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About naturalfantastic

•Natural hair care and beauty advice •Health and fitness tips •Traveling and backpacking info

The Great Ocean Walk

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We set off from Adelaide towards the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, South-East Australia. We were not going there to stop along the various lookout points and sample some of the activities along the way. Neither were we going there to admire the view from the car window.  We were going there to be a part of it, and explore it from the inside.  The Great Ocean Walk (GOW) is 97.1km in total and can be completed in five to eight days.  Hikers can also choose to do shorter walks, over fewer days.  Carrying a full backpack; with the tent, clothes, food, and supplies wasn’t easy, but I was looking forward to the challenge.

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Apollo Bay to Elliot Ridge

Our adventure began at the Great Ocean Road Visitor Centre.  We took an expensive taxi ride there, from the Princetown Recreation Reserve, where our car was parked.  Essentially, the aim was to walk back to the car. The beginning involved walking through the town. We stood out from everyone else, as we carried our big backpacks through a small market place.   It was a 9.8 Km walk in total, no major hills yet.  Approaching the Shelley Beach picnic area, we decided to take the beach walk, to avoid an uphill climb. There was a scary section, where we had to cross over a gap between the rocks.  This was tricky to negotiate with our heavy backpacks.  We had seconds to cross before the waves hit. I crossed just as a huge wave came in, crashing against the rocks.  The map clearly marks out the areas that should only be crossed during low tide. Not being experts on tides and waves, we certainly didn’t have a scientific approach to determine safety. We just went for it, anything to avoid those hills. Be cautious and refer to the map when in doubt. Walking up a hill would have been a lot safer.

The Elliot Ridge campground was our first stop. Unfortunately, just before entering the campground there was a steep uphill climb that seemed to go on forever, especially as it was our first climb. You may not feel good while climbing it, but you certainly feel good when it’s over.  There were many more of these to come.   Upon entering the campground we heard a strange noise.  It sounded like a wild pig, I immediately wondered if they had these in Victoria. Is it alright to run from these? I asked myself, do they chase?  Thankfully, one didn’t come charging out from the bushes to attack us.  I thought it could also be a motorcycle engine, but we were deep into the rainforest. It was confusing to say the least. We were surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees, which created a shaded and mystic environment. We then saw a Koala half way up a tree, the first of many. Later, we discovered it was the Koala making the strange noise. We had no idea they made this bizarre sound. You usually don’t hear a peep from them at home.  All night in our tent, we could hear the Koalas up in the trees, making a collective sound.

 

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An Echidna

 

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Elliot Ridge to Cape Otway

The following day was our first double day. Instead of camping at Blanket Bay, we had lunch there and continued our journey towards Cape Otway. In total we walked 22.5km. Along the way we saw Wallabies.  They would stare at us for a few moments, before hopping off through the heavy shrubbery. We wondered how they managed to do that so comfortably, without getting hurt.  There was one Wallaby that didn’t hop off straightaway.  As we approached it, we wondered why it wasn’t scared and became a little concerned. Then he appeared to hop away in slow motion. He was an old fellow.

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The Elderly Wallaby

We  passed a lot of cattle, which may have explained why we were harassed endlessly by flies.  They would cling to our backpacks and fly into our faces. Fighting them off was utterly futile.  They would go away momentarily, and come straight back. It was as if there was a magnetic force, pulling them towards us.  We had to learn to accept them; I even took my fly net off after a while.  We stopped at the lookouts at Parker Inlet to admire the stunning views of the Ocean. Stopping became problematic, as the flies took it as an opportunity to pounce on us.

We reached the Lighthouse just as it was closing. We didn’t mind because we had been hiking all day, and climbing a long flight of stairs didn’t appeal to us.  Besides, we were feeling self-conscious about the flies that were following us. I took a chance and entered, to buy a drink. Thankfully, as soon as I went through the doorway, the flies left. Of course they were waiting for us outside like stalkers.

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Cape Otway to Johanna Beach

From Cape Otway, we embarked on yet another double day. We felt stronger and better prepared for the uphill climbs. When hiking, the first couple of days are always the toughest, but your body gets use to it as you progress.  We didn’t see any other backpackers along the trail at this point; we were alone for most of the walk. As we were doing double days, we had already gone ahead of people.  The stillness, and silence was peaceful. Use to travelling to busy places, full of tourists; we experienced a quiet contrast on the GOW. There was just the two of us and an occasional wallaby, echidna or snake. Perhaps the beginning of summer was not the most popular time of year. There were certainly some hot days, but it was usually cool in the mornings and rained heavily on occasion. We were well prepared for the different conditions, carrying warm and waterproof clothing just in case.  Bringing a small tripod was handy because there wasn’t anyone we could ask to  take a picture of us.  Our tripod had straps, so we would tie it to a tree to position the camera.

The walk started with an uphill climb, although it wasn’t as bad as I expected.  We then reached a road that seemed to go on forever, with no bench or log to sit on.  Going downhill was no picnic either; the pressure on the knees was intense at times, especially with a heavy backpack.  Crossing the Aire River was a mini adventure for me; I took my shoes off and stepped into the cool crisp water. It was very refreshing. We crossed a bridge and stopped to have lunch at the Aire River Campsite.   There were tourists stopping at the various lookout points, this was in contrast to the isolation we had experienced before this point.

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From the Aire River campsite to Johanna Beach, we experienced what felt like the longest beach walk in history.  Every step resulted in my feet getting buried in the soft sand, it was horrendous. Even the stunning views of the ocean didn’t distract me from the tedious and bitter task of simply walking on the beach. All we could do was try to find wet sand to walk on, when possible.  The waves along this section were gigantic. An explanation as to why it was deserted.  There certainly wouldn’t be any surfing or swimming in those conditions.   Watching the waves crash was a stunning sight.  Part of the beach was sectioned off to protect the endangered Hooded Plover birds.  Towards the end of this stretch, we had to negotiate passing in between a giant wave, crashing on the shore.  We took our shoes off and went for it.

