Last night I committed a mortal sin. I had shampooed my hair, detangled it and my henna paste was already starting to dye release when I realized I didn’t have any gloves. So, rather than wait another day, I put it in my hair without gloves (hoping that if I applied it quick enough and washed my hands well enough after it wouldn’t stick). Girls, never ever underestimate the power of henna! Now my hands and fingers are stained an orangey, coppery color. Ah well…at least it will only last a few weeks at most (though I really hope it goes away sooner than that…can’t go around looking like I’ve gone untreated for some rare disease). As I’m typing, I’m letting my hair simmer in some Shea Moisture’s Organic Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque (my favorite DC treatment) while my face is covered in bentonite clay (“feel your face pulsate!”). In short, I am a sight to be seen.

maybe it will strengthen my nails?

it's sort of more intense in real life😦

Henna is one of those things that you either love or you hate. Rarely is there an in between. I am one of those “fortunate” enough to love it…and it loves me! When I first heard of henna being used as a hair treatment as opposed to a skin dye, I admit I was a but skeptical. I was familiar with mehndi, the use of henna to make often elaborate decorations on the skin, a traditional practice in Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, India and Morocco (among other places in the aforementioned regions). I’ve had henna applied to my hands before and have always been fascinated by these beautiful and symbolic mehndi designs. But henna…a thick muddy paste…in my where?

An example of tranditional Mehndi design. Most likely bridal related

I paid 10 Dirham for this (about a dollar) in Morocco

After doing a bit of research at Curly Nikki and the Henna for Hair LJ community, I decided to take my chances and go for it. Here are the pros and cons that everyone should consider before embarking on your first henna adventure:

PROS

  • Henna is an amazing conditioner! Use it in place of a DC (deep conditioning) every once in awhile and TRUST, you will see the difference
  • Henna is completely natural and safe–as long as it is pure henna (the only ingredient should be its scientific name, Lawsonia inermis) and has not been mixed with possibly dangerous chemicals (e.g. PPD)
  • In some instances, henna will loosen your curls, making them more manageable and decreasing shrinkage
  • Henna is a safe way to dye your hair, and much more effective than red hair dyes found in a box (see more about color below)
  • Henna has staying power–which means its benefits will last longer than hair dyes and other conditioning treatments

Cons

  • Henna does not like metallic salts–so if you’ve recently dyed your hair you may want to wait a bit before applying it
  • Henna cannot be dyed over–if you hate the reddish hue, good luck getting rid of it. at least for awhile
  • Henna can leave your hair dry and dull looking if you don’t properly moisturize before and after the process
  • Henna is messy with a capital M!
  • Henna can be a hassle to apply and keep on for long periods of time (but in my opinion the benefits outway the costs)
  • Henna can be a bit expensive depending on where you get it/how often you use it. and it’s very important that you’re getting it from a reputable source!
  • Henna will make your hair thicker–this may be a con for some people who already have thick heads (I do but I am aiming for a big afro look so it doesn’t bother me..would rather my curls look thick and strong than small and wimpy ;))

Like I said before, henna definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s a committment. Some people don’t have the time and energy to dedicate to the 2 day process it takes for henna applications. But if you’re dreaming of baby soft hair, strong and shiny locks…you can’t find a much better natural source.

What exactly is henna?

Henna is a plant also known by its botanical name Lawsonia Inermis. Henna powder comes from the processed leaves of the henna bush and serves as one of the most effective and longer lasting natural hair dyes. Henna leaves are harvested and then blended with other leaves from different areas/countries (so it’s not uncommon to see something like “yemen blend” etc) The leaves are grounded and sifted–the more finely sifted, the better for body art and a smoother application to the hair.

When henna powder is mixed with an acidic liquid, its internal dye is released in a reddish-brown hue (when mixing henna you’ll now the dye has released when the mixture turns from green to brown). That’s why it’s important to read the ingredients and even the front label. If it reads something along the lines of “black henna”, “mahogany” or “strawberry blonde” it’s most likely been mixed with either another herbal plant (e.g. indigo or cassia) or possibly a dangerous chemical. It’s best to always use pure henna, not a henna compound. If you want to mix in an ingredient to alter the color, add it yourself!

Where can I buy it?

Some people are lucky enough to live in diverse communities that have stores that sell ethnic goods such as henna. You do have to be careful not to pick up any ol’ package of henna though. A lot of people prefer BAQ henna (body art quality), which is supposed to be of superior quality, better dye concentration and super sifted (which is good since you won’t have to pick out any pieces of grass/straw and the like). Three trusted sources are henna for hair (also great for finding out more about henna if you’re having doubts. sooo recommended!!), mehndi skin art (slightly cheaper than the previous site) and butters-n-bars. As a  rule of thumb, if it’s Jamila brand henna, tiene que ser bueno (it has to be good)!

I like my hair color as it is. Will henna make me a red head?

It depends on how dark your hair is. Because henna is natural, it can’t lighten your hair. If anything it will darken it. That means if you have brown hair or black hair you’ll see very little change to the actual color. Perhaps a hint of auburn in the sunlight, otherwise nothing drastic. Don’t worry–you won’t come out looking like a fire engine! If you  have blonde or very light brown hair, you can expect to see a red hue. At first it will look sort of coppery and a bit bozo the clownish (no offense to anyone who likes this color red), but after a few days the color will start to oxidize and bring about a more natural looking red. With each application henna will darken to almost a wine color. Some people mix henna with other natural dyes such as indigo (to make your hair black), amla (keeps the color brown, also helps maintain curl if you’re starting to lose it) or substituite it all together for cassia (virtually colorless, and works a lot like henna but the benefits don’t last as long).

