Friday, December 30, 2011

Banding: My New Fave Stretching Technique?

The hair ties come in a variety of colors. I love how bright and
cheerful they are :)
Two nights ago I banded my hair for the first time. For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, banding is when you secure several hair ties down each section of your hair to stretch it out while it dries. I read up on banding at a favorite and trusted source, Chocolate Hair/Vanilla Care. There I learned about the process and that Goody hair ties are safe to use because they're soft so they don't break your hair. Up until this point I hadn't found a stretching method that I liked, but I think this might be the one for me. :) 
I twisted the ends of all the sections except for the two in the front, which I braided, to help protect my ends. Also, I made 8 sections instead of the 6 that I usually detangle and wash it in because I discovered that the thickest section of my hair (the crown and sides of the crown) is easiest to keep detangled and manage when it's divided into smaller sections. The funny thing is that for months I avoided sectioning it further because I thought it would be more work, when actually the opposite is true. Turns out it is much less time consuming (and frustrating) to make more sections. I love my silly little discoveries :P
The next morning. I bobby-pinned each section to the opposite side
of my head to keep it stretched. Then I wrapped my head with my
satin scarf as usual.

How do you prefer to stretch your hair?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wool + Hair = DISASTER!!

The past few times I've gone to finger detangle my twisted out hair, I've noticed that the very back of my hair has become incredibly tangled and knotted, which I am not used to. I've rarely had a problem with knots, but recently I had to cut out two in the back (yeah, I know, I was sooo unhappy about it). 
My hair tonight after I detangled & moisturized it again. 

Then tonight when I saw this area tangled up again I thought, something has changed...what could be causing this? Then it hit me. The collar of my wool coat rubs right up against the hair at the nape of my neck and......wool + hair = DISASTER!! Talk about tangle city. Grr. But in every adversity there lies the seed of opportunity. These past few knots have allowed me to learn how to remove knots from my hair carefully and successfully. Here is what I do:

  • Wet the hair Hair regains more of its elastic properties when wet, which allows it to stretch more, giving me more "room for error" while I gently untangle the knot. (A word of caution, though: hair is in its weakest state when wet, so exercise great care when detangling wet hair.) I use a spray bottle and lightly mist the hair by small sections, focusing my spray bottle on the knot so it's almost soaked.
  • Add slip I figured that if I add my shea butter blend (which is rich in natural oils - thank you, Naptural85!) to the knot and the hair that surrounds it, rubbing it down the strands and into the knot, then this will provide more slip, enabling me to cause less damage while gently removing the knot. It helps me a lot. Use any moisturizing product you prefer.
  • Avoid a comb or brush! I found this out the hard way. The first knot I came across I only made worse by using my wide-toothed comb. It got so bad I had to cut it out. Take it from me, when it comes to removing knots, use your fingers.
  • Be patient Safely removing a knot takes time and patience, so if you're going to be rushed, try to put it off until you have ample time to devote to the process. 

So what's my long-term solution to this wool coat challenge? I think I'm going to have to start wearing a silk scarf as a buffer between my hair and the coat. Fortunately my brother and his lovely girlfriend gave me one for Christmas. :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sulfate-Free Shampoos...What's All the Hype?

It seems like "sulfate-free" is everywhere nowadays. Just walk down the shampoo aisle and you see it plastered all over products left and right. When I first started to get to know my hair back in April, I didn't understand this. I did not have a background in chemistry and I didn't plan on getting one. Yes, I loved my hair, but did I really need to get a degree to understand what it needs/wants? I didn't believe so.
So I searched online and came across Terri LaFlesh, the author of Curly Like Me, has so generously put together this very informative site which includes an Ingredients Dictionary. Cha-ching! I spent an hour and ran down the ingredients lists of my products, comparing them to what Terri had researched and compiled into her online dictionary. After learning more about sulfates (among other ingredients) I understood why it's important for me to use a sulfate-free shampoo: sulfates are detergents that create suds when combined with water. Due to their drying effect, they tend to strip our naturally curly hair of its oils, making it dry and brittle. At least that's how I know my hair feels after using a sulfate shampoo. When I do use shampoo (I usually co-wash) I'll use a sulfate-free one. I've experienced much better results from my sulfate-free shampoo.

