Tag Archives: Hair care

Saving time when managing your natural hair

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Some women declare that they do not have time to manage their hair in its natural state, and therefore cannot go, or stay, natural. If relaxer had never been invented, I doubt they would make such a claim. Rather, they would have simply learned how to manage their natural hair like everyone else.  Adapting your hair care regimen to suit your schedule and time constraints is important, whatever a person’s hair texture.

model

The use of chemicals should be an informed choice, not a necessity. There is nothing inherently wrong or unmanageable about our hair in its natural state. We simply have to realise the importance of educating ourselves about natural hair. And most importantly, our children’s natural hair. If we do this, we will develop the ability to adjust our hair care accordingly. Initially, it is going to take patience and practice, but trust me, it’s worth it!

Here are some suggestions on how to save time when managing your natural hair:

1. Deep Condition your hair before shampooing

Deep conditioning or hot oil treatments don’t have to be done after shampooing.  It can become tedious, shampooing, getting out of the shower, deep conditioning, sitting under the dryer, and getting back in the shower, all over again. If you deep condition or do a hot oil treatment before shampooing, you only have to use the shower once. This will save water and time.

If your shampoo is natural and free of sulphates,  which strip the hair of moisture, the benefits of the deep conditioning will not be ‘washed away’. If you are using a shampoo that contains Sodium Lauryl sulphate and others chemicals, deep conditioning will at least prepare your hair for this. It is likely to result in less moisture depletion.

Some people would call this a ‘pre-poo’ (pre-shampoo). I believe the result is the same, regardless.

2. Detangle in the shower before co-washing
This may not be an option for everyone, as wet hair is weaker. So detangling in the shower, may make the hair more vulnerable to breakage. However, if you use conditioner to detangle, this can be done in the shower and you can go straight into co washing. Put your hair into 6 to 8 sections. Detangle and co-wash one section at a time, and re-twist straight away. The downward motion of the shower water, helps to ensure that your strands are flowing in the same direction and helps with detangling.

Check our Naptural85’s demonstration of this method and a convenient style to do, during the process:

3. Alternatives methods to finger detangling

Studies show that those that finger detangle, have a thicker hair density. However, finger detangling does not work for everyone. There are others who prefer to use a wide tooth comb to detangle, after saturating their hair with conditioner or a mixture of ingredients. Check out KKKM’s method, using her homemade ‘detangling cocktail’. This softens the hair and cut her detangling time down to ten minutes!

4. Keep hair stretched out during the week
If you keep your hair in a stretched out state in-between washing, your hair will be easier and quicker to detangle. Twist-outs and braid-outs are great styles, to keep your hair stretched. Roller sets, flexi-rods and curl formers also keep the hair stretched. If you finger comb your hair after it has been in one of these styles, it will appear in a blown out state. Buns are also great for keeping the hair taut. High buns, low buns, top knots and side buns, all help to keep the hair stretched. When you take your hair down from a bun you will notice this.

Stretched hair with a twist-out

Stretched hair with a twist-out

So there should be less knots, and the hair will be more manageable. This will cut down your detangling session. Detangling your hair after a wash and go, or after it has shrunk during the week, takes a very long time, in my experience. Hence, the reason why I have only attempted a wash and go once, with my 4b hair.

5. Divide the hair into large sections
In my experience, the longer your hair becomes, the less sections you need to divide it into. Dividing your hair between 4 to 6 sections, should make it quicker to wash. We’ve all been there,  working our way through the sections, anticipating getting to the last one. When there are less sections to work through, this moment comes around sooner.

6. Try to remove shed hair whenever possible
Whilst styling my hair, I always take the opportunity to gently remove shed hair. This ensures that less shed hair tangles with the existing hair. There will also be less shed hair to remove on wash day. So while finger combing my hair before styling, I take less than a minute to remove any shed hair.  This reduces the build up of shed hair overall.

When you are short on time, here are some quick hairstyles to try.

Buns

Roll, tuck and pin

Puffs

Short Natural Hair (TWAs)
model twa

For short hair and TWAs try spraying the hair with a water and glycerin mix, to moisturize and enhance your curls. Add a cute accessory, such as a flower or head band. You can create a side parting and pin one side down with a clip.

What do you do to save time with your hair care regimen? Please share your suggestions below.

