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.

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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.

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

Growing Long Hair: Diet, Exercise and Vitamins

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I have been asked about the whether diet, exercise, and/or vitamins help hair grow a few times and have seen it posted in some form or the other a lot lately. So, I figured I’d share my thoughts on the subject. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but these are my observations based on the things I’ve learned about hair through reading lots of hair blogs, watching lots of videos, and/or observing through my own experiences.

A good diet, adequate nutrients, hydration, and exercise are foundations for healthy hair and growth. But, many mistake lack of length retention for lack of growth. Unless there is some underlying condition, hair is always growing. If hair is growing elsewhere on your body, it’s growing. And it’s pretty easy to know your growth rate if you relaxed/relax or color/colored your hair. However much new growth you had 4-8 weeks post relaxer/color will tell you your growth rate. The problem often is that the growth is lost to breakage (i.e. the hair is not retaining length).

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So, the assumption is that the hair isn’t growing when, in fact, it is. So, the focus needs to change from growth to retention. All that being said, hair is dead once the strand “erupts” from the scalp. So retention is about preserving dead cells. Eating a healthy, well-rounded diet and exercising helps build stronger hair IN the scalp. Stronger and healthier live cells inside mean stronger and healthier dead cells outside. And the latter will be better able to retain length with the right protective/retention practices for you.

And those are my thoughts in a nutshell!! Yes, a good diet, exercise, and adequate nutrients play a part in growing healthy hair, but if that hair isn’t retained, you won’t see longer tresses. So, you have to make certain to take care of both ends, literally ;), to see results if long hair is your goal. To learn more about what I do to “grow” my hair long, check out my post, How I Retain Length.

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What have you found helps you grow healthy, strong hair that retains length?

Chicoro Lead Hair Theory (Kind of) Update

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Curly Nikki recently re-posted my How I Retain Length article from 2012 and I thought it was perfect timing to share a sort of, kind of update on the Chicoro “Lead Hair” Theory experiment I wrote about in 2011!!

So, I was going through some of my hair pics from 2010 and came across the pics on the left. They are from late December 2010, a few short months before I joined the Curly Nikki/Kim Coles Grow Out Challenge with a goal to grow my hair to waist length. The shots are before and after a self-trim. The picture on the right is from September 2013.

As you can see from all of the pics, my perimeter is thin and the bulk of my hair is a few inches higher. As I’ve previously mentioned, I believe that this is a result of my crown being more breakage-prone and slower growing than my nape. Also, my nape is barely wavy and my crown is curly (probably a 3c), so my perimeter really looks thin when my hair is worn in natural styles. Now, I would love to have a full perimeter, but just don’t think my hair grows or falls that way. Therefore, it was fortunate for me that I learned about Chicoro’s Lead Hair Theory a couple of years ago and accepted my Fairytale Ends.

Now, the reason this is “kind of” an update to that old post is because I haven’t totally followed the Chicoro method of “goal point” trimming. She actually espouses allowing the “lead hair” to grow an inch or two past the bulk of the hair, but then cutting the hair blunt once it reaches the “goal point.”  However, I decided to just get minimal trims every 6 months or so. As long as my ends are healthy, I don’t concern myself with having a perfectly blunt and full perimeter. I almost never wear my hair entirely straight anyway and my goal is to retain as much healthy length as possible, even if my hair is, well … uneven. *lol*

The reason I am sharing this is to shed some light on uneven growth patterns versus breakage and methods of cutting/trimming the hair. In February 2011, I got a “trim” that turned into a blunt perimeter haircut (didn’t go to that salon again :/). But, after that haircut, I started getting trims only and my hair grew out unevenly again.

Length Check  (Feb 19, 2011)Feb 2011

Nov 2011Nov 2011

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Some might see my earlier pics and think it meant breakage and that my hair would just get shorter if I didn’t get a serious hair cut, taking off a few inches to make it blunt. But, as you can see from these pics, my crown did continue to retain length, although not at the speed of my longest area.

This proved to me that, in order to retain as much length as possible, I could continue to trim based upon the health and condition of my ends and not based upon the fullness/evenness of my perimeter, with one caveat. I try not to let the longest hair get more than a couple of inches longer than the bulk as it causes more tangling

I share this to say, if retaining max length is your goal and you don’t wear your hair straight the majority of the time, you may want to try trimming to eliminate damaged ends only and not for “bluntness.” Hair can be healthy and retain length/grow long without having a perfectly blunt/even “hemline.” That being said, if your ends are knotty, tangling, splitting into forests, or excessively dry and rugged, a trim is likely in order to prevent further damage ;). But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to trim all of your hair even to get rid of the damage. You can trim judiciously, eliminating the badly damaged ends and leaving the healthy hair behind. That’s the beauty of natural kinky, curly, coily hair! It doesn’t have to be perfectly blunt to look great!!

