G’on Brush Your Brushes Off

Shocking but true:

What’s trapped in YOUR bristles?

Your brush needs attention similar to what you give your hair. No matter what kind of brush you use, whether it be one with synthetic, metal, or boar bristles, it’s important to clean it on a regular basis.

You spend hours and hours deep conditioning your hair, co-washing it, clarifying it. You use essential oils like peppermint and tea tree to cleanse the scalp and stimulate blood flow. You understand that clean hair means growth. You do these things on a strict schedule to prevent unsightly buildup.

So why would you undo all of your effort by using a dirty brush?

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Hair Journal: Wash Day

photo credit: l’il ol’ me!

So today is wash day. Well, if I’m honest, yesterday was actually wash day, but I was too lazy to do it. I don’t know why. It’s not like I have tons of thick, unruly hair or anything.

I. Am. Just. Lazy. Continue reading

Fa La La La La

Tis the season to be natural! As the holidays approach, I’ve been thinking about what I want to see wrapped in beautiful paper under the tree, or sticking out of my stocking. Here are some of the things on my list.

Essential Oils

Oils

For the burgeoning mixtress in me, my friend Judes gave me my first set of essential oils for my birthday in April and I was in heaven!  I loved being able to add drops of peppermint or bergamot into whatever conditioner I was about to use, or to create my own pre-poo using a carrier oil as a base.  And let’s talk about the miracle these oils perform on shea butter, which (let’s face it) does NOT smell like roses.

Naturally, I’d love it if Santa’s Little Helpers restocked my essential oils (including that dreaded lavender… yup Vee, I said it!) and carrier oils, along with the coveted Jamaican Black Castor oil, which is nearly impossible to find in Canada.  And I’d really love to get a few that I haven’t tried before too.

I don’t know where Judes got the set she gave me, but I’m sure you guys are resourceful enough to use Google.

To “beef up” this gift, why not purchase some cute bottles from Ikea or Pier 1 to put the oil in?  Look around and be creative.  However, make sure to buy bottles that are tinted.  Direct light makes the oil go rancid more quickly.

Monthly Product Subscriptions

So the product junkie in me seems to be growing bigger and bigger by the day. For a reasonable monthly fee, I can feed my addiction with a subscription to a product-of-the-month club. Each delivery consists of a sampling of hair and personal care products hand-selected for curlies and naturals alike. Sometimes the offerings are full-sized!

The two I’ve had my eye on are curlBOX and CurlKit.

Each of these has its own appeal. While CurlKit seems to focus a little more on products with mainly natural/organic ingredients, I must admit that I’m quite seduced by the beautiful packaging of curlBOX. Did I mention the full-sized samples?

It’s hard to choose between the two… so why choose, right? Hint… hint…

Gift Sets

Gift and a Half!
Oyin Website

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’ve been having a long-time love affair with Oyin Handmade products.

Ever since the first day I stumbled across their hilarious YouTube videos, I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for the kooky couple (JAMYLAAAAAA BENNU… and her husband) responsible for the uber-moisturizing Juices & Berries, the deliciously scented Greg Juice, and my personal favorite – Shine & Define. So anyone who knows me, knows that I’d love love LOVE to get a box set from Oyin… Say, a Gift and a Half, maybe?  Oh, and they also have a “Black Nerds Unite” tee that I could easily add to my wardrobe.

No Frizz Fizz Cocktail

Curlmart has a gift set with six or seven products from its shopping cart. Or you can even find a nice box set from Shea Moisture called Curl & Shine Kit too.

