Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Natural Hair on a Budget

Let's face it. There are a ton of products out there for natural hair, and if you're not careful you could easily drop a bunch of money on them. But do you really need a big wallet to wear your hair natural? Absolutely not! I used to be overwhelmed by all the products for natural and curly hair out there, until I realized I don't need a ton of products - or expensive ones - to keep my hair healthy and stylin'. Here are some tricks that I've used over the past couple years to stretch my products and my wallet. 
Dilute If you do like to use shampoo, I'd recommend a sulfate-free one. I prefer SheaMoisture's Moisture Retention Shampoo. It gives you lots of lather without the sulfates and really gets the job done without stripping your hair of moisture. Whatever shampoo you choose, you can make it stretch by diluting about a tablespoon of shampoo with lukewarm water in an applicator bottle. Shake well and apply to your hair. Rinse and follow up with your favorite conditioner. You'll use way less shampoo while still getting your hair clean. Can't splurge on a sulfate-free shampoo right now? No worries. Take whatever shampoo you have on hand, follow the same steps above and just add a little oil on top (I like grapeseed, but use whatever you have). 

Less is more I discovered this trick thanks to my thick, dense curls. (In other words, I've got a LOT of kinks, coils and curls!) The only way I can effectively distribute products through my hair is by separating it into smaller sections and smoothing the products down from root to tip. When applying products this way, I've found that I need a whole lot less product for each section. So I get the look I want without going through half my stash in one styling session. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Mix it up This is a great trick to use for your deep conditioner. Take your deep conditioner (or any moisturizing conditioner) of choice and put about 2-3 tablespoons in a small mixing bowl. Add 2-3 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil and about 1 teaspoon of castor oil. Mix ingredients together and apply to your hair using the method described above. The natural oils will be extra conditioning for your hair while also stretching your favorite conditioner. Check out my video on how I deep condition.  

Water is your friend You've probably heard it before, but let me reiterate: water is the best moisturizer! And it's the least expensive "product" you can get. Keep moisture levels high by spritzing your hair with water daily and sealing with an oil. If your hair is tightly coiled and dries out easily, then you may benefit from sealing with a heavier oil such as extra virgin olive oil. Have a looser curl pattern? Jojoba, apricot or another light oil will seal the deal. 

How do you stretch your wallet 
when it comes to natural hair care?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

5 Tips for Protecting Your Hair This Winter

If the winter season brings cold weather where you live, then you'll want to prepare to give your hair a little extra TLC. Here are 5 steps to help you keep your strands healthy and growing through the winter months.

Deep Condition I'm not the best at this step, but it's important. You know how in the summer months you can get away with using a thin lotion to keep your skin moisturized and in the winter you need to switch over to a heavier, creamier moisturizer so your skin doesn't dry out? Well much like your skin moisturizer, deep conditioning gives your hair the extra boost of moisture that it needs. Let's face it - with the harsh, cold air, the winter months can wreak havoc on our curls, kinks and coils, making them dry and brittle. And what does dry, brittle hair lead to? Tangles and breakage. No thank you! Overwhelmed by all the products out there and not sure where to start? Check out my video on my easy, inexpensive deep conditioner. Also, if your hair has permanent color in it, then deep conditioning isn't optional for you at any time of the year - it's always a must.
Puuddy's tightly coiled hair

Moisturizer There's no way around it - having a good quality moisturizer in your product arsenal is imperative to the health of your hair. Now, the type of moisturizer will largely depend on your curl pattern. Moisturizers come in a range of formulas, because no two curl patterns are alike. The tighter the curls, the more difficult it is for the natural moisturizer our scalps make - sebum - to make its way down our strands. This type of curl pattern will benefit from a heavier, creamier moisturizer (I like SheaMoisture's Curl Enhancing Smoothie - beware: a little goes a loooong way). The looser the curls, the easier it is for sebum to moisturize the whole strand of hair, so this curl pattern only needs a light moisturizer, maybe one that comes in spray form. 