As we approached the Johanna Beach campsite, some locals told us where the Kangaroos come out to feed at dusk.  We were the only ones at the campsite so we had the pick of the plots. We chose the one with a spectacular sea view.  We set up camp and took a short walk up a hill and through a gate, to see the Kangaroos.  We saw three or four on the field below.  That night we learned that  having a sea view came at a price.  Our tent was totally exposed during a very stormy evening.  We thought  it would be blown away, with us in it.  Thankfully it held up and we survived the night.

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Johanna’s Beach to Ryan’s Den

Rain greeted us the next morning. We waited before setting off and had breakfast and tea under the shelter.  Then we had to reside ourselves to the fact that it wasn’t going to stop raining. Johanna’s Beach to Ryan’s Den was the most difficult hike of the trip so far.  From the onset, there was a great deal of elevation.  We walked up towards the Melanesia Track and had a close up view of the Kangaroos, peeping at us from behind the grass. Although this day was more difficult than both double days, it was one of the most beautiful hikes.  The challenge was more mental than physical. As soon as we reached the top of a hill, we had to come straight back down, then up again. As the trail led us through the rainforest, I would have chosen walking on soft sand in a heartbeat.  Meanwhile, we saw a scary snake for the third time during the trip. A  distraction from constantly asking myself; “are we there yet?”

Take in the views and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, while rising to the challenge of the hike.  There were nice places to take breaks along the way. Towards the end, there were a number of timber staircases.  A stair lift would have really come in handy at this point.  Arriving at Ryan’s Den, we didn’t make the same mistake twice.  We camped behind a tree to provide a barrier against the strong winds.  This was a nice campsite, with communal areas on a hilltop to admire the views.

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Ryan’s Den to Devil’s Kitchen

The plan was to go to Devil’s Kitchen the next day.  This certainly was the most difficult day of the hike. There were many steep climbs up to the cliffs, and downhill walks into the valleys. It was both mentally and physically challenging, but this did not diminish the beauty of our surroundings. We entered the Great Otway National Park and walked through the Moonlight Valley. There were day hikers and tourists doing the Great Ocean Road and going to The Gables Lookout. We felt really under-dressed at this point.  The Gables Lookout provided awesome views of the Ocean and cliffs.

Unfortunately, due to a knee injury, we decided to stop at the Gables Car Park to call a Taxi. We had planned to walk from the Devil’s kitchen campsite to the Princetown Recreational Reserve, where our car was parked. We were going to leave our backpacks in the car and walk the rest of the way, towards the 12 Apostles. Then we would have walked back to the car. That would have been a very long day. I’m glad we drove there instead! The 12 Apostles were great, but we saw many more beautiful sites; through the rainforest, along the cliffs, in the valleys and on the beaches. Everyone told us we had seen the best parts of the walk and not to feel too bad about not doing the last day.  If you want to see the area in all its glory, I would recommend doing the walk. Even a shorter 3 day hike would be worth it. Get out of the car and put your hiking boots on.

 

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Kitchen and Shelter

Have you done the GOW? Share your experiences below.

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Is the US Military Discriminating against African American Women with Natural Hair?

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Image released by US Army

Pictures 1-3, released by the US Army.

New appearance standards were recently released by the US Army, aimed to standardize and professionalized soldiers. However, some African-American military women have spoken out in criticism against the changes. A White House petition was commissioned and sent to President Barrack Obama. It received more than 11 000 signatures in the hope that these rules will be reviewed.

So which regulations may be considered discriminatory?

Twists

Twists are banned as they are considered faddish. Section 3-2(d) states:

Examples of hairstyles considered to be faddish or exaggerated and thus not authorized for wear while in uniform, or in civilian clothes on duty, include, but are not limited to, locks and twists (not including French rolls/twists or corn rows); hair sculpting (eccentric directional flow, twists, texture, or spiking); buns or braids with loose hair extending at the end; multiple braids not braided in a straight line; hair styles with severe angles; and loose unsecured hair (not to include bangs) when medium and long hair are worn up.

Hence a hairstyle similar to the one in picture 3 will not be permitted.

Cornrows

Cornrows are allowed but must be small, approximately 1/4 inch in diameter and show no more than 1/8 inch of the scalp between cornrows. Cornrows must start at the front of the head and continue in one direction in a straight line.  I suspect this is to prevent variations of styles, the extreme being  zigzags or squiggly lines.

Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks are banned outright under section 3-2 (h) which states:

Dreadlocks are defined as any matted, twisted, or locked coils or ropes of hair (or extensions). Any style of dreadlocks (against the scalp or free-hanging) is not authorized. Braids or cornrows that are unkempt or matted are considered dreadlocks and are not authorized.

Unfortunately they are automatically deemed unsuitable, perhaps this is due to the headgear.  All headgear must fit snugly and comfortably without bulging or distorting the shape of the headgear. Hair should not protrude from under the edges at different angles.  Hairstyles that prevent the headgear from being worn in this manner are banned.  Dreadlocks may simply be considered to look unprofessional.  There is no provision in the regulations to look at each case individually.

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Wigs and hair extensions

Wigs and hair extensions are authorized but must ‘look natural’ and have the same appearance as the person’s natural hair. Does this mean  platinum blond, super silky weaves are banned for most black women? (I hope so).

Braids

These are permitted for medium to long hair. Multiple braids are allowed but must be small (1/4 inch), uniformed and braided tightly for neatness. The hair must also be braided fully and styled according to the medium to long hair guidelines (e.g. neatly fastened or pinned).

