Hair Q & A: Still Dry After 2-year Transition and BC

Q. I ran across your blog recently, and your hair is gorgeous!  I started transitioning November 2009 and finally BC ‘d January 2011.  My Hair is extremely dry and I don’t know how to fix it!  I’ve tried so many deep conditioners but it feels brittle once it dries, and the frizz is crazy extreme!  I think I have a mix of texture ranging from 3c-4a maybe 4b?  I really don’t know.  If there are any tips you could give me to help my hair, please let me know!  Thanks in advance, Elle

A. Hi Elle,

Not knowing what your routine or product use is, I can’t be specific.  But if you have been transitioning and working with your natural hair for 2 years and it’s still dry, I suspect the products you use may have drying or building up ingredients.   Here are some general tips: Continue reading


Clay– Going the All Natural Route Without the Big Expense

Keisha writes:
Q.: I am a 9 month transitioner and loving the process. I will BC in 3 months on my one year anniversary.

I had a couple of questions dealing with natural hair clays and masks. I really want to go the all natural route without the big expense. I have been using amla and shikakai mixtures, henna and honey mixess, bentonite clay, ACV; honey and EVOO  mixes; shea butter, coconut oil, evoo, jojoba oil mixtures.

But I have been hearing about the rhassoul clays, zisyphus spina christi, and marshmallow root.  Where do you order these things from?  What are the uses of these products? Can I use them now on my transitioning hair or should I wait until completely naturally? What recipes do you use with these products? Do you know of any other clays?

A.: Many of the herbs and plants we use for our hair are also used for herbal detoxification, elimination and removal of toxins from the the liver and digestive system. These include burdock root, fenugreek, ginger root,  marshmallow root, as well as Bentonite clay (Monmorillonite).

I first used clay (Bentonite) as part of a  digestive detox.  Imagine downing 8 oz. of bentonite clay and water 3 times a day for 2 weeks! Luckily, for your hair to benefit from the “mud treatment” all you need is to slap it on your hair. 

Rhassoul clay (Hectorite) comes from Morocco and is 100% naturally occurring.  It is only for external use (unlike Bentonite) and is a very popular spa treatment.  I get mine from Mountain Rose Herbs. Their Rhassoul is untreated, quarry mined and sun dried from naturally occurring lake-side deposits.

Rhassoul Specifications: (from Mountain Rose Herbs)
Color- Light Gray with a hue of oxidized pink
Odor- Flat
Mesh Size- US #70-80 Mesh
Mineral Content
Silica- 58%
Aluminum- 2.47%
Iron- 0.64%
Sodium- 2.3%
Magnesium- 25.2%
Calcium- 2.34%
Moisture- <8%

Interestingly, Bentonite has way more aluminum and a higher pH.

A Rhassoul Clay hair Detox treatment is one of the easiest kitchen mixes to whip up.  And if you want to avoid the kitchen, you’ll find some excellent ommercial preparations further on.

Homemade Rhassoul Hair Mask
– 1/4 to 1/3 cup of Rhassoul Clay
– Hot water
Optional add-ins make the mixture smoother and more slippery
– 1-2 tbs. of your favorite (I like grapeseed or EVOO)
– Plain Greek-style yogurt (2-4 oz)
– Honey (couple of tsp.)
– small container of banana baby food

In a bowl or Pyrex measuring cup (2 cup size) mix the water with the clay little by little until the mix is the consistency you want. Clay swells and absorbs a lot of liquid. Your final preparation should be a creamy lotion-like consistency.    Add any other ingredients.  For an extra kicker, I add a few drops fenugreek, Burdock and Marshmallow root extract. Mix or blend until smooth.

To apply: Clay is messy. A salon cape and latex gloves will help control any spills. I usually apply a clay mask to dry dirty hair, starting from the nape of the neck. No need to detangle first. Apply in small sections, smoothing it in  from ends of hair and working up to root. Cover every strand and the hairline. Do not comb or brush. Cover with a plastic cap and wear a heat cap for half and hour to 45 minutes.