Jamyla Bennu &
Fellow Nerds

Oyin (yes, I’m back to that) also sells sample sizes of many of their products. Perfect for my stocking, or as decorative bobbles for wrapping my bigger gifts… but no pressure…

Styling Tools & Appliances

Secura – a Reasonable Huetiful Substitute

I have a very old “bonnet dryer” that belonged to my grandmother. The bonnet is a plastic cap, similar to a shower cap, with a hose a-la-vacuum-cleaner sticking out the back, and a very loud motor. I can’t be certain, but I think it’s powered by a little tiny dinosaur… you know like on the Flintsones? When it comes to deep conditioning, it does do the job, but it would be nice to upgrade to an appliance from this century. A shiny new steamer like the Huetiful Steamer would be abfab, but a reasonable substitute would be the Secura S-192.

Gold ‘n Hot
GH3400

A heating cap would be welcome if the much preferred steamer wasn’t possible.

Curlformers

For style experimentation, a set of Flexirods or Curlformers would be nice.  One of each would be even better, since I’m not sure which would work best for my hair.

Things like ponytail clips, barettes, hair pins, and ouchless elastics are also welcome.

And I’ve been looking for a genuine Denman brush for the longest time.

Head Coverings

byEA Etsy Shop

At one point, I was known around the corridors of my workplace as “The Girl with the Hats.” Feels like the old hat fetish has come back. Along with beanies, silk scarves and silk scrunchies, I wouldn’t mind breathing some new life into my hat wardrobe with some cool, funkie new pieces. You know, for those days when I don’t have the time or the inclination to style my hair. Maybe even a few headbands or a fascinator or two.

Etsy has a ton of stores selling cute and original styles.

Books

Natural Hair Bible

I don’t have a library of hair books, though I have read one or two that people have loaned me. Here’s a list of titles that seem interesting to me:

  • The Science of Black Hair (Audrey Davis-Sivasothy)
  • Hair Care Rehab (Audrey Davis-Sivasothy)
  • Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America (Ayana D. Byrd/Lori L. Tharps)
  • Better Than Good Hair (Nikki Walton)

At the top of my list is the Audrey Davis-Sivasothy book.  I have read a few excerpts from it and have heard numerous gurus refer to it.  It’s what you’d call a “bible” for hair care.

Cute for Kids!

There are a few children’s books that would be fun to read to my niece and nephew too:

  • I Love My Hair (Natasha Anastasia Tarpley)
  • I Love My Cotton Candy Hair (Nicole Updegraff)

I could go on and on and on…

Maybe I’ve inspired you with ideas for yourself or for your beloved naturalista.  What’s on your list?

Happy shopping, Santa!

Hair Journal: No-Wash Wash-n-Go

I never do WnG’s… Ever…  Because my hair is not trimmed and shaped nicely, I don’t like the way it looks when it is out. And when I say out, I mean not held in place by bobby pins, hair clips, or a headband. My hair is very fine and thin, so I avoid anything that will cause and/or highlight shrinkage. That means I’m relegated to puffs, ponytails, and very rare pinned updos. Boring…

But today I did a No-Wash Wash-n-Go.

A what?

Glad you asked. Here’s what I did:

  • dampened hair by spraying with aloe vera/water spritz
  • applied Giovanni Direct Leave-in, concentrating on the ends
  • pulled leave-in through (kinda like raking) to make sure the hair was evenly covered
  • applied light humectant pomade to ends only, scrunching
  • showered with head uncovered to let pomade do its magic
  • after shower, applied Eco Styler to ends, pulling through a-la-raking
  • smoothed edges with leftover gel on hands
  • started to pull hair back into a ponytail clip
  • got side-tracked

The last step was totally unintentional. I actually realized that I should put on my sweater before pulling my hair back so that I wouldn’t have to retouch and resmooth the fuzzies. Once my sweater was on, I looked up and liked what I saw in the mirror! The curls were big, defined, and positioned nicely. And I didn’t look bald. Wow…

Really, I think the key here was the sequence of the products. Also, the rake-like motion helped clump my curls in such a way that they stayed bigger than they would if I had done a real wash-n-go, complete with head shaking.

SMH… But not hard enough to shake out my big, beautiful no-wash curls!