In conclusion; some of the essential means of styling natural hair; involving twists and dreadlocks, are banned according to these regulations. Furthermore, section 3-2(c) states that:

No portion of the bulk of the hair, as measured from the scalp, will exceed 2
inches (except a bun, which may extend a maximum of 3 inches from the scalp) and be no wider than the width of the head

For a woman with short to medium length natural hair, who is not allowed to put their hair in twists, this may present a problem. Afro textured hair grows upwards, so the longer it grows the bulkier it becomes.  The good news is braids and cornrows of a particular style are allowed.

African-American women make up a third of the armed forces, some believe they have been singled out by these regulations. “I think it primarily targets black women, and I’m not in agreement with it.  I don’t see how a woman wearing three braids in her hair, how it affects her ability to perform her duty in the military” says Patricia Jackson-Kelley of the National Association of Black Military Women.

Doris Richardson WWII Veteran US Army 1943-1945

Doris Richardson
WWII Veteran
US Army 1943-1945

There has also been much debate about this in online forums. One of the top comments on Yahoo stated:

Just in case anyone did not notice the first picture, the woman with the three braids, her hair is straight and could belong to a woman of any nationality, including a Caucasian woman. The third hair style, the twists are larger than 1/4 inch and do not lay flat against her head. The twists are not uniform and are raised up towards the crown of her head, which will interfere with the proper fit of her headgear. All three of these hairstyles are inappropriate, do not look neat, professional or natural and were even banned when I was in the military between 1978-1983. - Karen

Some commentators have said it is simply a matter of safety and uniformity, the same reader wrote:

“I’m sure careful thought to safety and years of deliberation went into the formulation of these regulations. I would bet there were numerous accidents that occurred because of improper fitting of headgear due to hairstyles, that led to these changes.”

Whatever the motive behind these changes, they may cause some women with natural hair to wonder if they are at a disadvantage, simply because they embrace their natural hair texture. Many would have considered it professional to put their hair in twists and pin it down, out of the way. But according to the regulations and comments online, it looks unprofessional.   America is a country with a variety of cultures and people, if this is reflected in the Army, they can’t all look the same. However, I understand the need for uniformity and standards.  Women with relaxed hair or those that wear European wigs and weaves  are unlikely to be affected by these changes or labelled unprofessional.

There is still a lot of ignorance about natural hair, simply because society still isn’t used to seeing black woman with their natural hair texture.  Although the number of women going natural is increasing, over 60% of women in American still relax their hair. It is a process that may take decades of education to change.  Speaking up against any form of discrimination is a step in the right direction.

Many argue that  these new army regulations affect different groups of people, not just black women.  The changes also address male haircuts,  body piercings and tattoos. There are also regulations about makeup and jewelry.

I hope black women in the US Army will not resort  to using relaxers for fear of violating these regulations and that any concerns they have are taken seriously.

Do you think these rules are discriminatory against African-American women with natural hair? If you are in the military, do these changes affect you?  Please share your thoughts below.

 

Sources

Army regulations on hair and appearance

http://usarmy.vo.llnwd.net/e2/c/downloads/337951.pdf

Army personal appearance policy

http://1.usa.gov/1ilibHL

 

Eight Benefits of Cycling

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Some of you may be throwing gym membership money down the drain. Being indoors, running on a treadmill or trying to figure out how to use workout equipment, isn’t for everyone.  That doesn’t mean you should give up on exercising completely.  There are many other ways to get fit.  In Australia, where I am currently living, the weather is cooling down.  This actually makes it more conducive to exercising outdoors.  Those of you in the Northern Hemisphere should be seeing the first signs of spring, perhaps this has inspired you exercise outside.

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Cycling is a great way to get in shape.  Here are eight benefits:

 

1. You can start indoors

Perhaps you are not quite ready for the tour de France, but you can get fit in front of the TV and leave yourself with no excuses.  According to Dr Lennert Veerman at the University of Queensland, being inactive can be just as bad for your life expectancy as smoking.  You can purchase an exercise bike or put your road bike on a bicycle trainer and cycle while you watch your favorite programs.  This will reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes as well as improve your fitness.

 

2. You can cycle on the way to work

Cycling on your way to work is convenient and cost-effective.  These days, many office buildings  have showers for employees to use.  Pedaling at 9 miles an hour burns about 287 calories per hour.  Exercise also releases endorphins which elevates mood and promotes energy. This is a great way to start the day and prepare for the challenges ahead.  Start planning what to do with the money you will save on transport and gym membership.

 

3. Mountain biking is better for fitness than road biking

You can burn more than 500 calories with an hour of mountain biking. Studies show that off-road bikers have higher bone density than road cyclists. Mountain bikes are not as fast as road bikes because the wheels are heavier, so they require you to work harder. Choose the most appropriate bike for the type of riding you wish to do. Check out your local national park, there should be a variety of biking tracks to use for some good off-road action.

 

4. Cycling helps you  sleep

A study at Stanford University School of Medicine found that insomniacs who began cycling 20-30 minutes every other day, fell asleep sooner and slept for longer.  Cycling outside during the day helps to get circadian rhythms back in sync. This reduces the stress hormone cortisol which disrupts sleep.  Good sleep is essential for weight loss and overall health. Researchers at Brigham Young University found that high quality sleep was associated with lower body fat while poor sleep correlated with higher body fat.

 

5. Stand up on the pedals for a greater workout

Standing on your pedals engages the whole body in order to keep balance and generate force.  This raises the heart rate and burns more calories.  It also builds strength in the upper body.  Switch between standing and sitting at different intervals.   Try  ten minute hill climbs, alternating between sitting and standing.