Thorough rinsing is vital with dirt-based treatments. Fill your kitchen sink to the brim with warm water and dunk your head in it to let the mix float away. Then rinse your hair thoroughly in the shower. Follow up with a moisturizing, detangling conditioner and enjoy your soft, beautiful hair!

Don’t feel like mixing your own? Anita Grant is the queen of the Rhassoul Clay treatment. Her product does one better and adds unrefined Black Cocoa Butter & natural Soya based Vitamin E. 

Botanical Spirits makes a Peppermint Mud Hair Softening Mask with some amazing and healthy ingredients in addition to the Rhassoul. The owner is based in my home town and offers generous samples on her website for the cost of shipping!

Baka Natural-laxer is one of the oldest clay hair treatments. It’s not a rhassoul based mixture but contains Sahara Clay, myrtle, rose petals, fenugreek, nettle, sage.  This is not a relaxer and is not to be confused with the chemically based product with a similar name.

Zizyphus Spina Christi
From the Henna heads over at I learned of a desert plant called Zizyphus Spina Christi (ZSC for short)  ZSC is also an excellent cleansing and conditioning treatment. It’s good for people who want the conditoning benefits of henna without any color deposit, so it’s great for my gray/silver hair. It’s also a good alternative to shampoo or detergent based cleansers, and enhances hair thickness and texture. ZSC is not cassia obovata. ZSC is available from

                      ZSP applied

Marshmallow Root:
I don’t know as much about this root except that it is full of plant mucilage which gives it a slippery consistency. It’s good for hair as well as for internal use as an expectorant.  Kitathena over at NewlyNatural has a wonderful write up on this and other herbs and a hair spritzer recipe – check it out!

Great products with marshmallow as an ingredient:

  • Jessicurl Weekly Deep Conditioning Treatment
  • Blended Beauty Herbal Reconditioner
  • EO Chamomile and Honey Hydrating Conditioner

More information about marshmallow:   

Where to buy:
Anita Grant
Marshmallow Root Powder at Mountain Rose Herbs

Celebrating 3 years of Natural Hair – 10/21/06 to 10/21/09

October 21, 2006 was the day I got my third and last “little chop” — 3 cuts I had gotten between then and August of 2005 when I stopped texlaxing. (My texlax had been a medium-strength sodium hydroxide relaxer kept on only as long as it took for the hairdresser to apply it). With the last of my texlaxed ends cut off, I walked out onto Church Street in Cambridge, MA with naturally curly hair for the first time in my adult life.

December 2006 – A rainy day of shrinkage

This year I became aware the date was creeping up sometime in September. I began to mentally mark the days to my natural anniversary. It would pop up in my mind periodically. I thought about possibly celebrating it, at least with a “woohoo!”. I looked forward to being 3 years a natural, one more year of knowledge and increased love for my hair.

October 4. 2009 length check – wet and styled. I lose 2 inches when it dries.

I remembered the tough spots I faced in those 3 years: a bald spot on my temple, thinning hair from menopause and dropping hormone levels; having a major cut mid-2008 to get rid of some bad ends; and finally, the painful 16+ month transition from brown, color-treated hair to fully and naturally gray.

But the success outweigh them: having a stylist I trust with my haircuts; the first time I got dry 2nd day hair (worth a post of its own, it’s so huge); my first bun; my first roller set; my first twist and curl (the later ones sucked); my increasing proficiency with dry twistouts; my ability to retain more length; and finally, hair that reflects back my love and care of it by growing thicker, longer and healthier.

Today I got to the computer, saw the date and realized my anniversary had passed me by with absolutely no distinction. No bells, no whistles. I had been totally clueless on the big day, the entire week in fact! I was more focused on the moment. On Wednesday 10/21 I was rocking a dry twistout I had done on a 4-day old wash and go, and feeling very good about that, thank you. No thoughts of anniversary there!

So to celebrate my journey, let me make up for this oversight with this post and photos – SBB from then to now. I didn’t begin photo-documenting my hair until the following April of 2007 but I did find a scanned photo of me from December of 2006. I doubt two months will show much difference. Hope you enjoy! And don’t let your hair milestones pass by without celebrating them.