We’ll see how the style holds up today. If it does, the No-Wash Wash-N-Go will be a definite keeper!

Have you stumbled upon an unintentional style that is now in your permanent rotation of go-to dos? What’s your experience with the WnG?

To Do (or Not Do) List for Retention

A few posts ago, I explored the question: What is Hair Anyway? I won’t rehash the deets, so if you wanna know, you can read up on that here. To tie up, nice and neat, the tail-end of that post, I thought I’d expand on the To Do (and Not Do) List I created. Check it out…

DO eat a balanced diet

Fairly obvious. A diet that includes a variety of fruits, veggies and proteins will keep your hair and nails in tip-top shape; protein is very key, since it accounts for 90% of what your hair is made of.

I personally struggle with the healthy diet thing because I hate cooking, especially for one. You know those bachelor(ette) types whose kitchen looks strangely clean… almost unused, even? The types who are known by name and/or order preference to all the restaurants and delivery boys in the neighbourhood? That’s me! So, more often than anyone should admit to doing, I fall prey to the dreaded take-out menu. Pray for me, my waistline, and my hairline!

DO drink plenty of water

Also obvious. Keeping your body properly hydrated goes a long way for optimizing elasticity of the skin and hair. Make sure to drink as much actual water, as opposed to juice, soda, and other sugary/sweet beverages, to get the most benefit. I keep a reusable glass bottle (don’t know how much it holds, but I’d guess about 750 ml) on my desk at work and refill it a couple of times throughout the day. I have another bottle at home that I use the same way.

Oh yeah, and try to eliminate fluids that can be dehydrating. Things like coffee and alcohol will do that to you. Sigh… again, I struggle. Let’s just say, I am not useful to very many without my morning cup-a-joe. And I certainly like my regular G&T (gin and tonic) or glass of wine… REGULARLY…

I have zero trouble drinking water and limiting my consumption of soda/juice. Easy-peasy!

The coffee is getting better.

But the booze… not so much…

DO keep the scalp clean

As a nappy head, I know that the sebum (remember that waxy, oily goodness?) has more difficulty travelling down a curly, kinky, or coily shaft, which results in hair that is more dry than its straighter counterpart. Too much shampooing, especially with products containing harsh chemicals, will further strip already dry hair. Not a good thing. About once a week with a gentle cleansing shampoo is enough… for me, anyway. The frequency varies depending on the condition of the hair, so listen to your hair’s needs and do you! And a clarifying or chelating shampoo once in a while will remove buildup that a regular shampoo might miss. I do that about once every three to four weeks, or when my hair feels tacky.

DO keep the hair moisturized and sealed

In between shampoos, wash as needed with conditioner (co-washing). This method replenishes moisture and removes product without stripping the hair. Similar to shampooing, the frequency varies from one person to another. Adopt a regimen that includes regular post-wash moisturizing of the cuticles, followed by sealing in of that moisture. Sound familiar? It’s kinda like what the sebaceous glands are trying (with a lot of difficulty) to do naturally, isn’t it? And while we’re at it, we might as well protect the ends of the hair, at least while sleeping.

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray my hair my bonnet to keep (from rubbing on cotton and drying out)
If they should dry before I wake
Reapply moisture to my ends so they won’t break!

Even though this doesn’t explicitly improve retention, we might as well avoid breakage too.

DO be gentle with the hair

This one is particularly important to me. Back in the day, braiding my extensions too tightly and leaving them in too long wreaked havoc on my edges; they still show signs of trauma, even though I haven’t worn extensions in years! And I must confess… I’m (still) addicted to my brush! In the past, I haven’t been kind to my hair.

When detangling, hold the hair close to the end and gently loosen tangles with the fingers or a wide-tooth comb. For especially stubborn knots, spray the hair with water or apply oil to soften it. Never rip the comb from root to tip! In fact, avoiding combs or brushes altogether would be ideal.

