Winner, Winner! 4th Anniversary Giveaway

I am so pleased to announce the winner of my 4th natural hair anniversary giveaway.  And it is (drum roll)–

Durelene from California!

This natural beauty has a story that will move, inspire and encourage you.  Someone said the greatest gift you can give someone is to share your story with honesty.  Durelene congratulations for sharing yours and for winning a jar of Vigorol Curls Curling Cream. Durelene’s story will be published in the post just after this one. Happy reading!

30-day No Buy Product Detox – Blessings from my stash

I started a product detox right after Labor Day with some sister curlies on www.naturallycurly.com. The rules were no buying unless it was to replace something used up.  I’m not calling it a challenge because that word for me is an invitation to fail.

Couple of things going against me – for one, new product releases:  Curl Junkie,  Curlisto’s  new line for tight curls/kinks, and Jonathan Torch’s new incredible unshrinking leave in. For two, the Hairveda sale in mid-September. Continue reading

Other people touching your hair

No one in my recent adult memory had asked if they could touch my hair until this past Saturday when Ron asked.  Ron is a new acquaintance and we were both at a Sacred Circle Dance training planning retreat in Byfield, MA.  Ron, an ebullient southerner from Texas who had recently moved from Virginia to Lowell, MA has been dancing for 8 years.  At a meal he said “I’ve (it came out as Ahhve) been dying to ask….would it be okay to touch your hair?”

Touching the President's Hair

I was delighted! Since I’ve been natural, no one has asked to touch my hair, yet I touch it all the time because I’m in love with its tactile qualities.  So of course I said yes.  And later when he touched my hair, I encouraged him to  press into it, to scrunch it so he could see for himself how unique and different and beautiful the look and feel of it is.

Touching or stroking the hair can evoke all sorts of emotions.  This is one touchy subject for many naturally curlies.  Essence.com just posted an article on it, No, You Can’t Touch My Hair.

At the same Sacred Circle Dance group, one of the women who I will call Kim (not her real name), arrived a day late so that she could attend her brother’s funeral.  When she told us her brother had committed suicide, I was speechless with compassion for her.  Ellen, our leader and my teacher, asked us to put our hands on her, a group touch if you will.  My hand found its way to her slightly wavy short gray hair and proceeded to gently stroke it.  I discovered it was coarse and wiry like my sister’s but also a little silky.  Kim began to weep when she felt the loving hands on her – touching, stoking, gently patting or squeezing her hair, arms, shoulders, hands, elbows, back.

I already knew the power of a loving hair stroke.  Years ago I belonged to a group of women, all childhood sexual trauma survivors who met monthly at each other’s homes to free write.  One of those days I was at Mereth’s home and I just could not write.  There was a disruptive energy blocking me. I couldn’t even stay in the room and went upstairs to lie down in a bedroom.  A little while later Mereth came up to check on me.  I was taking a tense, wide-eyed nap.  She sat down on the side of the bed and slowly and lightly stroked her palm down the side of my hair.  My tears came in a torrent and the disruptive energy was gladly released.

Hair is dead, yet there is immense emotion when someone touches or strokes it.  It is an intimate thing. Hair holds your energy aura.  Ron’s desire to touch my hair came out of  his delight with it, his curiosity, and his desire to connect with me.  Mereth’s stroking of my hair came out of empathy, caring and a need to comfort.  My stroking of Kim’s hair was done with loving intent.  I knew the power of it when done with love, and that is how I communicated my love and compassion for her deep pain.

When was it right for someone to touch your hair, and when was it just wrong?  What did both of those feel like and what was the toucher’s intent?  Talk to me, if you will.

The First Mother: Inner Beauty Trumps the Hot Iron

Doesn’t matter whether FLOTUS straightens or is natural.  And there are very few women I would say this about.  In photo after photo of Michelle Obama what shines through her skin is the beauty of her spirit.  I don’t gush, but I don’t think I’ll stop admiring this woman.
However….if she wore her natural texture and didn’t have to straighten the bejusus out of her hair; if she had the freedom of that natural beauty, imagine how much more powerful she could come across?  Just sayin’…

10 Most Important Steps for Growing Healthy, Hypercurly, Natural Hair

Acceptance and Clarity – Take off the “mental wig.” Once I accepted that I would never have Botticelli curls, I began to see that my hair could be even more beautiful. To actually see my hair, I need to look at photos. Mental distortion can occur when I look in the mirror, but the camera doesn’t lie.

Understanding – Observe your hair under different circumstances, different climates. Learn to understand what your hair does, not what you want it to do and build on that. Look inward at your own hair, not outward at someone else’s.

Look, listen and learn – It’s a given that other naturals know more than I do, especially if their hair is thick and long and beautiful, right? I’m so teachable!

Protection: At night, protect the hairline with a silk head wrap, guard against friction with a silk pillowcase. Anchor the hair in a loose puff or large twists so it doesn’t shift or rub against itself. During the day, I wear my hair out 95% of the time. Protection means the right products applied to each strand and a soft, aloe-vera based gel for hold. And no touching! (that one is hard.)

