Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Suggestions for Natural Hair Newbees & Transitioners

I recently realized how many people are in their first year of being natural or are seriously thinking about transitioning.  Personally, I think that first year is the most difficult - at least it was for me.  Also, I know others who have struggled a lot during their first year, so I thought I would put together a list of suggestions that should help you during that first year of your natural hair journey.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Stretch Marks Are My Badges of HONOR

With my friend at her 70s party.  I had to make the picture extra
large so you could see the stretch marks my friend was referring to

This has nothing to do with natural hair, but it has a LOT to do with loving yourself naturally.  We, as women, often put unrealistic expectation on ourselves or allow others to put unrealistic expectations on us.  If you haven't done so yet, then it's time for you to let go of the unrealistic expectations you put on yourself and/or tell others where they can put their expectations.

Monday, December 20, 2010

3 Years Natural - Time to Reflect!

Today marks three years of being natural.  Time to reflect!  In honor of my 3 year anniversary (BC Date 12/20/2007), I am sharing some of the ways I have changed since being natural.  I hope you enjoy my moment of reflection.

I should start by saying, that the picture above shows the very last time I wore extension and the last time I went to a hairstylist (she damaged my hair, but that another story for another day).  I was natural in this picture, but not ready to learn how to style my hair.  This picture was taken January 2008.  I took the extension out a month later and that's when the fun and learning pains began!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nails, Hair & TLC

When I was in 7th grade, I started growing my nails.  I grew them so long, that most people could not believe they were mine.  They would literally perform an inspection to confirm that I was being truthful when I said they were not fake.  I don't wear my nails as long now as I did then, but I still have long nails and even now, some people do not believe they are mine.  Why?  Because we have grown accustomed to people wearing fake nails and most of the time when you see someone with long nails, they're acrylic.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ending the Product Junkie Cycle

Soon, I'll be officially congratulating myself on 3 years being natural, so while reflecting on the journey, I thought about the best hair advice I ever received.  Believe it or not, it was from a natural brother during my first natural year and maybe if I did a better job of listening, I would've never became a product junkie. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Finally at Peace with Me - All of Me

I think most women deal with some insecurities. However, I'm sure I had more than my fair share. It probably started when I was in grammar school and I found out that the pretty girls were light skin and had "good hair" and of course none of those descriptors applied to me. To add insult to injury, I was tall. So when we got together for our classroom pictures, I had to stand in the back row even though I thought it was really cute to sit in the front row, fold your hands and cross your legs, but those spaces were reserved for the shorter girls. They were cute and petite and I was long and lanky.

As we got older, the girls got curvy . . . but not me. Nope! Straight as a stick! In fact, my mother called me "sticky legs" cuz my legs looked like long sticks.

Also, I loved school and enjoyed a challenge, so I did very well academically, which earned me the unpopular title - nerd.

Why am I sharing this?

Because I am finally at peace with me - all of me.

I'm grateful that I did well academically and it was a blessing to be the kind of person who enjoyed a challenge. That is what got me through being a teen-age mom, graduating from college with honors, getting my Certified Public Accountant license and getting my Certified Fraud Examiners certification and that is what continues to get me through life's daily challenges.

Now, I love all 5'10" of my stature, 6'2" when I'm wearing heels (which is often) and 6'5" when I'm wearing heels and an afro puff :-)

Now, I adore my golden brown complexion and I see the beauty in my head full of kinky hair that I failed to see when I was younger.

Additionally, I embrace my slender body and the outfits it allows me to wear. What an overlooked blessing!

Ultimately, what I've learned is there was never a problem with me. Some of my insecurities were self-imposed and others were imposed upon me based on other people's perception or concept of beauty.

Why did I use their concept of beauty to define me?

Why did I look at other women as a gauge to measure against?

Who made them the standards of beauty?

Why did I accept that?

When I finally dismissed those images and accepted myself, the complete package, that's when I realized I spent years trying to fit in when I was intended to stand out.

There are still some people who tell me they think I looked better when my hair was straight. That's okay. That doesn't matter to me because when I look in the mirror, I see a beautiful reflection. Not just the outer shell, but an inner beauty and strength that I never saw or felt before. It is so powerful that people who do not personally know me can see it too.

Why am I sharing this? Because too many women deal with unnecessary insecurities.

When you change your perception, you change your life.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Poor Thang - Ain't Gon Never Have No Hair!"

