Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Embrace the Frizz: How and Why I Overcame My Obsession With Having Defined Curls."

Back in March, I promised a follow-up to my "How I Poo- Part 1".  In part 1 I provided some tips on maintaining healthy natural hair.  In part 2 I planned to describe in detail each step of my wash regimen and the steps I took to style my wash & go.  The reason I never got around to writing part 2 is because I was constantly changing the way I styled my hair from week to week. From braid-outs to twist-outs to wash-n-go's, I watched so many youtube video tutorials that they began running together for me.  The newfound versatility with my natural hair after my big chop led to me wanting to try every new style I came across.

So when did "Going Natural" become "The Quest for the Perfect Curl"?  About a week after my big chop, I became obsessed with gaining and maintaining the perfect curl.  For me, the point of going natural was to free myself from the tedious task of doing touch-ups every 6-8 weeks.  So how and why did I allow getting touch-ups every 6 weeks turn into spending 3+ hours each week twisting my hair.  The answer is simple..."First Day Hair."

If you are natural, then you should know what I'm talking about when I say First Day Hair. If you aren't quite familiar with all the natural terms yet, First Day Hair is the style you have the first day you take out your twists, braids, bantu knots etc.  It is termed first day hair because it is the day your curls will have the most definition and less frizz.  Many naturals including myself have spent hours every night re-twisting their hair to maintain that first day hair look.  For me the re-twisting every night lasted for about a month.  The nightly twisting turned into every other night, the every other night turned to twice a week, the twice a week turned into once a week, which then became once every 10-14 days.

The truth is I'm a Mom, a Wife, I have a full-time job, and a 3 bedroom townhouse to maintain; therefore I simply do not have time to twist my hair every night or every other night for that matter.  The fact that I did not have the time or desire to re-twist my hair every night left me feeling defeated.  I mean the whole point of being natural is having beautiful defined curls right...or is it??

There was once a time I believed that my hair was only socially acceptable to go outside the house if I had defined curls. If it had been more than 3 or 4 days since I had twisted my hair and there was more frizz than curls, I wouldn't be caught dead outside without a hat, scarf, or my wig.  I remember one day at work I was complaining about the countless hours I spend twisting and re-twisting my hair.  Then one of my co-workers asked me what it would look like if I just washed my hair and didn't twist it.  I told her the back would be frizzy and bushy as I frowned my face up.  Then she said, "So what!"  I paused for a minute because I didn't really know how to process or respond to what she said.  Did she not hear what I said?  I said my hair would be frizzy and bushy.  That's not cute...or is it?

Whether white or black, type 1 through type 4 hair, we've all been conditioned to believe that frizz is a bad thing; but if frizzy is the way you're hair grows out of your head, is it really that bad???  I hate when I hear people say things like, "Natural ain't for everybody" or "My hair is too nappy to wear it natural".  Why do we allow people to tell us that we can't wear the hair we were born with?  Why do we accept the idea that we can't be taken seriously in our career and/or attract men if our hair is frizzy.  Why do we let ignorant comments from our friends, family, or even strangers dictate the way we wear our hair.  I mean if it is on your head it is YOUR hair so why should anyone else other than yourself be able to control the way you wear your hair?

There are many women who prefer to wear their hair relaxed, straightened, wavy, and/or curly; and there's nothing wrong with that.  I am in no way intending to put them down or classify them as not being "natural" enough.  I am simply trying to get others to come to the realization that frizz does not have to be a bad thing.  Why do we have to view frizzy or nappy hair as looking a mess or looking like it's not done?  Why can't we just view frizzy as another one of the many versatile styles of natural hair?  Now don't get me wrong, I still twist my hair almost every time I wash it, which is usually every 1-2 weeks.  Sometimes I may re-twist it in between washes and sometimes I don't.  If it gets frizzy and I don't have time to re-twist it, SO WHAT!!  I'm still going to rock it like "First Day Hair"!  If I try a new twist-out or braid-out and my curls aren't quite as defined as I envisioned they would be, SO WHAT!!  I'm going to make that style my own and rock it with confidence!  And if I leave the house with a bomb twist-out that falls victim to frizz and shrinkage as soon as that humidity hits it, SO WHAT!!  Maybe my hair needed the moisture from the air to prevent breakage that day!