 

6. Exercising outside promotes vitamin D production in the body

Our bodies can produce vitamin D with direct exposure to sunlight. The main function of vitamin D is to regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in our bones and aid cell to cell communication in the body. Vitamin D helps to support the immune system, maintain healthy bones and even reduce the risk of cancer.  According to a study conducted by the Medical College of Georgia, vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining a healthy body weight. Vitamin D deficiency is common in people who wear sun protection frequently and in people of  African descent, because pigmentation reduces vitamin D production.  Vitamin D can also be received  through food and with supplements, however going outside for a bike ride  is a fun way of getting a much-needed dose of it.

 

7. You are less likely to get bored with cycling

You can always try a different route for a change of scenery and, treat  cycling as an opportunity to explore.  Try combining your cycling with some photography. I occasionally stop along the way to take photos if I find something interesting. From animals, beautiful sunsets, exquisite scenery, to classic cars or planes; you never know what you might find.

 

Cycling route, Glenelg SA

Cycling path, Glenelg SA

 

8. Cycling is a low impact exercise

Cycling is a good form of exercise for people with knee problems, as it does not directly put pressure on the knee joints. The  repetitive motion of cycling works the quadriceps and hamstrings, which are the muscles that support the knee joints. It is an exercise that strengthens the legs and promotes cardiovascular fitness. For the best results, cycle at least three or four times each week for 30 minutes.

So get on your bike, get in shape and start exploring!

 

Are you a cyclists? What benefits have you discovered from cycling? Share your experiences below.

 

 

 

Are wigs and weaves bad for your health?

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On a recent episode of The Doctors, actress Countess Vaughn spoke about lace front wigs and the damage they caused to her health. She candidly described the result of an allergic reaction she had to the glue used to install her wig.  The Parkers star admits to falling in love with the wigs after her hair stylists introduced her to them in 2004. She said she didn’t consider the health risks and was so excited about wearing them.

Countess Vaughn

Countess Vaughn

Immediately you have a full hairline.  I was wearing it 24/7.  5 years after, the drama came in. The red flag was the oozing, from the ears, from my forehead, the whole nap around my head, the puss. It had a horrible smell. It was painful

 

Her experience is a strong warning about the potential dangers of constant weaving.  This is not just confined to lace front wigs, which require harsh glues. The tension required for installing weaves and braids can also lead to hair loss.  Some wigs come with comb attachments that can put stress on the hairline.  Unfortunately, many hair stylists prefer to braid and sew tightly for neatness.   Traction alopecia  is more prevalent in females with Afro-textured hair, according to a piece written in the Dermatology Online Journal: The fringe sign for public education on traction alopecia. The study found that the prevalence:

 

  • Is higher in African schoolgirls than boys (17.1% vs. 0%)
  • Increases with age in girls [8.6% (6-7 years), 15.6% (10-15 years), to 21.7% (17-21 years)]
  • Is higher in girls with relaxed vs. natural hair (22% vs. 5.2%)
  • Is highest in adults (31.7% in women vs. 2.3% in men; with affected males more likely to wear cornrows and dreadlocks)

 

Countess Vaughn admitted that she now has to draw her hairline with an eyebrow pencil and people have assumed she has vitiligo due to the discoloration caused by a skin reaction to the glue.  Women who have experienced such hair loss are likely to have more of an appreciation for the hair they may have thought wasn’t good enough by itself. Vaughn’s honesty and openness about this topic is commendable.

The damage caused by  an allergic reaction to lace front glue.

The damage caused by an allergic reaction to lace front glue.

 

So does all this information mean that you should stop wearing weaves immediately and go ‘cold turkey’? As with everything, moderation is the key.  Occasional use of wigs and weaves for diversity and protective styling can be beneficial. If you wear weaves and wigs, there are ways to minimize the risks associated with them, whether your hair is relaxed or natural.

Here are some suggestions compiled by Transform Medical Group:

  • Hairstyles should be painless, and if you are experiencing pain, the only solution is to loosen the hair.
  • Traction hairstyles should not be done on relaxed hair until at least two weeks after relaxing.
  • Only new growth should be relaxed. Relaxing hair that has previously been relaxed can increase the risk of damage.
  • Heat treatment (straighteners etc) can damage relaxed hair and should be avoided
  • Weaves, braids  and dreadlocks present greater risk when done on relaxed hair

How many of us endured the pain and headaches associated with tight braids or weaves, instead of taking them out? There is a general belief that the tighter the braids, the longer they last and the neater they look. The pain from tight braids and weaves is only reduced when the hair strands weaken, break and fall out.  Many of us have also made the mistake of coloring our hair soon after relaxing it usually for convenience or because of impatience.

Relaxed hair is hair that has been weakened by harsh chemicals and stripped of its elasticity. So any additional styling or chemical use must take this into consideration. According to Dr Marboor Bhatty of the Transform Medical Group, many of the traction alopecia cases he sees come from people being ‘disrespectful to their hair’.

 

Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbell

So respect and look after your hair to avoid these dangers. Do not give more care and attention to your fake weave than your real hair underneath.

Have you had a bad experience with wigs and weaves? How do you minimize the risks associated with them?  Share your experience below.

Sources:

Transform Medical Group

Here is the link to the original article

http://www.transforminglives.co.uk/news-blog/blog/2014/03/hair-extensions-%E2%80%93-reducing-risks/

Dermatology Online Journal

http://escholarship.org/uc/item/1h81c7s1

Top tips for going natural

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Going natural may not be a huge declaration or momentous occasion for some.  Perhaps you have taken your hair out of braids and want to delay using chemicals for a while. You may never look back.  Some may have experienced breakage due to relaxers and believe going chemical free is best.  Whatever your reasons for going natural, here are some tips to get you started on the right track.