On the other hand, if you have dark hair and you want the red hues to shine through there are a variety of herbs and teas that you can add to your mix to increase the color (see next post for more about mix ins).

I just dyed my hair recently/will want to dye my hair in the future. Can I still use henna?

Again, it depends. If you’ve used or are planning to use a dye with metallic salts it’s best to stay away. Henna can cause your hair to fry or turn an unsightly color if mixed with that compound. Some argue that pure BAQ henna goes fine with most chemical dyes. The only problem is that it’s hard to dye over henna because henna gets into the fibers of your hair instead of simply coating it. In other words, don’t use henna unless you’re ready to commit to it right away and for a semi-extended amount of time.

How do you use it?

Curly Nikki has a great tutorial on how to apply henna to your hair. In my next post I’ll show you the process I use. The basic items you will need are pure henna, an acidic juice to release the dye, optional herbal color enhancers (if you’re focusing on color and not the conditioning effects), and a heavy duty moisturizer to follow up. A lot of people use lemon juice (the kind that comes in a bottle) to let the dye release but I prefer Nikki’s method (she uses green tea) because lemon juice sounds a bit too harsh. If you don’t have lemon juice or green tea you can use orange juice, apple cider vinegar, apple juice, lime juice or white distilled vinegar.

Also check out the LJ community for advice and questions from people who vary from henna pros to beginners.

Does it have a shelf life?

Henna can last for a few months if it’s left in a cool place like a freezer. Left over henna mix from an application can also be frozen and actually holds a stronger dye concentration for the next time you go to use it.

I’ve used henna before but it was too messy/too time consuming. Any alternatives?

You can always try a henna gloss. Basically halve your typical henna recipe, then add in your favorite conditioner to the desired consistency. This is also great for touch ups. I’ve used henna gloss when I didn’t feel like putting in a lot of work and had extra henna sitting in the fridge.

More questions? Let me know and I’ll put my expertise to the test!

Who’s that curl?

julio 12, 2010

"Help" Hair, Jan 2010

After the "big trim", Jan 2010

After an attempt at roller setting my hair (I brushed the curls out), Jan 2010

After I started using Henna, Feb 2010

Braid out, Feb 2010

Thicker & Stronger, March 2010

Still a Red Head, March 2010

Curls Are Popping😀 May 2010

Rock Star Hair, June 2010

Taken a few hours ago....

I've been wearing my hair in a side bun the past few days so my curls are stretching

Shoulder length? Nothing big. At least it's grown from where I trimmed it

During detangling

So there you have it folks. My hair feels stronger and healthier. It looks shinier and a bit longer. I want to focus on length retention now so I’m going to start diving into some serious protective styling. My hair goal? To eventually rock a huge fro just like Leela James😉 Would also love to wear long twists and braids that shrinkage cannot keep above  mid-shoulder!

No such thing as too much hair...I want this length badly!

I'd like to think I'm getting there...lolz (this isn't the best example..have to blow it out more)

And so it [re] begins!

julio 12, 2010

There’s so much to catch up on I sort of don’t even feel like going there. For a simple run down, this is what’s been happening in my hair world during the last 4 months (wow…again, sorry for the unexpected hiatus):

  • I’ve witnessed growth, though I can’t tell how much because I haven’t taken the time to sit and measure it
  • My basic routine consists of co-washing at least 3 times a week (depending on how my hair feels), shampooing once a month, deep conditioning twice a month (I used to do it every week but stopped when my supplies started running low. also I kind of got lazy ;)), wearing protective styles for at least a week at a time followed by wash and gos and messy/side buns
  • I started using henna in my hair some time around mid-february. I LOVE HENNA! It’s not for everyone and I’ll go into the reasons why later but so far it’s increased shine, loosened my curl pattern (good and bad trait), kept my color a nice reddish hue (definitely appreciated) and aided with better definition
  • I’ve given up my product junkie ways (for the most part) and have found some favorites along the way and maybe one HG product (HG=holy grail, product that does miracles nearly every time). I’ll do mini reviews on all of them in a very near future post
  • I am enjoying experimenting with at home hair concoctions. For example, I’ve tried avocado and EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) as a deep conditioner, I use an aloe mix as a curl refresher/leave in conditioner/detangle aid, and I have a tub of natural shea butter that I eventually want to make my own hair butter with.

I also have [recently] discovered a few things I [still] need to work on:

  • Trim my hair!! (I know it needs to be done, probably badly, but I’m hesitant to do it on my own. Last time I trimmed my hair it left my ends sort of crooked–bad hand-eye coordination. I’ve been thinking about getting it done at a salon but then I’m afraid they’ll sneak some horrid chemical in my hair and give me a pixie cut. Bah..maybe I’ll get my mom to do it)
  • Increase time spent in protective styles (to retain length and keep my curls from getting damaged)
  • Find a good supplement for skin, nails and hair (definitely need one for my skin/nails but if it addressed the hair that’s an added bonus)
  • Use my fingers to detangle more often than not (I have a tendency to rip through my hair at times. Not cute. But I’m impatient. This is another reason why I really need a trim)
  • Find the oils my hair likes best (just so I don’t waste money buying three different kinds)
  • Oil my ends every night!! (my ends are starting to look a bit frizzly..eek!)
  • Remember to always spritz my hair with my aloe glow or apply leave in conditioner before leaving the house