Dry using a microfibre shammy or even an old tee shirt to blot; never rub. Both microfibre and jersey are quite absorbant but will not snag hair the way terry cloth can. Some people don’t even blot; they simply squeeze out the excess water with their hands and let the air do its magic!

Protective styling, when used appropriately, can go a long way. By rolling, twisting, or braiding once and keeping that style for a few days or even weeks, the hair is not in danger or being handled too much or too roughly. But be smarter about how long to keep it in than I was! And if braids or twists ain’t your thing, try wigs. There are endless choices in terms of colours and styles. Have fun with it!

A popular method that limits manipulation is the Curly Girl Method. There are numerous variations on the technique originated by salon owner, and fellow curly girl, Lorraine Massey. Hit up your friendly neighbourhood search engine to find out more.

DO NOT use heat or harsh chemicals

The sebaceous glands work so hard, so why counteract that by using products that suck moisture out? Things like mineral oil, petroleum, chlorine, and isopropyl alcohol are present in most drugstore and even salon products. Read labels and learn what each ingredient is for. When purchasing ready-to-use products, make informed decisions.

Excessive use of heat styling tools can also be damaging. Try using tension methods instead of using hair dryers, flat irons or pressing combs for stretching the hair. Yes, it’s true that you probably won’t get that bone straight, Asian look, but your hair will be much healthier in the long run.

DO monitor and distinguish shedding vs. breakage

Shed hair looks very different from broken hair. Here are the signs:

  • Broken hairs are short
  • Shed hairs are longer and still have the root attached
  • Broken hairs often have split ends (I’ve even seen weird loops in the middle of the hair – how odd!)
  • Shed hairs don’t fall out in large clumps – that could be breakage or even hair-loss

Shedding happens in the third phase of the hair’s growth cycle, when old hairs fall out, making room for new ones to take their place. There is a normal amount of shedding that occurs every day. On average, a person can expect to lose somewhere between 50 and 100 hairs per day.

So when you see hairs in the sink or caught in the teeth of your comb, don’t panic. Take a closer look. If you see breakage, go back to the top of this list and follow the advice!

What Dos/Don’ts can you add to this list? What advice would you give to a Natural Newbie about retention?

What is Hair Anyway?

With retention set as my immediate goal, I’m ready to start doing all the right things to keep as much hair as possible on my head and not in the drain of my sink and shower.  But what are the “right” things?  What are the “wrong” things, for that matter?  What does my hair need?

Before we figure that out, let’s ask Professor Google just what the heck hair is anyway…

Hair is basically made up of two (rather complex) components:

The Follicle

Hair Follicle
image credit

A sleeve of tissue covers the hair beneath the skin’s surface.   While it is protected by this sleeve and until it comes up above the surface, the hair is actually alive.  At the base of the follicle is the papilla. Capillaries carry blood and nutrients through the papilla to the hair’s root that help to produce new, healthy hair. Surrounding the follicle are the sebaceous glands. These glands secrete a waxy oil called sebum, which acts as a protective film on the skin’s surface and along the length of the hair, locking in moisture.  If the sebaceous glands become unbalanced as a result of undernourished roots, the glands can either overproduce or underproduce oil, causing permanent hair loss.  Seems that as women age, the sebum’s production diminishes. That’s why gray hair tends to be more brittle.

The Shaft

Hair Shaft
image credit

The shaft is the part of the hair that protrudes from the skin, made up mainly of a protein called keratin. It is the oldest part of the hair. It consists of three layers:

  • The innermost layer, called the medulla, is open and unstructured (whatever that means). I tried to find out what the purpose of the medulla was, but couldn’t find anything. If I had to guess, I would say that it might have something to do with thickness. I did read somewhere that the medulla is often absent from blonde or fine hair. Sounds like I might be right.
  • The middle layer is the cortex. The cortex is what determines the hair’s strength and porosity. This layer contains melanin, which is responsible for colour and texture.
  • The outer layer is the cuticle and is comprised of overlapping shingle-like cells. The cuticle’s job is to protect the two layers underneath. If the cuticle is open, its effectiveness as a protectant is reduced.

