Friday, November 18, 2011

The Golden Rules of Natural African Hair Care

Its been a while since my last post, but its because I've actually taken a JOURNEY inside of my natural hair care journey!  I've been around the world and back again, trying new products and methods.  I went through a whole host of different leave-in conditioners and oils, searching for the best way to seal and moisturize my hair.  I searched high and low for the perfect Natural African Hair Care regiment, but then I discovered my original routine is the best overall option for my hair.

Although I tried a myriad of new products and methods over the past few months, my wash routine has not changed.  I shampoo my hair once a month with Suave Almond and Shea Butter shampoo.  I've yet to start washing with a silicone free shampoo, as I find them to be a bit pricey and hard to find.  I do co-wash (wash with conditioner only) my hair 2-3 times a week, however, with Suave Almond and Shea Butter conditioner.  After I co-wash, I towel dry slightly, then apply Cantu Shea Butter leave-in conditioner.  For those readers new to Natural African Hair Care, you may think co-washing 2-3 times a week is too much for your hair.  Not true!  Nothing provides more moisture than water, as well, co-washing gets rid of product build up and reapplies another coat of conditioner.  There's nothing that natural hair loves more than to be moisturized and conditioned!

I deep condition once a week.  My recipe consists of one dark green avocado, 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1/2 cup of coconut oil, 1 tablespoon of jojoba oil, 1 tablespoon of castor oil, 1/2 teaspoon of tea tree oil, 1/2 tea spoon of lavender oil and 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary oil.  I put the avocado, olive and coconut oil in the blender (use a spoon to help mix it while blending - very thick).  When the mixture is completely smooth, I add the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl and mix it all very well.  After I've washed my hair, I put the conditioner in the microwave to make it very warm, not hot.  I then pour it into my hair, making sure its evenly distributed throughout.  Then, I put a plastic conditioning cap on and sit under the dryer for 30 minutes.  When my time is up, I co-wash the mixture out of my hair two to three times.  Afterward, I apply my leave-in, air dry, seal and twist.       

One of the products I've changed a few times over the past few months was my Cantu Shea Butter leave-in.  I wanted to see if I was missing something, so I began trying different things.  I tried Hawaiian Silky 14 in 1 and Mixed Silk Elements and I must say there was a noticeable difference.  Compared to the Mixed Silk Elements, Cantu goes the furthest for the amount, leaves my hair softer and doesn't cake up.  As for the Hawaiian Silky 14 in 1, Cantu wins, hands down, for going the furthest for the amount, smell and softness.  After I slightly towel dry, I generously (not too much) apply the Cantu throughout my hair making sure its distributed evenly from the roots to the ends.  Then air dry.

Its necessary to seal natural hair with an oil after you've applied a leave-in conditioner, as it helps to retain moisture.  My staple seal is pure African Shea Butter, but I wanted a change, so I started exploring.  I discovered  Organix Nourishing Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum and I must say, its the thickest and smoothest oil I've ever put on my hair.  A little goes a long way, but I don't have to conserve, because my hair soaks it right up!  And the coconut scent, BONUS!  I'm going to continue exploring however, because the Coconut Milk has three to four chemical ingredients in it.  To keep it all natural, I'm going to experiment with a combination of Coconut oil, Shea Butter, Castor Oil, Mango Butter and maybe an essential oil to give the mixture a fragrant scent.   

I don't comb my hair often.  When I changed my style to an up-do, I had to comb and brush my hair everyday in order to achieve the style.  After a while, I noticed a lot of hair in the comb and brush.  Nevertheless, I kept on combing and brushing for some time thinking it was normal.  I briefly went back to my curly Afro just for a change in style.  As usual, I co-washed, air dried and two-strand twisted my hair without combing it and noticed I hardly shed any hair.  I concluded that constantly combing and brushing was actually pulling my hair out, so I've gone back to only combing when co-washing and there really isn't any reason for me to brush at all.  To detangle between combing, I run my fingers through my  hair when I two-strand twist.   Finger detangling, provides the same evening effect as combing with a lot less hair loss.
When you do comb your hair, its important to always use a WIDE tooth comb, as natural African hair is delicate, thick and nappy in an non-detangled state.  Combing with a small tooth comb will tear through natural hair causing hair damage and loss.  Further, when combing with a wide tooth comb, its important to section the hair and start at the ends, gradually moving up to the root.  Once the entire section is combed out, then it can be combed and smoothened from the root.  Starting from the root when combing will also cause hair loss and needles to say, great discomfort.  