Overall my hair is much healthier and much happier than when I started this process. I’ve even received compliments from people I never expected to even notice. For example, a particularly critical co-worker has told me on more than one occasion that she loves my hair (especially when it’s out in a wash and go style) and it makes her wish she wore her hair natural. That’s a HUGE compliment coming from someone who swears by her weave as the end all be all of hair care and was quick to direct me to the nearest salon where I could get my hair “tamed” (“You need to visit the Dominicans. Especially with all that hair. There’s one right on your street…you know, at the corner of such and such”)

I just finished shampooing, detangling, and applying henna to my hair. It’s been a month since I’ve shampooed my hair or clarified it at all. My curls were admittedly starting to get stringy, so a good wash was definitely in order. However, I had some what of an ephiphany while lathering down my tresses….I don’t like my shampoo!! I used to blame the ”weird” texture my hair was left feeling like as a result of weeks of conditioner and natural oils getting built up and released. Now I realize it’s probably just that my shampoo sucks. This makes me sad because I kind of like the way it smells and I thought it was pretty safe to use on my hair (should have done more research! bought it in a PJ haze). Ah well, at least I’ve only used it once a month.

Usually when my curls start looking a bit sleepy and stop cooperating, I give it a quick pick me up with a clarifying treatment like a baking soda wash, followed by an ACV wash to keep my curls bouncy and alive. I try to do this as  rare as possible to not put unnecessary strain on my hair. I guess I need to change up my routine a bit. For one I’ve fallen out of the habit of deep conditioning it every week. I think that really helped my hair in the beginning…so back on that. And also, I need to find some more cute protective styles because the braids and twists and buns are getting old again.

Tomorrow I get to wash this warm gunk out of my hair and I can’t wait! Henna treatments are not pleasant in Baltimore heat. I should do a henna post tomorrow for all those who have wondered and never dared. Hmm…well that’s all for now kids! Queue update photos in next post.

I can’t believe the last time I updated this thing was in February :O Back then it was cold and I could use the warmth of my computer like a faux-fireplace. Now it’s hotter than the hinges and I might as well be living in a frying pan. But let’s not get started with excuses…I have progress pictures, those long promised product reviews, crazy hair stories and more on the horizon. BUT you’ll have to wait a bit longer…that’s right the suspense continues. This week I’ve declared “internet free week”. Mainly because it’s too hot to keep my computer on (life is rough without AC) and also because I’m embarking on a new schedule that will require all of my attention and energy. And then ladies and gents, I will feed this poor, starved and almost abandoned blog. I promise!

The ABC List…finale

febrero 7, 2010

I know it’s been a minute since I’ve posted but I worked too many overtime hours this week and truthfully have not had the energy to write the next installment. Sorry! So back on schedule…

Curly Styles and Methods

As previously mentioned, CG is just one method–and in my opinion the healthiest–for keeping your curls at their very best. One of the main components of CG is co-washing (in place of shampoo). This site gives a great step by step guide to co-washing. Depending on hair type and current health of your hair, co-washing every other day is beneficial. Others find they can co-wash every 3 or 4 days or once every week if they’re wearing protective styles (more on this later). You’ll have to choose what’s best for you and your hair. This involves learning to recognize your hair needs and paying close attention to the products you use/your hair’s reactions to them as a result of both frequency and product make up.

When choosing a good co-wash conditioner look for the following ingredients (obtained from NC.com):

Emollients – soften, smooth the hair and give it shine. There are hundreds of them, natural ones include all vegetable oils and nut butters, others more widely used are glycerides and liposomes.

Proteins – temporarily “repair” the hair and/or protect it. Occasionally proteins will build up on some people’s hair, this is really more likely to happen on healthy or relatively healthy hair. In case of any concern, just alternate with a protein-free CO. Examples of them are silk, soy, wheat germ, keratin or individual amino acids (components of proteins).

**check out this site for learning how to adjust conditioners based on hair needs

Humectancts – absorb water and hold in moisture. They are absolutely crucial in a CO for curly hair. Panthenol, vegetable glycerin, sorbitol and honey are just a few humectants to look for on the label.

**the best thing about humectants is that they can be added to your conditioner even if they’re not on the label. add a bit of honey to your deep conditioner for extra silky smooth tresses

Moisturizers – add softness and control to curly hair. Amino acids and aloe vera are two great moisturizers

**some curlies use aloe  vera gel or aloe vera juice mixed with water and EO (essential oil) for a daily moisture mist. develop your own recipe or take a peek at some others. another curly favorite is natural shea butter–adds moisture in a punch!

As a rule of thumb, dry, brittle hair can be a sign of many things. You may not be getting enough moisture (in which case deep conditioning, frecuent co-washing, and using moisture based products can help bring sahara hair back to life). It can also mean that you’re using too much protein (always check ingredients, especially if your hair is sensitive to certain products. the closer they are to the top of the ingredient list, the more concentrated they are) or silicones (if you’re moderate CG) and your hair needs a break. Other times it simply means that your hair has become over conditioned (too many co-washes, oils and gels) and needs to be refreshed.

