Category Archives: Tips & Tricks

Trimming Natural Hair and Length Retention

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I straightened my hair about two weeks ago (see that post here). Although I “search and destroy” regularly, my ends were desperately in need of a trim as it had been 10 months since my last professional one. So, the Monday morning after straightening my hair, I reached out to my stylist Tameeka (aka Jaded Tresses) to see if she would be in her NJ location that night. I was hoping that she might be able to slip me in between her other appointments.

jadedtresses

Well, it turned out that it was her son’s birthday and she wasn’t working that night. I was totally bummed, but understood. However, later that day, Tameeka texted me that she was going to Sam’s Club in Edison and couldn’t come to NJ in good conscious without trying to hook me up.  So, she asked if I could meet her at the salon later! Y’all … I was on YouTube trying to figure out how to self-trim when I got the text (and, she suspected that is what I would do)!! LOL!! I was ecstatic that I wouldn’t have to take on that task myself!!

So, I met Tameeka at the salon in South Orange, NJ, where she usually works Monday nights. And, in like 5 minutes flat, she cleaned up my ends and made me a very happy lady.

Left: Prior to trim; Right: After trim

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My hair felt sooooo much better after that trim!!  The thing that I love about Tameeka is that she really listens, understands, and respects my length goals and that when I say that all I want is a small trim, that is what she does. I’m sure other stylist would have tried to chop several inches off of my hair due to the thinner perimeter and would claim that my ends are not healthy, but that has NEVER been an issue with Tameeka. She never says, “Oh, you should take more off” or “your ends are unhealthy” or “It would look better like … .” No, she respects that I know MY hair and really evaluates the condition, and not just the aesthetics, of hair to determine what it needs. And, she has never taken off more than an inch when I have requested a trim only. A non-scissor happy stylist? That’s priceless for me y’all.

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TRIMMING NATURAL HAIR

Anywho, since we’re talking about trimming, I figured I’d take this opportunity to discuss my thoughts on a couple of questions that I’ve seen related to trimming natural hair and trimming in general.

1.  Do naturals need a blunt perimeter/even cut/ends?

In my opinion, if you wear your hair in a curly state the majority of the time, no. I don’t trim, cut my hair to keep my ends even. I trim to eliminate damaged ends that are excessively weathered, knotted and/or split. I do this with regular search and destroy (S&D) missions (usually on wash day) and a professional trim every 6-12 months. I trim in this way because, if I don’t, the damaged ends will inevitably cause collateral damage (i.e. more splits, knots, and weathering), because the “bad” hair snags on healthy adjacent strands and causes friction to the cuticle.

Another reason I don’t worry about a totally blunt/even perimeter is because hair tends to grow at different rates. The front and lower back half of my hair grow a lot faster than my crown. So, I accept that my hair does not grow out evenly or into a blunt shape. What I do try to do is keep the longest layer not too much longer than my shorter crown. When I get trims, I ask Tameeka to trim more off of the longest layer and less off of the shorter layers, to gradually thicken my perimeter. Since I wear my hair in updos and twist or braid and curls the vast majority of the time, my irregular curl pattern and length differences are disguised.

2.  Does trimming the hair stunt or encourage growth?

It does neither. Hair grows from the scalp and is dead the minute it “sprouts” from the scalp. Trimming eliminates weathered, thinned, split and knotted ends. It makes the hair appear healthier, neater, and more aesthetically pleasing to some. It helps reduce and prevent the continuous cycle of splits and breakage. However, it doesn’t encourage growth. Some may call it semantics. However, I want to state for the record that what trimming actually does is help prevent continued breakage, which impacts length retention and can make it seem like the hair is not growing. By trimming damaged ends, the hair will be better able to retain the length that grows, which some see as “encouraging growth.”

That being said, if you constantly trim and hair grows at an average of 1/2 an inch a month, you may trim off all or most of the growth, which will make it seem as if your hair isn’t growing. For example, if your hairs grows an average of a 1/2″ a month, and you get a 1″ trim every 3 months, you are only retaining a 1/2″ of growth instead of 1-1/2″. If your ends are healthy and well-maintained, that is totally unnecessary. This is why some may think that trimming stunts growth. But again, it’s not the growth, it’s the retention that is being impacted by trimming.

So, in conclusion, trimming (or not trimming) impacts length retention, not growth, depending on how it is used. And that’s all I have to say about that.