1. Big chop boldly

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Decide whether you want to big chop or transition. The big chop is simply cutting all of the relaxed hair, right up to the new growth. For this, you must be willing to have short hair; a TWA (teeny weenie afro) or shorter.  You may have seen videos on YouTube of women drastically shaving their heads to big chop.  You do not have to do this.  The Amber Rose look isn’t for everyone! You can choose to wait until there is a sufficient amount of new growth to showcase a TWA. If you are only going to be comfortable with hair long enough to put back in a ponytail, perhaps transitioning is more suitable.

I have a round face, so I was hesitant about having short hair.  I never thought very short hair could look good with my face shape.  However, I found that afro textured hair framed my face well, better than a short straight cut would have.  I certainly didn’t’ shave my head, I wore braid outs with my relaxed hair to blend in the little new growth, until it grew out adequately.  For me personally, I knew playing around with two textures was not going to work.  So I big chopped soon after giving up the chemicals.

2. Transition with care

Transitioning is holding off on cutting the relaxed hair and growing your natural hair out gradually. This is done until you are happy with the length. For this, you have to be willing to care for two different hair textures at the same time.  If you decide to transition, you may want to wear braids, weaves or wigs in the meantime.  Be careful that these styles are not installed too tightly because your edges may thin or you may experience breakage in other areas.  This would be a terrible set back so soon into your journey.

When transitioning, avoid falling into the trap of using heat on your new growth, to blend the two textures.  A small amount of sweat on the scalp will cause your new growth to revert back to its natural state.  You may find yourself using heat daily as a result.  When it is time to big chop, you may be left with heat damaged hair.

For transitioning, start doing braid-outs and twist-outs to get the feel of curly or kinky textured hair, and to get out of the mindset of straight hair.  Check out styling tutorials on YouTube, such as FusionofCultures who transitioned for two years.  Roller sets, two strand twists, bantu knot-outs and flexi-rods can be used for styling your transitioning hair.

 3. Keep it simple with products

Keep your approach to products simple at this stage.  Perhaps it would be best to continue to use the products you are already familiar with, unless you found that they were damaging to your hair. Focus on getting familiar with styling and caring for your hair. It is your skills that make the difference, not the products. While styling and maintaining your hair, start to research natural shampoos and conditioners and the ingredients you should avoid.  Know the reasons why they should be avoided.  Educating yourself about ingredients will ensure you choose the best products for your hair.

Don’t fall for marketing ploys. Products that claim to give you a certain curl pattern or accelerated growth for instance, or products that claim to be natural but aren’t.  I see too many naturals become super focused on product brands, expecting a product to ‘fix’ their hair, while failing to learn good hair care practices.  Most of these products do not do anything that water, natural oils and butters don’t do, unless they contain chemicals or unnatural ingredients.

You may not be too concerned about using products that are 100% natural, do what is best for you. As long as you have the sufficient knowledge, you can make an informed decision. The most important thing you can do for your hair is learn how to take care of it: how to comb it correctly, how to finger detangle, how to deal with shrinkage, when to use protein treatments, when to trim, to name a few. You don’t need to invest your time trying every product on the market and over spending as a result.  The reason we used relaxers was for them to ‘fix our hair’, do not have the same attitude towards products.

 4. Keep the use of heat to a minimum when dealing with shrinkage

Shrinkage is one of the main challenges for any new natural who has passed the TWA stage. Remember that shrinkage is a good thing; it shows you that your hair is healthy and simply reverting back to its natural curl pattern when wet. However, if you have very kinky hair, it may be best to keep it stretched out as much as possible, especially for styling. Check out my posts on this and practice techniques that ensure you do not have to rely on blow dryers and flat irons. Frequent use of heat can create dryness, breakage and heat damage. Heat damage is when your hair doesn’t revert back to its natural curl pattern and you are left with straight strands, in some sections. If you develop good habits in the early stages of your hair journey, you will continue this good practice for years to come. Unfortunately, bad habits are hard to break.  Besides, the longer your hair gets, the less problematic shrinkage becomes. If you invest in good hair care practices now, you will reap the benefits later.

5. Go natural for you, not for others

Personally, I couldn’t care less what men on YouTube say about women with natural hair, whether positive or negative.  I choose not to pay attention to general opinions about natural hair. Whether men, other women, people of other races or even employers like natural hair; I had to decide to embrace my natural hair regardless.  Anyone who says they don’t like natural Afro textured hair, I put in the same category as those who say they don’t like dark skin; ignorant and not worth arguing or wasting my time with. Positive attitudes are great and welcomed, but these can change like the wind. So be secure with your natural beauty, such security must come from within and not be based on the opinions of others or on trends.

What advice would you give to anyone who is considering going natural?

How to stretch out your hair without using heat (updated).

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Shrinkage is no fun when hair becomes unmanageable, knotted and prone to breakage. Stretched hair is more pliable and easier to manage, plus, you get to show off more length.  When I first went natural I thought my only option was to blow dry my hair out, after every wash. Too much heat led to dry hair and slight heat damage. There are many methods of stretching the hair without having to rely on heat. Here are some old ideas revisited plus some new ones.

Shrinkage

Shrinkage

Braids and Twists

This is the most common method. Hair is put into medium to large braids or twists to wear in a stretched out style, such as a braid out or twist out.  If this is done after washing, larger twists or braids can be done and kept in overnight; this will be a quick way to stretch the hair for easier styling the next day.  If you do braids or twists on dry hair (other than a light spray of water), this will stretch the hair out even more.

Bandingbands

Purchase a packet of hair bands, preferably the seamless, snag proof ones.  After washing, divide hair into medium-sized sections (usually 8-10).  Then band each section, working from the roots to tips. Each band should be an inch or so apart. Here is a good tutorial on banding.