That’s where clarifying comes in! It’s always a good idea to clarify every once in awhile to give your hair a fresh start. Coarse haired curlies may require less frequent clarifying treatments because coarse hair is already prone to drying (a problem that can be exacerbated by too much stripping of oils). I typically clarify my hair once a month unless my hair is feeling over conditioned, in which case I’ll do it twice a month. An easy way to clarify hair is to use a sulfate shampoo but if you’re on the CG method there are plenty of natural ways to clarify hair without risking damage—and they also happen to be pretty cheap too! My clarifying preference is plain old baking soda. Here are two popular recipes:

1 tbsp baking soda

1 cup warm water

OR

1 tbsp baking soda

3 tbsp  CG friendly conditioner

After clarifying with baking soda it’s pretty much necessary to follow up with an ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) rinse. Baking soda raises the cuticle (essentially opening it up and getting all the gunk out), which leads to frizz if not handled properly. ACV rinses will smooth the cuticle back down and add shine and definition to hair. Trust me, the first time I did one I was amazed at how bouncy my curls looked and felt. I do recommend not going overboard with ACV rinses though. Some people do them weekly or biweekly. I find that many applications to be a little harsh on my hair and only do them when I’m clarifying my hair once about once a month. Remember ACV is very acidic and can cause unpleasant reactions if not handled properly (=hard, wiry hair). Here are some common ACV rinse recipes:

1 tbsp ACV

1 cup warm water

OR

1 tbsp ACV

1 cup warm water

3 drops honey (not too much or it will make your hair sticky!)

After clarification (especially after using the two previously mentioned applications), you definitely want to deep condition to restore the moisture you stripped of it. Deep condition at least once a week to keep your curls soft, smooth and hydrated! Most people apply heat while deep conditioning because it has a sauna affect on the curls. However, if you’re heat-phobic like me, wrapping your hair tightly in saran wrap or a shower cap and letting it sit for a few hours works just as well. Just remember to give yourself plenty of time to let the conditioning treatment fully saturate your hair–30 min at the least.

At this point you’re probably conditioned out and are tired of hearing the word but another essential part of the CG method (and ABC List) is the use of a leave-in conditioner. Leave-in conditioner should be used every time you co-wash and clarify your hair–sometimes even before styling. Why? It adds yet another layer of protection over your curls and helps keep frizz at bay. Leave-in conditioner also makes detangling a breeze (try following Teri’s curly primer method if you hate having to comb out your curls). Leave-in conditioners should preferably be more “heavy duty” than a cheapie co-wash conditioner but less heavy than a rinse out conditioner (the regular conditioner you use after clarifying/shampooing). Instead of buying a leave-in conditioner, you can make your own natural concoction. Remember mother nature often provides all the ingredients your hair really needs–and at a cheaper cost than a glamorous bottled product. Check Curl Journey’s complete list of CG safe products for good leave-ins/co-wash products and this site for the natural alternative to leave-in conditioners. You can also leave-in some of your conditioner after you co-wash instead of applying a whole new product, but you have to be careful that you’re leaving enough in (it takes skill) and that your co-wash is hydrating enough to not get lost in your curls.

And now for the fun part…styling!

With a creative mind and the right products, styling natural hair can be both an exciting and rewarding experience. I used to think that braids or twists were the end all be all of my curly haired existence. URRRR. Wrong. There are so many ways to style natural hair with or without embellishments. Protective styling (e.g. braids, twists, buns) are best for those who want to concentrate on adding length to hair. This is because protective styles require low manipulation. Manipulation refers to having to put strain–large or small–on your curls. Though detangling is beneficial and makes curl upkeep easier, constant combing, raking, brushing, and handling of the curls irritate them and can lead to breakage and split ends. Wearing curls natural and free feels liberating but also causes wear and tear on the ends, which will dry out quicker and rub against your clothes. Washing curls too often or applying frequent heat also leads to breakage–sometimes curls just want to be left alone!

To cut down on breakage, variate between stressful styles and stress free ones. For example, for every week that you wear your hair out, wear hair in braids, twists or a bun for the following two (or as long as you can maintain them). Trimming is important (the most popular time period I’ve heard is once every 6 months) and detangling with fingers should be used whenever possible (to prevent tearing of hair strands). Here is a list of popular low manipulation and complete protective styles (click to see an example):

buns

chignons (French rolls)

tucked styles

pony tails with the ends tucked in

Rollersets

Braids

cornrows

updo‘s/pinned up styles

braid outs

twist outs

two stranded twists

flat twists

bantu knots

finger coils

comb coils

dread locks (locs)

**some of these styles were borrowed from this great article written by Audrey Sivasothy about maximizing length retention**

If you’re ever feeling bored with protective styling check out the style section at Curly Nikki’s site. Tons of inspiration to be found from fellow naturals!

Last but not least, styling products are often beneficial and sometimes downright necessary for the up keep and maintenance of styled curly hair. Instead of promoting any one product I will say it’s a good idea to have a mixture of gels, butters and pomades. Sometimes they work best when used in conjunction–it all depends on whether or not their ingredients interact well with each other. Styling products should be applied in this order: butter (for moisture and protection), gel (for hold and definition), pomade (for shine and SOTC–scrunching out the crunch, which sometimes occurs with intesnse hold gels). Don’t forget your leave-in conditioner before using any styling product!

There are a variety of styles and products just waiting to be tried. If you can, try to find ones that are natural and even organic. Products with tons of chemicals are not only unhealthy for your hair but also could have unknown side affects on your skin and the rest of your body. Also, don’t think you have to shop at expensive “curls only” boutiques to find good products. Sometimes natural remedies and generic “cheapie” brands work just fine (for co-washes especially) and have similar if not identical ingredients.

Above all enjoy the adventure of finding the products that work for you but be careful–sometimes it’s better to stick to basic products and slowly work your way up. If not you’ll end up with a ton of products that you can’t all use and end up wasting–aka growing into a product junkie. Uhem..not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything😉

I’m still experimenting to find the “perfect” mix.  When beginning any hair journey, substantial time and energy goes towards messing up and starting all over again! But I’m learning to enjoy the process. Even if it does get frustrating when a bright idea ends up being a dud (or worse, a disaster). It’s better to maintain this mindset: with every mistake, I’m closer to finding the right answer. In my next post I’ll go into detail about how I arrived at my current routine.

