Monthly Archives: February 2012

Ebony: Natural in Brazil

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Who are you and from where do you hail?
My name is Ebony and I am 32 years old. Although I currently live in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I am originally from the Bahamas. My hair experiences at home are very similar to those expressed by Claudine in her post about Bermuda, so I’ll focus on my recent experiences as a natural in Brazil and previously, in Cairo.

I moved to Brazil last summer, after living in Cairo, Egypt for two years. Cairo, while full of culture and revolution, was not the easiest place for a single, Black woman to live. At first, when I was too preoccupied with not getting lost, I didn’t notice a lot else; I figured out local grocery stores, how to get to work and back and made a few friends. And then, I started paying attention to other things. Like, the way the sub-Saharan African woman were leered at, the way I was sometimes followed (and propositioned) by men on the street, the ex-pat men who fawned over all shades of brown as something exotic.

Please don’t get me wrong; as a general rule, Egyptians are great … but, as we all know, it only takes a few incidents to taint an experience. Because I am “light-skinned,” when my hair was straight, I could “pass” for Egyptian and I got less flack/more positive attention. But one of my best girlfriends, who wore her hair in braids, was often mistaken for being up for anything and had to frequently defend herself from physical harassment. It was as though the more “African” you looked, the bigger a target of derision and harassment you became. It was incredibly disappointing and demoralizing.

It’s with this experience that I moved, with relief, to Brazil; I reasoned that such a purportedly open culture would provide me with a much needed 180 to what I’d experienced. And I was right!

What has your natural hair journey been like? If you relaxed your hair at some point, why did you (or your guardian) make that decision?
I have been natural for over 10 years now, after having a relaxer for the 10 or so years prior to that (transitioned). A relaxer was the norm in the Bahamas and I thought it was a great treat when my mom finally allowed me to get my first ‘perm’ when I was 12. I do regret it; I should have listened to my parents who told me it was a bad idea. My little sister, by contrast, never got a perm and can now sport a beautifully full head of locs that will never be mine. Sigh.

My hair has always been fine, but I’m convinced that it was thicker back in the day. This is my biggest peeve about my hair, I think, that there’s so little of it … but we always want what we don’t have!  I don’t actually remember why I decided to grow out my relaxer, but it was probably either because I was tired of sitting in a salon. I like to be in and out.

What do you like most about your homeland?
What I enjoy most about being here is that women of all shapes, ages and races take pride in their appearances and wear what makes them feel comfortable (even if it may provoke others to look at them goggle eyed). I find this confidence and celebration of femininity so refreshing and healthy.

What do you see as the challenges of being natural in Brazil? Are there any things that you think are unique to where you live? If so, what and why? How do you think they can be overcome?
I haven’t found that the same sense of self-confidence that I talked about above translates to hair. Brazil is famous for the Brazilian Blowout, which combines keratin and formaldehyde in some crazy mixture so that you can wash and go or blow your own hair out more easily. When I was growing up, there was a saying, “If it can blow, you can go” and that is the sentiment here as well. Straight hair, the longer the better, is everywhere. The few exceptions to this are the women who have more of a natural wave and have lots of length; this seems acceptable.

But we all know that this hair-hateration isn’t anything new or unique to Brazil. But maybe the tide is turning? Just this month, Sony Music was ordered to pay over half a million dollars in compensation after releasing a “hair-ist” song in 1997; the song is all about a black woman who smells bad and has hair like a scouring pad (Google “Veja os Cabelos Dela [Look at Her Hair] for the full story).

Shelli: And/or you can check out the article on CurlyNikki here.

What is the hair norm for Black/Brown women where you live? If natural hair is not the norm, is it becoming more prevalent?
To be honest, there are not very many “visibly Black” women where I live, although almost everyone here has some brown in them. When I do see Black women out and about, I feel the urge to give them “the nod” as we pass each other (like Black folks do in US cities where they’re not in great numbers). These women are usually travelling to work as domestic help in affluent homes – but that’s another story – and tend to have relaxers, whether WnG or straight. I have seen only a handful of other naturals on the street and usually in an artsy context (street/artisan fair, music concert, etc.).

I should clarify that I live in São Paulo, which is the most formal/professional city in the country; people here tend to be more conservative than, let’s say, people from Rio. When I visited that city, I did see more naturals out and about, but still not as many as I would have expected. I’ve been told that I have to visit the north to get a better sense of the Afro-Brazilian community.

What is your regimen? Do you use/prefer commercial or natural products? Are the products that you like and want to try readily accessible and affordable? Where do you purchase them?
I tend to wear my hair in its curly form, but pulled back. Since people constantly comment on how young I look – which never sounds like a compliment in a professional setting – I tend not to wear my curls down. I did once and it sparked a huge reaction; people sought me out to tell me how much they loved my hair and that I should wear it out more often …the irony of it being that the majority of the women here straighten their own hair.