 I enjoyed this method but it was a little time-consuming. I have only tried it once.  It’s good for achieving a heatless blowout.  I found that it took a while to dry, especially the sections of hair covered by the bands.  Covering your head with a satin scarf will delay the drying further.  Leave your head uncovered and sleep on a  satin pillow case,  or cover your pillow with your satin scarf.

 Buns

After I take my hair down from a bun, it is always stretched out.  My hair is most stretched after being in a low bun.  I put my hair in a low ponytail, then  braid the ponytail and tuck it under into a bun.  This can be tricky with thick hair, so you can do two or three large braids to make it easier.  After taking down the bun and finger combing my hair slightly, my hair looks like a blowout.

You can also put your hair into two low buns after washing, and leave it overnight. This will stretch it out for the next day. Top knots, high buns and doughnut buns also work well for stretching the hair.

 Roller sets

Putting your hair in large rollers and sitting under a hooded dryer  (or air drying), leaves the hair stretched.  It may even look like it has been straightened or at least blown out.  Again, this may be time-consuming, but should leave you with stretched out hair for a week or even longer.

 Roll tuck and pin

A quick and convenient protective style, that can be done after washing.  If done after washing, your hair will be stretched when it is dry.  This can work with shorter hair as well, but it may require the use of more pins.  Invest in some strong hair pins!

Kimmaytube has a great tutorial on this.

 French braids

It is best to do this on damp hair that is more pliable.  If done on dry hair there may be too much manipulation involved, especially if your hair is in a shrunken state.  After taking your hair down from a French braid, it will be wavy and elongated, with a flat twist out appearance. You could do two French braids on either side, one large braid down the middle, or a bohemian braid around your head to frame your face.

french braid hair

 Heatless blowout

This can be achieved by finger combing your hair or gently using a wide tooth comb, after it has been in an old twist out or braid out. Or after it has been in curlformers, rollers or flexi rods. Before washing your hair you can wear it in as a blown out style without the use of heat.

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My heatless blowout

Stretching out your hair leads to greater manageability and less breakage when styling. The kinkier your hair is, the more you will benefit from wearing stretched out styles. It can also help to reduce single strand knots and  tangling.  How do you stretch out your hair? Share your ideas below.

 

Combating dry natural hair

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Dealing with dry hair can be very frustrating and often feels like a losing battle.  Dry hair is harder to style and more prone to breakage.  It can also cause you to feel self-conscious. So how do we keep our hair moisturized and feeling soft and manageable?

 damaged hair

 

Know the nature of afro-textured hair.

This may be the last thing you want to hear, but afro- textured hair is prone to dryness by nature. Every kink or curl makes it harder for our scalp’s natural oils to travel  down the hair strands.   Having dry hair from time to time is inevitable.  Therefore don’t be stressed about something that cannot be completely avoided. Accept that dry hair may only be minimized.  Just because you experience dry hair occasionally, this doesn’t mean your hair cannot thrive. A little dryness isn’t going to lead to permanently damaged hair, so try not to worry about it. Stress alone is can affect the health of our hair.

Understand that water is moisture

Most of us who have been natural for while are aware of this. However, it is important to mention this again, as it is fundamental to the health of afro- textured hair. Rather than products that are full of petroleum or mineral oil, purchase leave in conditioners that are water based.  This means water or aqua is the first or second ingredient on the list. For those who like to keep it simple (like myself)  spraying your hair lightly with water is just as effective. Remember moisturized hair doesn’t necessarily mean wet hair, so you don’t have to completely drench your hair in water. Usually it is not getting moisture into our hair that is the problem, it is retaining moisture that is the real challenge. 

Retain moisture

One of the most effective ways to lock in moisture is to seal with an oil or butter. Examples of which include: avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and Shea butter. Each have different benefits but achieve the same goal of sealing in moisture. Oil by itself is not sufficient to provide moisture to the hair; it simply works by sealing in the water that would simply evaporate quickly without it. However some oils work by penetrating the hair and thus have moisturizing properties; avocado oil and coconut oil do this for instance. Even so, water should be the main source of moisture.

If you have looser type 3 curls or fine hair, you may find oil too heavy for sealing. aloe vera juice can also be used to seal in moisture without weighing down your hair.

natural hair needs water

 

Use products that contain humectants

Humectants attract moisture from the air to moisturize the hair. Products that contain humectants usually keep the hair moist and gradually provide moisture throughout the day. Glycerin is a popular humectant found in many products. Other humectants include aloe vera gel and honey. Products that contain a lot of glycerin may not be suitable for styling twist outs or braid outs, where definition is important. They may cause frizz, especially if you live in an area with high humidity.  When my hair was shorter, I used to spray it with water and glycerin.  One night, I thought this would be suitable for styling my hair in a twist out.  The next morning, while getting ready for work I took the twists out and thought it looked good. However as the day progressed my hair became more frizzy and puffy. By the afternoon, I had more of a textured afro (which can look great but that wasn’t the look I had planned).  Working as a school teacher, some of the kids ‘politely’ told me my hairstyle reminded them of Sideshow Bob, from The Simpsons. I learned the hard way that glycerin and twist outs do not go together.

However when styling your hair in two strand twists or another protective style,  products with glycerin work very well.  You may even find that you don’t have to reapply any more product for a few days.  Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie contains glycerin and works as an excellent moisturizer for protective styles, buns or puffs. I use it to moisturize my ends when my hair is in a puff and it also helps with manageability before styling.

Shea_Moisture_Curl_Enhancing_Smoothie_12oz__93906.1360707649.1280.1280Use plastic caps

Plastic caps ensure a little moisture goes a long way.  Spray your hair with some water; cover your head with a plastic cap, then wear your satin scarf as normal. Leave it in overnight and you should wake up with moist, manageable hair.  The plastic cap will use your body heat to create more moisture from your scalp.  Even better, saturate your hair with conditioner as well and do the same before a detangling session.  It should make detangling your hair a lot easier.  Regular deep conditioning is essential to maintain the moisture level of your hair. If you don’t have a steamer or hooded dryer, simply covering your head with a plastic cap can be effective.  Wrapping your head with a warm towel over the plastic cap, will provide more heat.