The ABC List…continued

febrero 1, 2010

Curl Maintenance

If your hair is anything like mine, it’s high maintenance! My hair is very particular about what I put in it and how I treat it. Thank goodness there are about a bajillion methods and styling tips that I can use to find something it might actually be ok with. But I am getting a little ahead of myself here. Before the style, you have to CLEAN the hair and keep it healthy and as knot free as possible. Curls are naturally very delicate–no matter what type you have but especially if you have 3C curls and above–therefore it is necessary to wash, moisturize, and detangle them with the ultimate care. I’ve recently gone from semi-CG to full CG method (explanation below). It doesn’t appeal to everyone–some people like their silicones and sulfates. But not me. Sulfates leave my hair dry and silicones often leave my hair stringy and dull. I’d much rather moisturize, moisturize, moisturize my hair–and occasionally clarify when needed.

What is CG method? CG stands for Curly Girl, a book about all things curl written by Lorraine Massey and Deborah Chiel. To be honest I’ve never read it. But it’s easy to pick up on the essential parts with these simple rules:

  1. Don’t use shampoos or at least drastically reduce shampoo usage (once or twice a month at most)
  2. Don’t use cones (ingredients ending in -cone, -conol, and -xane) unless they are water soluable (all water soluable cones have a PEG or PPG in front of them.  Others such as amethidicone are “sort of” soluable and should be used at your discretion. I prefer to cut them out all together)
  3. Don’t brush your hair and don’t try to comb it while it’s dry (=frizz city!)
  4. Don’t use a towel to dry hair (=ditto)
  5. DO co-wash using products that consist of moisturizing and protecting ingredients (more on this later)
  6. DO detangle your hair with fingers or wide toothed combs while it is wet and conditioned
  7. DO use a microfiber towel to gentle scrunch or blot hair dry OR diffuse gently OR just air dry (it’s free therefore I like it!)
  8. DO clarify your hair with natural products if it starts to feel too oily, gunky, tangly, looks dull or if you lose curl definition (these are the tell tale signs your hair is overconditioned or there is too much product residue for your co-washes to fully eliminate it)

The College Curly gives an excellent explanation about the how and why of the CG method here. Another excellent reference for hair rules is here if you want to maintain healthy curls while promoting length.

If you want a step by step guide to co-washing check my next post. You will find that some curlies are modified CGs meaning, they co-wash but also use shampoos or low-poos (shampoos with lighter sulfates) because they prefer using products with cones. The only way to tell which is right for your hair is to try it!  I find the CG method to be annoying at times because it limits the number of products you can buy at drugstores. But, I’m happy with the way it makes my hair feel and look so it’s a welcome “sacrifice”. If it seems like a daunting task at first, stick with it for at least a few weeks. When starting out your hair might look worse before it looks better (it has to get trained out of that sulfate, silicone cycle) and as you find CG friendly products that you really love, you’ll see less of a need to go searching through bottles at Target and CVS.

I do suggest that you ALWAYS, always read the back of the bottle carefully before you purchase. You never know when a company is going to switch up on ingredients and your eyes can play tricks on you when you’re feverishly trying to fulfill your inner PJ (product junkie) on a Sunday afternoon (only saying this because I’ve been there..like..today). When I first went full CG I filled up literally two bags of products that I could no longer use. One conditioner I thought was ok, then I realized it had amethidicone and dimethicone (it’s in almost everything!) in it and I had to stop using it. Like I said, it’s one of those “kind of soluable” cones, but I’d feel better not using since I don’t know if my co-washing conditioners have the strength needed to wash it out. If you’re going to stick with cones, at least let it be near the bottom of the ingredient list so you know you’re not getting a lot in your hair.

If you want a complete list of silicones that are soluable vs. those that need “the tough stuff” to be removed, check this thread from naturallycurly.com or this list from live curly, live free. Also, if you’re ever confused about ingredients on the back of a product curl goddess Teri at tightlycurly.com has an ingredients dictionary–very useful!

OK this post is getting long and my DC (deep conditioning) time is almost up, so I’ll post the rest of the ABC list later. Peace out!

Next…Curly Methods and Styling

The ABC List

febrero 1, 2010

Achieve

Better

Curls

(get out your pen and paper, it’s time to go back to school!)

I know when I first started researching information on the best products and methods for curly hair I was almost instantly overwhelmed. Especially over at  naturallycurly.com…my my my. I spent two days reading one thread. Needless to say, it was ridiculous. So to save you some time and brain cells, I’ve condensed all the information I’ve found in the simplest words possible. Note, this information is what I found most useful to me and my hair. No two curls are the same..kind of like snow flakes. So don’t take this information as the final word. It’s not. But for me it’s been a good starting point for getting my head together.

First things first…Know your hair type

Understanding basic curl structure and how curls work is essential to finding the right products (more specifically ingredients) that will benefit and improve the curls instead of merely coating them with rich creams, butters and gels (aka wasting your money). If you’ve ever wondered why someone’s HG product (HG=holy grail) didn’t do boo, squat nor mess for your curls, it may have been because their curl structure was completely different than yours OR their hair health was in a better state. Hair type and hair health often go hand in hand. A person with thick, coarse, healthy hair might have a better time absorbing certain products than someone with fine, overly porous hair that’s been damaged.  Some people just assume that because their hair is hard to manage, prone to poof and “kinky”, their hair is also coarse. URR. Wrong. I have overall thick looking hair but the back of my head is actually quite fine and I can tell just how it reacts to certain products and by just spritzing some water on it. So no, you don’t have to have straight or wavy hair to have fine hair as well.