I’ve become more determined to get serious about maintaining my hair recently because, when I got to Brazil, my hair was falling out in clumps. At first, I wasn’t bothered. Then, when my husband started to agree that it was unusual, I went to see a dermatologist. A hormone imbalance meant that I was experiencing – wait for it – male pattern baldness.  She prescribed something to balance me out, super duper hair vitamins (containing keratin as a main ingredient) and a topical solution. Five months on, I’m beginning to see some of the hair grow back.

I wish that I could say I have a standard regimen, but I don’t. I try to use, as much as possible, organic hair care products, even if that means stocking up for the year when I travel to the US or UK. I sometimes pre-poo with EVOO and try to co-wash until I can’t take it anymore. I use some sort of leave-in regularly and sometimes use this old-school Alberta VO5 hairdressing crème that my aunt used to use back in the day. After reading Shelli’s posts on protein treatments, I’ve been looking up recipes for treatments I can whip up myself.

 Do you go to a salon?
When my hair needs a trim, I tend to take to it myself and then get my husband to even it out; he hates doing it for fear of messing up, but I’d rather take the chance than try to convince a Brazilian hair stylist that “yes, I really DO want you to cut off more than that.  t’s okay.  It’ll grow back.”

Who do you follow online? Anything else that you’d like to share?
Without having girlfriends to talk to face-to-face about hair, it’s been invaluable being a part of these online hair communities. In addition to Hairscapades, I also follow Black Women of Brazil, Black Girl with Long Hair, and have recently come across Gisella Francisca, a blog by a curly in Rio.

Thanks to Shelli and others for being so devoted to “the cause” and to you all for sharing so freely.

Tchau,
Ebony

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Post Flat-Iron Reversion

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It’s 7:18 a.m. and I’m writing this post very quickly as I need to hop in the shower and get to work! I did a WnG in the morning yesterday and waited for it to dry as I made the trek to my Trenton office. I wore it down in the morning so that it could fully dry. However, I really can’t stand to have my hair down during the work day most of the time. It was really getting on my nerves, getting caught under my purse while I tried to juggle a portfolio, water bottle and cup of coffee. Plus, my ends were looking scraggly.

This is the “good” shot, but I took it when I got home, after it had been bunned.

Ugh, scraggly. But, I’m not screaming “heat damage” yet. My hair wasn’t as wet as I normally leave it when I applied the products and I also didn’t put it into 4 big twists like I normally do. Again, I was in a rush ;). Plus, I usually give it a couple of washes after being straight to “snap back” as the first wash my hair is usually more wavy than curly. So, I’ll keep you guys updated after my next wash.

Anyway, back to down hair at work. Before heading back to my office up north around lunch time, I pulled out my new purse standby, the trusty hair fork, and put it up in a bun.

Okay, that’s it! Gotta go! Stay tuned for a new Naturals Around the World HairStory later this morning!!

Perspective

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What a difference a year and a little knowledge can make. So, I’m sitting here with Darcy Botanicals Pumpkin Seed Conditioner in my hair after finally washing it. I did a pre-poo with Vatika oil mixed with some EVOO for about an hour (picture above is pre-pooed braids), washed with DevaCare No Poo, applied ApHogee 2 Minute Keratin Reconstructor for a few minutes, rinsed and then applied my DC.

I know what you’re thinking, “So, what’s this about perspective and a year making a difference?”  Well, a year ago I was avoiding protein like the plague. I despised how my hair felt hard and stiff, instead of soft and moisturized, after using protein-based conditioners. I remember how, after my first ApHogee 2 Minute Keratin treatment, I told Rece, “My hair doesn’t feel as soft as normal” and she told me, “It won’t after a protein treatment.” I didn’t know how I felt about that … wasn’t that the reason I didn’t like protein conditioners/treatments in the first place?

But now, four months later, my perspective on that feeling has completely changed! Now, I see that “hardness” as strength, as resilience, as elasticity. I realize that what I previously perceived as soft and moisturized was over-conditioned, fly-away, snag prone and weakened hair. I see and feel the difference in my hair now. After rinsing the ApHogee 2 Minute Keratin Reconstructor, my hair was springy, firm and strong. And I knew, with a little moisturizing DC, it would feel softer and moisturized (but not overly so), yet still strong and firm.


Naked hair, post ApHogee (straighter section in right pic is my normal curl pattern, not heat damage).

I feel like I’m entering 2012 armed with the key to unlocking my hair’s full potential and I can’t wait to see where I am and what else I’ve learned a year from now!

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What changes of perspective have you had in your natural hair journey?

