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

Product Challenge Contender #1: Vatika Coconut Oil

Last week I mentioned it’s time for me to venture out and try new products. This came about after noticing I was using the same products since the beginning of my transition about 8 months ago (and some even since I was still getting relaxers). I did an entire post on how adjusting is one of the most important parts of a transition (read it here), but here I am, stuck with the same old same old. So I’m embarking on a product challenge.

I laid out the plan for my challenge in the last post, but here it is as a reminder (mainly for myself :):

1. First I will document the products I use now, the effects they have on my hair, and why I love/don’t care for them.

2. I will alter one product within my regimen at a time, and will try to use it for at least one month to give it time to work (hopefully I can report out results on a monthly basis).

3. I need some type of goal for this challenge. I’m not trying to maintain length because I still have relaxed ends that I cut off every couple of months. So instead, I’m going for less breakage (as a result of more moisturized and more manageable hair).

So, addressing step 1: I did a quick documentation of what I use now, and it really helped me quickly identify what to focus on first, detangling!.

I will start with my pre-poo/detangling process. It’s time to lose Herbal Essence Hello Hydration and move on to something a bit lighter, but still effective for detangling. I actually love Herbal Essence, and am not losing it altogether. It will remain my go-to conditioner for my co-washing sessions, but as a pre-poo, I’m afraid it is a bit too heavy for my hair.

I quickly researched blogs of countless helpful ladies (see blog roll for my go-tos), and it seems like EVERYONE is using Vatika Coconut Oil for pre-pooing. From what I’ve read, it seems light and effective, so I’ll give it a try. I plan to buy it before I wash this Wednesday.

As promised, I will give it a good month before I review or make a “keep it/toss it” decision. So stay tuned!

~TS

Wedding Hair Worries, Calmed

So for the past few months, I was really worried about what my hair would look like for my best friend’s wedding on April 7th. I was worried because I am transitioning from chemically relaxed to natural hair, and I’m still learning a lot about my hair and how it responds to certain styles, products, etc.

Because I’m still learning a lot, I wanted to be more sure for the wedding. So I wanted go to a natural stylist. I figured she/he could do a twist out or some type of curly style (roller/flexi-rod set), so my hair could look professionally done. I wanted to set up a consultation first, so they could take a look at my hair and recommend styles.

First, I must admit that I started this whole “find a stylist” process way too late lol. I started calling salons a month before the wedding. I didn’t set up a consultation until a week before the wedding (I know!). The tight timing is partly because I called several salons in Chicago, but over the course of a few weeks, only two called me back. Soul Salon & Spa looked the best (given the website), so I set up a consultation with them. I walked in the day of my appointment, told them I was there for a consultation, and they all looked at me crazy (all beefcake guys by the way lol). I guess they didn’t take note of my appointment. So then one of the stylists calls me over while he’s doing someone’s hair, and asks what I need. I repeat that I’m there for a consultation and I have a wedding in a week and I need help with styles. He has me take my hair down and says “oh your hair isn’t damaged, we can do whatever.” I’m like “okay, sounds great, but I still don’t know what my options are.” He’s like “pick a style, and I can do it”. They didn’t have magazines or a catalogues, so I sit there on my phone and search for “natural, wedding up-dos”, or “natural wedding styles”…whatever I could think of at the time lol. I struggled because it’s hard for me to envision what MY hair will look like in a certain style (given my length and texture), that’s where I thought the stylist could help. After getting tired of sitting there on my phone, I finally picked a random style. The woman’s texture was nothing like mine lol but he says, “cool, I can do that”. I told him “okay”, but felt very nervous!

Style I chose after getting tired of sitting there searching

After all of that, I punked out, cancelled my appointment, and decided I was doing my own hair. I just kept thinking back to that salon, and how I was watching him add all that heat to his client’s hair, and I’m like “no thank you”. So Plan B was my handy-dandy Curlformers that have given me that professional look when I need it. I can usually set my hair in Curlformers and have a cute style for the next few days, at least. So that was my plan. I set my hair on a Thursday night, drove to Michigan for the rehearsal dinner on Friday with my spirals bouncing, and woke up on Saturday (the day of the wedding) to beautiful spirals? No, I woke up to a hot mess lol.

