My final CurlStories post: but this is not GOODBYE!

Goodbye to CurlStories…

It’s been 2 years since I began documenting my natural hair journey, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. When I started this, I looked at it as an opportunity to just journal publicly. I knew that doing this would hold me more accountable. At the time I was transitioning from relaxed to natural, so the accountability helped me to not give up and get a relaxer again 🙂

Since then, I’ve met so many amazing people, learned so many great hair techniques, and honestly learned quite a bit about myself. But everything must come to an end. I’ve decided to direct my efforts to blogging on a subject I have a little more expertise in (more details below). I’d do them both if I had the time, but with a full-time job, I just have to let something go.

…But I’m still on Instagram

But this is definitely not goodbye. I will always document my hair journey. Now, it’ll be through Instagram.  Trust me, you won’t miss out. I take lots of hair pictures and will work to update more often. Rest assured that my Instagram is solely focused on my hair journey. You can follow me @savvyrenae, and I’ll follow back!

Starting a new venture!

For those interested, I’ve decided to start a career and personal finance blog. My passion has always been to help others achieve their desired level of success professionally and financially (especially for those young professionals just starting out). I’ve been blessed with my level of accomplishments in my career and in my personal finances at the age of 29. But I’m far from boasting. Instead, I’d like to share everything I’ve learned along the way  (the good and the bad) and help individuals get out of debt, manage their money, get that job promotion, or whatever other goals they may have regarding their career or personal finances.

I won’t talk your ear off here, but if you’d like more information, I encourage you to visit my new blog, Trea’s Two Cents. Let me know what you think! I’ve put a lot of work into providing helpful articles and easy-to-use free resources. And if you know of anyone who can benefit from career or personal finance tips, don’t hesitate to share!

Again, I appreciate all of the encouragement and support from you ladies. If there is any way I can help you advance your passions let me know :). I have to do at least one shout out to Marsha. Thanks for the encouragement along my entire hair blog journey. You always took the time to comment, and I appreciate it so much!

Good luck in all of your hair journeys, and hopefully we’ll connect again soon!

~TS

My larger two-strand twists worked out (surprisingly!)

A couple of weeks ago I decided to take a break from the smaller two-strand twists for 2 reasons, 1. they take me too long to install and I feel obligated to leave them in for at least two weeks 2. leaving them in for two weeks leaves my hair extremely tangled.

The problem is that I LOVE the twist-out with ,y smaller twists, so this is why I was a little concerned with installing the larger twists. But…this is a journey, so I had to try it :).

What I loved

  1. These babies cut my styling time in half! HUGE win!
  2. I loved the texture of the larger twists. It’s not like the texture was different than the smaller twists, but I could see the texture more. I feel like it made my style pop a little more.

What I didn’t like

  1. I definitely missed wearing the twists down. That’s one of the things I love about the smaller twists. I just didn’t feel comfortable wearing the larger twists down, so I kept them pinned.
  2. The twist-out took some work. For my smaller twists, I could just take the twists out and go about my day, but my larger twist-out didn’t fall as naturally (it was a little more work). I ended up wearing more pinned styles for the first couple of days.
  3. I can’t say I saw a huge difference in tangles. I think between the smaller twists and larger twists there isn’t a noteworthy difference. I noticed fewer tangles while taking the twists out, but all of the manipulating for my twist-out caused more tangles.

One other note, I tried the pineapple method again. The ponytail wasn’t as tight as the picture below, but you get the idea :). I found that my old “pull back and sleep in a satin bonnet” method didn’t work for the larger twist-out because I had to work harder for the volume (at least initially).

Twist out on larger two strand twists Day 4

Overall, I liked the look much more than I expected and plan to stick with the larger twists for a while.

~TS

Product Review: KeraCare Dry & Itchy Scalp Shampoo

I’ve been in search of a shampoo that will clean my scalp and relieve itching, all while keeping my hair moisturized.