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Step Away From The Relaxer (part 2)

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Here are tips 3 and 4 in the Step Away From the Relaxer series.  These are some encouraging tips for those who have recently done the big chop or are transitioning and have now come to the ‘awkward’ stage of their journey. Some people give up at this stage and go back to relaxer.  I hope you find these helpful and they give you a few ideas to get through this point. The results are worth it, so hang on in there!

3.  Accept the facts and remember the benefits of natural hair. I believe caring for natural hair requires more effort and the sooner I accepted this the easier it was for me to adjust. It is not going to be like when your hair was relaxed. If you keep comparing the two experiences you will put unrealistic expectations on you and your hair.  When my hair was relaxed I didn’t have to worry about detangling it and shrinkage was never an issue. When I went to bed I didn’t have to worry about stretching it out to style it the next day.

However,  with natural hair, it simply isn’t the same experience. In spite of this the benefits make it worthwhile. I personally didn’t like how flat my hair looked when it was relaxed. I would prefer it a couple of weeks after, when it appeared thicker, as opposed to when it was freshly relaxed. I have always liked big hair!  Now, my hair is the longest it has ever been. When my hair was relaxed it always grew to a certain point (halfway down my neck) and it would not grow beyond that point. I also believe natural hair is much more versatile. There are many more styling options with natural hair that I was previously unaware of. Check out my posts: The Versatility of Natural Hair parts 1 and 2 for inspiration. To be honest I don’t miss the harsh smell of relaxer, neither do I  miss the burning and the scabs on my scalp that followed!

Freedom!

I’m a lot more conscious about ingredients and always scrutinise labels. This goes for hair, skin and food products. Overall, I’m no longer only concerned with the health of my hair,  but with my skin, body and overall health. Hair is the least important part of our bodies so if we are going to make an effort with caring for the health of our hair, how much more for our overall health.  It’s not just about avoiding relaxers but other harmful chemicals and ingredients. When you understand the health benefits of your actions it encourages you to continue doing what is best for your health. So perhaps research the effects of the chemicals they put in relaxers (sodium hydroxide for example). Once you know the facts you can make an informed decision. It’s a personal choice but nothing should be done out of ignorance. Since most of us got relaxers when we were kids I doubt we were fully aware of the facts.

 4. Learn how to manage shrinkage.  This is one of the main challenges for kinky, coily hair.  You will experience it after washing and if you are wearing your hair out during the week it may gradually begin to shrink up.  When you wake up in the morning you may find your hair has been flattened from laying down all night and you have to spend time fluffing it out again. This can be annoying, especially when your hair doesn’t cooperate and you don’t have time.  I found that I relied heavily on blow-dryers when I first went natural because I wanted my hair to remain stretched out. If I had known what I know now, I wouldn’t have used them. Please refer to my previous article: How to stretch out your natural hair without heat. Basically braiding or twisting your hair stretches it out. So before bed you can put it in 5 or 6 medium to large-sized braids. Also, remember when your hair has shrunk and you want to handle it to style, always add water before trying to comb or pick it out! Otherwise you’ll be dealing with tangled hair and if you are in a hurry you are more likely to cause damage to your hair. I always wash my hair in twists or braids so that the shrinkage is minimised, and your hair is reinforced when it is in braids, making  it less fragile.

How do you manage shrinkage? What benefits have you experienced since going natural?

Does hair typing set us back?

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I have never been overly concerned about what my hair type was. However I do consider it useful information when learning how best to manage my hair. For example I knew that certain styles demonstrated by bloggers would not necessarily turn out the same with my hair and I would have to adapt them accordingly. Also, when it came to my hair care regiment I was able to develop techniques that worked best for my hair type. I understood that not every method would work the same with my hair.

However what happens when hair typing becomes detrimental to the way you see your hair or to the way other people respond to you. Have we just replaced the derogatory terms ‘good hair’ and ‘bad hair’ with type 3 and type 4 hair. Unfortunately this is the negative result of hair typing and I think it is becoming more and more evident.

There are a few hair typing systems. One of the most popular ones is the one formed by celebrity hairstylist Andre Walker. Have a look at the diagram below:

While this information can be useful it should not be used as a ranking of good to not so good. We must respect the fact that natural hair is very diverse. Some women don’t have one hair type overall, their hair may be made up of a combination of the different hair types. So not everyone fits into a particular box  of a certain hair type.