2007 Top right April, Top left mid year; Bottom left and right early year/late year comparisons.

May 2008 after a major cut and shape that ended my growth challenge. I really needed it.

December 2008, a twist and curl

October 21, 2009. A dry twist out done on a 4-day old wash and go.

Hair Purgatory: Between the Big Chop and the "Hang"

A member started a topic about Hair Purgatory. For hypertextured 4a’s, 4b’s and beyond, that means when that pretty teeny weeny Afro (TWA) is no longer teeny enough to highlight your head shape, but not long enough to hang even partially south. It’s still too short for that but it may be flopping out in other more crazy ways. It may naturally coil. But it also may have different textures. The sides may be tighter like coffee stirrer coils. The crown may have looser coils. The front may grow more slowly than the back. One part may be coarser than another. Or one part may be shrinkier than another.

This is the time when many curlies are focused on gaining length but are still learning what products and routines work best for their hair. It is when we aspire to all those shoulder length and beyond natural looks whose photo albums we so eagerly stalk. We get so focused on our hair future because that is way easier than our hair present. And of course these SL gals never had to go through this awkward period, they just woke up one morning and were SL, right? Let’s call this Beyond the Big Chop (BC) Purgatory. It’s a tough time because depending on what you do, you can inhibit your hair’s development.

Beyond the BC hair purgatory happened to me several times over many years. It was a tough time for me — too long for the cute shape anchored by my scalp. Too short for the hang. Doing the north, east and west, but definitely no south. WTF was it doing?

  • not long enough to hang but not short enough to behave.
  • not long enough to pull back into a bun.

I was in this stage several times in my life and each time it felt like I was unanchored and could not see the far shore. No matter how much I patted it down it refused to behave like a TWA. It also refused to behave like it wanted to drop and hang. I went through several cycles of growing it to a certain length, losing hope, and BC’ing again. And it all happened before the curly hair product revolution I saw happen after Y2K.

The first time I entered purgatory, I got it relaxed. My hair relaxed is limp and I really don’t know how to care for it. So I BC’d again.

The second time in purgatory, I got braid extensions. After I took them down I got my hair regularly trimmed, rollerset, hood dried and lightly blow dried/combed out at a neighborhood Hispanic hair salon. My hair was mid-short, thick, healthy and growing wonderfully, and I loved it when it was cared for this way. But I couldn’t afford frequent salon visits and didn’t have the attention span or skills to do it myself. And I was going through some emotional changes, so — BC.

The third time in purgatory, my hair got the Jhericurl. Dry, breaking, always damp with curl activator….BC!

Next time my post-BC hair became unmanageable, I got more braid extensions. After they came out, I went to a top stylist in my new town and he gave me a texlax and a shaping cut. It was a spot texlax, brushed on just like you brush on color in a technique called baliage. My hair looked very nice. I could wash and go in a short “natural” do–with curl activator. I got some growth, not much. I had to switch stylists and shops because he was so much in demand in the New York fashion industry.

My new stylist continued to texlax. I achieved a little more growth and the chemically induced, curl activator “hang”, but it never hit shoulder length. Then I started two-process blonde highlights over the texlax. Seven years later I had the damaged part cut off. It wasn’t a BC but very close. Still I continued to get the new growth texlaxed.

I texlaxed for 4 more years still trying for the artificial hang. I got it with curl activators, along with with very dry, dry, dry, dry hair. Every time I entered a hair salon it was “girl you need a deep treatment!” Enter Naturally Curly and my gradual (14 month) transition to natural.

My obstacles:

  • I did not trust my hair.
  • I kept comparing my hair to those other, better looking heads and coming up short.
  • I kept seeing my hair for what it should be, not what it was and could do in the here and now.
  • I kept wanting to tame it — work against it rather than with it.
  • At medium-short I tended to over-use styling products to get my hair to “behave”.

I kept wanting this:

When I could have had this with my natural hair:

And I would have loved it, had I known how to style for it.

