimes use my wash day to do a mask or an enzyme peel. I have eczema, so I try to incorporate as many hydrating products into my routine as possible. My bags get out of control, so I always use eye cream and follow up with eye patches when I have time. I finish with moisturizer and sunscreen and the deed is done.
Photographed By Amandla Baraka
I think it's essential to look at the time we have to care for ourselves as an opportunity to tend to our mental health. I meditate and listen to self-help books on Audible daily. I also co-founded Women With Voices, a non-profit organization that focuses on various mental health initiatives. I tell the people that I work with to give themselves compliments when they look in the mirror. It's honestly been such a mood changer for me. It doesn't matter if I'm in the house in sweats all day. I look in the mirror and tell myself that I'm cute, and it helps me feel better. I know it sounds crazy, but you start creating a higher frequency for yourself. You deserve to feel good.
Photographed By Amandla Baraka
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