Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bantu Knot-Out

It had been a minute since I'd put my hair in bantu knots. I never really felt like I could achieve a good style with them. But two days ago I decided to give them another whirl. Here are my results. :)

After taking out the bantu knots, before separating and fluffing.
I love the healthy sheen. And my hair is so soft. I'll post next about
the new mix I recently whipped up in the kitchen ;)
After separating and fluffing :)
I was going to wear it down until I realized how much my big, fluffy
hair was blocking my peripheral vision, which I do not like! LOL!
So I opted for a headband. I love how my hair turned out!
I finally got to wear this headband. Unfortunately it broke before
the day was through! Surprisingly not because of the thickness
of my hair, but I guess because my head isn't perfect round enough for it!
LOL!! Ah well!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ugly Growth

I managed to get in my second 5K training session this evening! The setting sun provided practically no warmth...but I ran anyway. I was really proud of myself. It wasn't pretty, but doing what most won't never is pretty, is it? Wearing one of Hubby's winter hats covered with my fleece hoodie, I felt bummy and unattractive, but I didn't let it bother me. After the first few minutes, my heavy breathing was probably rather loud, but thanks to my music, I barely noticed. Due to the cold, I kept sniffling and wiping the corners of my mouth. I felt like a complete and utter mess - but this feeling also came with an incredible sense of satisfaction and pride. I knew that very few people were out there training when I was, and because of that, I knew I was separating myself from the masses and laying the groundwork for running my 5K successfully in May.
While running this evening, I thought about how similar my 5K training is to my new hair growth. Even though I'm glad to have all these new strands coming in (you can read more about that here) it doesn't make for the neatest styles. The "halo" of 2-3 inch hairs makes my twists and ponytails look fuzzy and messy. Then this thought hit me: 

Growth is rarely pretty

Every time I have decided to change myself and grow, the process has mostly been unpleasant, if not painful. Granted, experiencing new hair growth obviously doesn't hurt. But sometimes when looking at my reflection and seeing that fuzzy halo on my head, I can feel self-conscious if I let it bother me. What gets me through those tough times of personal growth is the same thing that helps me look past the fuzzy halo. Instead of focusing on the pain of growth, I choose to focus on who I will become as a result of pushing and stretching myself to be better. Similarly, I choose to see that short, fuzzy halo all grown in, blending in with my length.

What are you choosing to focus on?

Protein, Softening Shampoo & Shedding

Just wanted to give a quick update about my recent protein treatment. Last time I did the ApHogee Two-Step Protein Treatment, which is a more intensive - and involved - process. This time I went with their Keratin Two-Minute Reconstructor. I intend to include this in my regimen, at least for the next couple of wash days, as I really saw great results from it (maybe because I used a clarifying shampoo beforehand this time, which allowed the protein to bond to my hair better?). Upon completing the treatment, even before applying my deep conditioner, my hair felt much stronger and softer, which I totally didn't expect after a protein treatment. When I set my hair in bantu knots the following night, I saw very little shedding, which was a first for me. 

A couple of notes on the steps I took...

1) Softened my shampoo 2 oz of a sulfate shampoo, 1 oz of water, 1 oz of grapeseed oil. Applied to my scalp, section by section, with a spray bottle. Squeezed it down each section. I was pleasantly surprised that my hair didn't become dry and overly tangled.

2) Moisturizing Conditioner Followed the treatment with my favorite moisturizing conditioner (even though the directions didn't call for it). Normally I detangle with my conditioner in, but this time I decided to detangle with my leave-in conditioner.

3) Deep Conditioned Added 2 tbsp of blue agave nectar (I've seen better results with this than honey) and 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil to my deep conditioner.

Instead of twisting my hair as usual, I set my hair in about 8 big twists and called it a night. It felt wonderful saving all that time on styling! The next morning I took out the twists and pulled my hair back in a ponytail. By the end of the day, my hair was mostly dry and my ends still looked somewhat defined. YAY for small victories :)
Sorry for the poor lighting, but you get the idea :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Long Hair to 5K

I have often heard it said that making the decision to go natural and/or grow your natural hair long can spur a desire to become more disciplined in other areas of your life. This is so true for me.

Never in my life would I have imagined - not dreamed, because I couldn't stand running before - that one day I would voluntarily train for a 5K. But here I am, just back from my first official training and feeling great!