Esperanza Spalding
4a

Shingai Shoniwa
4b hair

We spend a lot of money on curl enhancing creams, puddings and serums. When the fact is if the curls aren’t there to begin with they are not magically going to appear just because you apply these  products.  Rather than being disappointed, a person in this position should accept their hair the way it is and focus on the many of styling options that are available to them to create curls and waves. I hope these products haven’t become the new ‘creamy crack’. I dread to think that another woman would look down on someone with hair that is say 4b as opposed to the more curl defining hair types. Corinne Bailey Rae and Tracee Ellis Ross have stunning hair but they are not representative of everyone with natural hair,  when you consider the shear diversity of natural hair. Other hair types are just as stunning but in a different way, neither one is superior or better. If you fall into the trap of thinking like that you need to remember why you went natural in the first place. For many of us  it was to be free from the pressure to conform to what society typically states is beautiful and to embrace our natural beauty.

Debra Messing
3a hair

Keri Russell
3b Hair

I’ve heard horror stories of certain naturals attending hair care events and being told that their hair wasn’t kinky enough (simply because they were of mixed heritage) or being told that their hair was too kinky for the products on display and both were made to feel like they didn’t belong there.  Neither scenario is acceptable and is the result of nothing but ignorance and the same attitude people had about natural hair being inferior to straight flowing European hair. I know white women who use afro hair care products because they have very curly hair, would we turn them away just because they’re not black? That would be absurd.  Some of them can relate to us because they felt the pressure to straighten their hair for years. I have  also heard of some YouTube vloggers who have decided to close their accounts and delete their videos because of  a lack of interest in their channels.  They have claimed it is because they don’t have what is perceived as the ‘good hair’ type that usually is related to having super defined curls and really long hair.

We are supposed to be moving forward not replacing derogatory terms with different ones with the same sentiment.  More and more women are deciding to go natural, this is a good thing that should not be met with disappointment. If we accept that natural hair is diverse we can avoid this. The same applies to women who have relaxed hair, it all comes down to choice and it would be just as wrong to make someone feel inferior for having relaxed hair as well. Inspire them don’t bash them!

Alicia Keys
3c hair

What do you think about hair typing? Is it a good thing or has it set us back to where we were?

The Versatility of Natural Hair (Part 1)

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One of the biggest misconceptions I had about going natural was that I wouldn’t have a lot of options for styling my hair. If you are thinking of going natural  and worry about this, continue reading. If you are already natural and are stuck for ideas I have complied a list of my favourite styling options. I have tried many of these styles. I have also included some links to some very useful vloggers who give you step-by-step instructions on how to achieve  these styles.

Natural hair is extremely diverse. There are a lot of styling options available. We just have to do our research and try the many different styles. It is also important to share ideas with each other.  As I recall when my hair was relaxed I simply wrapped it and wore it down or up, that was about it. When I curled it the curls wouldn’t last. However curling natural hair is a lot easier because natural hair can be shaped and molded in many different ways. So have a look at the styles below and let me know what you think.

1. The big chop

If you’ve heard the term TWA it stands for Teeny Weeny Afro. I loved my hair at this stage because I was able to see my natural curls for the first time in my adult life.  Hair styling is very simple at this stage as long as you keep your hair well moisturized.  I used a glycerin and water mix that I put in a spray bottle and would spray my hair everyday. You could also use an oil of your choice and water. There are also many accessories you could use:  headbands,  flowers, decorative clips and hair pins. A simple side or middle parting also adds another feature to your style.  When it gets a little longer you can do a mini twist out to really play with your curls.

Viola Davis – 84th Academy Awards

2. Wash and Gos

These are an excellent way of emphasising your natural curl pattern and they work well on short  to medium hair but can also be done with long hair.  You go through your usual wash and deep conditioning routine then use a curl enhancing product to bring out your curls.   Then you allow your hair to dry naturally. Below is a good example of a wash and go done with Eco Styling gel. Jane Carter Solutions also has some excellent products for this.  However, this style  requires you to embrace the shrinkage of your hair as oppose to other styles that stretch out your hair.