Each hair is a bundle of long polypeptide bonds, linked together in chains of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and sulfur. These chains are bonded by salt, hydrogen and disulfide. Heat and excessive moisture can cause damage to the salt and hydrogen bonds – aka frizz. The breaking and reforming of disulfide bonds permanently alters the hair’s curl pattern – aka permanent wave/relaxer.  Damage to the hair can manifest itself in its anatomy (i.e., cuticle damage) or in its chemistry (i.e., heat damage).  Some damage is temporary, and some can be permanent.

So What’s the Upshot?

The name of the game is avoiding hair loss from the root.

I’ve already learned that the “live” portion of the hair exists beneath the skin’s surface, so it follows that the nutrients would need to be focused at the root and not so much on the shaft itself.  To maintain the capillary and sebaceous gland activity at a healthy level, I need to feed the hair as much as possible. There are tons of products out there, including shampoos, conditioners, and serums that claim to be uber-nourishing and ultra-super-duper good for hair.  However, it seems that little else is as good as the nutrients ingested from food.  As the saying goes, you are what you eat.  A healthy diet, including protein and water, will show in the hair’s condition… so I hear…

Ok ok… it’s list time… Here’s my To Do (or Not Do) List for improved retention:

  • DO eat a balanced diet
  • DO drink plenty of water
  • DO keep the scalp clean
  • DO keep the hair moisturized and sealed
  • DO be gentle with the hair
  • DO NOT overhandle or overmanipulate the hair
  • DO NOT use excessive heat
  • DO NOT use products containing harsh chemicals
  • DO monitor and distinguish shedding vs. breakage

What other important facts do I need to know about hair?  Anything else I should do, or not do?  What’s your retention advice?

Love You Like A Lush Song

I never intended to buy anything… I swear!  Honest!

But a friend and I were enticed into Lush, by… well… the Lush-ious smell (and the eclectic music) that was wafting out from the store’s open doors.  I’d passed the St. Catherine & Peel location about a zillion times before but had never gone inside.  Vee was looking at henna and I was just poking around.  And there it was… in all it’s glory… Revive and Balance Treatment (aka R&B) leave-in conditioner.  Can you hear the celestial voices and harps?  Or is that just me?

Lush R&B Leave-in Conditioner

Empty R&B jar… I need to get more!

Here are the product highlights:

  • Handmade by a dude named Dil, who actually works for Lush out of BC and whose face is right on the jar, the majority of the ingredients are natural/organic/fair-trade
  • Rich, creamy consistency, a little on the oily side
  • Specifically formulated for afro or curly hair, but apparently recommended for all hair types (thin straight hair should probably avoid – see above point)
  • Decent overall frizz control
  • Very sweet, citrus scent
  • Pricey at $20.95 CAD per 100g

I’m in love with this product!  I use it pretty much daily (one jar lasts me about two to three months) and it makes my hair feel amazing.  Since it has glycerin in it, I usually put it in my hair before I get into the shower and leave my head uncovered while I wash my body.  I’ve also been known to put it on wet hair and twist it up for a twist-out-type style (though I don’t tend to actually wear my hair out, but that’s a discussion for another day).  It keeps my hair feeling soft all day and I don’t need to use a lot.  And more than once, I’ve been asked what perfume I’m wearing, only to realize that it was my hair that people were smelling!  Sometimes, if the wind blows just right, I smell my own hair and it just makes me happy.

I love the smell.  I love the consistency.  My hair loves the moisturizing… But that’s just me… Obviously, this may not be everyone’s dream product.

Oh, yeah… Vee heard the harps too.  She also bought a jar of the stuff and fell in love.

Try it yourself and you be the judge.

I highly recommend it.