Know your hair’s width and porosity – More important than knowing if your curl type is 3c, 4a or 4b is knowing whether your strands are fine, medium or coarse and how porous they are. Fine and coarse refers to the diameter of your hair strand, not the feel of your hair. Porous refers to how open or smoothed (closed) the surface (cuticle) of your hair is. Fine, porous hair reacts differently to products and the environment than does coarse, non-porous hair. It also needs to be handled differently. Each hair type has its own issues. Fine, porous hair tends to need more moisturizing and strengthening products. Coarse, smooth hair can be subject to quicker product build up.

Layers of moisture – This means water. Moisturizing shampoos like shampoo bars or cleansing creams or a gentle castile soap (they aren’t all equal). And liberal doses of conditioners with great slip, moisture and a little of the right protein for my hair. A little butter or oil. More conditioner. And those aloe-vera based gels. Dirt-based deep treatments (Rhassoul clay, sisyphus spina christi) year round, moisturizing deep treatments in the winter.

Gentle detangling – if my cleanser is cleansing without stripping and my conditioner is loaded with slip and moisture, then I can finger detangle easily. A little KBB Hair Milk added to conditioner boosts its detangling ability. I do this at most twice a week.

Regular trims – I get ends trimmed and shape adjusted 3 times a year. My hair is easiest to style a month after a cut.

Low manipulation – After I style my hair wet, I leave it alone for up to 3 days, except to gather it into a pony puff at night, let it down in the morning and scrunch a little Set it Free and butter into it. No combing or brushing. When I dry twist at night, I use my fingers only to separate, and a little more product to smooth.

Forget about growth, learn how to retain length
If you’re healthy, growth is a given. Retaining length is the hard part. Transitioning to gray showed me just how fast my hair grows — and how fast the ends break. By babying my ends and boosting moisture to keep them hydrated, smooth and soft, I help my fragile ends stay put instead of snapping off like dry twigs. If I’m doing dry twists, a moisturizing custard or lotion gets smoothed on the ends of those twists. If I’m bunning, the ends get moisturized with a lotion and a little baobab oil. On the second and third day of my wash and go I scrunch a moisture lock lotion and a little butter onto my ends. When my ends stay soft, my hair retains length.

Celebrate each success, and learn from the challenges.

Hair questions: Help me with my daughter’s hair please?

This is a real question from Answers.yahoo.com, and here is my actual answer to it, and what I didn’t say below it. I had to bite my tongue–

Q.
I have two mixed daughters. One is three the other is two and for the life of me I cannot seem to get their hair to look shiny or decent. I have tried greasing it, I have tried baby oil, Pink lotion. The oldest daughters hair is very rough and brittle while the youngest has very soft hair. It won’t grow and it won’t stay in place; the curls are out of whack. Mind you I have curly hair as well as their father. My mother tries to brush it and gets annoyed when the curls dry out right away. I see all tons of little girls with beautiful locks of curls hanging past their shoulders, but unfortunately my girls have a little fro. My son on the other hand has beautiful hair that doesn’t stop growing. I use the same items on his hair, any advice will be greatly appreciated thanks in advance.:)

A.

Not sure what effect you are going for, but if your daughters’ hair is kinky or coily, it will sheen when healthy but won’t shine like straight hair. It refracts light much differently.

Baby oil, Pink lotion and other products containing mineral oil are not good for hair. To help add moisture to their hair, try cleansing with a light conditioner, like Suave Naturals, or a light shampoo like Dr. Woods Castile Soap, then conditioning with a heavier more moisturizing conditioner such as Clairol Herbal Essences or Garnier Fructis. You may choose to leave the conditioner in, or rinse hair and add a little more conditioner back. Then try smoothing/scrunching in some castor oil on their ends, then letting dry naturally. This method helps hydrate the hair and emphasize the natural texture.

Retire the mineral oil laced products and try using natural oils like castor oil, avocado, coconut or jojoba oil. Natural fruit butters are also very beneficial to the hair (avocado, mango). But remember that any oil alone will not soften or moisturize the hair. Conditioning is key.

There are so many different textures to natural hair, especially in multi-racial children. All of them are beautiful, not just the locks of curls that hang past the shoulders. I hope you can help your girls learn to appreciate their hair. I’ve included some helpful links

Additional Resources:

http://www.naturallycurly.com
http://biracialhair.org/Welcome.aspx
http://motowngirl.com/content/
http://www.curlynikki.com/
http://suburbanbushbabe.blogspot.com/2009/06/hair-q-castor-oil.html

Here is what I didn’t say:

Your negative attitudes about hair that doesn’t meet your unrealistic standards of curly are potentially harmful to the self-esteem of your baby girls. They are still toddlers, yet toddlers can pick up dislike as well as an adult. You are setting them up for failure, mom. Please get a grip, and educate yourself — for the sake of your girls.

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

A www.naturallycurly.com 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 http://www.tightlycurly.com/CurlyPrimer.aspx 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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