There are some benefits to using a sulfate shampoo, such as when your hair is really dirty. For example, the ONLY time I'll use a sulfate shampoo now is when I wash my hair after having worn it straight. Since my hair is loaded down with silicones from the heat protectant, the sulfates effectively remove the product so there's no build-up. Of course I follow-up with either my favorite moisturizing conditioner or a deep moisture treatment to replace the lost moisture.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

First "Real" Protein Treatment

Today I did my first "real" protein treatment. By "real" I mean I bought it from Sally's. Since starting my growth challenge in April, I've only done homemade protein treatments, with little to no results. This time I did an ApHogee one and could really feel the difference. When I was rinsing the protein portion out and putting in the moisture pack, my hair felt stronger and more resilient. Wonderful!

About 2 weeks prior. My hair had lots of
sheen & moisture but needed more structure
and strength. Protein treatment to the rescue!
So with all the hype about maintaining the proper moisture-protein balance, what made me decide to do a protein treatment? Since straightening my hair in late November I'd started to notice little broken hairs during my wash regimen. I don't believe this was a result of the heat, since I used very low temperatures and a heat protectant. But since I hadn't had a good protein treatment, I believe my hair had become weak in certain areas. Also, now that winter is here I knew this meant that my hair would need extra strengthening against the weather. My weekly deep conditioner treatments were good but as we all know, the key to growing strong, healthy hair is to maintain the proper moisture-protein balance for your hair.

The two-step protein treatment was a bit time consuming but the results were worth it. When I twisted my hair I noticed that my ends were rough in a few areas, but maybe I didn't coat them thoroughly with the moisture pack. Since there wasn't a lot of product in the moisture pack, I ended up applying my favorite moisturizing conditioner afterwards for an extra moisture hair felt really good after that! :)

If you're noticing breakage and/or your hair feels brittle, you may want to consider a protein treatment. I shied away from them initially because I thought they would make my hair hard. But that was before I learned that you always follow-up protein treatments with a moisturizing conditioner. 

My next protein treatment? I don't know when that's going to be. I'm going to continue listening to my hair and giving it what it needs when it needs it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

New Growth or Broken Hair?

The last time I twisted my hair I noticed something different that kind of bothered me. There were all these short strands of hair, about 2 inches or less throughout my head, and they made my twists look really fuzzy at the roots, instead of neat and clean the way I was used to. Since my goal is to retain length, naturally I was concerned that I'd incurred damage during my straightening process. Were these damaged hairs or new growth? I had to find out! After doing some research, I learned that these are the characteristics of new hairs:

  • Softer These short, fuzzy "halo" or hairs were all soft, like the baby hairs along my hairline. This is a distinguishing feature of new hairs growth. My short hairs were soft.
  • Tapered ends New hairs have tapered ends, while broken hairs have blunt ends. The ends of these hairs I was finding were tapered, not blunt.
  • Source
  • Quantity I noticed that these hairs weren't random but appeared all over my head. Since I've only used heat once in the past 7 months and I otherwise wear my hair in protective or heat-free styles, then I doubted these short hairs could all be damaged strands.
Since the short hairs on my head had all of these characteristics, I was so happy to conclude that they were indeed new growth, not damaged hair. YAY! I also read an article where CurlyNikki shared how she experienced something similar and that this meant her hair was growing in thicker. I'm not sure I need my hair to be any thicker, but if thicker means healthier for me, then I am A-OK with that! :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Interesting Phenomenon...

