Braids and Beauty: Concessions of Migraine

Braids and Beauty: Concessions of Migraine

It has always been a part of my culture and an especially prominent practice in my family to wear braids. I grew up wearing them, learned to do them myself as early as my pre-teen years, and have always had an affinity for certain hairstyles requiring that I braid my hair. I remember watching television as a young girl and seeing actresses who had similar hairstyles as me and it was formative and brilliant: I felt represented and loved that I shared something with characters I looked up to. As a lifelong migraine sufferer, however, I am not able to wear braids often.

Migraine’s impact on one’s livelihood

This made me very sad to realize as a young child because it made me feel othered and somehow not able to exercise some parts of my culture. Sure, many people may not think of hair and braids in particular when they think of migraine, but I am sure there are many migraine sufferers who experience having to concede some part of their appearance or livelihood because of migraine. Braiding hair is a skill taught through generations in my family and the kind of hair braiding specific to my culture is very important to me, I love the styles and versatility that comes with it. However, braid maintenance and application can be somewhat painful, and if I have a migraine it is almost certainly out of the question for me to have them. If I don’t have a migraine, the weaving of my hair can definitely trigger them.

Coping with an altered identity

Some might consider outward style trivial, and even say ‘it’s just hair’ but for me, I believe style can tell a lot about a person’s interests, and even culture. From a young age I realized that living with migraine meant that I would be unable to always present in the style I know and love because it would be too painful to do so. This is a reality that I sometimes find very heartbreaking. Of course there are other styles I wear my hair, and in which I still feel beautiful,  but there are many times when I have to remove them after just a few hours or so because I can’t have the pressure of that particular style in my hair. All of the adventure and creativity and skill that accompanies them wasted in a matter of hours when a migraine takes hold.

Not just hair to me

Thinking about the way I present my hair and being unable to always wear it the way I want prompted me to think further about the concessions I make regarding how I feel, look, and act because of migraine. Often times, migraine sufferers are having to miss out on important events with loved ones, adjust to lower quality of life, and even dress, speak, and be different than they would ideally like to. My hair and the way I want to wear it very much falls into the category of things negatively affected by migraines, and it is as important to me as being able to show up for work or attend my younger brother’s basketball game. Braids are just another part of myself I sometimes have to concede to migraine.

Trying to be unapologetically me

I still try to find ways to express myself even if I can’t always do it through my hair, and that includes my style of dress, the music I make, the books I read, and the things I am attentive to, even if I do miss some aspects of myself because of migraine. Sometimes I still practice braiding styles on a mannequin to develop that craft further, because it is something I may want to teach to friends or family down the line and is something I want to maintain despite migraines influence on my life.

Are there things that are important to your style that you have to consider conceding because of migraine? How do you cope with the loss of a part of your identity being overshadowed by migraine? Let’s discuss in the comments!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (16)
  • Luvmyfam22
    8 months ago

    I can so relate!!! I love wearing braids, especially because I don’t have to think about what to do with my hair everyday if I don’t want to…it’s already presentable. Also, I can style it in so many ways. However, when my daughter asks if I want her to braid my hair it’s become “let’s try next week” thing for me. especially with daily migraines, braids make my life just that much easier. But over the past couple years, it seems like braids are becoming just a distant memory! Because, as you said, they either trigger a migraine or can cause one. Thanks for your thoughts on this topic, if feel less alone with my disappointment in this!

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    Luvmyfam22,

    So so glad to hear the article resonated with you, I know that sometimes being reminded that we aren’t alone in our nuanced experiences can make a huge difference, thank you for the same! I totally get what you mean, and then along with the style goes the time spent with your daughter doing that activity too. So sorry you too have to experience this. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, and take good care.

  • vsurdel
    9 months ago

    My hair is not cultural, so I understand your pain but don’t share it. I must wear my hair very short, because the weight of long hair gives me migraines, putting long hair up gives me migraines, hairspray and hair products give me migraines. Luckily I love short hair, but it was a painful realization of how much migraines affect every single aspect of my life. I’m sorry you lost even more than just a pretty hairstyle.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    vsurdel,

    Thank you for sharing. I am glad to hear that the short hair style works for you and that you love it! It is so nice to know that the article resonated with you even if our specific experiences are varied! You are right, migraine brings with it tough realizations about our lifestyles sometimes, but it is reassuring to be reminded we aren’t alone. Take care.

  • poetdoll
    9 months ago

    thank you for this article! as a vintage doll, I have many vintage hats and scarves for my hair from the 30s, 40s and 50s. I am heartbroken because I can’t wear them! It is a way I honor the women from those generations and it is my own personal style. As most of my collection comes from my grandmothers and close friend’s grandmothers, it breaks my heart not to be able to honor them by wearing their beloved accessories as well!

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    poetdoll,

    I am so sorry to hear that you are unable to wear the hats. I am so intrigued that you are a vintage doll, I think that is so so cool! And what an incredible unique and wonderful way to honor loved ones in your life. I wish you were able to express yourself with that hats, I know well the feeling and frustration that comes with concessions of identity because of migraine. Thank you so much for sharing, I hope you are having a nice weekend.