Constant, direct heat is death to African hair, natural or chemically treated.  We must use blow dryers, flat irons, hot combs and curling irons sparingly.  I blow dry my hair straight to dust (trim) it and I do that every 8 to 12 weeks.  In between that time, I may blow dry my hair straight 2-3 times, just for some versatility, but that's it!
Excess heat will cause hair to become brittle, dry and eventually break.  There are natural alternatives to heat straightening, such as Shea Butter, when used in conjunction with the two-strand twist. Your hair will still be curly when the twists are taken out, but you'll suffer from less shrinkage.  Using heat properly can be beneficial however, as heat makes the hair strand expand, allowing moisture and conditioning agents to penetrate.  This is why its important to use a heat source when deep conditioning.  To utilize natural heat, apply a thermal heat cap for 30 to 45 minutes, longer for damaged or color treated hair.  When using an over head dryer, its essential to cover your hair with a conditioning cap to prevent direct heat exposure.
To achieve my curly Afro, I part my hair in 10-11 thick sections.  Then I apply Shea Butter, two-strand twist each section and cover my hair with a satin bonnet when I go to bed.  Every morning, I just take out my two strand twists, pull the sections apart a little, fluff, pin and go.
Protective styling is beneficial to natural hair when growing it out, as its protected from outdoor elements that can be quite damaging.  There is literally no limit to the number of up do's, twisted and braided styles that qualify as protective.  Its important to keep your hair moisturized while wearing protective styles, as well has minimizing combing, brushing and pulling.  Last winter, I wore my hair protected in two-strand twists for the ENTIRE season and my hair grew 5-6 inches.  This winter, I plan to further grow my hair out by keeping it braided in box braids (re-braid every 2 months, no micro).  When utilizing this method, it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to keep the roots of the braid THOROUGHLY MOISTURIZED, as dry, neglected braids WILL break natural hair.  The most optimal moisturizing method I've found is to spray a Castor-Jojoba oil mix into the roots of your braids EVERY SINGLE DAY.  If your hair is very dry, do it twice a day.  This method of growing out natural hair has been proven to achieve phenomenal growth over a 5 to 7 month period. 

The Science of Natural African Hair Care dictates, "dust" (trim) your hair, RELIGIOUSLY, every 8 to 12 weeks!  Dusting takes off most split ends and knots, which prevents tangles and therefore breakage.  If while performing your daily hair regiment, you start to notice a lot of breakage, that means its time to dust.  When dusting, its not necessary to take off EVERY split end and knot.  If you dust too much, then you aren't going to see much growth.  Cutting off 1/2 inch or less should suffice.
I've coined the word "Knot Mining" for Natural African Hair Care, which is periodically searching through and cutting out knots that develop on natural hair strands.  Because natural hair is so kinky, it frequently folds in on itself, forming tiny knots.  I cut the strand directly above the knot, no matter if the knot is on the end or middle of the strand.  It is beneficial to knot mine every so often, as these knots frequently tangle up other strands of hair and cause breakage.       

Castor and Jojoba oils have been proven to stimulate hair growth.  It is important to rub or spray a good amount of either oil, or both, on your scalp every day.  Rosemary, Lavender and Tea Tree essential oils are said to stimulate growth as well.

By now, anyone reading this article should know the answer to that question is YES!  Everybody's hair grows, no matter where you come from or what ethnic group you belong to.  Some people may have issues specific to their hair as an individual, but as a rule, everybody's hair grows, 1 to 2 inches per month in fact.  The reason it has been hard for Black women to grow long and healthy hair, traditionally, is because all the methods we've been taught to apply to our hair have been utter JUNK SCIENCE.  Hot combing (flat ironing today), equals excessive heat, which equals breakage.  Perming, equals chemically altering, stripping and drying, which equals loss and breakage.  Weaving (sometimes on top of perming), equals stress and pulling, which equals loss and breakage.  So, while your hair is growing each and every month, if you are applying one of these outdated, toxic methods, you'll never retain that growth, because it will continually break.  I know, I know, some women are able to retain growth while perming however, we all know, all well and good, those Sistas are the exception to the rule.           
We no longer have to hide our KINKY Sistas!  The Science of Natural African Hair Care has been revealed!  There are 5 Golden rules: Condition, Moisturize, Seal, Trim and Protect.  Its that SIMPLE.  Ready for another revelation?  BLACK WOMEN HAVE GOOD HAIR!!!  That's right, WE have "good" hair!  When our hair is properly taken care of it is the juiciest, most luscious and versatile hair on the PLANET, in my humble opinion!  When, where, why and how we were made to believe OUR hair was "bad" is a thing of the past.  Step into the 21st century and FREE YOURSELF!  Now go 'head and Grow Your Natural!     

