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"