Length Check Video (Pressed Natural Hair)

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Just a quick video that I filmed on Sunday to video “journal” my straight hair before I washed it. It’ll probably be another year before it’s straight again!

Braid N’ Curl Tutorial

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Okay, this is a video tutorial for a GOR-GEE-US braid and curl (BnC) with a slightly different technique!!

The Savvy Housewife

Hey “Savvy Readers!”

I hope you all had an awesome weekend! I didn’t do much, just relaxed around the house with the fam. I did manage to record a tutorial and I wanted to share it with you all. I get asked all the time, “what do you do to your hair, to get it to look like that?” Well, it’s an easy style that I have been rocking since I transitioned from relaxed to natural. I love this it! I sometimes do it on dry hair but this tutorial shows it done on wet hair. Check it out…

I hope you enjoyed tutorial and I hope it answered any questions some of you may have had about how I do my braid outs. And if you have any questions, comments or request please leave them below or send me an email at the thesavvyhousewifeblog@yahoo.com.

Until next…

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CJ’s Final GOC Update

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by CJ (Eighth Wave)

Well, it’s grown, and thickened (I started taking MSM and biotin 2 months ago). I’ve learned a lot during my PJism, but I’m now claiming recovery – it’s a day by day process y’all. Day by day and prayers for strength. My hair likes protein … in small doses. It LOVES water-based moisturizers, Keracare essential oil, to be left alone, sleep and a healthy diet, specifically vegetables and water. It hates dry styling and the blow dyer (we’re not gonna talk about my week long experiment with that), but will tolerate the bonnet dryer at low levels.

August 2011

August 2011

August 2011

Shelli, thank you for hosting the GOC. And congratulations to you and the Mister!

(p.s. The PJ bit reminds me, I have nearly full bottles of The Original Moxie’s Everyday Leave-in Detangling Conditioner, Intense Quench Deep Conditioner and Shape Shifter Re-forming Creme. If anyone’s interested, I’m willing to mail them for the cost of shipping!!)

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If you would like to see all of the updates of any of our GOCers, just enter their name in the “Search” box on the right ——->>>>! The results will return all of their updates (and guest posts) since the beginning of the GOC!! See where it all began and how they’ve progressed over the course of the challenge!

Henna and Me: Michelle’s HairStory

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Describe yourself in 100 words or less.
My name is Michelle and I work at an art college in California. I am obsessed with reading natural hair blogs and watching YouTube natural hair vloggers.

How long have you been natural?
Well, I stopped relaxing my hair in the mid-nineties. In lieu of relaxing, I would blow dry my hair and straighten it with a really hot curling iron. In 2000, I stopped straightening all together. It wasn’t something I decided beforehand; when it came time to wash my hair one week, I didn’t feel like spending the two hours straightening it and thought, “I’ll do it next week,” but never did.

When did you start using henna?
I started using henna in September.

What made you begin using henna?
Reading about it on CurlyNikki.com and reading Shelli’s henna story. I was interested in the color deposit and the strengthening effects.

How would you describe your first experience with henna?
My first experience with henna was fine. I ordered 200g from Mehandi.com, but only used half that time because the process was a little messy. I used the rest the following weekend.

What type of henna do you use? What is your mix? What is your process?
I use the Henna for Red Hair kit. I just mix the henna with orange juice. The night before, I clarify my hair and mix my henna with the orange juice until it looks like mashed potatoes and let it sit overnight. The next morning, I add some more orange juice until it is the consistency of yogurt, then apply it and let it sit on my hair for four hours. After four hours, I rinse as much as I can with water. Then I use a Suave Naturals Aloe Vera conditioner to help rinse. When I’ve gotten most of it out, I deep condition with Aussie Moist 3 minute miracle, but I don’t rinse it out. I find that this helps with the dryness. The next day, I co-wash with the Suave. One or two days later, I do a regular wash with my Curls cleanser and condition with whatever.

How often do you henna?
Once a month.

How has your hair changed with henna?
I have noticed a slight change in color but not much else.

How do you feel about henna and the process now?
It is not a difficult process but it is very time consuming, especially rinsing it out.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about trying henna?
Do your research and make sure you purchase Body Art Quality Henna (my sister-in-law received some henna from Turkey from a friend. It caused a violent allergic reaction, which resulted in her having to go to the emergency room). Also, purchase a sample to test to make sure you are not allergic.

Anything else that you’d like to add?
I am on the fence as to whether to continue to henna. I haven’t seen much difference with the exception of the color. I’ll give it two more months then I’ll access my hair.

Michelle sent me her story back in December, so I asked her a week or so ago if she was still using henna or decided to give it up. Her answer:
I think I will stick to the henna for a while. I really do like the color.

I do too Michelle, I do too!