I Appreciate the Reminders

I was watching ’America Now’ this morning and saw a feature on the return to natural hair so thought I’d share the link to the story:

 http://www.americanownews.com/story/20604871/going-natural-is-coming-back

I like hearing and reading the periodic reminders to try to maintain healthy hair and not sacrifice scalp and hair health for style.

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The Visual Hair Journey

Hello Everyone!  I finally got around to posting a few pics of my transition from relaxed hair to natural hair (check out my ‘Photos’ page).  I have taken lots of pics along the way but never took the time to post them.  Hopefully my pics will help someone out there who is struggling with the relaxed to natural transition.  My last relaxer was applied November 2011.  I experienced breakage around 3 months into the transition.  If I had it to do all over again, I would probably opt to blow dry and curl/flat iron rather than roller set as my transition hair style.  I ‘think’ that I would have prevented some breakage had I skipped the roller sets initially – but I could be wrong.  Guess I’ll never know.  One tip for transitioners experiencing hair breakage – consider wearing your hair in an up-do style to camouflage the breakage if you’d prefer not to cut off the permed ends down to the broken pieces.

Well, that’s all for now.  Hope these pics help someone!

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The Newness Has Worn Off

Hello Friends!  I’m back after a longer than expected break.  Things have been pretty busy for me the last few months so I just haven’t had a chance to take the time to write anything for my blog.  I started a new job last month and meant to post something about the thought that I put into my hairstyle after accepting the new position but never got around to it.  Oddly enough, I didn’t put as much thought into how I would wear my hair on the first day as I thought that I would.  Since I’d been practicing flat-ironing my hair for several months, I wasn’t too concerned about how my natural hair would look on my first day of work.  I decided that I would use my tried and true method of flat-ironing the hair and wrapping it at night for the first day on the new job.  This method worked just fine for the first several days.  After that, I went back to being the queen of the up-do hairstyle.

Now that I’ve been natural for 18 months (I can’t believe it), I don’t put too much thought into how my hair looks to others.  I’ve become very comfortable in my type 4 hair and all that it can and cannot do.  Trying new styles doesn’t really excite me anymore either – I go more for what I know works for my hair.  For me, either two-strand twists using curl defining cream OR flat-ironed.  At this point, I have about 1 inch of perm remaining in the very front of my head.  I’ll give it a few more weeks before I snip that one inch of perm off.  Can’t believe that I haven’t been to the hair salon in 18 months either – that is unbelievable.  At this point, I am pretty much 100% natural.  Blow-drying, twisting and flat-ironing my hair are no longer the fun hobbies that they used to be when I first started on this natural hair journey.  Now it just a necessity that I sometimes dread – just being honest – LOL.

I do feel like all of my hard work over the last 18 months has paid off because my hair does look and most importantly feel healthy.  It has been very nice not having to experience all of the shedding that I used to deal with.  I plan to continue this natural hair journey since I do feel that I can alternate between straight and ‘curly’ hair whenever I choose to.  My next step will probably be to find a hair stylist that works with natural hair since doing my own hair can be time consuming and tiring.  My hair has pretty decent length now so I won’t have to worry about a stylist insisting that I do the ‘big chop’.  My aunt commented three times last weekend how much my hair has grown so I know that my efforts haven’t been in vein.    

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Make Sure Your Twists Are Dry

I decided to do two strand twists this evening after washing my hair. As I sat under the hooded dryer allowing them to dry, I remembered a very funny scenario that happened about a month or so ago. I did two strand twists on my hair and they turned out pretty good – even had one lady ask me several questions about my process for getting the look so I patted myself on the back for that one. Two days later, I had the brilliant idea to take a kickboxing class to get some cardio in. Wrong move! Of course, getting exercise at any time is always good – that wasn’t the problem. What I didn’t consider before taking the class was that my twists had a very moist almost wet feel to them when I would untwist them to style them. This is because I was too heavy-handed when I applied the curl defining cream and gel. There seems to be a delicate balance when it comes to applying products for a two strand twist style – I hit and miss that balance often.

Before I left home to take the kickboxing class, I started taking the twists down beginning in the front and working my way back. It was taking too long to untwist so I decided to leave the back twisted during the class. I headed to the gym and took the hour long class. I caught a reflection of myself in a window as I was exiting the gym and was very surprised to see what appeared to be the start of an afro on my head. I couldn’t wait to reach my car to see my hair in a mirror. I laughed so hard when I finally got to my car and took a look in the mirror. My hair had puffed up SO MUCH during the class that you really couldn’t even see much of trace of the two strand twist style. The only area that still had a trace of the twists was the back of my head and that was only because I didn’t untwist them in the back.