Background of scalp condition

Ever since I was in middle school, my scalp has occasionally itched severely, flaked severely, and become very sensitive. But over the past year, those symptoms seemed to happen much more frequently, and not go away. So I began using shampoos like T-Gel Medicated Shampoo and Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo to focus on the flaking and/or the itching. I gave both a break because T-Gel severely dried out my hair, and Trader Joe’s left my hair feeling really gummy.

I was diagnosed with a minor skin condition a couple of months ago, and my dermatologist recommended KeraCare Dry & Itchy Scalp Shampoo. She said it should relieve the itching without overly drying my hair (she’s team natural as well :)), so I gave it a shot.

KeraCare Dry & Itchy Scalp used to be my go-to shampoo and conditioner when I was relaxed, and for a little while during my transition. It has always relieved my itchy scalp, but as I transitioned to natural, I didn’t like how dry it left my hair. Grant it, I still had a lot to learn about taking care of my natural hair, and this is why I decided to give it another go.

KeraCare Dry & Itchy Scalp Shampoo Review

What I liked:

  • My scalp felt very clean after the wash session
  • My hair definitely did not feel as dry as when I used the T-Gel shampoo, and it did not feel gummy at all.
  • I’m a sucker for a good smelling product. I dreaded using T-Gel every week because of the smell.
  • The tingling wasn’t too overpowering. I love the tingle of Trader Joe’s shampoo (and I still use the conditioner), but sometimes it feels like my scalp and face are on fire!

What I disliked:

  • I admit that my hair was not as dry as when using T-Gel, but it still felt too dry for my liking. I tried to overcompensate with my product layering while my hair is drying (leave-in, oil, heavy cream), but may hair never seems to recoup from these harsh wash sessions until the next night when I layer product again.
  • The above complaint is my only true dislike. If I had to pick another, the texture is a little gummy. It’s one of those consistencies that you have to rub in your hands for a while before you apply to your hair, or else a glob of it will fall to the shower floor. Clearly not a deal breaker, but just something I noticed :).

Will I use again?

I plan to use again until I gather all the necessary ingredients (& time!) for my first clay wash. HeyNaturalBeauties turned me onto this, and it really sounds like something that will cleanse my sensitive scalp while keeping my hair moisturized. Those who have followed me for a while know that I have stayed away from making my own concoctions, but this sounds worth the time, effort, and risks :).

Stay tuned!

~TS

2-Week Two-Strand Twists

My hair has been in twists for the past 2 weeks. Part of me is like “you go girl, way to protective style!”, and the other part is like “Ugh, two weeks without detangling or washing AND you workout daily…good luck on wash day”.

Two-week twists are good because…

  1. Low manipulation: I’m not combing or stressing my hair for two weeks. This is definitely good for my hair!
  2. Moisturizing: It’s fairly easy to moisturize my ends. I can spray my moisturizer (concoction of water, olive oil, aloe vera juice, sweet almond oil, and vegetable glycerin) directly on my ends, seal with an oil and sometimes a heavy cream, and I’m good to go.
  3. Convenient: This is a definite plus for my workouts since there is little to no styling time. I try to wear them down as long as they’re mildly stretched (just so I can moisturize nightly). To keep them stretched, I use a variation of a method I got from Naptural85 on YouTube where you stretch the twists across your head and secure them with pins or clips. I don’t do “twist by twist” as she does in her video only because I’ve usually installed so many, but grouping them together still gets the job done.
    When my twists start to get too frizzy to wear down, I simply pin them into an updo (I use this as my last resort because I prefer to be able to moisturize easily).