Where did this all begin? With my desire to grow my hair longer than it has ever been by cutting out the use of heat and wearing protective styles. No joke. I'll admit that in the beginning, maybe in my heart my desire was to grow my hair waist length, but I don't think I was able to believe in that goal until it first reached bra strap length. But I stayed steady, caring for my hair gently and intentionally, instead of roughly and haphazardly. I straightened it once at the 7-month mark to note my progress and treat myself, then went back to no heat and protective styles. (I don't plan on straightening my hair again until May). Along the way I noticed that I enjoyed running, especially in the morning while listening to praise music. I began to call these my "praise runs," and I would look forward to them more and more, just as I looked forward to seeing my hair grow.

Now I'm 10 months from where I started in my hair growth journey and I'm about to register for my first 5K. I'm sure there are a ton of critics out there who would look at my blog and think I'm crazy for caring so much about my hair. But it isn't really about hair, is it? Just like it isn't about mothering, exercising, decorating, baking, cooking, photography and whatever other blogs are out there. It's about the discipline that an active interest in something brings into your life. Whenever I've been in shape, I've always wanted to eat better. And vice versa: whenever I started eating better, I naturally wanted to get in shape and take care of myself. 

Discipline in one area of your life always leads to discipline in other areas. 

I am convinced that I would have no interest in running - let alone running a 5K - if I hadn't first embarked on this hair growth journey.

"Just hair"? It is not.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hair Typing

When I first embarked on my hair growth journey, it seemed like there was so much terminology out there when it came to growing afro-textured, natural hair. It can be overwhelming, especially if the information is good but doesn't help you on your journey.
One of the most confusing natural hair topics for me was hair typing. According to some of the info out there, it seems like knowing your hair type is an absolute must. Yet, to others, it's a system that miscategorizes - or doesn't at all capture - the characteristics of afro-textured hair. Early on, while attempting to discern my hair type, I found myself falling into the latter group simply because I couldn't figure out where my hair - especially with all its different textures - "fit" into this system. Yes, the hair type chart did show me that there are different types of curls, but that didn't help me learn how to properly care for my hair. Finally, I let hair typing fall to the wayside and turned my focus to getting to know my hair, not what "type" of hair I may have. 

The result? Absolute freedom! Choosing to let go of hair typing became a totally liberating experience. Instead I've found that knowing certain characteristics of my hair is much more useful. For instance, by comparing how my thick hair acts to how someone else's fine hair acts, I've learned that my thick hair has different needs than fine hair. My daughter's hair, as I've recently discovered, is fine, which is why I need to moisturize it daily with water, coconut oil and a water-based cream moisturizer. My thick hair, however, can be washed and twisted with an oil-loaded leave-in and moisturizer and go for days without needing to be re-moisturized. Then there's porosity. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are varying levels of porosity on my head, which plays a role in how my hair acts when it comes to absorbing and retaining moisture. Finally, my hair is rather dense or, in other words, I have a lot of hair!

These three characteristics - thickness, porosity and density - have all become instrumental in helping me get to know my hair - much more, I believe, than hair typing ever could. I have no qualms with hair typing; I'm sure it has helped many. It simply was not helpful when it came to me getting to know my hair.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hair Porosity

After a wonderful conversation with fellow bloggers Shelli of Hairscapades and M of hair and other stuff, I got really interested in discovering the porosity of my hair. I still have to do the water test (which I will explain after I do it and figure out my results), but in the meantime I did some research so I could have a better understanding of hair porosity, so I thought I'd share that here. :)

What is hair porosity?
It is how easily your hair is able to absorb and retain moisture. This depends on how the cuticles are arranged on your hair shafts. The closer and more tightly situated they are, the lower the porosity of your hair and the more difficult it is for your hair to absorb and retain moisture. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the farther apart the cuticles, the higher the porosity of your hair.

How does knowing the porosity of your hair help you care for it?
The lower the porosity of your hair, the more you have to do to help your hair absorb and retain the moisture that you give it. I read that you do this by using warm water on wash days and using heat during deep conditioning treatments. 

The higher the porosity of your hair, the more it is prone to frizzing. This porosity of hair benefits from protein-rich products which give it more structure.

So what is my hair's porosity like? Thanks to Shelli I learned that, just as a head of hair can have different textures, it can also have varying levels of porosity. My guess is that the crown of my head is the most porous because it tends to frizz the easiest, and the front is similar, while the nape and sides of my head seem to have normal porosity. 

I'm going to put my research results to the test by finding and incorporating a protein conditioner into my regimen to see if I notice an improvement in my highly porous areas. Stay tuned ;)

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