No matter what the reason for my frizz, I no longer intend to hide it under my hats, scarves, or whatever else for the purpose of appeasing others.  I chose to embrace my frizz and now I'm challenging you to do the same.  If you're okay with your frizz, rock the hell out of it and screw what anyone else has to say about it.  If some ignorant person chooses to make a comment about the condition or style of your hair simply tell them, "So What!!"

Two week old twist-out made into a Side Puff

Friday, March 28, 2014

"How I Poo: My Wash Regimen & Other tips on maintaining healthy natural hair" - Part 1

I've been receiving a lot of compliments since my big chop and a lot of questions about how I get my hair to curl and stay curly.  So I thought I would share some information with all those who may be curious.  First I just want to say that I am not  an expert on natural hair care or any hair care for that matter.  The information being presented here is some information I've gathered from reading other natural hair care blogs/websites and watching youtube video tutorials.  I took what information I felt would be beneficial for my hair and incorporated it into my wash/hair care regimen.

Here are 13 tips on Growing & Maintaining Healthy Natural Hair:

1.) Stop using heat.  This means no more flat-iron, no more hot comb, & no more dominican blow-outs!  Most women with natural hair that wear it straight on a regular basis claim to have "trained" hair that stays straight throughout washing.  When in reality, that so-called "trained" hair is actually heat-damaged hair.  Repeatedly using heat on your natural hair and/or using heat that is too hot leads to scorched hair that loses it's curl pattern, becomes straight & stringy, and may eventually break off.  Below is a picture of my daughter's heat damaged hair.  The bottom almost looks as if it's permed.  This was caused by using heat on her hair less than 10 times in a 2-3 year period.  

Again, I'm no expert but I wouldn't recommend using heat on your hair more than 1-2 times a year.  "Banding" is an alternative to using heat to straighten or stretch your hair.  I haven't tried this method myself but there are several youtube tutorial videos available.

2.) Do not detangle dry hair.  Curly and Kinky hair textures are a lot more fragile than straighter textures and require gentler methods of detangling to prevent breakage.  Saturating your hair with water and conditioner softens the hair and provides slip that will make detangling a lot easier and safer for your hair.  This is why I only detangle on wash day.

3.) Sulfate-free shampoo or no-poo conditioner wash.  If you decide to use shampoo to wash your hair, try to stick with a sulfate-free shampoo.  Sulfates are harsh and strip hair of its natural oils.  Try co-washing (conditioner washing) instead of shampooing when possible.  You can choose to buy a co-wash or just use regular conditioner and massage it into the scalp to loosen dirt just as you would shampoo.  Currently I wash my hair weekly and I only use my sulfate-free shampoo 1-2 times a month; most times I just use my co-wash or conditioner.  When I do use shampoo, I dilute it (1 part shampoo & 2 parts water).  I put it in a dye applicator bottle and use the tip to apply the mixture directly to my scalp.  The main part you should focus on cleaning is your scalp.  Applying shampoo directly to your hair can dry it out.

***If you really want to go for an all-natural regimen, look for products that do not contain silicones as well.***

4.) Incorporate a pre-poo into your wash regimen.  Pre-poo is short for pre-shampoo and is basically giving your hair a treatment to strengthen it prior to shampooing or co-washing.  You can do a hot oil treatment using any oil of your choice (olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, argan oil, etc.) or conditioner or an oil/conditioner mix.  Apply it to your hair, then place a shower cap or plastic bag on your hair and let it sit for 30 mins before washing/co-washing your hair.  For added benefit, sit under a hair dryer or wrap a towel around your shower cap/bag.  The heat will help the oil/conditioner soften hair and make detangling easier.

***If experience product build-up on your scalp or hair due to strictly co-washing for a long period of time, try using an apple cider vinegar rinse to clarify prior to your pre-poo.***

5.) Weekly deep conditioning treatments.  Currently, I use Shea Moisture Deep Conditioning Mask each week after washing/co-washing my hair but any regular conditioner can be used.