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How do you trim? How often do you trim?

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Breaking One of the Detangling Commandments

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Okay, so I may be (figuratively) hung, drawn, and quartered for this one. Alright … alright … I’m being dramatic. But … I’m about to suggest something that will probably go counter to a “natural hair” great commandment that most have probably read over and over again.

DETANGLE FROM TIPS TO ROOTS ROOTS TO TIPS.

See, what had happened was … I’ve been detangling from TIPS to ROOTS for forever. Aaaaaaand, it has served me well for the most part. But, the last few wash days, I started breaking this rule. Let me premise this by saying that I primarily use my fingers and only pull out the Ouidad Double Detangler once my hair is pretty thoroughly detangled. However, my detangling sessions were becoming more tedious and lengthy due to the length of my hair. I would slather on tons of conditioner, but starting from the tips resulted in me having to work the shed strands in each section down the length of my hair over and over … AND OVER again.

allmylifedetangle(Please excuse the possessive “natural’s” that should be a plural.
I didn’t make this. LOL!)

I began to realize that the worst matting was occurring at the roots of my hair and that if I loosened the tangles and shed hair there first, it was taking me less time to detangle, and less time = less manipulation. The trick of it is that I don’t finger detangle DOWN the length of my hair first. I detangle by pulling the strands APART. I’ve seen this referred to as “wish-boning” since you are pulling the strands apart like you would a wishbone (but more gently, of course). This provides space in the hair to allow shed/broken strands to glide out and it also helps loosens knots rather than tightening them. So, I work the strands apart at the roots, THEN I pull loose hair out of and/or down my hair.

Now, I definitely wouldn’t suggest trying the roots to tips approach with a comb as you may end up with more hair in it than on your head.  But, if you finger detangle exclusively or prior to using a tool, than you may find that the roots to tip approach hastens the end of your detangling sessions. And, if you so desire, you can use a comb or brush from tips to roots to polish off the job.

damphair

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Do you detangle from tips to roots or roots to tips? What techniques have eased your detangling sessions? 

PSA: Saving Your Strands

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ponytail2(I know some of you want my T-shirt ;). Sorry, it was a limited edition!)
#CalvinandHobbesForever!!

Hey guys! Just popping on here really quickly to share a little length retention tip that may seem like “duhhhhh” to some. But, was something that really just hit me a couple of years ago.

Okay, so … what had happened was … I had my hair secured with two Goody Ouchless ponytail elastics for, like, a week. I had not done anything with my hair all week, except put some gel on the edges to make it look presentable. So, when I was finally taking out the elastics to pre-poo, this happened …

tangledwebNo bueno!

Now, my first instinct was to pull and tug on the hair to try to free it. But, after a minute, I realized that was not working too well. Then, I thought, “I’m going to have to cut my hair off of this!” But, then, I immediately thought, “STOP!!! Are you stupid?!? Doesn’t it make so much more sense to cut the ELASTIC?!?” I mean, really!! Lose 50 cents instead of losing months of growth? #soundslikeaplantome

After I cut the elastic, I was able to slide it out of my hair and then detangle the knotted hair. Funny thing is, a similar thing happened to me a couple of years ago. My hair got wrapped around a neck button at the back of my shirt and I couldn’t get it free. Someone was helping me free it and finally gave up saying, “I think we have to cut your hair.” I was like, “Uh, no. Cut the button off the thread. The button can be sewn back on, my hair can’t!”

#usingmynoggin

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What “common sense” hair strategies have you learned to use to protect your strands?

Why I Stopped Deep Conditioning Overnight

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Yesterday, I told you that I was up late at night setting my hair. Well, what I left out was the reason I was doing this. You see, I washed my hair around 6 pm or so and applied my deep conditioner at about 7. After eating dinner, watching Beyonce’s half-time performance during the Super Bowl, and waiting a few minutes for them to get the lights back on in the stadium, I fell asleep on the couch. Wei woke me up around 11 pm and I was like, “Ugghhhh. Gotta wash this deep conditioner out and set this hair.”

Now, in the past, I would deep condition overnight in a minute … shoot, in a millisecond. But, over the course of 2011-2012, I learned about the importance of protein,  protein/moisture balance and that I could, in fact, over-condition my hair. I realized that the very soft feeling that my hair had for most of 2011 was because my hair was over-conditioned and that the crazy shedding that I was experiencing in fall 2011 was likely my hair breaking, because it didn’t have enough tensile strength.