…but two-week twists are bad because…

  1. Two weeks of no washing: Some ladies can go 2-3 weeks without washing and their hair still thrives. My scalp will not allow it. For me to keep a healthy scalp, it’s best that I wash at least once per week (or a week and a half at the most). Plus the twists were in 2 weeks, so I had to rock the bomb twist out after, right? This added 3-4 more days to my no-wash streak. My scalp was not happy.
  2. Knotting and Loc’ing: For some reason, my twists are getting smaller and smaller, unintentionally :). This latest installment was my smallest yet, and I loved that even when I took them down, they still looked good. I also loved the volume that came with smaller twists. What I DIDN’T love were the knots resulting from leaving them in too long. I had some not-so-fun surprises waiting on me today during my wash session!

So going forward, I plan to install slightly larger twists (not too large of course – I’ll have to experiment). I will try to only leave them in for a week at the most. This should help battle the excess knotting since I won’t feel as much pressure to leave them in as long.

Until next time!

~TS

5 Popular Natural Hair Methods that DON’T work for my hair

Journeys are about growth, exploration, and all the experiences that come with them. My hair journey is no different. It has been an amazingly fun ride with ups and downs, but what is most important, is that I’m able to learn my hair along the way.

Each of our hair is different (even within a hair-type!), so I think it’s completely okay that what works for someone else completely does not work for me, and vice versa.

So here’s what I learned definitely DOES NOT work for me. Enjoy 🙂

1. Pineapple method – a nighttime routine many naturals use to keep volume and definition of twist outs. You typically pull hair into a loose ponytail on top of your head, and in the morning, fluff it out.

Why not for me?: I don’t know what the technical term is or what the culprit is (lack of moisture, protein, etc.), but my hair stays in WHATEVER form I put it in (especially if in that style over night). So pulling my hair into a loose ponytail on top of my head just leads to wild hair in the morning that won’t lay downward (think Don King!). Maybe with more length this will work better for me???

What I do instead: I’ve resorted to just sleeping with a bonnet when I want to maintain a twist out. I pull my sides back (like Eddie Murphy in Vampire in Brooklyn, haha!), but I don’t secure it with a ponytail or anything. In the morning, fluffing works out much better for me.

2. Dry detangling – This label can be misleading. I am not referring to detangling without any type of product ( I definitely detangle with product), but detangling without any water is another story. In other words. I need water to detangle these tresses!

Why not for me?: My hair is tightly, tightly, tightly, coiled, and it catches on itself ALL OF THE TIME. Because it’s always tangling, not only do I need product to help the strands slide past each other, I need wet hair that is a little more elastic and can hold a little more weight. There are debates about whether your hair is stronger wet or dry, but I know my hair responds as if it is stronger when wet.

What I do instead: I only detangle on wet hair and under the water stream. It’s almost as if the water pressure helps to push my hair downward, keeping it from re-tangling (totally not scientific…I made that up!)

3. Wash and go Just like it sounds, many naturals wash their hair, apply product and typically finish with minimal manipulation/styling. Some of the best wash and gos I’ve seen incorporate some type of finger-combing with a light, natural gel for best results. I tried it…once.

Why not for me?: This is one of the styles I dreamed about doing when I was transitioning. I tried it early on after becoming completely natural and…well, it was a hot mess. I tried the finger-combing method described above because that was recommended for 4c hair. 1. It took me an hour to do a small section in the back of my head because my hair is so thick. 2. It still just looked like an afro with very little to no definition. Nothing against afros of course. I love ’em, it’s just not the look I was going for then. I decided the effort was not worth, and moved on, sadly.

What I do instead: At the very least, I dry in twists. That’s as close to washing and going I’m going to get. I do love the idea of it though. It’s a hair fantasy for me 🙂 But I have learned that my hair loves me more when I keep it in stretched styles. This really helps my detangling sessions.

4. No-poo (shampoo): I actually really like this method in theory. I can definitely tell how shampoo strips my hair of its moisture. So I attempted a no-shampoo regimen for about a month. Yea, not a good look.

Why not for me?: I blame my scalp issues mainly. I have a scalp condition that requires my scalp be cleaned with a medicated shampoo as to not cause flare ups of scales, itching, and burning (sorry if TMI). This is probably exaggerated by my “6 days a week” work out schedule. All of that sweat can’t possibly help, right?

