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HINU Home Volume 1. Samantha Neal

Our HINU Home series explores the personal connection we have with our hair and the way rituals help bring us back home to ourselves.

Photography by Ben Rayner

HINU Home Volume 1. Samantha Neal

Our HINU Home series explores the personal connection we have with our hair and the way rituals help bring us back home to ourselves.

Photography by Ben Rayner

"My relationship with my hair has paralleled my journey of self-inquiry and personal healing."

Samantha Neal is a  writer, facilitator, menstrual educator and researcher of Japanese, Lebanese, Syrian and Irish descent. She currently lives on Bundjalung Country in Northern New South Wales, Australia. She was born and raised in Venice Beach, California. 

This is her journey home. 

Growing up, my hair attracted a lot of attention. I remember crying on the playground at school when another kid made fun of my ‘fluffy lion’ hair. Strangers always commented on it, and some even felt entitled to touch it.

As an introverted soul, I struggled with this. When I was twelve, I discovered the hair straightener and I devoted myself wholeheartedly to its use. ‘Finally!’ I thought. A tool to flatten my hair and help me fit in. 

I kept my hair straight for the next decade. 

That decade of straight hair coincided with my movement towards and immersion into the mainstream matrix. By this, I mean that I continued down a path that was conventional and well worn. I became socialised to a linear world, and so too did my natural curls.   

When I was in my early twenties, I began to wake up to my own inner knowing. I stopped straightening my hair, although still used an array of products to support a more defined (or otherwise controlled) curl.

I was deepening in my yoga practice, and with that, another truer path started to reveal itself to me. In a moment of what I only know of as grace, sitting on a bench in Big Sur, I received the clear guidance to quit graduate school and buy a one-way ticket to Australia, a country that had always called me for a reason I did not yet comprehend. 

In the years that followed, I continued on this path, the one in tune with my own heart. As I was deepening more and more, I did less and less to my hair. I stopped using products and used only oils that I blended myself.

I stopped shampooing and conditioning my hair because it didn’t respond well to it, and I learnt that shampoo was invented as a lucrative means for a new industry, one that by stripping the natural oils would then necessitate the use of another previously unnecessary product – conditioner.

Samantha using the Jade Scalp Stimulator post swim. 

Instead, I started to see my ocean dips as my hair’s cleanser, and fresh water swims as its conditioner. I began to only brush my hair with my fingers, which takes more time, but feels kinder on my strands and is a pause in my day that I’ve come to enjoy. I use only cold water on my hair. It’s fresh in winter, but I can actually feel my hair happier for it. 

In this ongoing journey of moving towards my natural self, my relationship with my hair has mirrored this process. I hear that hair is no more than a group of dead skin cells sprouting from our scalp. Although, this doesn’t feel wholly true for me. I feel my hair as alive – a sensing instrument for my surroundings. In crowds, airports and other situations with a lot of moving energy, I perceive it as an almost protective force field – a keeper of my personal boundary, and one that I feel grateful for. 

"Be gentle with yourself as you move forward and along the continuum."

I. It’s Only Love That Gets You Through - Sade
II. Wisdom Eye - Alice Coltrane
III. Ngarrikwujeyinama - Emily Wurramara
IV. Beautiful - India Arie
V. Mostly Chimes - Adrianne Lenker
VI. As much as Possible - Bing & Ruth
VII. The healing room - Sinead O’Connor
VIII. The three of us - Ben Harper
IX. Butterfly - Cleo Sol
X. Nothing even matters - Lauryn Hill
Listen on Spotify
 Follow Samantha Neal &  Ben Rayner
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