But what has been done to the short 4a/4b here (let’s call her Miss Spikey High Clumps) is counter-intuitive to what we length transitioners want to do with our hair. We want it to lay down at medium-short. We want it to “curl” — boing-boing curls we can measure with implements of various widths such as pencils, straws, large markers, small flashlights. We want “swang”. Miss Spikey High Clumps’ hair does none of that. But it sure looks good, at least to me.

How did Miss Spikey High Clumps get her hair that way, anyway? My best guess:

– She got it continually trimmed and cut in places for shape – note the short sides and back and the longer top.

– She had product put into it and then dried in a hood dryer and then the stylist used pomade or texture paste to finger pick it and twirl it for height and clump. Or maybe they did large twists, dried, untwisted and finger picked and texture pasted.

Here is what finally helped me; maybe it can help you.

Constant photo taking;
There’s a psychological reason I have a photographic hair journal. It really helps me to see my hair for what it is not what I think it is or should be. I definitely had/have some mental/visual hair distortion going on.

Shape corrections;
Trimming seems to be a no-no to length transitioners because –hey you are growing it and need every single centimeter, right? Wrong! Don’t rely on product to shape your hair if you want to wear it out. Get it regularly trimmed and shaped. Regular for me is 2 or 3 times a year. Last March of 2008, I was in a hair growth challenge and was almost shoulder length. I ended it by getting a cut because my ends were jacked and my hair was draggy, straggly and shapeless. After the cut, my hair was no longer close to shoulder length but the shape was fabulous. I’ve had 2 conservative trims since then, the last one in March. My next small trim? Probably end of June/July.

A good haircut by a professional who knows curly hair will take all your various textures and shrinkage into account. I am not a fan of amateur or self-cutting and don’t recommend it. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great heads out there who cut their own hair. But if someone cannot see their hair as it truly is and appreciate it, how are they going to effectively trim and shape it?

Love and exploit your crown height now;
Hair purgatory dwellers, this is one advantage you have over longer haired sisters, but only as long as you don’t grow a mullet and wide sides. You will lose it as your hair gets longer. I see so many length transitioners trying to flatten down their hair by their face, forehead and crown or “lay down their edges”. If you have the right shape your crown height will give you an elegant, fashionable look like Miss Spikey High Clumps up there. And her edges aren’t laying down for anyone. The longer hair gets, the tougher crown height is to achieve.

You want hang?
Twist, braid, twist and curl, rod set, roller set, or shingle. If you wash and go, rake product through your wet hair and sit under a hood dryer to dry. When it’s completely dry, scrunch it and stretch it out by pulling your hair back for a couple of minutes, then fluffing. Don’t be afraid of losing the texture. C’mon! It’s 4a hair.

Look at how long haired 4b’s care for their hair rather than what 3’s do.
Have you noticed how many 3b’s and below are using products formerly only used by we tighter-textured curlies? This approach works!

At first I looked at conventionally curly heads, 3b Botticellis and 3c’s with their tighter but still silky curls. My curls are not and never will be silky. My hair is cottony. I started to look at those long haired 4a’s and 4b’s because long hair of that texture is a true achievement and is incredibly versatile, not to mention gorgeous. I also looked at all 3c’s and above who had successfully length transitioned.

Never, ever measure hair when “stretched.”
My hair is shoulder length when wet, but when dry still shrinks to my chin. Goes with the territory. Why on earth would I measure it stretched when it’s curly?

After I started to really see my hair, I realized it would grow longer more like this:

And that was such a gift, because I love her hair. I won’t even get my Fotki avatar’s hair. And even though texture-wise Zezi Ifore is my twin…..

I don’t delude myself that I will ever have her length because I have too many issues with length retention. I’m pretty happy with what I do have. I use less styling products now and condition a lot more.

Miss Spikey High Clump’s photo gave me the confidence to know that if I were to BC today, I could transition to longer hair without chemicals. Also, looking at successful 4 and4b length transitioners did it too, because if you saw my hair short, it’s closer to 4b than to 4a, as would Zezi’s hair also be. Check out Teri at She is not a 4b, but a wonderful example of how hair can grow with care. I lived her early hair.

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