Esperanza Spalding‘s wash and go

SimplYounique

Short hair

3. Blow outs

Sometimes its good to just get a blow dryer and blow it out into a huge afro. This style is a lot of fun and very glamorous. It’s important to make sure you use a good heat protectant before applying heat to your hair. I think this style is best for special occasions when you really want to stand out.

Esperanza Spalding’s glamorous look

4. Twist-outs

This can be achieved by two-strand twisting your hair (usually around 12 medium-sized twists) and simply undoing the twists the next day.  One of my favourite styles that gives you great volume and defined spiral or wavy curls. Check out Natural Chica’s channel and her methods of achieving this style. You don’t have to blow dry your hair out first so I have included both methods where she uses heat and where she avoids it. Twist-outs work on both short and long hair but your hair does have to be long enough to twist obviously.

Yaya’s Twist-Out

Flat twist out tutorial

5. Braid-outs

Again, similar to the twist-out but done with braids instead. I personally do these more than twist-outs as I usually braid my hair after washing it to stretch it out. So I end up doing a braid-out after every wash. These give your hair a nice crimped look and create a lot of volume.

Braid-out

Again you do not have to use heat to do this it can be done immediately after washing. If your hair isn’t stretched out enough the next day you can simply re-braid it and it will stretch it out further.

6. Bantu-knot outs

Back in the day these use to be called China bumps! I love these as your hair works as its own set of rollers. It’s a lot cheaper than buying a set of curl formers or rollers. It is quite easy to do this style and you can decide how big our small you want your knots to be. I will feature two methods below and you can try whatever works best for you. You could even leave the bantu-knots in and wear your hair in a funky style like that.

Corinne’s Bantu knot-out

SimplYounique

xGOLDn

That’s it for now! I will be featuring some more styles for part two of this article. There are many more and some that I haven’t even discovered yet. Styles for formal occasions such as weddings for example and updos, cornrows, flat twists, the list is endless. Let me know if you have tried any of these styles and what your favourite style is.  Remember to look out for part 2 of this article that will follow shortly. If you have found this helpful let me know in the comments below.

Ingredients to avoid

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When I did my initial research before going natural, the first piece of advice was to avoid shampoos with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.   In fact the first video I watched was a vlogger that suggested I avoid shampoo altogether and use baking soda.  Now I did this for a few months after my big chop and it wasn’t too bad apart from the odd occasion when I would put too much baking soda and my hair would cake up! Disastrous! As my hair started to grow I began to miss shampoo, the smell and feel of it in my hair. Then I realized that there were plenty of shampoos out there that are sulfate free. I noticed a popular pharmacy chain had sulfate free shampoo so I purchased it straight away and never went back to baking soda!  If it works for you great but I missed shampoo.

However it wasn’t until after a year or so that I started to learn even more about ingredients to avoid. It wasn’t just sodium Lauryl Sulfate I had to avoid, there were many others. You really have to do your research when learning about natural hair. I have simply learned more as my natural hair journey has progressed.  I have picked up more information along the way. We all learn from experience, trial and error and gradually along the way, whatever our style of learning may be.

I eventually discovered that as well as avoiding sulfates it is important to avoid Silicones in products. These dry your hair over time and are man-made agents that simply coat your hair and prevent it absorbing moisture naturally.  I think they simply create an artificial sheen. Of course in shampoos and moisturisers these ingredients are not referred to as Silicone. That would be too easy. I’m sure there are more but I am aware of one: Dimethone.   I was shocked to discover that a particular brand of shampoo I was using contained these products! So I had to go back to the drawing board and look for a new shampoo. It is all a learning experience. Even my husband who has European hair noticed a big improvement to his hair and scalp when we changed our shampoo. Just one artificial ingredient can be the difference between dry hair, an irritated scalp and soft, moisturised hair and a healthy scalp.

Then there are those oils and moisturisers that are popular in many afro hair shops. I soon discovered that many of them contain mineral oil and Petroleum.  These were products that a male friend of mine told me to avoid. He had been growing an afro for years and I relied on him to get my Shea butter.  He was able to get a massive chuck of it at his local market for one pound!  You learn from many different sources and it’s good to exchange information.  So I stopped using certain products and would check labels constantly. I do the same thing with my food so why not with my products. A lot of products that claim to be natural or organic usually contain many artificial ingredients. They add one percent Shea butter and label their product as Shea butter for example. This is very misleading so you have to read the labels. You can’t go wrong when you stick to natural ingredients that don’t need to be packaged in a glossy and expensive containers.