What I do instead: I’ve been sticking to my doctor recommended weekly washes with shampoo, and it seems to be keeping my scalp condition under control. I’m thinking about trying a “week 1, shampoo”, “week 2, cowash” routine. I used to do this while transitioning. We’ll see how that goes.

5. The Denman – I think this was the most talked about tool when I was transitioning. Everyone was detangling with the Denman. My girl from back home made it looks so easy, and her hair texture is pretty close to mine. So I tried it…kind of.

Why not for me?: I actually didn’t get far with the Denman. I tried detangling from the ends to the root and got about 4 strokes in before I couldn’t take it anymore. There were just so many bristles, so close together, raking through my hair and pulling my sensitive strands out. The sound alone made me cringe, haha. I caved and went back to my wide-toothed comb.

What I do instead: Some naturals manually tweak their Denman so there aren’t as many bristles. Completely makes sense. For me, I just need as few bristles/teeth as possible. Again, this is because of tightly coiled my hair is, and how it’s just so attracted to itself that it tangles every chance it gets. That’s why I stick with the wide-toothed comb. I’d do 100% finger detangling if I had the patience, but until then, I’m sticking by my comb.

That’s all I have! I look forward to the other experiences and lessons to learn throughout the future of my hair journey.

Until then,

~TS

Wash Day Routine

Winters in Chicago can be brutal, so I have to make sure my hair survives the dry, brittle cold and damaging winds. I honestly don’t change much of my regimen between winter and summer, so this regimen will likely be relevant year round.

Weekly Wash Days

Protein conditioner Pre-Poo for 30 minutes with hair in 8 twists

Aphogee 2 Minute Keratin Reconstructor

Aphogee 2 Minute Keratin Reconstructor

Method: LAZY ALERT!!! I don’t have a steamer and I don’t build in the time to sit under my hair dryer, so I do the old fashion “run a towel under hot water in a bowl for 5-10 minutes”, method haha. I then place it on top of my shower cap and secure it with another shower cap. It’s not perfect, but I need to be able to multi-task 🙂

Shampoo with hair in 8 twists

Scalp condition side note: I have to use stronger shampoos because of a scalp condition that I have called Seborrheic Dermatitis. It’s actually quite common. Rece, a fellow blogger, is experiencing similar frustrations. My dermatologist described it as my scalp/skin producing too much yeast and becoming irritated. It’s been called the “adult cradle cap”. Anywho, it means I have to wash regularly, and so I try to wash once a week (I should wash more frequently given that I workout 6 times per week). I will admit that washing weekly definitely dries my hair out, but I’ve tried alternating between a shampoo-wash and a conditioner-wash, but of course conditioner-washes don’t help my scalp. So to relieve the itching and flaking this condition causes, I’ve been using T-Gel Shampoo. I plan to go back to my beloved KeraCare Dry & Itchy Scalp shampoo this week (super excited!). My dermatologist says she typically recommends KeraCare for African Americans, in particular naturals, since it works to restore moisture. I will keep you posted on how it works out for me.

Deep condition with hair in 8 twists for 60 minutes

Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner

Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner

My favorite part! I LOVE Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingling Conditioner. I love their shampoo too, I just need something a bit stronger for my stubborn scalp!

Method: I just plop it on, focusing on the ends, but being sure every strand is completely saturated. It really does give a tingling sensation and that feels like heaven to my scalp. I use the lazy method described above – run a towel under extremely hot water for 5-10 minutes, then place on top of my shower cap and secure it with a second shower cap. Because I do this for 60 minutes, I sometimes get a fresh towel after 30 minutes.

Detangling with conditioner in hair, separating hair into 16 twists

Shower comb

Shower comb

Method: I start with 8 twists but end up with 16. I take down one twist and start detangling one half of that twist. My hair is pretty thick and tightly coiled so as usual the smaller the sections, the more peaceful the detangling session :).