My mother laughs when she tells me that story now, but when I was younger, I wanted my hair to hang down my back, or at least around my shoulders, and I wanted it to blow in the wind . . . wonder where I got that from??? Anyway, my hair was nowhere near my shoulders and hair loaded down with grease may shine, but it doesn't blow. Additionally, I didn't have "good hair", so my mother would think "poor thang - ain't gon never have no hair."

Thankfully, she was wrong and somewhere around my teen-age years, my hair finally reached my shoulders and I minimized how much oil I used in my hair so my hair would blow in the wind :-). The above picture was taken when I was in my early 20s.

Now my mother now laughs because I have more hair than either one of us ever thought I would have and I'm happy as a lark even though my hair doesn't hang down my back and these thick mounds of hair won't blow in the wind . . . although a strong wind might cause a ripple. Lol

It's another misconception that only hair classified as "good hair" grows. The fact is healthy hair grows and retains length. Since it took so long for my hair to reach shoulder length when I was younger, I am shocked that it only took 2 years to see tremendous growth with my hair in its natural state.

Below are pictures of the same hairstyle shown at different points in time. The first was taken during my first year of being natural. The second was taken 2 years later. So, have patience and take good care of your hair. It will grow!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Either Love Me or Leave Me Alone

I have a friend who feels the need to let me know that he believes I looked better when my hair was straight. This friend also looked through my profile pictures on facebook and told me that the one he liked most was the one where I was wearing a fake pony.

Of course the comments annoyed me and he heard an ear full from me for his remarks, but then I thought about it and realized that whatever issues he has with natural hair are his issues to deal with and I decided not to let them affect me. I felt no anger. I felt no hard-feelings towards him or his lack of knowledge. I decided 3 years ago, when I began wearing my hair naturally and receiving negative comments, that I wasn't going to let anyone's negative reactions affect the way I feel about me.

At this moment in my life, I feel beautiful. I feel self-fulfilled and complete. I feel independent and free. I don't worry about running from the rain or sweating at the gym. I embrace humidity, steamy showers and steam rooms.

So I decided to remove all pictures on FB that showed me with fake hair. In fact, the only straight picture I kept was the picture that shows my hair after my final chop and that was also the last time my hair was straight. I am firmly committed to wearing my hair naturally and doing whatever I can to support my fellow natural sistas and transitioners. I think most people are supportive, but you will always have a few that will try to bring you down. When that happens, you have to see your own beauty and represent you regardless of their thoughts.

I have fully embraced me and I allow my hair to do what it does best and that is command attention and respect. When I walk into a room, my natural crown announces my presence and my attitude clearly states either love me or leave me alone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Son Learns Not to Lye

Sometime last year my son asked me about using a sporting wave product in his hair so he could get waves. I told him no. He only needed to take care of his hair by making sure it was clean, moisturized and brushed. I also showed him which oil he could use on his hair. He said ok, so I thought the conversation was over.

Today, I found a box of Luster's S-Curl Extra Strength Texturizer in my son's room promising "Natural looking waves and curl styles in minutes."

Quite ironic how it promised "natural looking waves" when there is absolutely nothing natural about it. My son was enticed by the picture of the attractive man on the cover showing off a head full of loose curls. Although the box was open, none of the containers on the inside were open. When I talked to my son, he said he thought that the product was a grease he could put on his hair to get waves. He had no idea it was a relaxer until he opened the box and read the directions. When he saw you needed to wear gloves to apply the product, he realized that this wasn't what he thought it was.

I'm so glad he realized in a short period of time what has taken many of us YEARS to learn. Not only do you need to wear gloves when apply this product but the warning label is pretty intense: "This product contains Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)...Improper use may result in skin and scalp burns, loss of hair and eye injury" What they don't tell you is PROPER use may still result in those things.

For me, this was an eye opener. I didn't think I really needed to discuss the dangers of relaxers with my son because I improperly viewed our issues with our hair as more of a black female issue and less of a cultural issue that would also affect how men viewed their hair. Also, it made me think back to my first relaxer, which was also a Luster's product - Luster's Press and Comb in a Jar (PCJ).

Back then, I thought it was the greatest thing ever. Now, I'm happy that I no longer depend on relaxers to be happy with me and I'm extremely happy that my son realized that if you need to protect your hands to put this stuff on your hair, then maybe it doesn't belong on your hair. Now, I need to work with him so that he is happy with what he has naturally.

Maybe it's time for him to start his own natural journey . . .