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Experience True Beauty?

You know how your search history follows you while you're surfing the Internet?  Meaning, the ads of sites you frequent the most end up popping up everywhere you go when you're on the Internet.  Well, while I was searching for information about natural African hair care, an ad for a weave retailer began following me everywhere I surfed.  Now, I understand that the ad might have been following me because weaves are a very prevalent hair care product used by Black women, but the keywords I was using were natural African hair care, natural Black hair care and such.  So, my question is, why weren't ads from all of the different natural hair care companies and retailers, that I had actually visited, following me?  Why was an ad for a site that I had never been to and whose keywords - weave, wigs, unnatural, artificial - I didn't search, following me?

Now, the fact that this ad followed me throughout the day in my search for natural African hair care isn't what I find most disturbing.  Contextually, most disturbing is its slogan "Experience true beauty".  I don't know about those who might read this article, but I find the usage of the word true a little ironic in this instance, so I decided to indulge in a little dissection.
True [troo]  adjective, tru·er, tru·est, noun, adverb, verb, trued, tru·ing or true·ing.–adjective 
1.being in accordance with the actual state or conditions; conforming to reality or fact; not false
2.real; genuine; authentic
3.sincere; not deceitful
4.firm in allegiance; loyal; faithful; steadfast
5.being or reflecting the essential or genuine character of something
6.conforming to or consistent with a standard, pattern, or the like
7.exact; precise; accurate; correct
8.of the right kind; such as it should be; proper
9.properly so called; rightly answering to a description
10.legitimate or rightful
11.reliable, unfailing, or sure
12.exactly or accurately shaped, formed, fitted, or placed
13.honest; honorable; upright.

How is a weave or wig true?  How are we Black women being honest, honorable, legitimate, accurate, correct, not deceitful, genuine, authentic and real when we wear weaves and wigs?  What about a weave or wig is accurately shaped, unfailing, proper, rightly answering to a description, such as it should be, not false, in accordance with the actual state, conforming to reality or reflecting the genuine character of Black hair?     More importantly, what truth are Black women telling the world about how we feel about ourselves when we wear weaves and wigs?

Additionally, what is this retailer saying in this ad and why did it follow me around the Internet after I keyword searched for natural African hair care?  Apparently, natural Black hair isn't honest, honorable, accurately shaped, legitimate, of the right kind or reflecting genuine character.  Its also deceitful, non-genuine and not conforming to reality, as far as Elements Weave is concerned!

Beauty[byoo-tee]noun, plural -ties.
1.the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else
2.a beautiful  person
3.a beautiful  thing
4.something that is beautiful  in nature or in some natural or artificial environment. individually pleasing or beautiful quality; grace; charm
6.a particular advantage
7.something extraordinary
8.something excellent of its kind
Are Black women who wear weaves and wigs then saying we become beautiful when we put on the wig or weave?  Does it have a particular advantage?  Is it extraordinary?  Does it give intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind of the person wearing it?
When are WE going to stop accepting this standard and be true to ourselves, culture, history and community?  When are we going to stop perpetuating the world's racism of us and our hair?  Are we ourselves White supremacists?  Does our mental bondage manifest as self-hair-hatred?  Is naturally straight hair real beauty and naturally, non-straight hair ugly?  Let's not forget the word experience.  Is the retailer implying that when Black women wear weaves (since the model is Black) we are getting to experience what it feels like not to be Black, as Black people are the only people in the world that typically don't have this hair type?

I have a lot of questions, but I think the answers are clear.  Recognize the rules of the game and play to win.  Now go 'head and Grow Your Natural.    

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize!

The key to healthy Black hair and growth is moisture.  I just recently changed my moisturizing regiment, because while I religiously moisturized my hair, it was still very dry.  I found that although I was frequenting African hair care vlogs and blogs like Curly Nikki, I wasn't truly paying attention to what contributors were writing about.  I think because my hair had grown 5 inches in 6 months (when previously I hadn't achieved any growth due to breakage) and I completely repaired the damaged sections of my hair, I thought my moisture regiment was on point.  Boy was I wrong!

First,  I would mixed around three tablespoons of coconut oil and one table spoon of olive oil together and heated it up in the microwave (not too hot).  I would then wet my hair, soaked it with the hot oil and put on a heat cap for about 30 minutes.  Next, I would co-wash the oil out of my hair, spray in Hawaiian Silky leave-in conditioner and let my hair air dry.  Once it was dry, I would moisturized my scalp with my Jojoba mix, which consists of 5 drops of Rosemary, 2 drops of Lavender to one tablespoon of Jojoba oil.  I then separate my hair into 11 big sections, twist each section, put on a satin bonnet and I'm done.