Quick length check.Oct 2013

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Do you trim for healthy or even ends? Have you tried the Chicoro Goal Point Method of trimming? How did it work out for you?

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?

Damage Control: Frizzy Hair

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In the last week or so, I’ve been asked a couple of times about products that I use to control frizz. To be honest, I’ve yet to find any “miracle” product that prevents my porous hair from frizzing when there is any significant humidity in the air … and I’ve tried a few!! Frizz and “swoll” hair are things that I’ve lived with my entire life. Shoot, frizz control was the reason I wanted a relaxer in the first place!! My hair would get so big and “cloud” like in humidity. I would see the other girls with their relaxed, flat, bone straight hair and that’s what I wanted. But, even when I finally got a relaxer at 13 (thanks mom for making us wait), my hair was like, “Girl, whatever.” So, in high school, I inevitably ended up in a French braid or ponytail. LOL! So, yeah, it’s just a fact of life.

Nowadays, I try to follow the “Moisture Rules” that say that well-moisturized hair will be less prone to absorb atmospheric humidity (for more on that, check out these posts on CurlyNikki.com: Curly Hair Tips for Spring & Summer Humidity and Maintaining Natural Hair in Humidity).

So, in general, these are the things that I incorporate into my regimen regularly to combat frizz:

  • Pre-poo with Vatika Oil or virgin coconut oil (penetrates into the cortex hair to help it retain moisture).
  • Incorporate a light protein treatment weekly (Aubrey GPB Conditioner or Joico K-Pak Revitaluxe) (helps fill in “chips” in the hair cuticle).
  • Deep condition weekly after every wash (penetrates surface of hair to moisturize it from within).
  • Rinse conditioners/deep conditioners with cool/cold water (“closes” the cuticle).
  • Henna every 4-8 weeks (functions like a “heavy” protein treatment by bonding to the keratin in hair to fill in “chips” in the cuticle).
  • Apply a leave-in conditioner weekly (moisturizer).
  • Use a gel to style (LOVING aloe vera gel right now, but also use Eco Styler Olive Oil Gel and ORS Lock & Twist gel with success) (seals the hair).
  • Seal the last few inches of hair with an oil like JBCO mixed with EVOO (keeps more moisture in hair and reduces the amount of moisture absorbed from outside air).
  • Wait for fall/winter. LOL!!! (Though I am a summer lover forever, lack of humidity is one of the very few things that make me look forward to cooler weather ;)).

But, to tell you the truth, frizz really doesn’t bother me much anymore. I LOVE big hair now and always wish my hair was bigger. The thing is, it’d be nice if I could have it big with some definition that lasted more than 2 hours. Also, I’d like it to be big UPWARDS instead of flat on the top and big at the bottom. LOL! But, so is life.

Anywho, the reason I started telling you guys all of this was just to share this little styling “trick” that I did to minimize the appearance of frizz. You see, the top layer of my hair is the most prone to frizz (I guess because that’s the area most exposed). But, when I lift that top layer, the under-layers of my hair still look great! Well, last week, I wore braids for a couple of days and then removed them for a braid-out. Within hours, the top of my hair frizzed entirely. So, at lunch time, I braided the front frizzy parts and secured them at the back of my head with a bobby pin. And, I was good to go!

avg_braidout_x2Easy, breezey, lemon squeezey!

Simple, effective, and Boho chic too ;)! You could also just twist or twirl the sides! Anywho, that’s it. Just wanted to share this quick styling tip for doing some frizz damage control!

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What do you do to fight frizz? Have you found an effective product/product combo and/or styling trick? Sharing is caring!!

Guest Blogger on Carol’s Daughter Transitioning Movement

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When I went natural all those many years ago, the first product line that I used that was specifically created for natural black hair was Carol’s Daughter. The Tui Hair Smoothie, Healthy Hair Butter, and Mimosa Hair Honey were HOLY GRAILS in my book!! So, imagine how siced I was when I was given the opportunity to be a guest blogger on TransitioningMovement.com, the blog of Carol’s Daughter!! And, now, my first guest post has been published!! Read the full article here: Three Steps to Maximum Length Retention!