Hydrate from within

Hair is one-quarter water, so water is essential for the health of your hair. Water also carries essential vitamins to the hair root to hydrate the entire strand from the inside. Water provides energy for the hair cells that promote growth and flushes out pollutants, which are the main causes of hair loss. If you don’t drink enough water, both your hair and skin will feel dry. It is recommended that we drink 8-10 glasses of water a day and more when exercising.

water

 

Protective styles

When your hair is worn in a protective style, less moisture is lost. So bear this in mind when deciding how to style your hair. Protective styles include; two strand twists, buns, braids and various updos. The benefit of protective styles are evident but it may not be for everyone. Many prefer to wear their hair out and enjoy versatility. However you have to weigh the pros and cons of this and decide what is best for your hair. There are many beautiful and versatile protective styles to try, that can be done without weaves or extensions.

protective

How do you keep your hair moisturized? Share your ideas below…….

Wash and Go’s on 4b Hair

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Can wash and go’s really work on 4b hair? Here are some methods that may be more suitable for this hair type.

The first time I tried a wash and go I vowed to never do it again. The method I first used was to; wash my hair, coat it with Eco Styler gel and then literally go.  This resulted in severe shrinkage; my hair looked like a TWA. I didn’t mind the look but the next day my hair was severely tangled. I had to painstakingly separate every strand as carefully as possible or risk breakage.

So what has changed? I have tried a number of methods in the last few months. Now I believe the wash and go is a styling option for me. Stretched out styles are better for my hair because they result in less knots. However, wash and go’s are great for women who work out a lot and enjoy frequent co washing. Here are some of the methods I found useful.

The Winter Wash and Go

This method was demonstrated by Naptural85. The style is prepared overnight and there is no need to rake gel or curling puddings through your hair. Wetting and washing your hair helps to bring out your natural curl pattern and putting your hair in large twists allows it to remain stretched.  Some wouldn’t call this a wash and go but it is the most convenient method of bringing out your curl pattern.  It simply involves washing and putting your hair in twists, while in the shower. So it encompasses the convenience of a wash and go, that may be lost with the traditional method. It’s ideal for winter because you don’t have to walk around with wet hair all day.

Conditioner only wash and go

Instead of using  gel, perhaps try the ‘shingling’ method with your favorite conditioner. All of this can be done in the shower. Use your fingers to rake the conditioner through the hair. Some choose to leave a little conditioner in their hair, not rinsing it out  completely. Now with other hair types, air drying may work best. However, with my 4b hair I found that this resulted in too much shrinkage, as my hair is very tightly coiled.  Using a diffuser to dry my hair, gently stretching it with my fingers in the process, worked much better for me. To seal in the moisture you could also add some oil to the hair and rinse it slightly so that your hair doesn’t turn out to be too greasy. This is called an oil rinse. Simply using conditioner as opposed to raking gel through my hair resulted in far less shrinkage.  The curls were not as defined and quite frizzy but I liked the level of volume my hair had.

Conditioner only wash and go

Conditioner only wash and go

Check out Alicia James’ wash and go tutorial, where she uses a diffuser to stretch her hair.

The traditional method

The traditional method is washing your hair and using gel or a styling product to enhance your curls. This usually ends with allowing your hair to air dry throughout the day.  I believe this method is less effective for 4b hair because the amount of shrinkage experienced can be excessive.  There is also a level of uncertainty about how the style will turn out because your hair will shrink gradually.  Many women become disillusioned with their 4b curl pattern because it isn’t usually as defined as 4a or type 3 hair.  While others can enjoy the convenience of this method and see their curls pop easily, 4b  girls may not have the same experience.  The other methods highlighted in this post may be more suitable.

Shrinkage

Shrinkage with traditional method

It is simply a matter of trial and error. Most importantly, remember that a styling product cannot naturally create curls that do not already exist.   I believe gel is more effective than a curl enhancing pudding/smoothie when trying this method on 4b hair. 4b strands need hold, in order to clump together. Otherwise the hair becomes more puffy and frizzy. However, I would avoid gels with maximum hold as they will cause too much shrinkage. Try gels that offer light to medium hold.

Eco Styler gel with a hold of 5

Eco Styler gel with a hold of 5

My natural curl pattern

My natural curl pattern

The fake wash and go

This is simply making a twist out look like a wash and go.  Put your hair into small to medium-sized twists when wet, for more definition. When untwisting, instead of separating the hair three to four times, separate the twists once.  This takes longer than a twists out, as the twists are smaller. However, you can wear your hair in a protective style for a few days and take your hair down for the weekend.  This way you get two or more styles out of one.  I find that this style lasts longer than a normal twist out because the twists are more defined.  It looks like a wash and go even though my hair would never look like that after a real wash and go. There is no shrinkage to contend with and you will avoid the dreaded tangles that 4b hair usually experiences after a traditional wash and go.

Check out the tutorial for this method by Alicia James.


Fake wash and go, a few days old.

Fake wash and go, a few days old.

Don’t be discouraged

If  the end result is the same it doesn’t matter which method was used, or that you were unable to achieve a wash and go by the traditional method. Do what works best for your hair type.  4b hair isn’t inferior to other  hair types simply because it is kinky rather than curly.  Your hair will have its own unique strengths, which you will discover as you practice caring for it.

Have you tried a wash and go? Share your experiences below.

