Category Archives: Regimen Building

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

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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 ;)).

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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.

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PREPARE & PROTECT, PROCESS, PRESERVE 

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.

PREPARE & PROTECT:

  • 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.

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PROCESS:

  • 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)

PRESERVE:

  • 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.) 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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?

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?

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?

Split End Prevention: Pre-Pooing, Protein and Pruning

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Source: Tamullar (Long Hair Community)

Did you know that there were this many kinds of split ends?!? Pretty nasty, right? Well, I can attest to the validity of this chart. Because, about 2 1/2 years ago, I saw just about every split end on it (except the white spots) in my own head of hair. It was bad y’all. I mean, baaaaaddddd! That’s when I took to carrying around purse scissors … so that I could take split ends to task at a moment’s notice, any time, any place (seriously, I was out of control)!!

2011 NYC Curly Nikki Meet-Up: Told ya!

But now, in 2013, the split ends are few and far in between and have been for quite a while. Let’s put it out there. I have fine strands. So, I I’ll probably always get split ends no matter how protective I am of my hair/ends (unlike my compatriots with strong, thick-strands ;)). But, now I generally only see the vanilla variety, single “split” end … and they tend to be far rarer and very small. No more nasty “feathers,” “trees,” “double Ys,” “incomplete splits” (I call those “needle hole splits!”), “ETCETERA, ETCETERA.” (“The King and I?!?” Anyone, anyone? Okay, moving along.)

Anywho, as I was writing Fairytale v. Blunt Ends and discussing whether uneven, thinner ends can be healthy, I thought about my own hair. Although I have “fairytale” ends, when I examine my strands, they are mostly un-split and healthy in appearance. So, I thought about the techniques and products that I’ve incorporated into my regimen that are probably the most responsible for that. I came up with three things that I think help me keep splits under control:

  • Pre-pooing: Applying coconut oil, or a form of it (in my case Vatika Oil), to hair for an hour to overnight prior to washing reduces/prevents hygral fatigue and protein erosion that generally occur when washing hair. (For more on hygral fatigue, see this informative NaturallyCurly.com article).
  • Protein treatments/reconstructors: Protein treatments help to “patch” cracked, chipped or missing cuticle in damaged hair and “gaps” in porous hair. Protein, when used correctly, temporarily shores hair up against environmental and mechanical damage. (For more on protein, check out the great 2 part protein series on Natural Haven, which starts here.)
  • Pruning: Trim split and knotted ends that have already occurred to prevent collateral damage to healthy adjacent strands and as a prophylactic measure to prevent a cycle of breakage. You see, nothing can permanently fix/repair split ends. So, once you have them, you have to cut them off to get rid of them. There is a myth that, if left unchecked, split ends will travel all the way to the root of the hair. Yeah, have you ever seen that? I know that I haven’t (see above about having almost every split on the chart). What does happen is that a weakened, split hair will typically break somewhere around the split and leave a new split (because the hair doesn’t break off clean/blunt). So the new split forms and may spread until it also breaks. Then another split is left behind and so on and so on. Therefore, cutting off split ends periodically, through search and destroys (my method of choice) and/or periodic trims as needed (once every few months, twice a year or yearly, all depends on your hair), helps prevent a cycle of splits and breakage. (Tip: Make certain trimming scissors are created for that purpose, are sharp and are used for hair only or you can cause more harm than good!)

Ultimately, a lot of things contributed to a reduction in damage and split ends: weekly deep conditioning, gentle detangling, protective styling, etc. However, I think that incorporating pre-pooing, protein and pruning into my regimen are largely responsible for the significant reduction I’ve seen in split ends. And, a reduction in split ends and breakage has allowed me to retain length and grow my hair the longest it has ever been in my life. Don’t get me wrong, it ain’t perfect, but it seems to get better and better all of the time:).

1/9/13 length check (back1)

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Is your hair prone to split ends? What do you do to prevent/reduce splits?