I've been thinking about this lately: what is it about human beings that we always want what we don't have?
Before I straightened my hair two weeks ago, I could not WAIT to wear my hair straight. Admittedly, I'd delayed myself the gratification of straightening it for 7 months, so it'd been a long time comin'. But then something interesting happened. My hair hadn't been straight for but a few days when I began to miss my curly hair and twists. I'd see women wearing their hair natural and think: Gosh, when my hair was curly I could easily strike up a conversation with other natural ladies, knowing that we would have something in common to talk about. But with my hair straight, I feel like they don't give me a second glance...I feel like I have a relaxer again....Now that my hair is curly and twisted again, I'm so happy to have my hair "back," but at the same time I still miss my hair being straight. Am I alone in this? What is it about women and our hair? Is it just me or do we always want the best of both worlds, AT ONCE??

I don't believe this phenomenon is unique to the natural hair community, or to myself for that matter....

What do YOU think??

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Winter Twisting Regimen

I gave my hair extra "insulation" from the cold this twisting session. Here's what I did after co-washing and finger detangling. Taking my hair by sections, I...

1. Spritzed with water then smoothed a lot of coconut oil through my strands, focusing it on my ends.* 

2. Applied Kimmaytube leave-in, re-spritzing my ends with water if they got a bit dry/frizzy.

3. Applied Shea Moisture CE Smoothie, again, focusing on my ends.

4. After I finished twisting all my hair, I put a nickel-sized amount of my Vitamin oil blend in my hands, rubbed them together, then grabbed sections of twists and smoothed the oils from about mid-strand down to my ends, sealing all that yummy moisture into my thirsty strands.*

I've been finger detangling much more lately and I have to say that it's not as bad as I previously thought. I actually like it a lot. I did some light combing and brushing with my Denman while moisturizing, but for the most part my hair was already pretty well detangled.

*These were steps that are new to my twisting regimen. I love how my hair feels afterwards - sooo soft, shiny and healthy - so I think I may adopt this as my winter wet-twisting regimen (this will be my first winter wearing my hair curly, so everything is improv and experimental!). I'm really excited about getting to master me and my daughter's hair. When I do, I'm gonna shout it from the rooftops because Lord knows I've been wanting to master my hair and now her hair, too for a looooong time! LOL!

Twists are Back!

Ok so I couldn't help myself - I HAD to have my twists back!! After almost a week of a failed stretching experience, I could not WAIT to see the soft, shiny twists that I'd fallen in love with!
We had our family Christmas portraits taken today by my AH-mazing photographer, Rhian, of {foralways}photography! I opted for a quick, fun updo for the occasion. I'm describing it as "fun" because I let the ends "pop" out at the top of my head, instead of tucking them in for a more sleek, elegant look. First I pulled my hair into a ponytail with a nylon ponytail holder. Then I held the twists in place with my trusty Goody barrette (LOVE those things!!). I was planning to tuck my ends in with bobby pins, but then loved how my twists looked "popping" out from the top of my head. :)
I think next time I'll just twist it up instead of
using the ponytail holder. But I liked the style anyway :)
I'd put some flexirods in the front twists to curl them, but
forgot to untuck the twists from behind my ears for the pic :(
But they were cute and a lil curly though :)
Happy twisting!!!

What's your go-to protective style that you just can't live without?? What's your winter regimen?

Friday, December 2, 2011


I had a revelation of sorts about my hair last night. I've been attempting to stretch it out (without heat, of course) this week. For a day-and-a-half I wore it in a bun (see my "Donut" Bun Step-by-Step post), and loved the ease of just donning my satin scarf at night, taking it off in the morning and going. However, when I took my hair out of the bun last night to moisturize and finger detangle it, I didn't like how it looked. It was clumpy and I had quite a time sectioning it for detangling. This was my first time dry detangling it with my fingers. I normally prefer to set my hair in two-strand twists after my weekly wash regimen, so I've always detangled it when wet and loaded with olive oil or conditioner. 
There's some sheen, but not the shine that
I'm used to with my twists.
Well, I finger detangled and moisturized with a hair butter. Then my wonderful Hubby massaged my Vitamin E oil blend into my scalp all over (it's been a bit itchy, especially at my nape, I guess from being tied up in the bun). The massage felt soooo good and I could tell my scalp was happy. Then I "pineappled" it for the night with my trusty nylon ponytail holder, thinking I'd wake up with soft, easy-to-style hair. NOT SO. GRR. My hair was just the opposite - stiff and kind of hard. So stiff, in fact, that I had a hard time pulling it back into a ponytail to bun it again (I literally didn't know what to do with it).