Seal Sealing is a step that is really important, especially for those of us with tighter, kinkier curls and coils. There are two ways you can seal: 1) with pH, and 2) with oils or butters. Back when I was setting my hair in a bijillion two-strand twists, I'd seal using the famous "Kimmaytube leave-in conditioner" (note that the original recipe calls for 2 tbsp of aloe vera leaf juice, not green tea). This conditioner acts as a sealant due to the pH of aloe vera leaf juice, one of its main ingredients. This juice is all natural and has a pH that is very close to the natural pH of the scalp and hair - between 4.5 and 5.5. Without getting too deep (let's face it, chemistry wasn't my best subject anyway) when a product falling into that pH range touches our hair, it closes the cuticles of the hair strand, locking in moisture and protecting the strand from tangling and mechanical (comb/brush) damage. So if you think about it, when you apply the Kimmaytube conditioner to your wet hair, you're sealing in the moisture from the water. The result? Soft, shiny, healthy and moisturized hair! The second way to seal is to use oil. Your curl pattern, moisture needs and personal preferences will dictate whether you use a light or heavy oil. My coils are looser than my oldest daughter's coils, so I can get away with using a lighter oil - such as jojoba - to seal. But her hair requires a heavier oil - such as extra virgin olive oil - to effectively lock in moisture, soften her hair and keep it tangle-free.
My curls in the front and back are
loose and wavy
Puuddy's hair with the yarn twist
extensions I installed this summer
Protective Styling This is a term that is talked about a lot in the natural hair community, but what does it actually mean? Protective styling is any style that requires as little manipulation as possible. Less manipulation = less opportunity to damage your strands. In my mind there are two categories of protective styles: with and without the addition of faux/human hair or yarn. But whether you're setting your hair in mini twists or Senegalese twists, you STILL need to SHAMPOO and MOISTURIZE regularly, especially if you're keeping the style in for weeks at a time. Protective styling doesn't mean set-it-and-forget-it. This is really important if you've added hair or yarn to your hair. If you don't keep your hair and scalp clean then lint and dirt will cause build-up that you'll be removing for DAYS maybe even WEEKS after you've taken down the style. Plus, dirt and product build-up on your scalp hinders growth. And if you don't moisturize, then the faux/human hair and yarn will draw all the moisture out of your hair, which can lead to breakage. 

Puuddy's hat that I lined two
winters ago

Lined Hats Lastly, if you're going to wear a hat then make sure it is lined with satin or a satin-like material such as a polyester blend. If your hat isn't lined then I wouldn't wear it at all. Seriously. You can find vendors on Etsy that sell handmade, good quality lined hats (if you need a hat for your baby then I'd recommend this Etsy shop). But it doesn't stop at hats. One winter I learned a hard lesson when I discovered that my wool coat and scarf were causing terrible tangles and matting at the nape of my neck. But should we really freeze for the sake of preserving a few strands? No worries - you don't have to choose. Here's what I do: I still wear my wool coat BUT I make sure I wear a silk/polyester scarf so that it acts as a buffer between my hair and coat. VoilĂ ! You get to stay warm and protect your strands!

Work these tips into your regimen and wardrobe and you'll enjoy healthy, moisturized strands this winter!

~ How do you keep your hair healthy in the wintertime? ~

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Feeling God's Pleasure

"Amazing" doesn't even capture how INCREDIBLE that first run was for me. Everything felt so stepping into an old pair of sneakers. I got the usual butterflies as I put on my layers and stretched. I could hardly wait to feel my feet hitting the pavement again...but I was a bit nervous too. Good nervous, though. Excited nervous. It had been months since my last run...since January 20, 2013 (had to check my app 'cause it had been so long that I couldn't remember!). If you are a runner then you know how much of a mind game it is. I was mentally prepared for the worse: sore muscles, side stitches, gassin' out early and wanting to walk. But much to my surprise, this turned out to be one of my easiest runs - both mentally and physically. 
I started off power walking (at my hubby's insistence - he's a personal trainer and lifelong athlete so I value his opinion ;)) but soon found myself running. With Kim Walker-Smith's "Spirit Break Out" blasting in my ears on repeat (great song, check it out), I was probably running at a snail's pace, but in my spirit I was FLYING. It felt like sliding behind the wheel of my car and stepping on the body responded the same as before and knew exactly what to do. 