6.) Protein treatments.  The amount of protein our hair needs varies from person to person.  I use the Aphogee 2-Step Protein Treatment every other month.  Too much protein can lead to hard, brittle hair easily prone to breakage and over-moisturized hair can become too soft and lead to breakage.  There are tests that can be done to test your hair's moisture/protein balance as well as it's porosity and ph level.  There are many youtube videos available on how to perform these tests.  However, if you are just beginning your natural hair journey or transition, I would recommend you hold off on those things as it can become overwhelming.

7.) Satin scarfs, bonnets, & pillowcases.  Be sure to protect your hair at night with a satin or silk scarf, bonnet, or pillowcase.  Cotton will dry out your hair and cause friction that can lead to breakage. 

8.) Wash with warm water and do your final rinse with cold water.  Hot water strips hair of it's natural oils and leaves hair overly porous.

9.) Finger detangle prior to comb detangling and comb detangle prior to denman/paddle brush detangling.  Also when using a comb, make sure it's a wide-tooth comb and detangle gently from the ends to the roots.

10.) Use the pads/tips of your fingers instead of your nails to massage the dirt from your scalp when washing.  It can be very temping to scratch your scalp while shampooing but scratching can be damaging to your scalp.

11.) If you have medium to long natural or transitioning hair, it will benefit you to section hair prior to washing.  Working with smaller sections makes detangling easier.  During my transition, I sectioned my hair into 4 sections to wash it.

12.) Don't become a product junkie.  When trying out new products, try to stick with one or two new products at a time.  This will make it easier to observe if that product works for your hair.

13.) Keep hair well moisturized.  Water is the true source of moisture so if your hair feels dry, you'll want to be sure to add water or a water-based moisturizer (meaning water is the first ingredient listed).  Then you need to seal the water in with an oil, cream, or butter.  Many naturals choose to use the L.O.C. method to moisturize; I use the L.C.O. method which I'll discuss further in my wash regimen.

Stay tuned for my next post..."How I Poo: My Wash Regimen & Other tips on maintaining healthy natural hair" - Part 2

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Just Let Your Soullll Gloooww: Post BC"

Lol, that's what my husband has been singing to me ever since I did my BC (Big Chop: Cutting off relaxed/heat-damaged hair).  He actually loves my TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) and so do I :)  For those wanting to read about my decision to go natural, you can find that information here "Is you mixed??"  For this post I just wanted to describe my experience with going natural and my natural hair journey thus far.

So I transitioned for 9 months; my last relaxer was June 1, 2013.  My original plan was to transition for a year, then do a big chop. Clearly, I didn't make it lol.  Months 1-3 weren't too bad because I had 3 layers of weave mixed in with my hair and I was just flat-ironing my roots (this was before I learned of the consequences of heat damage).

3 layers of weave blended with my own hair

Month 4 was a bit awkward.  I had just taken my weave out and had to manage my own hair with about 2.5 inches of new growth and about 12-13 inches of relaxed hair.  For some reason, I had it in my mind that transitioning would be a piece of cake.  When I first decided to go natural, my plan was to just cornrow my hair and wear it "wavy".  To me, that sounded like a simple enough plan.  I did this style often on my relaxed hair and it would last me a few days.  Well, the keyword in that last sentence is "relaxed" hair.  Don't get me wrong, my wavy hair or braid-out as it's called it in the natural community would look super-cute but it would only last for one single day.  If I didn't braid it up again that second night, I could forget about getting a second day's wear out of that style.

                         Bantu Knot-Out                       

           Washed & Air-dried...Yikes! lol

So I did braid-outs for a few weeks and counted down the days until my birthday when I was planning to get some Marley Twists for my trip to Cancun.  Months 5-6, I wore my Marley Twists.  I was happy to have my hair in a Protective Style (styles that conceal the ends of the hair protecting them from damage caused by overexposure to the elements, friction, and environmental pollution) and not have to worry about styling it everyday; but as always with protective styling, I missed playing in my hair.

Marley Twists...loved the look but way too heavy and tight

Combing out my hair while dry after taking out my twists was a no no...lost A LOT of hair

                Attempted twist-out...FAIL!!

So at month 6, I took my twists out and decided to have my hair cut into an angled bob to get those damaged ends off.  This was the best and worst decision in my natural hair journey.  It was the worst decision because it limited my styling options.  The only style I could manage to turn out the way I wanted was a braid-out.  It wasn't long enough for bantu knot-outs, a ponytail, or a bun; and  twist-outs didn't blend my two textures well enough.  I'm the type of person that likes to change my hair up a lot and wear different styles from day to day so I got bored with the braid-outs fast...not to mention I would get so sick of braiding my hair up almost every night to maintain the style.

