Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hair Epiphany. Do not comb!

Throughout my hair journey I have had more Ah-Ha moments than I can even count. As I meet more and more natural women early in the journey of learning about their hair, I find myself recalling those epiphanies and trying my best to relay the important info.
Where did the curls go? Why is this so hard? Why is so much hair coming out? Why is it still tangled... WHY AM I COMBING MY HAIR?

Hair Epiphany: I stopped. I stopped coming my hair. Combing it after conditioning and rinsing creates frizz, combing while drying creates even more frizz, and combing while dry= snap a comb, snap an arm muscle and snap a thousand hairs off. There had to be a better way. In reality- there isn't. It just should not be done. There is no reason to comb 3c - 4c hair out with any frequency. It's not straight hair, it will always appear tangled and intertwined and that is the beauty of it. It just has to be prevented from locking, and occasionally the curls need to be separated. I have one large tooth comb that I keep IN the shower and I only use it 2 times a week (tops!) while the conditioner is still IN my hair. Sometimes I even just use my fingers. Start at the ends and work your way into the denser parts, in sections- the more the better. The more slippery or smooth the conditioner the better, sudsy light conditioners won't help much.

After this one de-tangling session I am DONE. I do not comb my hair again until I have conditioner saturating it again. This means however, that the hairs that are naturally shed accumulate and are all combed out at the same time during one of these sessions. It may look like a lot of hair because it is several days to a weeks worth.

I used to pick out my fro. I don't know why I did that. I think I was insane or had behaved badly and decided to punish myself. and my hair. I understand the desire for a fluffy puff sometimes, but the damage.... the damage and the shrinkage... I don't know why I thought it was worth it. I can't help but to give advice here: Just do a a few braids in your freshly de-tangled and wet, moisturized hair to encourage it to dry without coiling back up on its self. Once it's dry, take it out and finger comb it. Finger comb it again at night with a nice smoothing de-tangler and braid it back up (so it always dries in the braids). Save your hair, save your sanity.

I think women who complain that natural hair is hard to manage are trying to comb it. Are trying to stop it from doing the things it wants to do- like shrink up, stand up, intertwine and fuzz up. Combing makes all of these things worse, counter to relaxed hair care where combing is the answer. We are shown image and scene after scene where a man is running his fingers thorough a woman's hair, or a woman is flirtatiously running her fingers through or twirling her own hair. 100 brush strokes a day... Natural, ultra curly and kinky hair is so much more interesting than that! That is not how we care for our hair, nor respect what is gorgeous about it.

And real quick- I'll talk about the Denman brush- one of the only brushes worth mentioning (a boar or synthetic bristle brush for finishing edges is cool too). FOR ME, Denman is only like a cool effects tool. The curly clumps that it encourages to form are against the nature of my curl pattern so a few seconds after using it to de-tangle a conditioned section of hair- my hair is already reverting back to its desired set up. I won't be able to brush, or sometimes even finger comb, back through it again (unless I tie each section back = work and arrrggg...) Some Naturals swear by it, but I prefer it only for styling into a shingled ultra curly (sometimes later stretched out) style. The shrinkage is extreme for me when using the Denman this way however, so I have to be in the mood.

So to new curlies- Stop combing it after the conditioner has been rinsed out. It should not be combed at any point after this. Your curls have a starting chance of staying with you now. Do not break them back apart.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer products in review

Summer is almost over! I feel like just yesterday I was narrowing in on a wash and go routine and shopping for summer products. Alas the time has gone by and I can hardly say that I did any one thing this summer. I did start in on the wash and goes in April, and I became immediately concerned that the extra little knots on the ends of my hair were caused by the wet hair tangling while rubbing on my back and shoulders. I decided to let my hair dry more before leaving the house, but I never did :-/ I would say I had some major interrupters in any type of routine I might have come up with:
  • I went on vacation to Barbados, which led me to blow dry my hair and braid it. I think my ends were a bit damaged in the process, from being exposed to the salt, chlorine and sun.
  • Before that I did a 5 shade color lift to a few select pieces all over to create some summer highlights. That went very well and I don't think I saw any extra damage.
  • I was very busy at work over the summer, so I did not have time and energy to refresh or re-do my wash and go many mornings, opting instead to pull it back for a few days in a row.
Overall I can certainly say that I co-washed (washed my hair using conditioner instead of shampoo) far more often than I do in the winter.