So this brings me to the topic of frizziness. I know - the big bad 'F word' shunned by many naturally curly gals, including myself. Aside from the fact that I just don't like my hair being frizzy, I'd also read that frizziness was a result of poorly moisturized hair, so I really didn't like my hair in this state. But there have been many times that my hair has been frizzy after I'd moisturized and sealed it. What was up with that? 

Then last night it hit me. My hair was plenty moisturized but it still lacked shine (there was sheen in some spots, but definitely not the shine I'm used to from my twists/twist-outs). I noticed that my strands were separated and not clumped together and defined. {Lightbulb!} My hair can be chock FULL of moisture, but if my extremely curly strands aren't encouraged to cling to one another when they're wet, then the result when they dry is a head full of lackluster, "frizzy" hair!
After taking my hair out of the bun.

Freshly re-moisturized & pineappled for the night.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Donut" Bun Step-by-Step

For those of you who are new to the donut bun thingy, here are some step-by-step pics of the bun I did today. 

I started off by moisturizing my hair in sections. I spritzed each section with water (water=moisture), focusing on the ends. I then applied coconut oil (this is an excellent moisturizer and from what I've read, one of the few oils that can actually penetrate the hair shaft), finger-combing as I went. I sealed my ends with EVOO.

Moisturized my hair in sections prior to bunning.
The new sock bun thingy I made today is on the left.
(Read my post "Quick Bun" to see tutorial.)
It's bigger & has nylon on the outside to protect my hair.
I also rubbed some olive oil on it for added moisture.
In case you were wondering...
I have a LOT of hair! LOL!
One of my trusty hair ties made of nylons. Gentle on my
hair and very stretchy. I put my hair in a ponytail with this.
Put the sock donut thingy around my ponytail.
Find the center of my hair, take another
ponytail holder and put it over my hair so it's
covering the sock bun thingy.
Twist & tuck my hair around the bun,
securing it with bobby pins.
Spritz the rest of my hair with water, slap on
some gel and smooth it down with my hands
(I do not use brushes as they can cause damage).
Cover with a scarf for 20-30 minutes to smooth
it down some more. Makes it look sleek
sans the damage caused by a brush.
(My ear was still red from the scarf, lol.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quick Bun

Since my TnC didn't have time to dry, I decided to put it in a bun. Fortunately for me, I'd just done a ton of research on the benefits of bunning, so I was quite excited to go with this style. Everything I read touted this style to be one of the best protective styles for long hair. I used my old "donut" thing to make the bun (click here for a tutorial on how to make one, it's really easy). I wet my hair and slicked it back with some KCCC.

Do you like to bun your hair? What's your favorite bun style?

First Twist n' Curl...Well, Kinda

I've decided to wear my hair stretched more now because before straightening it I noticed a lot of knots, probably as a result of wearing twists. Even though my hair is long, it is also realllly curly, so I experience a lot of shrinkage, hence the greater chance of getting knots. :/ 

So today I embarked into unchartered territory...

I started with freshly deep conditioned hair. My overnight, whole-head baggying with my Yummy Moisture Treatment + molasses + blue agave nectar definitely paid off! My hair was buttery soft (but not mushy, which is good because too much moisture can lead to breakage), easy to detangle and twist. I applied the Kimmaytube leave-in, Shea Moisture CE Smoothie and a little Organix Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum.* (During the summer I only set my twists with the Kimmaytube conditioner and my hair flourished. But now that the cooler weather has set in, I'm not taking any chances - I'm taking all known precautions to protect my tresses from the weather.) I set the 10 fat twists on flexirods (I don't know what they're actually called, that's just what I've decided to call them, lol!), pinning them down at the roots with bobby pins to further stretch them.