A similar scenario happened to me before the gym incident but I guess that I conveniently forgot about that one. My lesson learned here is that you should go easy on the curl defining creams and gels as well as give your hair ample time to dry before untwisting the hair. One thing that I tried after the gym incident and it seemed to work was to utilize my old faithful wig to allow my two strand twists ample time to dry completely. I was able to leave my hair twisted for a few days while rockin’ my wig – that accessory has come in handy more times than I would have imagined.

If you’re not big on surprises, please allow your hair to dry completely before untwisting…unless you’re past due for a good laugh 😉 And if you’re heading to the gym, just leave the hair twisted.

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Maintaining Flat-Ironed Hair

Hi All! I’m back again to briefly talk about maintaining flat-ironed hair. Yesterday, a family member asked me ‘You don’t know what you want to do with your hair, do you sweetie?’ That was one of the nicest complements that she could pay me and she didn’t even know it. I say that because she thought that my flat-ironed natural hair was relaxed. She thought that I have given up and returned to a relaxer. She’s used to seeing me with a two-strand twist up-do. Yippie – that means that I hit the bullseye using the flat iron!!!

Now that I have FINALLY figured out how to get my hair straight using the flat iron (see my earlier article titled ‘A Major Milestone’), thought I’d share some tips for keeping the hair straight for up to a week. The only way that I’ve been able to keep my hair straight for several days following a flat iron straightening process is to wrap my hair each night. Luckily, I wrapped my hair at night for years when I had a relaxer so that process is a piece of cake to me. Wrapping my hair is getting easier and easier as it grows. I realized several months ago that when I would wrap my hair overnight, the next morning the ends would be puffy. The hair was too short to stay wrapped without some assistance so I started using bobby pins to keep the ends wrapped. When I unwrap my hair in the mornings, it feels smooth and I love it. Sometimes the ends aren’t curled but I don’t bother with applying heat to bend the ends if I’m not going anyplace special. For my type 4 hair, I think the key is keeping the hair stretched – keep in mind that everyone’s hair is different but it seems to work for me. I found that rolling my hair on foam or hard hair rollers at night allowed my roots to revert much faster than when I wrapped my hair. I guess a world of curls isn’t in my future LOL.

One last thing I’ll add here is a tip for working out with flat-ironed hair. I picked up this tip from one of the YouTubers – pull the hair up into a ponytail. I think this helps to keep the hair stretched if it becomes wet. This technique really does seem to work – of course you’ll have to allow your hair to get to a length long enough to pull into a ponytail but once it gets there, give it a try. I’ve done my usual – picked up extra pounds at the end of the year so I’m in the gym 3 to 4 days a week to get those extra pounds off. The ponytail has helped a lot.

This is an evolving process so I will try share any tips that I pick up along the way that may be beneficial to other naturals.

Have a good one!

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The Blow Dryer Is My Friend

I’ve been meaning to post this quick note about blow-drying for type 4b/c hair. Based on my one year plus experience of transitioning from relaxed to natural hair, beginning my styling process with a good blowout really helps my styles. Those of you who have type 4b/c hair know of the incredible shrinkage that results from wetting the hair. It’s really something to see the transformation unfold while doing the blowout. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I am not too afraid of applying the heat. I blow-dry my hair before doing the two-strand twists and before flat-ironing. It really helps me out.

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Heed The Warnings

Hello Everyone! Just wanted to take a quick moment to mention that ESSENCE® magazine has a good article in the January 2013 edition titled ‘STOP HAIR LOSS!’. Most of us at this point are very familiar with many of the causes of hair loss but it is always good to get a refresher on possible ways to minimize hair loss. One point in the article that hit home with me was around the use of chemicals to straighten the hair. If I decide at some point in the future to return to relaxers, I will definitely extend the length of time between touch-ups with blow drying/blowouts rather than roller sets.

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Hair Care Regimen

I’m finally getting around to recapping my typical hair care regimen:

  1. Shampoo – I alternate my shampoos based on what I plan to do to my hair on a particular day.  I alternate between a medicated shampoo, color-safe shampoo, regular shampoo and co-wash.
  2. Rinse out conditioner
  3. Deep conditioner (with or without heat)
  4. Apply a natural oil to damp, towel dried hair
  5. Apply a detangler to damp, towel dried hair
  6. Apply a leave-in conditioner to damp, towel dried hair
  7. Comb conditioner through hair
  8. Apply heat protectant
  9. Blow Dry
  10. Two Strand Twist or Flat-Iron

I’ll do another post, hopefully in the near future, that discusses some of the products that have worked well for me during my transition process.