However, though I began to incorporate protein into my regimen and felt a great improvement in the strength of my hair and saw my curl pattern return, I still slept in deep conditioners often. Now, the thing is, I didn’t do this to get any additional benefits, rather, I would sleep in my conditioner out of sheer laziness. Sometimes, I’m tired and I just don’t feel like washing it out.

But then, this fall, I read two very interesting and informative articles:

via The Natural Haven

Deep Conditioning: Effect of Time and Temperature/Heat*

1. Increasing the time you leave conditioner on hair allows more of it to adsorb with a maximum adsorption at 20- 30 minutes.

The key ingredients that can stick to hair (surfactants, hydrolysed protein, silicones, polyquats etc) will do so within seconds of applying the conditioner. If left on hair for longer, the amount will in general double within 10 minutes. If left on for another 10-20 minutes, the amount will increase by another 60-100% of the mark set at 10 minutes.

However after 30 minutes from initial application, there are no more increases in conditioner adsorbing to hair. The reason for this is that the hair conditioner simply has no more places on the hair where it can stick to…….all gaps which it can plug and all surfaces where it can attach are occupied. …

[W]hen conditioner is heated to 35°C, at 10 minutes there is slightly more than 5% on hair and at 30 minutes there is slightly more than 10%. Therefore temperature increases adsorption. The rule however remains the same in terms of no further conditioner sticking to the surface after 30  minutes.

*There are two charts in this post that are very helpful in providing visuals for the effects of time and heat on deep conditioning.

and

Do You Need to Deep Condition Your Hair?

A study done on nails (same keratin protein as hair) was performed to find out why nails get weaker with repeated water exposure. The study found that exposing nails to water for over 15 minutes (remembering that at 15 minutes the protein is saturated) led to the keratin coiling different from normal and this was linked to softening and weakness (BBA,pp 210-216,1999).

There are many naturals who will condition their hair for hours at a time because they like the softness that it develops. If you are in this group, you are someone who likes over-conditioned hair. The softness you are feeling is most likely related to the change in the keratin and you should be careful when handling your hair when it is that soft as it will be weaker until it has time to recover its stronger conformation.

(Man, I just LOVE learning about the science behind hair and products!!)

Well, after reading that 1) Conditioning over 30 minutes does not provide any additional benefits as adsorbtion plateaus and 2) Conditioning for hours at a time causes a a change in the keratin that results in softening and weakening, I started re-thinking my post-wash, deep conditioning habits. Now, though I have pretty much stopped deep conditioning overnight and often only deep condition for 30 minutes to an hour, I still condition for 3-4 hours on occasion. But again, it’s not to get any additional benefits … it’s just because I don’t feel like getting up to rinse my hair and style it!! I KNOW!! LOL!! But, I’m really working on keeping deep conditioning down to 30 minutes or a max of an hour!!

Now, although I don’t do post-wash deep conditioning overnight anymore, I still sleep in my pre-poo (Vatika Oil mixed with Aubrey GPB and/or Aubrey Honeysuckle Rose). The reason I do this is because the study done on the benefits of Coconut Oil for pre-pooing demonstrated the effects with overnight application, so that is what is recommended. I also pre-poo my dry, not wet or dampened, hair. However, the Aubrey conditioners do contain water as the first ingredient … so I’ve been torn about mixing them with Vatika Oil for my overnight pre-poo. However, for now, I’ll continue this practice as my hair seems to do great with the combo and doesn’t feel excessively soft. I think the protein in GPB and the “protein-retaining” properties of coconut oil may have something to do with that! And, you know the saying, if it ain’t broke …

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How long do you deep condition? Do you deep condition overnight?

Product Junkies: Storing Your Stash

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napnicpropicby Nicole of Naptural Nicole

“My name is Nicole, and I am a product junkie.”

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem…

Only I’m not trying to recover – I love my products! I just don’t want to “look” like a junkie!

With all my goodies, avoiding this requires some good organization – and great storage space. My stash spot of choice:

imageRubbermaid 3 drawer wheeled organizer- Target- $15

Best feature of this drawer – the ability to wheel my shame into a closet when I need extra bathroom space (or the hubbin’ thinks the addiction is out of control! Lol).

Another great feature is the ability to divide up my stash drawers by “purpose.”

I’ve got one drawer each for Moisturizing/Styling, Wash/DC/Treatments and backup supplies (I hate being caught with no leave-in on Wash Day!).