I had to run out, so the flexirods had to come
out before my hair could dry.



*I do not endorse for these products. I am simply sharing what I use.

Bye Bye Straight Hair!

After wearing my hair straight for 8 days, I was ready to get my curls back! I enjoyed the experience while it lasted, and I was a teeny bit sad to say good-bye to my straight hair because I knew it would be months until I saw it again, but I was sooo happy to get my hair and scalp clean! Eight days of straight hair = dirty hair! I had put so much product on it because I was so paranoid about it reverting. Yuck.

I baggied my entire head last night with my
Yummy Moisture Treatment + molasses.
The results? Today my hair is soooo soft!

But, I digress. Since my hair was loaded down with product, I whipped out a sulfate shampoo, something I hadn't used on my hair since probably early summertime. Surprisingly it felt good though. I was just so happy to have my scalp and hair CLEAN that it didn't matter how my hair felt, lol. I applied the product to my scalp and concentrated massaging it in there. Then I ran my fingers down through my hair, spreading the product through but being careful not to bunch up the hair. I was still a bit worried about my hair tangling because of the shampoo, but thankfully my method of finger-combing and braiding/twisting under the running water, which I learned from Naptural85 of YT, kept my locks from locking, lol.

Now I'm sitting here with saran wrap, 3 plastic shower caps and 2 stretchy headbands on my head, letting the moisture treatment do its thang! I plan to top off this lovely treatment with my first TnC (twist n' curl) √† la :) 

Friday, November 25, 2011

My First Fishtail Braid!

This was my second attempt at the fishtail braid. I'm so happy I got it! :) I totally wasn't expecting it to turn out this good! The first time I wasn't successful because my hair was only stretched. It was much easier this time since my hair was straightened. I was inspired to attempt this style thanks to a post by Shelli of (thank you, Shelli!).
I watched this video on YT which helped a LOT.

Have you done a hairstyle for the first time & much to your surprise, it turned out beautifully??

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

7 Months of Growth!

My hair is now BSL (16 inches at the longest point). This is the longest my hair has ever been in my adult life!

In April 2011, after watching Kimmaytube for months, I decided to do my own grow out challenge. For 6 months I committed to gentle handling, protective styles and most importantly, no heat. Since flat ironing was the only way I used to know how to style my natural hair, this challenge was a big deal for me, not to mention the fact that prior to becoming inspired by Kimmaytube I didn't care for protective hairstyles and couldn't ever imagine myself wearing my hair like that. Click here for a mini timeline of my before pictures.

Initially I thought it might be difficult for me to put the blow dryer and flat iron away. But not too long after I got started, I was hooked! Naturally (no pun intended, lol!) there was a learning curve with technique, products, etc., but I fell in love with protective hairstyling, particularly the two-strand twist. At first I'd twist my hair for the effect: a twist-out. But then I started leaving the twists in for a few days, and I discovered that I loved the twists even more than the twist-outs! This was totally unprecedented for me because prior to embarking on this 6-month journey, I'm embarrassed to say it, but protective hairstyles really turned me off. 
Now, I can't imagine living without them!

I grew up believing the myth that black women couldn't grow our hair long. When I started my GOC, I aimed to blow this myth out of the water. Empowered by Kim Love's videos, I knew I would add inches to my hair. But what I didn't expect was the passion I developed for natural hair. This passion led to hours upon hours of research as I sought to learn more about healthy hair care practices. 
Then something interesting started happening.

Over the summer I started running early on Saturday mornings. Now, to be clear, I never liked running long distance. In fact I used to proudly boast about my strong distaste for the activity. But I soon became addicted to my Saturday morning runs, and I discovered that listening to praise and worship music enhanced my workouts...I could run longer, faster and harder than ever before. Not only that, but now I loved to run. 