So I will make a brief list of the ingredients I am aware of below. Please add to the list so we can share this important information with each other.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (used in shampoos to create lather, this dries out your hair)

Dimethone (Silicone which is also drying to the hair)

Mineral Oil (This is not 100% natural. It coats the hair and leads to a build up of grease)

Petroleum (This greases your hair instead of moisturising it, it leads to a build- up of grease)

Specific Alcohols (Too harsh on the hair. Can lead to drying and irritation)

I know there are others I’m not aware of. Please share and spread the knowledge. A helpful website: www.ewg.org/skindeep/. This categorises products according to how safe they are based on their ingredients and production methods.

Natural Hairstylists: Felicia Leatherwood

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Felicia Leatherwood was recently featured in Yahoo’s Secret’s to your success. Here she tells her story about how she became a successful hairstylist and what inspired her. She is described as the ‘hair whisperer’ and her specialty is said to be :

Creating natural hairstyles and helping African-American men and women love their natural hair, sans chemicals and over-processing.”

It is good to hear about hairstylists who have studied natural hair and are passionate about promoting healthy and natural hair care. Since going natural I have struggled to find a hairdresser with expertise in natural hair care and have frankly been disappointed. I’m sure if I really did my research and was prepared to spend a lot of money I would find a good one eventually. Initially, I thought if I went to the Afro hairdressers in my area they would know about natural hair, boy was I wrong! If I was to find a good one in the London area I would have to be prepared to spend good money and travel to the other side of London. I really wish there was more choice when it came to hairdressers and stylists for natural hair.

Let me share a couple of horror stories with you. I use to get my hair cornrowed and I would wear a fake puff. I figured this would be the easiest way to manage my hair and it was quite protective as my real hair was cornrowed and tucked away. I got a lot of compliments for this style. However the damage done to my hair to create this style was simply not worth it. First of all, the hairdressers I went to would always blow-dry my hair before even beginning to put it in braids. Some hairdressers would blow-dry and then even flat-iron my hair all before braiding or cornrowing it. Some wouldn’t even bother to use heat protectants on my hair before putting it through this grueling procedure.

Also, there were the hairdressers that insisted on using a fine tooth comb on my natural hair! I didn’t even see a wide tooth comb in their selection of equipment. It’s sad to say that on one particular occasion there was a lot of shed hair on the floor, not naturally shed hair, most of it broke off from all the pulling. The hairdresser even used this to imply that my hair was breaking and that I should get a treatment and spend even more money in that place! They never saw me again after that. I have learned to be patient and extremely careful with my natural hair, I couldn’t possibly put my hair in the hands of a careless, impatient hairdresser ever again.

One bad experience after another. The only way to get around it was to blow dry my hair myself using my own heat protectants and handle my hair with care before going to the hairdresser. However, it still wouldn’t be straight enough for them and they would want to run a flat-iron through it as well. You certainly get what you pay for, that’s for sure. This is why I am so grateful for all the information I have acquired from bloggers and vloggers on the internet. People who have given me valuable information for free. From women sharing their personal experiences of going natural, to natural hair experts who have studied natural hair for years . It’s nice to hear about people who really know what they are talking about when it comes to natural hair, it’s so refreshing.

Felicia Leatherwood explained the importance of reciprocity in her success. The more you give to others the more others want to give back. As well as having celebrity clients like Jill Scott she also hosts seminars and provides information on the web, often giving away her expertise for free. People appreciate this free information and it’s one of the reasons she has loyal customers today.

After what I’ve experienced with hairdressers if I find a stylist that genuinely cares about my hair and really knows about natural hair,  I certainly wouldn’t take it for granted. Most importantly If I come across a bad, clueless hairstylist,  I would pick up my purse and simply walk out before they do any damage to my hair.   I now style my own hair and I don’t have to blow dry my hair to braid it, I can’t even remember the last time I used heat to style my hair. It would be nice to go to a good hairstylist though. I’ve since moved to America and I am currently in Arkansas (near Little Rock). I will be in Dallas Texas for a few months also, so if you know any in those areas let me know. Thanks!

Have you had a similar experience? Share your stories below.

Felicia Leatherwood Updo

Client Jill Scott