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Twists & Twistouts

Finally I'm taking the time to post pictures of some of my favorite hairstyles. Since winter will be here before you know it, I thought I would start with twists. Initially, I didn't like wearing my hair in twists. I think that was because I didn't know how to make them look nice and I always felt like I looked more like a guy when I wore them. Then I realized that if I made them very small and set them on rods, so the ends would curl, then they were kinda cute!

Now I love twists! It takes me about 6 hours (or longer if I'm watching TV or otherwise distracted), but I can wear them for about a month and then take them down and wear a twistout for 2 or 3 weeks, so it's well worth the additional styling time! It's a great protective style since it gives your hair a break from being handled on a regular basis. Plus, there's no detangling process when you wash twists, so that's a HUGE benefit. When the winter hits and that Chicago wind is brutally cold, I can tie a satin scarf around my twists and wear a wool cap when needed. So this fall & winter, I think I will be wearing my series of hairstyles below.

This is my business photo. In this pic, I'm wearing my twists down. I'll wear it this way for a week or so after putting my twists in since I think this style looks best when the twists are fresh.

After the first week or so, I'll get a little bored and start playing with clips. I usually only pull up one side because I feel like I look too much like a little girl when I pull up both sides . . . but it really does depend on my mood.

I love it when I can find clips that matches my outfit!

I also like to pull up a small section of hair in the front and create a high ponytail. I'll pull up more hair into the ponytail as the twists get older and start looking a little worn.

If your hair is long enough, you can also pull all the twists up into a clip for a sophisticated bun or roll. At the time, those two different clip colors seemed like a good idea :-)

When you take the twists out, you'll have a defined twistout that you can wear for a couple of weeks. When this starts getting old, brush it up into a puff.

I love the way this style looks in a puff. As the twistout gets old, it loosens. I just run my fingers down any strands that still feel tight so they are lose as well (I think that helps minimize tangles), then I'll spray the front with my rosewater & vegetable glycerin mixture and use my boars hair brush to brush my hair up into a puff. Sometimes, I'll use a little pomade if I want to smooth the edges out more. I love how many of the strands retain a twist at the end to create a defined puff.

For a 6 hours worth of up-front work, I get about 6 worth of hairstyles. My hair products are constantly changing, but right now I'm loving Qhemet Alma & Olive Heavy Cream to create my twists. It's definitely heavy and moisturizing and I think it's perfect for the winter. Also, I'll spritz my twists with a liquid leave-in whenever they start to feel a little dry.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Transition Story

I just realized I never told my transition story. My transition started subconsciously. In 2005, I accepted a job that had about 40% travel. After dealing with unexpected trips to high-humidity areas ruining my freshly styled hair and numerous broken curling irons, I decided to wear braids to minimize the hair issues. Because I was wearing braids, I would go months without a relaxer and ladies who were braiding my hair would ask me if I was going natural. Honestly, it had never crossed my mind until they asked because I didn't know any other naturals and I never even questioned why I was going to the shop for perms. To me, it was just a normal beauty regime just like shaving my legs or plucking my eyebrows - all though now, it's all about threading :-) Then I started to notice how thick my hair was and I was struck my curiosity. As long as I could remember my hair was either pressed or relaxed. I was 28 years old and never saw my natural hair. That's when I decided I would grow it out and see what it looked like. I didn't know anything about keeping a hair journal or being on a natural hair journey, so I only have some pictures of my transitioning styles. As you can see, I had a great time experimenting with different styles. I admit I went a little overboard. It was so bad that people at my job knew when it was time for me to get a new style and they would stop by my desk and ask "so what are you going to do next?!"

Mirobraids were my favorite style. I love to curl the ends and pull my hair up.

This is a little hard to see, but I also had a thing for ponytails. I would get the front braided and changed ponytails to fit my mood and outfit. I would be curly and short one day and long and straight the next! I even experimented with highlights.

Crochet braids. Can't believe I thought that look was cute! Super curly and more highlights than I would normally wear. I'm so ashamed!

Sorry this pic is so small. As you can see, I took it with my cell phone. I was admiring my weave. This style was also braided in the front.

I loved the front of this style, but I really didn't care for the long wavy hair. I often wore the back up in a clip so you couldn't see that the hair almost came down to my waist.