I also employed the search and destroy method for ridding myself of the worst knotted and split ends, never opting for a full trim this summer. Based on the growth exemplified by my lifted highlights, I have gained a bit over an inch over the past 2 months. However, I have noted a strange phenomenon at my current length. My hair is long enough to rest on my back and shoulders when wet, or when stretched with heat or product. This means that dry clumps and damp curls are constantly being influenced to touch each other and merge, bunch and otherwise un-distinguish themselves as free "hanging curls." I get a bunch of traffic on the back of my neck- a ball of shrunken curls and density that I can otherwise pull taught to well under my armpits. I am not sure if with a bit more length it will free itself of this horizontal barrier, or if it will just accumulate there more and more. I'm watching and waiting. Not sure if there is anything to be done about it. *shrug*

So on to products.
I used a ton more conditioner, and types of conditioners, and methods for applying conditioner than ever in life this summer. I got practically the entire Herbal Essences conditioner line, a large new bottle of TRESemmé Vitamin E Moisture Rich Conditioner, Giovanni's moisturizing and reconstructing conditioners, Bumble and Bumble's leave in and most recently the Yes to Carrots Pampering Hair Mud Conditioner. I also continued to use my staple of V05 conditioners and Kinky Curly's Knot today as needed.

I use a lot of conditioner. My hair is long, needs uber slip factor to de-tangle and is also very spongy- thus absorbs a lot of water. Using conditioner as a leave in product (ie curly primer method) with not much else proved to be a recipe for extreme shrinkage (see post). I mostly use conditioner to de-tangle and re-separate my curls. It also helps me get some of the product out of my hair from my last style. I shampoo about once every 10-14 days (kinky-curly come clean or burts bees mousturising shampoo mixed with conditioner).
  • My favorites of the summer were all of the Herbal Essences line. I can't tell them apart much except for the fragrances.
  • Giovanni and Knot Today are also great but pricy and thus not very feasable given how much I use.
  • Bumble and bumble is now mosly in my Burts shampoo bottle trying to make up for some of the money it cost me. It did nothing for my tangles.
  • Yes to Carrots smells great but does not provide enough slip for good detangling, it also "whites up" if left in.
  • Vo5 is great to cut product with for almost any reason and I also use it as shaving lotion.
  • Tresemme, you will always be my love, but the frangrences need work.
I could talk about gel and other finishing products but I have not found anything new. Kinky Kurly Curling Custard and IC Fantasia all the way :-)

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Nappy Knot

When I was in college in Boston, say 2000 or so, all of my straight haired and mostly white peers had embraced a style that I called the "nappy knot". They would take all of their straight/wavy hair, tousle it up and tease the ends if needed, and then sling it into a messy textured bun or loop. It used to bother me because it seemed to be an attempt the get the very same hair I was diligently and painstakingly straightening and then protecting from "going back" in the humidity or rain. I was going through great lengths, even wearing my covered wrap in class, to keep my freshly done hair straight and smooth and here they were messing their naturally straight or wavy hair up on purpose.

Eventually it got to the point where having no money and no time meant no more straight hair, and I went natural (chemical free) by necessity and logical thinking. Years later when my hair got long enough, I too was wearing the nappy knot, but mine was more so a "less nappy" and subdued knot- a smooth bun on my hair being near impossible. Now, even more years later (sigh...) my hair is even longer and I can achieve an impressive, sculptural, nappy statement of a knot- and I love it. It's a somewhat smooth and collected style with a flair of wildness that saves me time and energy some mornings (or even club nights!) Check mine out today.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hair Epiphanys I've Had

Throughout my hair journey I have had more Ah-Ha moments than I can even count. As I meet more and more natural women early in the journey of learning about their hair, I find myself recalling those epiphanies and trying my best to relay the important info. I'm going to start posting them here starting with my very first epiphany.