This site is great for telling the difference and helping you define your own texture. Here’s the run down:

Fine hair= small diameter, holds style poorly, dry looking but usually over moisturized, easily over-processed by chemicals, wants protein, hates humecants (=good moisturizers, we’ll talk more about these terms later)

how to measure? grasp a single hair strand–tightly–between your thumb and your index finger, run down from scalp to end. if it feels barely there, soft, or like silk it’s fine.

Medium hair= medium diameter, “normal” textured hair, can support a variety of ingredients as long as it is healthy, takes well to chemical processing

how to measure? see above technique, if you feel something more substantial, almost like cotton thread, and it’s smooth, it’s medium.

Coarse hair= largest diameter, thick, strong, doesn’t hold style well, becomes brittle easily (very fragile), hard to chemically process, wants humecants, hates protein

how to measure? see above technique. if it’s rough, hard to the touch or wiry, it’s coarse

NOTE: if your hair has been damaged, it will feel rough no matter what. you should be ableto guess the health of your hair based on how often you apply chemicals (dyes, bleaches, lighteners, relaxers, perms) or heat to it. try a protein reconstruction treatment to regain hair strength. when it starts feeling less brittle and rough, revisit this texture test to get the right result

I have both fine and coarse textures in my hair. You may find you have a combination too. Since the majority of my hair is coarse, I tend to stay away from products that have too much protein and I’m working on building my moisture intake. If you find your hair is becoming too brittle, increase moisture. If it’s getting too limp, add in a little more protein. This is why paying attention to ingredients is key (my next post will outline which ones you should be looking for)

Another verrrry important aspect of hair typing is a delightful little world called porosity. In all honesty…I hate this word. Because I don’t quite understand it. Still. Seriously, porosity confuses the hell out of me. There are several suggested methods for gaging whether or not your hair has a high, low, or medium porous level. I’ll do a quick run through before telling you my guesstimation for my own hair.

Porosity=how well your hair absorbs moisture (remember: “moisture is what shapes and defines your curls”!)

how to measure? Take this test or this one. Good luck finding the right results!

High porosity=”overly porous”, has an open cuticle that allows moisture to absorb and escape easily, chemically processes quickly and can be damaged without proper care, lacks product retention in the hair shaft, often dry, brittle and fraigle e.g. when dying hair, processes fast but fades quickly

how to fix? Over porous hair is often the result of heat, color and bleach damage!! treat with protein followed by products that resore moisture. but be careful if you have coarse hair…coarse heads already have a lot of protein in them, which means you have to be careful not to over do it with a protein application

Normal porosity= cuticle is compact, moisture can enter or leave the hair shaft but does not readily escape, supports normal chemical hair processing, readily absorbs and retains product formulated for normal hair e.g. when dying hair, takes “normal” time to process and color remains for average life of product

Low porostiy=the cuticule is too compact, moisture cannot enter or leave the air shaft, difficult to process and resistant to chemicals, repels product instead of absorbing it e.g. when dying, does not take color very well but the color last longer. products tend to “sit” on the hair not fully penetrating the hair, hair is weighed down easily

how to fix? This can be a perfectly healthy hair strand. Use more moisture than average, encourage absorption by scrunching produts into the hair, try opening up the shaft with an ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinse. Balancing products is key! Once moisture gets in, it will have no problem staying!

Given the fact that my hair is constantly thirsty and it’s been colored twice barely in the recommended time span, I think it’s pretty safe to say my hair is pretty high on the porous level. I haven’t done the floating hair experiment, but the other one yielded results like that of a highly porous person. My finger felt like it was catching something. But I was a little confused as to whether or not other factors about my hair would contribute to that. Needless to say this is a work in progress. I’ll probably discover more about porosity as I try different products and as my hair grows stronger.

Lastly, there is great debate on whether or not curly heads should adhere to a universal curl classification system. If you’ve ever been on a web site about natural hair or curly hair you’ve seen phrases thrown around like “I’m 3C” or “what should you use on 4A hair?” At first I was like…whuut? Then I read up on it and was like “okaaay…”. Basically this guy named Andre Walker created a hair classifcation system that he thought would be useful for curlies trying to get the best products for their hair type. I do see the positive of this system but I also see the negative. Like I said before, no two curls are alike. Even within the 3C hair camps there is a lot of diversity. Also, a lot of people have 2 and 3 hair combinations (like me!) and don’t quite fit in any camp. And you know..with camps people tend to get a little territorial and want to say “hey you’re not a 3A or a 3B so C your way out” (hah! I know I’m cheesy…you love it!). To make a rambling message short, I feel comfortable saying I have 3B/C-4A hair and I pay close attention to whose advice I’m following when someone does a product review that generally fits my main hair type. There also exists an extended curl classification system that is more basic and I think allows for more diversity, but because it’s not generally used at naturallycurly.com (where I get the majority of my scoop), I don’t see the point in it.

If you’re interested here‘s Andre’s system and this is the Fia system.

Next…Curl Maintenance

“You have to know the past to understand the present.”

–Dr. Carl Sagan

Before I begin talking about daily routines (which to be honest I’m still experimenting with), go to products, favorite hair styles so on and so forth, I’ve decided to back track and talk about my past first. I’ll tell you the things that worked, the things that didn’t and what I’ve learned since then.