Another small camera phone shot. I got the last 3 inches of perm cut off December 20, 2007 and this was also the last time my hair was straight. I guess this was more of a little chop :-)

The following month, my family and I went on a trip to Mexico. I had no idea how to style my new natural hair, so I got cornrows for the trip. This was the last time I went to a hairstylist and the last time I wore fake hair. Thank God too because the braids were too tight and I lost part of my edges. I don't have a problem with hairstylists, but it feels good to know I can style my own hair and I now know what I need to do to keep it healthy. It's part of my freedom knowing I'm not tied to relaxers or stylists.

February 2008, I took the braids out and decided it was time for me to learn how to style my hair. I washed it the way I always did, used my Lusters Pink Hair Lotion and tried to blowdry it using the wide-tooth comb attached to the blowdryer. I pulled out so much hair and my hair was a mess! I was close to tears when I realized that it really couldn't be that difficult. So I searched online looking for info and I found soooo many sites with helpful tips, but my favorite was Every problem I experienced, every question I had, was covered on that site.

So I got really comfortable wearing my afro puff.

Then I played around with the twistout

Then I got jazzy and started adding scarves and accessories.

I'm grateful to everyone who shared their journey with me, so that I could learn. I hope that my journey will also help others. Since February 2008, I have styled my own hair and I've learned so much in the process and I'm proud of the progress I've made with my styling techniques. I'll show more recent pictures in my next post.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Favorite Hair Products

I usually hesitate to give my favorite products because they periodically change, but as of now, here is my list:

Shampoo - Carol's Daughter Rosemary Mint Shampoo

Conditioners - Aubrey Organics. I like them all, but may favorite is Jojoba & Aloe Desert Herb. I use this for deep conditioning before washing (according to the instructions). I also love Jane Carter Solution Nutrient Replenishing Conditioner and I use that after washing and while detangling.

Leave-In Conditioner - Right now I'm loving Alba Leave-In Conditioner

Moisturizer - A mixture of Vegetable Glycerin with Rosewater. I probably mix about 2 parts of Rosewater to 1 part of Vegetable Glycerin. I also like to add a couple of drops of Rosemary or Basil Essential Oil.

Then I have products I use for specific styles. One of my favorite styles is what I call a "fluffy twistout" (see pic on the right). It's just a twistout made from large twists, but I use a product that doesn't have a lot of hold, so my hair is soft and fluffy. The downside to this style is to keep it fresh, I need to retwist it each night, but I don't mind because I love the style and because the twists are large, it doesn't take that long. My favorite product for this style is Jane Carter Solution Twist & Lock, but it's pricey so I also use Carol's Daughter Loc Butter (not as good, but ok) for that style and when I retwists it at night, I spritz it with my vegetable glycerin & rosewater mixture.

For twists, I'm currently using Miss Jessie's Curly Buttercreme. I like it because it holds my twists without making them hard. I'm not excited about some of the ingredients (it includes mineral oil) and in my opinion, it's too expensive (about $58 for 16oz jar, so I'm looking for something else. I also like Jane Carter Solution Twist & Lock for this style too, but that's also pricey for a small jar, but has better ingredients. When I wear my hair in twists, I also moisturize daily using Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Leave-In.

Other honorable mentions - Kinky-Curly Knot Today is a really good Leave-In Conditioner and Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle is a good conditioner that I use for co-washes. Giovanni conditioners are also very good. Tea Tree Triple Treat is their instant conditioner and Direct Leave In is their leave in condition. Both are really good.

Unfortunately, you'll have to try various products to find out what works best for you. That could be expensive since natural products (if you chose to use natural products) are more pricey than the grocery store stuff. Personally, I've tried some of the cheaper items and they don't work as well in my hair except I like the Suave conditioners for co-washing, but I like the Trader Joe conditioner better for that. If you were like me and spent hundreds of dollars for different styles (for me, it was micros), the cost of natural products is nothing by comparison. Also, I love styling my own hair and not having to run to the shop when it was time for a new do.

Cheap tip - I get some of my products (Aubrey Organics, Alba, Giovanni, Rosewater) from It's much cheaper there and shipping is only $4.95, so I order in bulk.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Top Hair Tips

Here are my top hair tips and the reasons why I think I've been able to grow my hair out while keeping it healthy.

1. Avoid heat. I only use light heat from a heat cap when I'm deep conditioning. I haven't straighten my hair in over 2 1/2 years and I let my hair air dry instead of using a blow dryer.

2. Deep condition with every wash. My general rule is if I use shampoo, I deep condition. I don't co-wash often, but when I do, I don't feel I need to deep condition.