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♥♥♥♥♥♥

Coconut Milk Pre-Poo

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A couple of weeks ago, I was fudging around on YouTube and came across this two part series on using coconut milk as a hair treatment. I was immediately intrigued for two reasons. First, I love me some coconut oil! DON’T NOBODY better say nothin’ bad about COCONUT OIL. ‘Cuz that’s when Bonita goes OFF!! *teehee* Second, the YouTuber’s hair is RIDIC!! I mean, long as all get out and so healthy looking without a broken strand visible to the naked eye (whereas I have a ton from a rough, dry winter :()!! Now, I know her hair is not curly, kinky, or coily. However, I have always believed that we can learn things from a variety of sources and different textures/ethnicities as so many of the practices that promote healthy hair are the same, regardless of race/texture/hair type (i.e. moisture, protein, protection). And, given the benefits of coconut oil (did you see this recent article on CurlyNikki about the amazing penetrating capabilities of coconut oil?!?!?) and how great it works for me, I figured coconut milk (which has coconut oil in it) might be just as awesome.

via BeautyKLove

Part I: Extracting Coconut Milk

Part II: Applying Coconut Milk

Now, though I love the IDEA of using fresh coconut milk, #aintnobodygottimeforthat.  *LOL* So, I broke out  a can of coconut milk that I had in the cabinet. I had picked up a couple of cans a long time ago for a post-wash avocado/coconut milk/honey DC that didn’t work out too well (made my hair hard). But, I was ready to give this new use of it a go! However, first, I decided to research a little more to see if I could find naturals who had used coconut milk with success. And, I just so happened to come across these posts by my virtual curlfriend, Petra/Emily CottonTop: Coconut Milk Deep Condition and Results – Coconut Milk Pre-Poo.  In these posts, Petra shares a pre-poo recipe:

The recipe
Coconut Milk  – 4 tablespoons
Honey -2 tablespoon
3 of Your Favorite oils – 1 tablespoon each

… and her awesome results. I was sold!

So, I whipped up a batch of coconut-milk with Vatika Oil and EVOO, using only two tablespoons of oil instead of three. I heated the mix and applied to my dry dirty hair. Then I donned a plastic cap and my thermal heat turban for about an hour. I will say that the application process was messy and a bit sticky. But, my wash process went very smoothly and my hair felt stronger, moisturized and my twists were so plump, juicy and shiny!

So, this past weekend, I made a coconut milk pre-poo again with the leftovers from the prior week. This time, I added some Aubrey Honeysuckle Rose conditioner (I was hoping that it would thicken the mix, but it didn’t really) and applied and massaged plain, warmed coconut milk into my scalp too. Though the application process was still a little messy (I think I’ll use a small dye applicator bottle in the future), I had great results again. So, I’m really thinking this will become a staple in my regimen!! I will keep an eye on my hair to make certain that the coconut milk doesn’t begin to make it feel hard or brittle (due to the protein content). If it does, I will reduce the frequency of the treatment.

Finally, I don’t use much coconut milk for the treatment and it only keeps in the fridge for about two weeks it seems. So, I was worried about spoilage and wasting it. Fortunately for me, I discovered that it can be frozen into ice cubes to form convenient “serving sizes” for future use!!!

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So yeah, all engines are a go!! Coconut milk pre-poo treatments are my new boo!! Time will tell if it results in strands as long, seemingly perfectly uniform in length, and unbroken as that YouTuber!! One can only hope ;)!!

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Do you use coconut milk in your regimen? If so, what’s your recipe and process? How often do you use it? What benefits to you see from using it?

Overnight Maintenance: Wrapping Curls?

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Over the course of the last month or so, I’ve been seeing videos of ladies using wrapping techniques to achieve heat-free, “blown-out,” natural hair. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I came across this video by Naptural85 using wrapping to maintain smooth, stretched curls overnight!

via Naptural85

Hmmmmm … interesting!! Wrapped curly hair!! Who woulda thunk?! *lol* Anywho, I had been loving the results from re-twisting/braiding my hair at night (I was getting great multi-day hair), but my strands were NOT loving the daily manipulation. So, I decided to try the wrapping technique to achieve good day two hair from the dry twist-out I’d done with Cantu leave-in and Eco Styler gel (here).