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Lastly, I can’t cart this mass of staples from room to room – and my two strand twist session can go for hours (or at least one Lifetime movie) – so I’ve got a great little toteable caddy to carry the “in use” products!

imageWire Shower Caddy – Target, $10 (currently prepped for a DC, then twists!).

In my book – as long as there’s room in my bins – I have no addiction.  ;)

-N

Curlies, How do you “store your stash?”

Save the Snow fo’ “Outdowrs”: Avoiding the Dreaded White Flakes

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Get it?!?!?! Like, “Save the drama fo’ yo’ mamma?” Anybody? Anybody? No? Alright, moving along. LOL!! So, I had to do this quick post to share a video that I just found via DiscoveringNatural.com. You see, I’ve often been asked or seen the question, “I get flakes when I apply [insert product names, usually leave-in, gel and/or styler]. How do I avoid that?” Well, I always mix the moisturizing styler and gel together in my palm first  (creamy product first, then gel) to make certain that they will blend together easily and smoothly. If they don’t and the mix looks like this …

Yeahhhhhhh, that’s gonna be a problem. Big chunks or “snowflakes” are prettttty good signs that the combo is no bueno and will leave me looking like I’m in serious need of some Head & Shoulders. #Ineverknewyouhaddandruff

So, without further ado, here is the video that demonstrates exactly what I mean!!

via TheCreativeLady

To learn more, check out Discovering Natural’s post, Hair Chemistry: Will These Products Mix Together?, where she experiments with several gel and moisturizer combos to find out which ones blend the best!!

And save the snow for where it belongs …

Ahhhh, miss BoyzIIMen and En Vogue!! What happened to talented R&B groups?

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What product combos have you found to be disastrous? Which ones are a match made in heaven?
Sharing is caring!!

Hair Scarves, Shea Moisture Yucca & Aloe Thickening Growth Milk and A Rookie Mistake

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Good morning sunshines ;). Hope you all enjoyed your weekends!! I had a good, long one!! Took Friday off from work to clean house … but fudged around online, watched some videos, wrote some posts and played with my hair instead. Saturday morning, I did most of the much needed housecleaning and then had lunch with the Sci-Five, minus one permanent and two auxiliary members ;). And Sunday, ran a couple quick errands, did some laundry, had a heart-to-heart with a friend and chilled some more :).

Fun with Hair Scarves
Anywho, on to what you’re really here for … hair. *lol* On Friday, in the midst of perusing the hair sites and test driving that Janelle Monae inspired updo, I came across this video tutorial by Naptural85, “10 Ways to Tie a Silk Hair Scarf”:

Since I wasn’t too sure about “Shelli Monae” *lol*, I had no plans to wear it out and about. So, I fell back on my old standby, a high bun. However, this time, I made it with a Goody Ouchless elastic and a few bobby pins (*gasp* no banana clip?!?! IKR?). On Saturday morning, remembering the scarf video I’d just watched the prior day, I decided to “dress up” the bun. But … ummm … yeah. I wasn’t able to pull off any of the styles I tried … The Gypsy Knot (realize now that I didn’t do it correctly) … The Twist Knot … The Criss Cross. All no gos. So, I ended up just tying the scarf at the back and kept it moving! But, I’ll be revisiting some of these soon. Although Whitney touted these as summer scarf styles, I don’t see why they wouldn’t work into the fall!

Shea Moisture Haul & A Review of Yucca & Aloe Thickening Growth Milk
In other news, if you follow my FB page, you know that I hit the Shea Moisture BOGO sale at CVS last week and picked up three products from the Yucca & Baobab line. I have been wanting to try this line for over a year!! “Thicken?!?!”  “Volumize?!?!” I resisted for a looooong time … but it was on now!! I hightailed my way to a local CVS and, after scouring the hair product aisles a few times to no avail, was about to give up and accept that I wasn’t in an area that catered to a SheaMoisture clientele. Then … insert *angels singing* there it was!! Shea Moisture!! And, what’s this?!?! They have the Yucca & Baobab (and Aloe?) line too!! “This is meant to be, because these are the very last bottles of Thickening Growth Milk and Anti-Breakage Mask on the shelf!!” They had a few bottles of the shampoo and a scattering of the Coconut & Hibiscus and Raw Shea products. So, I snagged up the last bottle of Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner to round out my “Get One Free.”