I use a mixture of finger-detangling and wide tooth comb detangling. I start with my fingers to get the major knots and kinks out. I then only use the comb under the stream of water. I start with the ends and only stroke my hair 3-4 in total (I try to use as few strokes as possible). I realize that I can run the comb through my hair as much as I want, but given my hair’s texture, it will continue to catch on itself. So I settle for just getting the major tangles out. This takes me about 45 minutes typically.

Air Drying

Method: I wrap my 16 twists in an old t-shirt to soak up the water for 10-15 minutes. I then take down each twist, apply my moisturizing and sealing products in the below order, and retwist:

  1. Leave-in: Shea Moisture Restorative Conditioner
  2. Oil: Hot 6 Oil -or- Shea Moisture Reconstructive Elixir
  3. Cream: Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie

Can you tell I like Shea Moisture 🙂 I stick with them because I’ve found that my hair needs heavier products to stay moisturized.

For styling, I typically sleep in my 16 twists then do a quick protective style in the morning.

I’m afraid to say “that’s all”. It’s truly a day-long event (okay, maybe half a day), but so far it is a good compromise between my hair’s needs and my busy schedule!

~TS

My 2014 Hair Goals

It’s still the beginning of the year, so it’s not too late for me to make my 2014 hair goals! I push myself to set goals because it gives me focus throughout the year. Setting goals really helped me while transitioning. For example, since I risked a lot of breakage from managing two textures, my primary hair goal for 2012 was to minimize breakage.

Why focus on 1-2 goals?

Of course everyone wants longer hair, stronger hair, less breakage, more elasticity, and the list goes on. But I’m a firm believer that focusing on 1-2 goals increases your chance of achieving them. It’s hard to track the results of your hair goals when you’re focused on so many.  Plus, focusing on 1-2 goals let’s you dive deeper and lay out action plans to help you get to where you need to go. Using my 2012 example above, I achieved my goals through learning about protein treatments (and balancing them with moisturizing) and protective styling. So below are my 2014 hair goals and my action plans!

2014 Hair Goal (1): Minimize breakage (resulting from heat damage)

My hair suffered heat damage from my wedding hair trial, and as a result I find myself working with two textures again. This happened Sept 2013, so the majority of my texture is a looser curl with weaker strands, but my new growth is my extremely tight 4c curl. So you can imagine detangling across the two textures can be a hassle (which leads me to my 2nd goal below).

Action plan for minimizing breakage:

  • Weekly protein treatments – I’m currently using Aphoggee 2 Minute Keratin Reconstructor, but considering exploring other options (let me know any suggestions you have!)
  • Daily moisturizing – I still use a mixture of 1/2 water and 1/2 sum of olive oil, sweet almond oil, aloe vera juice, and vegetable glycerin). It’s all in a small spray bottle that I use nightly before sealing with my Hot 6 Oil and sometimes also adding Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing smoothing (or a similar heavy cream)
  • Protective styling – Two-strand twists are my go-to, but I am looking to expand this year. Looking for quicker protective styling that doesn’t take me hours at a time!

Less of this…

More of this…

2014 Hair Goals (2): Minimize tangles, especially where my new growth meets my heat damaged hair

With the heat damage mentioned above, my hair has some stubborn tangles near the root where my two textures meet.

Action plan for minimizing tangles:

  • Stretched hair – A huge part of this for me is changing the way I allow my hair to air dry. Right now it air dries in big twists I wear when washing, but I’m considering a flat twist/two-strand twist combo that will keep my roots stretched more. More on this later.
  • Patient detangling sessions – I had a lot more patience when I was transitioning, but detangling got a little easier when I became fully natural so I lost a lot of that patience :). I’m going back to only washing my hair on Saturdays or Sundays, so I can really take the time I need to get the job done in a damage-less way.

By December 2014, I will hopefully have some length to show for my new strategy!

Cheers 🙂

~TS