  • JaylaWeaver
    9 months ago

    Omg same! The last time i did my hair in cornrows I couldn’t even keep them in for a whole week. The pain was too severe. I would really like to where my hair like that but I can’t. So I just twist my hair instead. Cultural but not as tight and painful

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    JaylaWeaver,

    Oh I hear ya! There are so many beautiful cornrow designs and styles but actually putting them in and leaving them in is an absolute task. So sorry you have to experience this, too. I love twists though, so beautiful! I am sure your twists are wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing and take care!

  • ccf23
    9 months ago

    Kyky thank you for writing about hair and identity. I think most of us with frequent migraine have had to alter their appearance in some way & it can be emotionally difficult but not often discussed. Hair is my biggest issue. I can’t wear it up or back at all on a bad day, and two hours max on a good day without triggering migraine. So I’m always fussing with it. A coworker once told me I had 3 hair styles in an hour. I’m thinking of cutting it very short, but then I am giving up more of myself to migraine. For now, I refuse!

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    ccf23,

    I know the feeling! I also feel like I am constantly fussing with my hair, it is so frustrating. I once thought I could get into wigs to just leave my hair be but still have options to change my style, but actually most wigs are so tight that they aren’t an option. I have made a few loose ones myself and those are okay, but I wish I could just do my hair the way I want! So sorry you know all too well the distress that migraine can cause on every part of our identities at times. Oh, and I am sure the short hair style would look so cute! But I know what you mean about giving up even more, almost necessarily so. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend, thank you for sharing! Take care.

  • Candy
    9 months ago

    Thank you for this article. I have been growing my hair out for a while now, but it’s very think and curly. The longer it gets, the heavier it gets so I find myself wanting to cut it short nearly every day. I live in Florida, so I have to wear it up, as I work outside, and that instantly causes migraines. I can’t wait to get home every day just to take my hair down. And Guineverre, I also have the same issue with contacts, it’s astounding how much pressure they can put on your eyes! It seems so incredibly unfair that on top of living with this day after day, we can’t at least be ourselves on the outside.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    Candy,

    Oh goodness, I don’t know how you do it! I once worked at a plant nursery, and just being outside in the heat I had a migraine all day every day, I only lasted three months before I had to resign because of the migraines. I am so sorry that migraine affects your livelihood and your job so much, and wish you (and every one of us) could have relief from it. I know exactly what you mean, it really isn’t fair that we have to sacrifice our outwards selves too. Sending encouragement your way. Take care!

  • SkiingIsBelieving
    9 months ago

    Thanks for this article. I’m sorry you can’t express yourself fully because of migraine. As a person with a very mixed race family, I know how much expression of our ethnic identities supports confidence, which contributes to wellness.

    I really appreciate when perspectives like yours highlight some aspect of diversity in our experience, whether ethnicity, gender orientation, age, or something else. I think it would be great to hear, for example, from trans folks with migraine, and how it may affect a condition that’s already marginalized. I am sure that black and brown skinned people also feel an extra pressure in predominantly white workplaces or other arenas where the disability of our illness increases the scrutiny they already get about their performance because of implicit biases. I know that the privilege conferred by whiteness protects me from much, even with regard to migraine.

    The typical picture of a migraine sufferer is a white woman in her 30s or 40s with her hand to her head and a grimace. While this may be a common trope, I’d love to see more migraine content reach beyond that. Thanks to Migraine.com for supporting diversity in what you publish and in the funny little illustrations accompanying articles. It’s noticed!

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    SkiingisBelieving,

    Wow! Thank you so much for your comment, and for adding unique insights to the discussion. You are so right, our experiences are incredibly varied from one migraine sufferer to the next. That is one of the most intriguing (and frustrating ) things about migraine! I definitely think that it is so so important to hear perspectives and experiences from people of all different backgrounds in healthcare communities, because it helps validate unique experiences that might not be in the majority of representation, and gives us a sense of belonging—–hearing from these perspectives strengthens our understanding of this illness holistically and helps us to understand one another. Glad the article resonated with you, and that you are a part of the community here at Migraine! Take care.

  • Guineverre
    9 months ago

    I’m sorry that you have a culturally significant symbol taken away from you. That must be heartbreaking. Though my situation is just a matter of frustration, I cant wear my curly hair any way but to wear it down. I dont feel as pretty, and since its long, I get too hot when its warm out. On a “bad hair day” I can’t just pull it back. If Im going to a special event, I can pull back a few strands to resemble a hair style, but I need to take it out right away. A new discovery too, is that I cant wear contact lenses without triggering a headache. I feel less attractive in glasses, so I recently tried to get fitted for lenses after many years without them. It was very disappointing to see that the pressure of the lenses on my eye is triggering.
    My whole lifestyle and livelihood have changed because of migraines. I’m praying with the new medications will change that.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    9 months ago

    Guineverre,

    Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your story. I am so sorry to hear of how migraine has affected you, and the way it has influenced your presentation. I know it all too well. Know you are not alone! I actually experience the contact sensitivity too, and have wanted to try them since I was a teenager but I am unable to because of the pressure as well. It really can define us in more ways than most think. I am sending well wishes your way, and am thankful you are in this community. Take care.

  • Poll