3. Only comb hair when it is soaking wet and full of a good conditioner that will allow the comb to easily glide. Start at the ends and work your way up. I also put my hair in large twists after detangling, so that it doesn't tangle again when I'm rinsing. I also let my hair air dry while in large twists. NEVER let your hair air-dry loose. That's a tangling nightmare waiting to happen!

4. Moisturize daily. With most styles, I use vegetable glycerin and rosewater. When I wearing twists, I like to use Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Leave In. It keeps my hair soft and I love the smell.

5. Rarely wear styles that tangle easily. I rarely wear afro puffs and afros although I love the style because my hair tangles easily in those styles and I NEVER wear wash & gos.
More tangles = more damaged hair

6. Sleep in Satin. Satin scarf, satin bonnet or satin pillow case to reduce breakage.

7. Sleep in protective styles. I generally sleep with my hair in twists. Always trying to minimize tangles!

8. Trim when needed and how needed. I don't follow a regular trim schedule. I trim when I see that my hair needs it. And how I trim depends on what I see. If I see a lot of split ends, then I will snips my ends when I put my hair in small twists. If I see a few random splits, I cut those splits when I see them and keep on stepping.

9. Don't overload hair with products. Not only is it expensive to use a lot of products, but it's not necessary. I will add a post later with a list of my favorite products.

10. Use natural hair products. I know it's more expensive, but from my experience, natural hair products works better than the cheaper products with bad ingredients.
It may sound like a lot at first, but taking care of natural hair really is not that complex. You just have to get familiar with your hair and what works best for you. I hope my tips are helpful.

Friday, June 11, 2010

"You Looked Better When Your Hair Was Straight"

Why do people feel the need to voice an opinion on your hair when it’s natural? I got no questions or recommendations when I was going to the beauty shop every 6 weeks over-processing my hair so every section of every strand was straight. Even when I was transitioning and I wore micro braids, crochet braids, straight weaves, curly weaves, and cornrows with interchangeable pony tails (you know how we do – with & without highlights), no one said a word. Now, I get:

“Your husband let you wear your hair like that?” . . . Excuse me? LET me??

“Wow! You have a lot of hair. When are you going to straighten it?” . . . . I have a lot of hair, because I STOPPED straightening it.

“Ooooh girl, your hair is so nappy!” . . . I know it’s been a while, but do you remember what YOUR hair used to look like before the relaxer??

“You’re na├»ve if you think this will not affect your career.” . . . You’re misinformed if you think it will.

“You looked better when your hair was straight.” . . . That’s just your opinion. A friend once told me an opinion is like a butthole (although he used another word), everybody has one. ‘ nuff said!

I learned a long time ago that if you change the way you see things, then you can change the way you feel about those things. I no longer see my nappy hair as an unattractive thing or something that I need to correct through chemicals or excessive heat. These kinks and coils are my crown of glory and I wear it proudly. Yes it is only hair and I hear people say you shouldn’t take it that seriously. To some extent, I agree with that, but it became more serious when those whose natural texture is the same as mine felt the need to invoke such negativity. When I learned about the numerous misconceptions that are out there about natural hair, that’s when it became more than just a styling option for me. I’m not trying to convert, but I want to share my experience for those who are going natural or seriously thinking about it. Life is a journey – enjoy the ride!

All the best!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Why I'm Blogging

I've shared so many tips and experiences with friends, especially on facebook, so I finally decided to take a dear friend's suggestion and start a natural hair blog.

I went through a two year transition after getting fed up with a hectic travel schedule that took me to humid places after I spent 4 or 5 hours at the beauty shop and after having several curling irons break in my suit case. Initially, I didn't plan to go natural. I only wanted to wear braids to minimize the maintenance. As my hair grew out, I was impressed by the thickness and I decided to grow it out completely to see what I was working with :-) I've been wearing my hair naturally for 2 1/2 years now and I will share some of my trials and errors and some of my success stories. I will try to help put an end to some of the crazy myths - like you can't be successful in Corporate America with natural hair - and I will share some of my styling tips and favorite products. I named this blog "Learning to Love Me Naturally" because I was brought up believing that our natural hair was ugly. I was the one in the family who didn't get the "good hair," so I had to learn to love my natural texture.

My disclaimer - I am not a hair stylist and I had no formal training or education on this subject. Everything I've learned has been from my experiences and talking with other natural ladies. Also, I'm new to blogging, so I'm open to any suggestions.