Category Archives: Tips & Tricks

I’ve Become A Straight Hair Natural (without Heat Damage!!)



And I like it!! That’s right, I said it. I’ve been natural for 15 years, big chopped twice, and have nothing to prove. I love my natural curls. However, right now, I love the convenience and ease of straight hair a lot more! And, sometimes, that’s really all there is to it.

Anywho, with the arrival of the cooler and dryer air of autumn, it seemed timely for a straight hair post. So I’m about to share why I began straightening my hair regularly and how I have managed to do so for the majority of the last year without suffering heat damage (the latter of which always seems to be the mythical unicorn of the natural world ;)).


Anywho, I started straightening my hair around the 5th month of my pregnancy last year. When I realized that I could get at least 4 weeks out of straightened hair (sometimes 6), it was a no brainer given my increasing ungainliness and fatigue. When I had Wyntr in January, it again made sense as taking care of a newborn is two full-time jobs and I needed to give up my part-time (i.e. my hair on wash day). Then, as I was coming up on 3 months post-partum, I decided to straighten as a preemptive move to combat the threat of post-partum shedding. I figured that it would allow me to comb my hair between wash days in order to get rid of excessive shedding, making detangling easier when I did get around to washing it.

That’s the why. Following is the how. But first, two caveats. Number one: I do not care about having perfect hair 24/7. I don’t aim for bone straight hair and I live in a bun 99% of the time (Hello!! 8 month old!!). So, if you are looking for advice on keeping your natural hair straight and “laid” without heat damage … ummm … this may not be for you. Number two: I don’t have scalp issues, so I can easily go 4 weeks between wash days without excessive scalp build up/flakes.



Following are the steps I take and my products of choice. I don’t straighten my hair any more often than once every four weeks and if I can stretch it longer, I do.


  • Pre-poo to moisturize (virgin coconut oil mixed with Aubrey Organics GPB and/or Honeysuckle Rose)
  • Clarify to start with a clean base (Kinky Curly Come Clean Shampoo)
  • Protein treat to strengthen (Sally’s GVP Joico K-Pak)
  • Deep Condition to moisturize (Sally’s GVP Matrix Biolage Conditioning Balm)
  • Apply a leave-in* conditioner (small amount of Kinky Curly Knot Today mixed with aloe vera juice)
  • Apply a heat Protectant* (Herbal Essences Tea-Lightfully Clean Blow Dry Prep Mist)

*Note: I’ve found that it’s very important to use a leave-in and heat protectant that are light and don’t leave my hair tacky. This allows my hair to glide/flow once straighten and reduces the amount of lint and dust that it attracts.



  • Choose one or the other (this controls the amount of heat used on the hair):
    • Blow-out slightly damp hair OR
    • Air dry hair stretched (in 2-4 braids) and flat-iron (usually dry one day and flat-iron the next.
  • If blowing-out:
    • Use a quality tool (Conair Infiniti Pro 3 in 1 Styler with double comb attachment)
  • If flat-ironing:
    • Use a quality tool with temperature control (BaByliss Nano Titanium Pro)
    • Use lower temperatures (280-320º max)
    • Take small 1″ sections
    • Gently comb section well using a medium to fine tooth comb
    • Two to three passes of the flat-iron on each section max
  • Seal/Shine (Shea Moisture Raw Shea Reconstructor Elixir and/or Sally’s GVP Paul Mitchell Skinny Serum)


  • Never re-apply heat between washes (that’s a surefire way to cause heat damage).
  • Use heat free styling techniques between wash days: braids, buns, rollersets, curlformers, flexirods, pin curls, etc.
  • Bun, braid, pineapple, or pin-curl hair at night.
  • Use a satin bonnet or scarf and sleep on a satin pillowcase.
  • Use an edge control paste/gel (Ampro Protein Gel mixed with moisturizer – IKR??? Who knew?!; Curls Blueberry Bliss)
  • Use a terry-lined shower cap.
  • Forget the umbrella for the rain, use a raincoat with drawstring hood.
  • Apply a light moisturizer that doesn’t cause reversion, as needed (Wonder Curl Get Slick Hair Smoothie; Carol’s Daughter Healthy Hair Butter).**
  • Apply a light oil as needed to seal moisture/add shine (Shea Moisture Raw Shea Reconstructor Elixir and/or Sally’s GVP Paul Mitchell Skinny Serum).**
  • Oil scalp, as needed (Wild Growth Hair Oil).*
  • Exercise with hair bunned and use an open-ended wig cap under a sweatband. (I’ll admit, I haven’t worked out with any type of consistency since the baby and my work-outs have been moderate in intensity. But, thus far, this has worked for me.)

**Note: Again, it is important to use a light moisturizer and oil for maintenance to avoid tacky hair that attracts lint and dust. By reducing the amount of dirt the hair attracts, straight hair can be maintained for longer.

Finally, I do take a break between straight cycles sometimes with a stretched braid-out, twist-out, and even a WnG once! I also henna or henna gloss when I can. And those are my tips! Hope they help!

(p.s. My hair is the longest that it’s ever been and the fullest it’s been in a long time following this regimen.) 



Are you a straight-hair natural? What are your tips of the trade?








Exercise & Natural Hair: Wig Cap for the Win Again



This is just a quick little tip that I’ve been meaning to share for a while. A while back, I shared this post to tell you all how I started using wig caps to control my crown when air drying braid/twist sets overnight.  The wig cap is a lot easier to use than a hairnet and smooths my hair from temples, to crown, to nape.


Well, shortly thereafter, I realized that the wig cap was also great for helping preserve my hair while working out. I started using the wig cap last year while wearing my hair in two braids, but then I started using it with straightened hair too. The wig cap keeps my braided or bunned hair flat while allowing my head to breathe and providing an opening for my braids/bun, wherever they are placed. I use an oldie but goodie Dri-Sweat Edge Headband over my edges to absorb/whisk the sweat from my face. Once I’m done working out, I remove the sweatband and wig cap, apply an edge control product/gel, if necessary, and tie my hair down with a satin scarf while I shower, get dressed, and drive to work. The collage below is after two days (bottom left) and two weeks (bottom right) of daily exercise and prior to re-applying an edge control product. 


Not bad, right??


How do you preserve your hair when you exercise?

Trimming Natural Hair and Length Retention


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.


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


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.



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.


How do you trim? How often do you trim?

Breaking One of the Detangling Commandments



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.


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.



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

PSA: Saving Your Strands


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

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!”



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

Why I Stopped Deep Conditioning Overnight



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.


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 …


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

Product Junkies: Storing Your Stash


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!).


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.  ;)


Curlies, How do you “store your stash?”