I've never seen the movie, but I've heard that in Chariots of Fire there's a line that goes something like, "When I run, I feel God's pleasure." Oh, how true is that for me! Running has become a form of worship for me. Even when it's tough, when it hurts and everything in my mind is screaming at my body to heart is SOARING, caught up in worshiping my God, my Lord, my everything.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Natural Isn't Natural?

There seems to be this sentiment within the natural hair community that being natural is the only way to be; that having relaxed hair is categorically unnatural and, well...wrong. I can admit that I used to feel that way. But is it really natural to be natural? I'd venture to say no, it isn't natural. Not for everyone. Sure, we're all born that way. But that doesn't mean that it comes naturally to all (no pun intended). 

I think most of us will admit that in our relaxer days we were sold out to relaxers. Before I went natural you would've had to pry my relaxer from my cold, dead fingers. Not kidding. I was hooked. Even after I'd completely transitioned I still wondered if I'd done the right thing; if being natural was really for me. After all, I straightened the mess outta my hair anyway so what was the difference? All I wanted was straight hair that was easy to manage and moved like our white sisters' hair. 

And therein lay the mindset. I was under the impression that my natural hair wasn't beautiful but rather needed to be tamed and controlled (straight) to be acceptable. It didn't help that I had no idea how to take care of it either. I'd say the same goes for those of us who haven't made the switch to natural. It's all in a person's mindset and their perception of natural hair. A lot of that is rooted in society's definition of beauty and a person's past experiences.

So before we give the next relaxed sister we see the side eye, let's be mindful that being natural isn't for everyone - and that's okay. At the risk of sounding corny (whoa, hello 1995) our differences are what make us beautiful.

For His Glory,

Lauren <3

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Green with Envy

[From this past Saturday]

Early Saturday morning...before the traffic, before the stores are packed...this is my favorite time of the week because it's when I get what every mother needs but rarely ever takes... 

Mommy Time!

I rise early before my family is up, make my coffee, grab a bagel and head out to the grocery store. Yes, I know it may seem extremely lame to some that I'm excited to go grocery shopping. But this is my "me" time; my time to get alone with the Lord, pray and worship Him. Sometimes I can hardly wait for that moment when I get in the car, plug in my phone and listen to the song that's playing in my heart. Other times I feel God calling me to be quiet and still before Him. And naturally there are times when I go before the throne of grace with the things that are burdening my heart. By the time I get to the store I'm already feeling more refreshed, light-hearted and joyful. The cashiers are almost always in a good mood too. 

The young woman at the register today immediately caught my attention. She had this cute little fro with a couple of twists in the front. As she started scanning my items she looked at my hair and asked if I'd done a braid-out. I explained how I'd set it in chunky twists because it's the closest I can get to wearing my natural curl pattern (I'd done my pseudo wash n' go). She commented that she liked my hair and quickly lamented that she wished hers would be less frizzy and more defined (my curls happened to be more defined today). I encouraged her as best I could to stick with it and embrace her hair, but I felt like I fell short. There were so many things waiting on the tip of my heart to share with her. But most of all I wanted to say...

Your hair is beautiful just the way it is.

I feel that so many more naturals would be able to love their hair (and therefore a part of themselves) if they could see the beauty in their curls and kinks instead of longing for someone else's. I used to fall victim to this mentality so I know how challenging it is to overcome. But if we're always envious of other naturals then we'll never be able to fully appreciate and love how God made our own natural hair. 

And that goes way beyond natural hair. I will admit that I am guilty of envying others' possessions; it's been one of my greatest struggles lately. Envy is one of those seemingly harmless but very dangerous emotions because it is an absolute joy stealer: it sucks the life and joy right out of you, leaving you bitter, empty and ungrateful for what you do have. 

Let's anchor our souls in verses like this:

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. ~Proverbs 14:30

Rots. The. Bones.....Yikes! I don't like the sound of that, and I'm sure you don't either. So when we find ourselves stumbling over the trap of envy, let's keep this in mind:

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 
Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. 
~Galatians 5:25-26

Whether it's someone else's curls or the next person's car, when we find ourselves feeling envious we need to remember that envy blocks us from fully appreciating what God has blessed us with and most of all, from knowing in our hearts His incredible love for us. 

For His Glory,

Lauren <3

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