My hair is Curly. Tightly curly, kinky curly, not quite spirally curly. Curls as small as a chopstick to curls as big as a marker. I remember trying to achieve the curly look before I ever got a relaxer, influenced by my curly haired Puertorican friend back in CT. We were in 5th grade. She would put gel in her hair and it would be curly and stiff. My little brother called her Plastic head. One day early into the 6th grade, I tried to wear my hair curly. I put some gel in it, and I remember being satisfied enough with it to make it all the way to school. Then the very next thing I remember from that day was another girl being right next to me, grimacing and saying "Dag, yo hair is so nappy." Thinking about it now I have to assume it was wet when I left the house and the shrinkage and "light hold" of the cheap gel turned it into a very dense curl as it dried. I never wore it that way again, in fact I think I got a relaxer soon afterward. In my teens, I never revisited the thought that lead me to believe my hair could be curly like my friend's hair was.

When I cut it all off I had the impression that my hair was regular ole nappy hair. Thick and dense, fluffy and compact. But I wanted to wet it to see if it would curl. I ran home and wet it and there indeed were little coils. My hair was so short that I could hardly tell, but I was encouraged. As the days passed I was more and more convinced that my hair was curly, but more in a "inclined to coil" sort of way, than in a generally curly sort of way. I learned to use the coily pattern to create single strand coils, double strand twists and even wavy roots for puffs. However, I still did not know how to control the curls in such a way that I felt comfortable doing "wash and go" styles. It took several years, 3 at least, to get online and find products that helped. Black Planet was hot at the time -2001- and they had a black hair care forum that had tons of information, as well as links to Fotki albums of natural women and the website Here I discovered IC Fantasia hair gel which was the key to elongating my coily texture into curls. Curls! On good hair days I rejoiced in the fact that I had curls!! I can duplicate those days at will now with products. The discovery of the rest of my product arsenal is another story!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Retroactively Upset

I keep having these hypocritical moments in thought. When I heard that Naomi Sims died I was saddened, particularly because she was taken by breast cancer. (Breast cancer terrifies me!) I read all about her appearances on the covers of many magazines beginning in the 60's, breaking ground for black beauties everywhere. But, hearing her name, I remembered her more for her wigs and I have a negative reaction to the general hair care industry. I had to read several articles to find out about her accomplishments, beyond her entrepreneurship. I should have known these things.

I blame it on a mental block concerning all things appearance altering. When I hear "weave" or "wig" or "surgery" or" acrylic" or "false"- my reaction is "Oh" and I kinda zone out. What I have to remember when it comes to entrepreneurship and empowering one's self is that if these services and products are provided by black and female entrepreneurs, they should be supported and commended. As a business move, hair care products and cosmetics are indeed in high demand by black women. It's a huge industry that someone will capitalize on. We "need" this stuff. I have "needed" this stuff at a time in my life. I have had a wig, a phony tail, braid extensions, etc. But I don't remember who made them or sold them to me. I was not conscious of such things at the time. I just needed the stuff.

And an even larger issue, is cancer, and hair loss- illness. I actually had a nightmare last night that I was losing my hair. I was detangling my hair and huge coiled locks were coming out and filling my little trash bin. It's an awful thought to a person like me who really enjoys my hair. I'm not sure how long Naomi was battling cancer, but I'm sure her wigs empowered her and many other women battling illness to put their best face forward and remain confident.

So Naomi is still reaching out. I had an eye opening moment, and will have a different perception from now on when I hear those "fake" buzzwords. There are implications behind everything.

Now - I just wish I could find a Black hairdresser/salon in the DC area, who not only does natural hair into twists and locks- but can cut and trim CURLY hair with the right shape and angle, to promote growth.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Many and Varied Natural Hair Styles of Nia

Created with flickr slideshow.

Here you will see me go through my journey, beginning with relaxed hair in 1997, and then natural hair from 2001 - 2005. I ruined my hair by pressing it in late 2005, as you see in the images after the second straight hair batch. I BC (Big Chopped- Cut it all off) again in April of 2006, after growing the damage out for a few months. My new, well-cared-for and unprecedented growth is documented once more!

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