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A Major Milestone With Flat Ironing

I had to share my good news.  I hit a major milestone this past weekend – I got my hair straight using the flat iron.  Take my word for it when I say this was no small feat.  I have attempted to straighten my using the flat iron and electric pressing comb on several occasions during my transition process this past year.  Typically, I will notice the hair starting to revert before I finish my entire head.  Not this time!  I decided to put all of the tips and tricks that I have read about over the past year to use.

  1. I started with a good blow-dry session using a decent amount of heat to get the hair straight.  I always apply a heat protectant on my hair prior to blow-drying so I wasn’t too concerned about heat damage.
  2. I fired up the flat iron and set the temperature on a higher level than I usually use but knew would likely get my hair straighter than in the past.  I believe that increasing the temperature setting on the flat iron was the most critical step in the process.  I use a Ceramic Tourmaline 1” flat iron.  This time I put the heat setting on 33 which equates to approximately 400o – 440oF.  Early on in my transition process, I read so many posts and listened to so many YouTubers warning that you can damage and ruin the natural curl pattern of your hair by using too much heat, that I’ve been afraid to crank up the heat.  Now that I’m a year into the transition process and see the texture of my type 4a/b/c hair, I’m not as concerned about altering the natural curl pattern.  Based on trial and error, I have found that I have to twist my hair to get the ‘curls’ I want so not sure that altering the natural curl pattern has to be a major concern for me.  Time will tell.
  3. I took my time and parted my hair into small sections to help with the straightening process.  I used a small tooth comb to comb each section before flat ironing to make sure all tangles were removed.  I then applied oil to the length of the section before applying the heat.  Based on past experience, applying too much oil or heat protectant to the hair before applying heat does not help me so I’ve learned a little goes a long way.  My oil of choice this time was old school Blue Magic® Bergamot.  It seemed to do the trick.  I begged the mother of one of my friends several months ago to tell me what products she uses to press her hair and that was one of her staples.  The ladies who rock the press n curls from back in the day have the straightness that I am trying to achieve.  I have used heat protectant as well as whipped shea butter on my hair in the past while flat ironing and those would have likely worked just as well since I increased the temperature on the flat iron.  I did two passes with the flat iron on each section.
  4. I cut a lot of the remaining permed ends in the top and middle of my head.  All of the relaxer is out of the back half so just a little left in the front.  Cutting the permed ends made the hair look fuller and styled in my opinion – especially since the natural hair was straight for a change.

I could tell immediately that there was a difference this time around.  As I was flat-ironing the hair, I was noticing that the hair wasn’t attempting to revert back like in the past.  When I finished, I was shocked.  The end result was the closest to a relaxed look that I’ve had since I started the transition.  It’s been four days since I flat-ironed the hair and it’s still pretty straight even after a session in the gym!  Now that’s impressive.  The end result has inspired me to continue on this journey to healthy hair.  I will try to refrain from flat-ironing my hair on a weekly basis and continue utilizing the two-strand twists but it sure is nice to know that I have options.

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Big Chop vs. Transition

I am 11 months post-relaxer and decided early on to tough it out not do the ‘big chop’.  For those of you not familiar with the terminology ‘big chop’, it the process of cutting off all relaxed hair/ends to return to the hair’s natural texture.  Believe me – it was extremely tempting to do the chop around month five. Months five and six seemed to be the most difficult for me…too much perm remaining and not enough new growth to successfully achieve the natural styles that I viewed online. I didn’t do the big chop because I just wasn’t sure if that style would be flattering on me. The style looks very nice on so many people – especially with a hint of color – but I just wasn’t willing to take the chance of not liking it. There is no ‘undo’ option once it’s done. I often wonder if I made the right decision.

Instead of doing the chop, I have alternated between two-strand twists and flat-ironing- both eventually resulting in an up-do hairstyle. My concern is that flat-ironing the hair is damaging due to the level of heat needed to straighten my type 4 hair. I have yet to master two-strand twists on my hair so I often flat-iron my hair since it makes it easier to work with. I would have to assume that if I had big-chopped my hair and not applied heat to the hair for the past 11 months, I would have seen even more progress in terms of growth. I can honestly say, I am TIRED of wearing my hair up but it’s the safest option for me until all of the relaxer is out of my hair. I continue to cut the ends to help the process along. Since I am trimming my own ends now, my hair is not as even as it should be so the up-do hairstyle hides this unevenness.

To anyone thinking of going natural and debating between the big chop and transitioning, I would recommend the big chop if you will be comfortable with the style. The big chop maintenance would be a LOT easier than maintaining the hair during the transition process which can take up to two years depending on the length of the hair. If you’re a little unsure and still opt to do the big chop, I would suggest purchasing a wig that you like prior to doing the big-chop so that you have a plan B if you don’t like how the TWA (Tiny Weeny Afro) looks on you.

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