     About 6.5 months into my transition

Cutting my hair into the bob was also the best decision in my life because it forced me to explore natural hair websites and youtube video tutorials on natural hair care. I was amazed to find out how much information there is out there on natural and transitioning hair.  The videos, blogs, & websites are so informative and the women are so positive and inspirational.  I quickly became addicted to youtube...subscribing to everyone from naptural85 to mahoganycurls to beautifulbrwnbabydol to naturallynellzy...just to name a few lol.  Although each of them has a different hair type, the information they share is still very helpful.

          Just days before my big chop

The more I watched videos of women styling and rocking their TWA's and getting the nerve up to do their big chop, the more I wanted to big chop.  During my 7th and 8th month of my transition, I was obsessed with my new growth.  I couldn't keep my hands off of it.  I loved the texture.  It was so new to me.  I began to despise my stringy relaxed hair and grew extremely impatient with wanting to see and feel my curls.  I became extremely frustrated with trying to blend my two textures and though I wanted to wait until the weather warmed up, I couldn't take it anymore.  With the inspiration from all these women online and full support from my husband, I decided to go ahead and big chop on Friday, February 28th (how ironic was it that this was the last day of Black History Month).


I can't lie, I felt a bit of sadness/anger in the chair while letting the stylist cut my relaxed hair off.  I was pissed with my husband because he was late getting to the salon (I wanted him to video my cut), I was pissed with the stylist because I felt she was being rough with my hair and didn't really do as good of a job as I felt I would have done myself, I was pissed with myself for not just cutting it myself like I originally planned, and I was pissed at the world because I thought my new growth was going to be longer than it actually was and had no one else to blame lol.  I don't know if I thought that when she cut the relaxed part off somehow my natural hair was going to magically grow into these long, beautiful, curly strands or what but I was sad, confused and didn't understand why.  I fought back tears while under the dryer letting the protein treatment she slapped in my head dry, I couldn't wait to get out of there.  When I got home, I rushed to my bathroom to slather on my deep conditioning treatment.  I let it sit for a while under a shower cap, then rinsed it out.  I felt so relieved to feel how soft my hair felt and see all the curls that I couldn't see at the salon.  After the warmest embrace from my husband, hearing him rave about how much he loved my new hair, and spending a few minutes in the mirror, I was happy with my decision to big chop and knew that I did the right thing.


Come back soon for my next post..."How I Poo: My Wash Regimen & Other tips on maintaining      healthy natural hair"

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Is you mixed??" - My decision to go natural

"Is you mixed???"

The million dollar question I had to answer too many times to count in my youth.  Growing up in a predominantly white school system, I was often seen as the "high yellow" girl with the "white girl" hair.  My long, straight, relaxed hair was often the topic of conversation amongst my peers as well as my family and friends of my mom.  I couldn't go anywhere without having people asking if I was mixed and admiring my hair.  My hair was the first thing people noticed about me and eventually came to be what defined me.

Every time I would get a touch-up, I would be inundated with compliments and comments such as, "Oooo you got a fresh perm!" But God forbid, I didn't do a good job of slicking my edges down with Pink Stuff when I was overdue for a touch-up; or I would have to endure insults from my Uncle such as "What's wrong with your hair?" or complaints from my mom about my "naps".  Just as many other young, black girls I was conditioned to believe that I wasn't pretty with "nappy" edges and I began to hate them.

Aside from the whole feeling "unpretty" with new growth, I hated having to struggle to comb through thick, "nappy" roots.  So whenever that 6 week mark was soon approaching, I'd make sure I had locked in an appointment at a salon or mom's kitchen to get my touch-up.  I craved that bone-straight, flat on my scalp, silky, bouncy hair that my white counterparts had effortlessly.