Faith Christian Academy in Orlando threatens student with expulsion for wearing her natural hair

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‘Here we go again…….’, was my initial thought when I heard this story. Why does this keep happening to the children? Recently, there was the story of the young girl at Deborah Brown Community School in Tulsa, who was told by a black administration, that her dreadlocks were unacceptable, now this.

Faith Christian Academy in Orlando, Florida has reportedly labelled Vanessa VanDyke’s hair a “distraction.” They allegedly said, she must cut and shape it or she will not be allowed to continue her studies. Their dress code policy simply states that; “hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction.”

Vanessa went to the school for help after experiencing bullying because of her hair, sadly instead of showing Christian compassion towards her, they reinforced the message of the bullies by telling her that her hair was unacceptable and threatened her with expulsion.

Faith Christian Academy is a private school, it seems that sending your child to private school or a school that is predominately black doesn’t necessarily protect them from discrimination. Sadly, in some cases, it may make discrimination more likely.

Vanessa VanDyke is a beautiful young lady who has a great attitude about her natural hair. “It says that I’m unique,” “First of all, it’s puffy and I like it that way; she says.  “I know people will tease me about it because it’s not straight. I don’t fit in.”

In a world where the majority of black women feel the need to chemically straighten their hair, or wear weaves, not as an occasional styling choice, but as a necessity, it is good to see a young lady who is confidently embracing her natural hair texture.  She is simply wearing her hair out, just like a girl with straight hair, wears it down.  Yes natural hair can be worn conservatively away from the face, such as in a bun or puff. However, this young lady has been told that only a hair cut or straight hair would be acceptable.  Reportedly, Vanessa VanDyke, has until the end of the week to adhere to the school’s demands. Unless the girls with long straight hair, who wear their hair down have been given the same ultimatum, this constitutes discrimination.  If a child with ginger hair was being bullied, would the school label their hair a distraction and tell them to dye it?

Natural hair is not a hair style. It is simply leaving your hair the way God made it. Surely as a Christian school; Faith Christian Academy would teach their students that God made no mistakes. Yet they are telling this young lady that her natural hair is a mistake and must be corrected through artificial means.

What are your thoughts on this story? Is the school at fault? Could it be that people still aren’t use to seeing black women with their natural hair texture?

UPDATE: the school has issued a statement saying that they will no longer expel Vanessa because of her hair but they require that she wear it in a more conservative way. Here is the link to the updated story: http://www.clickorlando.com/news/orlando-private-school-wont-expel-africanamerican-girl-over-hair/-/1637132/23173004/-/1hgfb7z/-/index.html

The Length Factor

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Don’t let a fixation on length ruin your natural hair journey

length

Most of us have experienced the longest hair we have ever had since going natural.  We have dispelled the myth that Afro-textured hair doesn’t grow.  In the natural hair community, you will see women at different stages of their hair journey.  From TWAs (teeny-weeny afro)  to waist length hair, the different textures and styles of black hair are all beautifully unique.  However, is the initial excitement of going natural being tainted by an anxiety about length?  I’ve heard some women say that they are not too concerned about length rather, they simply want healthy hair. Most however, talk about wanting long hair.  Healthy hair grows at a regular and steady pace, so if your hair is healthy there is no reason for it not to grow. However, one factor that must be considered is terminal length.

Do not get disheartened when you see a YouTube vlogger reaching a certain length in what seems to be record time. Don’t compare them to yourself and become discouraged.  It took me over four years to reach BSL (Bra strap length), when some YouTube vloggers appeared to reach that in two to three years after their big chop.  Regardless of how long it takes for your hair to reach a certain length, once it is longer than it has ever been, you have achieved an awesome goal.  I’ve watched certain vloggers get criticized for not reaching a certain length within a certain period of time. This is despite their hair being longer than it was when it was permed.

Naptural85

Naptural85

Many of us regarded shoulder length hair as long when our hair was permed. Now that we are natural, we regard armpit length as short!  Are we not too hard on ourselves when it comes to length?  After all, armpit length hair is just as long, if not longer, than the average hair length of  Caucasian woman.  You only have to look around you to see that.  In the natural hair community we have demonstrated that black hair can grow just like any other type of hair.  However, because some of our favorite YouTube vloggers are waist length, we decide that armpit length isn’t long.  We fail to consider that some of these ‘waist length’ vloggers have been natural for 5 to 8 years.  Do not consider yourself a failure for not reaching waist length in five years.  We now must move on, from growing hair just for the sake of pulling it down our back for a length check.

Some of us look better with short hair or may have a preference for short hair.  Let us not make each other anxious about cutting our hair because we don’t want to be judged for not reaching a certain length, after a certain number of years.  Women who have cut their hair may feel the need to give a disclaimer when asked how long they have been natural.  Remember,  Afro-textured hair shrinks and your true length isn’t really evident until it is pulled down or straightened.  I have been asked numerous times if I have cut my hair by people who do not understand shrinkage.  Perhaps the fixation on length is more to do with what other people think or, it may be a need to prove to yourself that your hair can grow long. This is understandable but, don’t be afraid to be be versatile with length.

Tia Mowry

Tia Mowry

Taren 916

Taren Guy

Women of other races can cut their hair whenever they please.  Then, they can grow it back relatively quickly, when they decide to do so.  Well guess what? Black women can do the same.  With the knowledge we have acquired about our hair, we will find that most of the length struggles we had, with our relaxed hair, will no longer exist.

Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys

So let us celebrate hair of all lengths, textures and styles.  A TWA can be just as beautiful as waist length hair. A tapered cut or diva cut can be edgy and stylist.  We need not only experience short hair once, in our natural hair journey.

short hair instagram

KCCM Tapered Cut

KCCM Tapered Cut

Do you think there is an obsession with length within the natural hair community? Or have we now moved on from that? Share your thoughts below.