Almost all of my curls fell out, and my hair felt really dry. Now I haven’t been conditioner-washing like I used to (just got back to it this week), so my hair was probably yearning for moisture. But I’m also thinking I got used to how Curlformers performed on my relaxed hair (the last time I used them before the wedding, I was only 3 months post-relaxer. Maybe it just behaves differently when more of my hair is natural?). Whatever the reason, it was now the morning of the wedding and my hair looked a mess. I tried re-curlforming that morning to see if I could tighten the curls, but because it didn’t have enough time to set, it ended up straightening the few curls I had left. I was frantic! I ended up swooping it all to my left side (since that happened to be the curlier side) and pinned it in place. I ran it by the bride to make sure she approved, and she gave a huge smile and said she liked it! So relieved.

I don’t have good pictures of my hair because I was really frantic that day and didn’t have my phone the majority of the time, but hopefully you can kind of see the style from these pics below (sorry they’re so small!).

~TS

Lessons Learned: Tangles, Knots, and Too Much Protein!

My journey may not be perfect, but I am determined to learn all I can from my mistakes. I let my regimen slip due to a couple of busy weeks and…well, I’ll let you read on 🙂

The changes

Normally, I’m able to workout about 3 times per week. I don’t like the thought of sweating that much and only washing once that week, so I typically add a conditioner-wash mid-week or so (with Herbal Essence Hello Hydration). Well, as much as it kills me to say this, I haven’t had the time to workout the past couple of weeks, so I thought to myself, “if you’re not sweating, there’s no need for you to co-wash, you can just wash weekly”. I was actually excited about even less manipulation. I didn’t think this would set me back at all. It made perfectly logical sense, at the time.

In addition to not conditioner-washing, I decided to try to wear my Twist Out for a few days before re-twisting. I usually re-twist every night to make sure my curls are defined for each day. I’ve also began to use it as a disaster check for knots and stubborn tangles, so I’m not surprised on wash-day. But I wanted to give this lower-manipulation technique a shot. So over the past week or so, I would twist at night before bed, and not re-twist for another 2-3 days.

Let’s add another factor :). I also decided to clarify+hard protein this week. I started clarifying, then doing hard protein treatments back when I was stretching my relaxers, and for some reason I haven’t changed my products (bad idea). So I’m using Paul Mitchell’s Shampoo Three as my clarifying shampoo and usually KeraCare’s Super Reconstructor, but I ran out so I had to use Joico K-Pak Reconstructor. It’s usually a rough wash-day when I clarify because my hair is getting stripped of a lot of moisture (which I try to put back in with a nice deep condition), but the next day my hair usually feels amazingly clean, bouncy, and vibrant. Usually by the time I conditioner-wash (which is again typically 2-3 days after I shampoo-wash), my hair is soft and manageable like it was before the clarifying/protein treatment.

The results

So with those three changes in my regimen, I seemed to have created the perfect storm for a wash-day disaster. The week that I clarified was business as usual. The wash-day was a struggle, but the next couple of days I noticed the benefits listed above. It wasn’t until day 3 that my scalp began to itch like crazy, and my hair really seemed to dry out. So I was super excited to shampoo-wash and relieve my scalp of the madness. I washed with Shea Moisture shampoo and used the Aphogee 2-Minute reconstructor. You’re probably wondering, why in the world did you do the 2-minute reconstructor after doing a hard-protein treatment just 7 days before? Well, I did it out of habit, lol. I usually need the protein at this point in the week because I’ve conditioner-washed with a moisturizing conditioner a few days before (too much moisture leaves my hair limp so I like to make sure I’m balancing moisture and protein). The Aphogee Two-Minute Reconstructor was a bad idea because since I hadn’t conditioner-washed, my hair didn’t get the moisture it usually gets. So, I ended up overloading my hair with protein (in addition to having too strong of a clarifying shampoo) and my hair surely suffered the consequences. It was a tangled, hard, stiff mess! I mean, there were so many knots in my hair, my first thought was to start cutting away! It took me FOREVER to detangle, and I’ll be honest, I lost most patience and started to tear through just so I could get to bed at a decent hour.