A few years ago, I began to notice what I referred to as the "Natural Movement".  One by one, my friends, family, and other women I knew were "going natural".  It was spreading like a disease.  My initial reaction, was why in the world would anyone want to do that??  Who would want to wear a bush or deal with constantly putting heat in their hair to keep it straight??  It just didn't make any sense to me.  And what annoyed me even more was the way they were going about it.  I found myself constantly being questioned about why I was still relaxing my hair and why was I not natural; and these questions would come with such contempt, as if it were a sin to relax my hair...that's right MY hair.  I couldn't help but wonder why others were so concerned with my hair.  People were condemning relaxers left and right.  From the movie "Good Hair" to my husband despising relaxers to hair stylists pushing "going natural" to the "team natural" posts on Facebook and Instagram, just hearing of "going natural" made me sick to my stomach.  It seemed as if these natural chicks felt they were somehow better than me because they didn't relax their hair and they felt they were saving the world by being a part of this movement.

See for me, relaxing my hair never made it break off.  Relaxers were actually what helped my hair to grow and remain silky and smooth.  So I never felt the need to "Go natural".  That is until now....

A couple years ago, I noticed that my relaxers weren't taking like they used to.  It didn't matter whether I went to the salon or mom's kitchen.  I even tried doing my own touch-ups and having my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law try.  I could no longer get those bone-straight roots I longed for.  I don't know if my hair was becoming resistant to relaxers or if they were just making relaxers weaker amongst the whole "natural movement"; but all it was doing was softening my roots, leaving them still "nappy".  This made me question if it was even worth it to continue to relax my hair.  Thinking of how curly my daughter's hair was when wet made me wonder where she got that curly hair from.  It was then I realized that I didn't even know what my true hair texture was like.  All I knew was straight, relaxed hair for as far back as I can remember.  My hair could have been as curly as my daughter's hair and I wouldn't even have known.  But these things still were not enough to make me hop on the natural bandwagon.

In the past 3.5 years I've had 6 weaves and I've had braids with extensions twice.  During this time my daughter has witnessed all these hairstyles, along with others, and has always complimented me.  There were a few times when she asked if she could wear her hair like mine but I would just tell her "one day" and then I'd dismiss the question.  I just figured it was normal for little girls to want to wear their hair like their mothers.  But as time went on, I noticed how much my daughter really disliked her braids and puffballs.  I would see her watching me combing my hair in the mirror with a look that was all too familiar.  Not to mention, she always reached for the white dolls, loved Rapunzel from Tangled, and always talked about how pretty she thought her white classmate's hair was and how she wished she could wear her hair down.  It seemed as though no matter how much I told her how pretty her hair was, she still longed for that long, straight hair.

Recently she asked me, "Mommy why do you always wear fake hair?  Why do you always want it long?"  See even though my own hair was about 16 inches long, I would add weave to make it even longer and fuller.  Here I was trying to sell her on how pretty her braids and curls were, meanwhile I'm relaxing my hair and adding weave to make it even much of a hypocrite was I???  Smh, needless to say, this was my "Aha" moment.  Everyone who knows me, knows how much I love my daughter and how important it is to me that she grows up with a strong sense of confidence.  I would do anything for my baby girl so I said to myself, "If wearing my hair like hers is what it takes to make sure she knows how beautiful she is, then that is what I will do."

It's been six months since my last perm, which was right before my wedding.  The first five months were a little rough and the thought of getting a relaxer did cross my mind a few times.  But I was able to hold out by getting Marley Twists for a couple months and reminding myself of the promise I made for my baby girl.  My hair had been breaking off pretty bad during the transition so I decided to get it cut into a Bob in order to get those bad ends off.  This past month, I've been loving it!  It's much more manageable being shorter and I'm a lot closer to being all natural and no longer having to deal with the two different textures.

I never thought I would be one to give up my straight hair but I'm proud of my decision and I'm loving my curls! I love that my hair now matches my daughter's hair and I love that I'm also learning new ways to manage her hair.  In no way am I attempting to condemn relaxers; because I don't consider relaxers or wearing straight hair to be a bad thing. I feel that with regular touch-ups (every 6-8 wks) and proper conditioning/moisturizing, you can have healthy hair with least I did.  And I loved my straight hair just as much as I love my curls.  I just feel like too many African Americans (women & men) are obsessed with hair, straight hair in particular.  I don't want my daughter or any other young, black girl to feel the need to relax or straighten their hair in order to feel pretty.  I want them to know that curly hair is just as beautiful and that is why I made the decision to go natural.