And the results:

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Not bad!! By the end of the first day, my hair had frizzed and poofed just like Naptural85′s. The wrapping technique worked to smooth and calm the frizz, just like it did for her. But, the thing is, it really did stretch my hair more than I would want on day two. So, I didn’t do it again after that first night. I find that loosely bunning my hair overnight helps tame the frizz and preserve the curls, with some stretching, but not as much as seen with wrapping. Therefore, I don’t think that this will become a “go to” overnight maintenance technique for me. But, I’ll keep it in my back pocket for days where I want to achieve stretched and controlled curls! And for those seeking ways to stretch their curly styles, this may be just the ticket!!

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Have you tried wrapping your curly natural styles? If so, how did it work out for you?

What a Tangled Web: Detangling Tips

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I’ve mentioned a few times that I have been experiencing some pretty beastly detangling sessions in the last month or two. I mean, whether dry or wet, I’ve been battling matted, snarled, knotted hair like a mug!! Well, these shower skirmishes have required me to pull out ALL of my detangling big guns and invent a new one!! But before I list my tips, I wanted to share a link to a great article published on CurlyNikki last June: Tips on Detangling the Worst Knots.

Now, that article espouses the use of a wide-tooth comb to remove tangles, and that’s great for many. However, I’ve found my fine strands fare much better with finger detangling. So, that is something I think you have to judge for yourself.

So, without further ado, here are a few techniques that I’ve found help me tackle terrible tangles ;).

  1. If I’m dry detangling to pre-poo, it helps to look in a mirror as I see the tangle before I even get to it. This allows me to gently start releasing it, rather than potentially breaking hair by haphazardly combing through “blind” and encountering the resistance when I hit the knot.
  2. I pull apart the hair at my roots horizontally first, rather than combing down vertically. This creates space to loosens shed hair and allows me to start untangling hairs that are twined together.
  3. When I encounter a “matted” knot,” I gently try to remove the strands from the core of the knot. If my hair is wet with conditioner, I massage the knot with my fingers to loosen it. Then, I slide the knot UP to loosen it, rather than DOWN. For me, I find that down seems to tighten most knots, where sliding it up loosens it so that I can gently remove the strands from the central knot.
  4. If I have a knot that is not super tight and/or, I’ve been able to loosen it enough so that I can tell that it’s not a hard knot, I use a pin to widen the opening so that I can slide the strands out. I do this for single strand knots that haven’t completely closed too. This is tricky in that the knot has to be a little loose. If it’s tight, I don’t bother as I believe that the safety pin will end up poking and damaging the strand, which means that it’ll eventually knot again, break or split. So, again, I reserve this for knots that have a little “space” with which to work.
  5. When the above fails to completely eliminate a knot, that’s when I break out the scissors. But, usually, this is a shed strand knotted towards the very end of a strand securely attached to my scalp.

NEW AND IMPROVED DETANGLING TRICK!!

Okay, now I mentioned that I had to invent a new technique to deal with the nasty knots of late. Last weekend, I decided to try something that I’d never tried in the past for detangling:

  • I diluted my slippery conditioner in a dye applicator bottle with water before applying it.

Joy in the morning y’all. The tangles just MELTED out of my hair. I didn’t run out of hot water before I got halfway through my head, I didn’t have one knot or badly matted section to work out. I didn’t have to do most of steps 1-4 above. I didn’t dry detangle or look in the mirror. I didn’t need a pin or scissors once!! I just gently separated the hair at my roots horizontally to loosen it and remove some shed hair, then gently finger-combed working up from my ends to my roots. And, I did this again today with the same results!! I think this works under the same principle as the Shower Stream. I don’t know why I never thought of this before! I dilute shampoo to give it more slip. I dilute conditioner to apply over my DC. So, why not dilute conditioner to detangle?!?! I won’t make that mistake again!!

Now, I’ll give this caveat. I have started wearing my stretched hair bunned all week. And, I’ve been using my modified kimmaytube leave-in, which is really keeping my hair moisturized. So, I think all of these things combined are giving my hair some much needed TLC and helping prevent bad tangles in the first place. That being said, I could still FEEL the knots slide out when I applied the diluted conditioner (Herbal Essences Hello Hydration, of course ;)). So, if your detangling sessions are turning into dreaded events and nothing is working, you might want to give this a try. You might even get your conditioner to go further!! What have you got to lose, right?

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How do you make detangling on wash day easy, peasy, lemon squeezey?