Welp. On Saturday, before making my bun, I tried the Thickening Growth Milk. I smoothed it down my hair from roots to tips in sections. Then, I applied Wild Growth Hair Oil Light to seal. I placed my hair in the bun seen far above. On Sunday afternoon, when I released the bun to pre-poo … let’s just say my hair was just as crunchy as it wanted to be … like KFC extra crispy recipe. Okay, LOL!!  I’m being a little dramatic, but it was greasy and dry like an over-cooked chicken breast and that is not a feeling that I’m used to or like ;)!

So, what’s this about a rookie mistake you ask? Ummmm … yeah … well, you see … what had happened was … I got so caught up in the name of the product … “THICKENING!!! … and it’s claim, ” THIN, FINE HAIR … Thicken, Volumize … ” … I didn’t read the ingredients. DOH!!

Ingredients:
Deionized Water, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Cocos Nucifera Oil (Coconut), Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil (Jojoba), Olea Europaea Oil (Olive), Vegetable Glycerin, Persea Gratissima Oil (Avocado), Triticum Vulgare Oil (Wheatgerm), Grapeseed Oil, Sorbitol Esters, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Cetyl Esters, Yucca Filamentosa Extract, Vegetable Protein, Adansonia Digitata Extract (Baobab), Panthenol (Vitamin B-5), Rosemary Extract, Bamboo Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E)

So, what are the second and third ingredients? Shea butter and coconut oil, respectively. And, guess what else? It also contains vegetable protein. So, what’s up with the first two ingredients? Well, my hair LOVES coconut oil as a pre-poo. But it DOES not seem to like it much in leave-in products or to seal … KFC. Shea butter is another mixed bag for me. It works pretty well when I mix it with Eco gel to smooth and hold my edges. But, again, my hair does not like it to seal. It just sits on top of my hair, weighing it down and making it dull and ashy-looking!

And then there’s the protein. Now, don’t get me wrong! I have a whole new appreciation for protein and don’t avoid it like the plague as I did for most of 2010-2011. I LOVE what protein has done for my hair. It’s stronger, curlier and has better elasticity due to the treatments that I’ve incorporated into my regimen, which are (and this is the key) always followed with moisturizing conditioners (instant, deep and/or leave-ins). However, that being said, I find that many moisturizers/stylers with protein also leave my hair with a dry, brittle feeling. And, this is not uncommon according to the following post by my fellow blogging friend Michelle (note: this is the article that turned me around and taught me how to properly use protein):

via Radiant Brown Beauty

If you apply a leave in or other “surface” treating product with protein in it, your hair is prone to feeling hard and brittle.  The brittle, hard hair is then susceptible to additional hair breakage –defeating the purpose of using protein in the first place.

And…wait for it…It-Will-Stay-That-Way causing you to have what you think is ”protein sensitivity” until you wash and use a moisturizing conditioner to resoften it. That’s because the application of the products containing protein (other than a deep conditioner)  sits right on top of your hair shaft.

I’ll add one further note to that. In order for protein to fill in the “gaps” in the cuticle and provide the maximum benefit, it has to be small enough to do so, otherwise it just sits on the surface of the hair. Protein that has been broken into smaller segments is called hydrolyzed/hydrolysed (check out this post by JC of Natural Haven for more on that, Size Matters: Protein Conditioning). That vegetable protein in the Thickening Growth Milk? Hydrolyzed? Not so much.

So, the Shea Moisture Yucca & Aloe Thickening Growth Milk has two ingredients that don’t work well for me in stylers/moisturizers, coconut oil and shea butter. It also contains a non-hydrolyzed protein that may or may not have had anything to do with the crispy, crunchy aftermath given that it was so low down on the list … but it was something about which I should have been aware.

All that being said … yeah, I’m gonna need to take a look at the ingredients in the other two products and make a decision about whether or not I’m going to use them or just return the whole Shea Moisture Yucca kit and caboodle!! I hope that by sharing, you can learn from my rookie mistake ;). And … if you’re new to this … here’s the … *imagine this flashing*

Tip of the Day

Pay attention to the first 5-6 ingredients in products that you use, those that work well and those that don’t. These ingredients are of the highest content in the product. Understanding the key ingredients that your hair likes and dislikes, as well as when and where it likes them, can save you a lot of grief, money and time ;)!

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 What ingredients have you learned to avoid? Which ones do you embrace?