With this regiment, I didn't comb my hair much, once a month at best.  I found that detangling with my fingers while co-washing worked just fine.  Its common knowledge in the natural African hair care community that our hair isn't supposed to be combed or brushed too much and not combing worked for me when I grew my hair out over the winter.

My hair would only remain supple for ONE day on this regiment.  It would literally be dried out on the second day even after re-spritzing with the leave-in.  I do co-wash two to three times a week, one because I can't stand that frowsy hair smell and two, washing allows me to get some moisture.  Although some may consider 3 co-washes a week a bit much for dry hair, its the only way I can get that suppleness back.

My hair had always been super, duper dry and I just thought I had to live with that fact and do whatever I could to keep it moist for as long as possible.  After sticking with this treatment for eight months I realized there should be something I could do to stay moisturized, so I started researching again.  I spent a couple of hours on Curly Nikki as opposed to just browsing for a few minutes and low and behold, I came across a post from a sista with baddest Afro I have ever seen in my life!  One of the first things she talked about was how dry her hair is and she went on to outline her moisture regiment.

When she co-washes, she uses around five different types of conditioner together and she doesn't rinse it out!  Further, if she feels her hair was getting a little dry between co-washes, she'll spritz in more conditioner!  I first thought that all of that conditioner would cause a lot of build-up and eventually be damaging, but the truth is everything the mainstream teaches us about natural African hair care is backward.  We can basically do the opposite of what other people do with their hair, especially in the case of conditioning.  After all, look at her hair!  She's maintained this regiment for the better part of six years and her hair is gorgeous, so all of that conditioning must be working! 

As I researched on, I came across a post about sealing with oil.  The post described how sealing locks in what ever type of moisturizer you are using and aids in keeping your hair moisturized.  I've never sealed my hair.  I figured since I hot oil treated my hair, oiled my scalp and used a very rich leave-in, I didn't need to put in any more oil.  However, it was still very dry between co-washes, even when I added more leave-in, so whatever I was doing wasn't working and my hair was telling me it was time for something new.

So, when co-wash day rolled around, I dove right into this sista's moisture regiment.  I co-washed with Garnier Fruictis Triple Nutrition and Suave Almond and Shea conditioner.  I repeated  the co-wash three times and on the third time, I didn't rinse it out.  To seal it, I mixed Shea butter and coconut oil together until the consistency was a little thinner than normal Shea butter, but not too oily.  After my hair dried, I coated it liberally with the mix, but I didn't saturate it.  I didn't use the Jojoba oil mix this time, because I wanted this regiment to be completely different to see what the results would be.  I twisted my hair up as usually and put on my satin cap.

For this regiment, I combed and brushed my hair!  I used a wide-tooth comb and a Con Air vented brush with the balls at the tips of the bristles.  Although natural African hair care science doesn't condone too much combing and brushing, a lot of sistas comb and brush on a regular basis and their hair is fine.  So, with this new regiment, I combed my hair out while co-washing and brushed it after putting in the Shea butter/coconut oil seal.  Again, trying something new!

I must say, my hair is so dry, I didn't expect much difference.  I actually felt my hair might be a bit too greasy and I would have to modify my hair style.  LET ME TELL YOU!!  When I took my twists out, I couldn't believe it!  My hair wasn't greasy AT ALL and it was completely stretched out (shrinkage is a problem for naturals).  Usually, when I take out my twists and style my hair, it poofs out into an Afro.  This time, my hair laid straight down curly, as if it was being weighed down, but without the greasy, heavy feeling.  I can't believe it!  My hair literally drank the Shea Butter and coconut oil seal and I think for the first time in a long time its truly happy!

I went to a festival that day and literally, the first sista I passed by stopped me to ask me about my hair - Shout Out to Lovita! - and needless to say I was a little excited to tell her all about my new conditioning method!  I've only done it twice and my hair looks so good, I'm not worried about build up.  I'll probably shampoo my hair a couple times per month just to clarify it.

From now on, I'm going to follow natural African hair care science to the letter - Shout out to Curly Nikki!  Sistas that take the time to post information about natural African hair care REALLY know what they're talking about, just look at their hair!  I had to learn that if my hair doesn't look good, its not getting what it wants and needs and instead of figuring I know everything there is to know, I should take some advice and do something different.
Now go 'head and Grow Your Natural!