For starters,  I feel like I’m one of the few and in my opinion fortunate people who did not grow up in a hair salon. To this day I’ve only been in one once and it was not exactly the most glorifying experience. My hair can best described as thick, long, with multiple curl textures and even patterns. If you are familiar with the curl classification system I am mostly 3C with some 4A and a tad bit of 3B mixed in. The back of my hair is much finer and looser than the middle and front of my hair. I used to be afraid that one day all my “easy” hair (as I used to call it) would fall out and I’d be left with unmanageble, tangly, “mean” hair. My hair texture has changed over the years but I still have those 3 different sections of hair types.

High School era pic. No product. Wet hair. Not detangled.

Ollld picture. This is used to be my trademark look: hair wrapped in a scarf. Sometimes I wore my hair out underneath. It helped to hide my frizz..hate frizz!!

My earliest memories of hair trials and tribulations begin when I was knee high to a grasshopper. My mother would sit me in my little yellow chair and sometimes I was allowed to read a book while she detangled, brushed and plaited my hair. This process often took hours and I was no fan of it. I’m as tender headed as they come and late at night my mother showed no mercy as she rangled up my curls like wild running horses. Even now I still remember the oily smell of TCB hair and scalp conditioner (chock full of mineral oils and petroleum that I later learned are damaging to the hair), the brisk drops of water that used to fall from the spray bottle onto the nape of my neck, the sound of the comb tugging on my curls, the smart on my shoulder when I began to fuss and shift (nothing stings like the back of a comb on bare skin! but mama didn’t take no stuff).

Summer 08. Excuse the face...

Dry hair. No product. The beast unleashed!

I always wore my hair in braids. Eventually progressed to twists. Sometimes my mother would put my hair in a bun or experiment with different sized braids/twists/knots. She never knew how to cornrow my hair but my cousin did it for me twice. My mother was amazed that I didn’t cry out even once–but I remember how hard I bit my lip not to cry as my hair was being pulled tight like rope (I also remember girls in class itching their scalp like crazy because they had tight cornrows in…I’ve never been interested in that hair style since). Looking back my mother must have been on to something. Even though she brushed my hair with a boar brush (no), used mineral oils (no no), and shampooed it with sulfates (no no no!) she knew to always wet my hair before trying to brush or comb it, used protective styling, used wide toothed combs to detangle my hair, gave me a semi-regular trim, never allowed heat near my hair and absolutely under no circumstances was I ever allowed to have my hair permed or relaxed!

I like to keep my braids on the smaller side. This is semi recent..from last winter.

this should give you some sense of length. this was 2 years ago.

TRUST my aunts and female cousins on my father’s side all tried, begged, beseeched and almost paid my mother to have HER hair permed as well as mine. She broke down and got a relaxer once (before I was born) but she vowed to never let them touch my hair with harsh chemicals. I am so thankful to her to this day! As I grew older I grew tired of always wearing my hair in braids and was envious of the long, silky, flowing hair of my peers. I also fell under the pressure of my friends to have my hair permed since they always so nicely reminded me that my hair looked “messy” and I really needed one. A few times I begged my mom to let me at least straighten my hair with a flat iron but she always said no. Only once did I have my hair straigtened with an iron and that was for high school senior prom.

Prom Day (he wore black and white chucks...ha. love it!)

Prom Day (he wore black and white chucks..ha! love it!)

I thought I would fall in love with the glamorous “new me”. Really, I just realized that straight hair made my forehead look bigger (whomp whomp). I actually…missed my curls (!) and felt alien without them. But it didn’t take long. That very night it rained and since I had never had to worry about my hair drinking water before, I was surprised when my  date turned and told me my hair had gone back to its natural state. All that money down the drain! (Thank goodness I could call in the calvary and two of my friends curled my hair for graduation a few days later). After that experience I decided straightening my hair was overrated and not worth it.

High School Gradutation

High School Graduation

I honestly can’t imagine how some girls do it on the regular. I’m not trying to judge anyone here–if that’s your boat, go head and float. I just know that my hair would die quickly if I started applying heat to it all the time. It already can’t get enough moisture. Sorry..went on a tangent there. So like I was saying…I grew to appreciate my curls little by little, even if I did hold silent envy towards people with fine or wavy hair. My curl pride reached an all new high in college. My hair was a novelty…I think I was the only girl on campus with natural hair (which wasn’t an alien concept for me, high school was pretty much the same, but my high school was predominately African American and instead of people being impressed with my hair, I was often teased).

The few times when I was “brave” enough to wear my hair completely out, I was told that it was “cool” and unique. People loved playing with my ringlets and coils.  I started to wear my hair out more often and found the more I wet it, the easier it was to maintain. I sort of did my own version of a wash and go for awhile..except I wasn’t using conditioners to moisturize my hair properly. I cut that out after my mom told me I was drying my hair out too much. She was right, but for the wrong reasons. Hair loves water, but you have to back it up with other moisturizers to keep your curls fully content.

summer 08 en españa! this is another trademark. low pony tail.