Lessons learned

1. If I don’t conditioner-wash with my moisturizing conditioner, I HAVE to take the time to deep condition on my shampoo-wash day. My hair needs that moisture one way or another.

2. I need to re-twist every night. As stated above, it allows me the time to keep my knots/tangles under control. It may be more manipulation but it’s especially important for me since I primarily finger-detangle.

3. I think it’s time for a softer clarifying shampoo. I’ll start researching. I also, don’t know that I need a hard protein treatment. I saw the need when most of my hair was relaxed, but now that I’m transitioning, my hair isn’t lacking the protein it was six months ago (I’m still thinking on this one).

So there you have it. More lessons learned from trial and error 🙂

~TS

Clarifying and Hard Protein Treatments: I first learned about clarifying and hard protein treatments from Gennifer of Healthy Textures. It was in the context of stretching your relaxers. For those who are unaware: Clarifying relieves your hair of product build-up if you don’t wash often, typically wash with Sulfate-Free shampoos, or if you swim or have hard-water (among other reasons). The hard protein treatment is intended to make the hair stronger by restoring/strengthening the protein bonds within the hair fiber. It’s especially helpful for those with relaxed hair as the chemicals in the relaxer strip the hair of its proteins. It makes sense to do the two together since protein treatments work best on clean hair and you need it to penetrate deeply (as with most other treatments). I typically do this every 4-6 weeks.
 

Celebrating Milestones: 6 Month Check-In

It’s easy to fall into a hair slump. I do it often. But what helps me through is taking pics to document my hair journey. Seeing how far I’ve come always encourages me. I like looking at 6 month increments. It’s enough time to see progress, (& the effects of a change in my regimen), but not too much time has elapsed if corrective action is needed. So since I’m in a hair slump, I decided to look through my pictures, and I wanted to share what I found. Enjoy 🙂

I’ll start from the beginning, when I first noticed something was not right with my hair.

For those who don’t know my hair story, in a nutshell, I had a regimen before this, it was just extremely damaging to my hair, lol. I used to relax my hair every 6 weeks. My hair eventually thinned out drastically and wouldn’t hold a curl (or any style). Every time I got a trim/cut, instead of growing out the cut, my ends would split even further! So I decided about a year ago that I was going to learn what it meant to take better care of my hair, and get the thickness and length I had before!

The first picture below is after a fresh cut a day after a relaxer I gave myself. Doing my own relaxers for about 7 years led to a lot over-processing, so this was one of the last relaxers I gave myself. At that time, I had no clue that my hair was so damaged let alone why my hair was so damaged. At this stage, my hair was extremely limp.

The below picture is probably 8 weeks after a relaxer, that I believe was the last one I gave myself. In March 2011, with the help of Healthy Textures, I learned the basics of healthy hair care and began to stretch my relaxers every 3-4 months (done by professionals only). I also cut out all heat at this point (unless I was at a salon), so I stopped flat ironing/curling, and only air-dried. With a no-heat regimen, a lot of my styling was random. The above is a bantu-knot out. You can see that my damaged hair barely held any type of definition, so yes, styling was difficult. I believe I washed once a week and co-washed once a week during this stage. Deep conditioning was my savior!

Sept 2011

5 months later, I saw great progress. I achieved my old level of thickness (although as you moved down the length of my hair it thinned out since it was still the damaged hair from before). The picture below is a day after my last relaxer. I loved how healthy my hair was becoming. My styles were a lot more defined at this stage, and I began to dread the first 4 weeks after a relaxer because my hair was always so flat. I loved the volume, thickness, and styling options that came with my natural hair. So I decided to fully transition to natural.

Sept 2011

So here we are, 6 months after my last relaxer (going strong!), and although I’m not fully natural, the relaxed ends that are left are relatively healthy (compared to the more over-processed ends that I’ve cut off). I can achieve definition in styles that even 3 months ago would’ve been impossible.

The past 6 months haven’t been easy, but I must remember the progress. Looking back, it’s all been worth it 🙂

Happy journeying!

~TS