Running was only the beginning. On July 16, 2011 I rose early to have devotional time and I've been doing that ever since. In the past I had tried to commit to morning devotions, but that's just it...I tried. Trying implies you're not fully committed. And I hadn't been. But this time my circumstances were different and I made the decision to stick with it. I gained some ground and saw some spiritual growth, but it wasn't until I started an amazing book in September 2011 that my spiritual walk was enhanced infinitely. 
I knew I would never be the same.

Now what does all this have to do with my hair journey? For those of you who aren't believers, I'd encourage you not to close my page just yet, because there's a message here for you too.

My GOC has been instrumental in teaching me that I have so much more to give. It made me realize that I have greatness inside of me. And I'm here to tell you: so do you. As silly as it may sound, I realized that if I could grow my hair longer than it's ever been then I also had the potential inside of me to do much more with my life. For years I'd allowed the myth about black women's hair to hold me back; I never even thought to research it. And for years I let other people's beliefs keep me mediocre. 

No longer. I wasn't created to live in mediocrity. I was designed to pursue excellence.

I refuse average. Do you?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

ACV Rinses, Cold Weather & My Scalp

I wash my hair once a week. I've found this to be best for my hair. When I don't have a lot of product build-up, I skip the KCCC shampoo and start with an apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse (1 part ACV to 3 parts water), massaging it into my scalp and squeezing it down through my hair. I started with the ACV rinses I think at the end of the summer or the beginning of the fall, when it was still relatively warm out. But it has been cooler out and after wash day for the past two weeks I noticed that my scalp would get itchy. At first I applied jojoba oil, massaging it in with my fingertips (I never scratch with my nails, at least not on purpose!). But the relief was only temporary - I mean, very temporary. Then I tried olive oil (EVOO), which yielded slightly better results but I was soon itching again. My last-ditch effort was a spritz recipe I found that had water, EVOO, and lavender and tea tree oils. At first this worked great - better than my previous two attempts. But the next day I still found myself fighting the urge to rub my scalp.

By this point I'd been rubbing my scalp so much that, even though I was using my fingertips, my scalp was becoming sore and tender. I knew this wasn't good and that I needed to do something, but I didn't know what. I Googled about the causes of itchy scalp but still was not able to figure out what had caused this abrupt change in my scalp's condition.

But there was an idea tickling the back of my mind...could it be the ACV? No, I thought, my hair and scalp love those rinses. I researched ACV and the scalp anyway, and what I found surprised me: ACV is often used to cure itchy scalp. How could this be? I was really confused at this point, so I did the only thing I knew to do: I decided to skip my usual ACV rinse for my next wash. If my scalp wasn't itchy after that, then I would know for sure that the ACV, for whatever reason, was causing my scalp to itch.

So that's exactly what I did. I skipped the ACV rinse and only shampooed. But here's the funny part: my next wash day was going to be followed by my first straightening in 7 months! I'd been doing my own grow out challenge, and this wash day was going to be the culmination of months of no-heat discipline. I couldn't afford to mess this week up with an itchy scalp, so I hoped that foregoing the ACV rinse would be the answer.

Now it's 3 days post-wash and my scalp has itched a little but it hasn't been nearly as itchy as before. I can only conclude that the ACV rinses are no good for me in the winter.

Have you also found that ACV rinses cause your scalp to itch in the winter months? How does your regimen change in the winter?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Length Comparison

I never thought my hair growth journey would turn into a blog and that natural hair would become a passion of mine. So I never took a "before" picture, nor did I take progress pics. But I've compiled a few pictures to show you how my hair had never grown past a certain length. It always maintained the same length...until now! :)

Thanksgiving '10
Christmas '09
Love how I'm stuffing my face?! LOL!

Spring '10

Christmas '10

Pics of my current length coming soon!!!

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