A year or so ago I realized that my hair was starting to feel extra dry when I shampooed it. So I decided to use conditioner only. At first I felt “dirty” about it..like I wasn’t actually cleaning my hair. Now I understand that I was just cowashing without realizing there was a whole philosophy behind it. Of course, not knowing all I know now, my problem with build up was often due to the fact that I was still using products with silicone in them. Conditioners alone cannot wash them out.

summer of 09. my hair was pretty healthy. dry hair. no product.

sophomore year of college. I loved this look! too bad it was damaging.

it took a long time for the bleached highlights to grow out. but it faded into a nice peachy-pink color

**Rewind and pause** Lest I forget, I did have a major hair speed bump when I had it dyed and bleached (eek!) for the first time my sophomore year of college. My curls took a definite hit and I worried they would never be the same. They became limp and my texture was stringy. I didn’t know how to fix my curls or even how to properly care for color treated hair (no wonder the color washed out so quickly! by the way, it was bright hot pink ;)). It did recover on its own but I was fool enough to color it again (now 3 years later). This time with Garnier Deep Burgundy Brown. The results weren’t bright enough so after only 4 weeks I dyed it again, with a different hair dye. This was a lot for my hair. I did buy a special conditioner (and shampoo) for my hair at the time  and a sulfate free leave-in (which unfortunately has silicone). But my hair felt like straw for a few days.

This is my present day situation. It’s been about 6 weeks since I dyed it and I don’t plan on dying it again any time soon (maybe ever..it’s too complicated and never gives me the results I want). My hair texture is better but I still fear that I’ve damaged it from double exposure to harsh chemicals in such a short time period. Really I was just impatient and wanted red hair NOW! (of course my hair color of choice would be the hardest to apply and maintain) I’ve cut out cones (silicone) and sulfates from my hair diet. Also I’m getting back into all natural products (though I recently just used gel and I’ll be writing a review about that soon). I’ve buried my boar brush, bought a new set of combs (I already had good detangling combs but now I also have a denman-esque brush), bagged all my “no no” products to be shipped for trash, and taken to a co-wash/moisturize routine. I’ve been sleeping with a satin scarf for years now so that’s just stayed a part of my routine.

I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet (no pun intended) but I have a revised hair philosophy, a new hair attitude and in coming days I hope to have a good regimen down as well as products I know I can stand by.

Phew! This was long. Thanks for reading my hair history. Care to share a bit of  yours?

Note: If you are confused about any lingo here don’t fret I’ll be making a post soon to clarify all that curl vocab. Right now I’ve spent too much time on the internet and need to go live like a normal human being. Peace out!

Genesis

enero 30, 2010

Hello all! After much ado, I’ve finally buckled down and created a wordpress. Trust me–this has been a work in progress for quite some time. If there are two things that you MUST know about me here they are:

1) I’m a perfectionist (and not in the annoying, “ugh! you’re always perfect you make me sick!” way more like the frustrating “ugh! will you ever get it right?” way)

2) I’m am infamous procrastinator

Don’t let that tiny revelation scare you. It only means that for all intents and purposes I take my time to do things, but I make sure they are done very well, to a T with all the Is sloppily dotted. So if you think I’m kidding when I say I just spent 3 hours adjusting my page to get the look I want…hm well yeah, don’t. Most likely I’ll be changing it again in a few days because I’m also

3) Constantly in need of change

So enough of my idiosyncrasies. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

Who are you?

I’m a 22 year old, Baltimore born and bred, naturally curlified girl. Fresh from college I find little to do with my time outside of work except half read books, attempt to actually exercise, google random things on the internet, neglect update my tumblr (poor thing is suffering), check facebook, send the occasional “why yes I’m still alive” email, satisfy my inner PJ, etc etc Basically my life surrounds work and mindless down time right now. Fantastic, you’re thrilled. But I do have larger aspirations…those of which I’m sure you’ll get to know as you read my blog.

What are you doing here?

The real purpose of this blog is to track my progress as I embark on a new hair journey. Like previously mentioned, I’ve always had natural (meaning no perms, relaxers, weaves etc) curly hair but it wasn’t until recently that I started paying more attention to what exactly I was doing/putting into it. I admit it, I’m a bit of a hair elitist. I always assumed that because my hair was “natural” it was 1000% more better off than curly heads who regularly waxed, straightened and chemically toxicated their tresses. Boy was I wrong! Turns out I did just as much damage to my hair using the wrong products and wrong methods to maintain it (I’ll go through a list of those bad habits later). Thankfully, with the help of the trusty internet (namely naturallycurly.com) I was able to do some intense investigation and now I’m feeling much better about my daily routine/product arsenal.

I will occasionally comment on other facets of my life, namely what the heck I’m going to do now that I’m out of college, why politics and international news matter to me, and those daily hilarious/horrifying experiences that I’m sure I’ll just be dying to share with the general populace🙂

When did you start your “hair journey”?

I’d say by the time I was 18. That’s the age when my mom stopped doing my hair and I took the reigns. Along the way I’ve learned a lot of Dos and Don’ts..and I’d like to think I’ll continue as a life long process. I find that the needs of your hair continue to change. It’s a living thing. Just like a person grows and evolves throughout life so does one’s hair. The trick is keeping up with it and truly listening to what your hair has to say. The newest phase of my hair journey started a few weeks ago. I’ll explain more about that later in another post.

Why should I care?

Um..because..actually..you shouldn’t. This blog is primarily for me. But I welcome commentary, advice, criticism, random greetings or whatever you wish. I hope that other girls, boys, curly, straight, black, white, asian, latina, muslim, christian, rich, poor, skinny, curvy (and the list goes on) enjoy what I have to share and find it useful or at least interesting.

Where can I find the products/methods you have listed in your blog?

I will make sure to credit and add links to every single method/product/idea mentioned in my blog. If for any reason I miss it, drop me a note and I’ll add it in! For the most part my inspiration has come from the following resources:

naturallycurly.com

livecurlylivefree.com

bglhonline.com (loooove this site!!)

tightlycurly.com

motowngirl.com

Also check out my links to other cool blogs/sites that I’ve discovered!

And that’s it kids. Love.  Hate. Congratulate. It’s all for the curls.