Monday, April 25, 2011

Let's Talk About the "N" Word

Taken in 2009
Are you offended when someone refers to your hair as "nappy" or are you one of those "happy to be nappy" folks?

Personally, I don't necessarily embrace the word although I love my "My Hair is Nappy My Life is Straight" t-shirt.  I embrace that shirt primarily because of the message it sends.  People tend to think that wearing your hair naturally is supposed to complicate your life, so I love the powerful message of the shirt, which plays on the word "nappy."  

There's no doubting the power in the texture
I also understand that many people do not intend to be offensive, but use the word to describe the 4 a/b/c texture.  Some naturals who chose to avoid the word, use "kinky," "curly," or "coily" to describe this texture.  However, I recognize that a lot of non-natural people would not recognize my texture as "curly" (they probably would laugh at the thought!) and coily is a word that was introduced to me by the natural hair community, so I'm sure they wouldn't use that word either. Additionally, "kinky" is often used to describe "kinky twists," which I'm not wearing, so what's left?  Nappy.  When my mother talks about nappy hair, she's referring to the texture and that's the only way she knows how to describe it.  How can I get mad at that especially when that was how I used to describe my own hair?  Now, I can give my mother a list of PC words to use in place of "nappy," but I don't feel the need.  I understand what she means and I take that approach with others who use the word to describe the texture.

On the other hand, there are people who use the word in an offensive way and follow it up with a strong suggestion for you to straighten or relax it.  I'm not a fan of combating ignorance with ignorance, so unless that person catches me at a bad time, then I try to be sophisticated and strong and let them know that I love my hair as is and have no intentions of changing it.  With that said, I'm human, so if they catch me at a bad time, then they get what they get!  LOL

What are your thoughts on the word "nappy"?  

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Answering Your Natural Hair Questions - Thanks for Asking!

You ladies are the best! You've sent me messages with so many questions and I want to answer them all, so this is my attempt.  First, here's my disclaimer - All of my responses are based on my own personal experiences.  Other than that, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing (lol)  I learned everything through trial and error and I can only tell you what has worked for me, so here goes!

Taken during my first year wearing my hair naturally
How long have you been natural?
I been wearing my hair naturally for 3 years and 2 months (at this point), but I transitioned for 2 years.  I always mention the transition time so you'll know that this is basically 5 years worth of natural hair, but I have only been working with my natural texture for 3 years.

Protective style with large twists
Do you believe protective styles grow natural hair? 
Protective style with small twists
Growth and retention is important if you want long hair.  I believe some protective styles help with retention, but I don't see a connection to growth.  I believe growth is based more on genetics and what you put into your body and retention is more closely connected to what you put on your hair and your styling methods.  Also, all protective styles are not created equal.  Conceptually, I have a hard time seeing how weaves and braids are healthy protective styles because our hair is naturally dry and I can't see how you can adequately moisturize your hair in these styles.  However, if they work for you, then I say if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Personally, when wearing protective styles, I opt for twists, which I can wear down, pinned up, or wear in a clip or french roll if I want to protect my ends.

Do you wear protective styles or do you wear your hair out a lot? Do you change styles often?
I only wear my hair in protective styles when I see the need.  For me, that's mostly during the brutal Chicago winters.  I'll wear my hair in twists, which allows me to keep my hair moisturized and wear my wool caps . . . after covering my twists with a satin scarf of course.

I'll also wear twists when my schedule gets really busy and I know I won't have time to deal with my hair or when I get really frustrated and tired of the daily maintenance.  During those times, I guess I'm protecting my hair from me!

Other than that, I wear it out most of the time because I like the big hair look.  I wear the same basic styles (twists, twistouts, puffs) and my favorite is a big twistout.  I change the look by adding fun accessories, alternating the size of the twists and alternating between the regular styles and updos.  The environment does its part in helping me change the look by adding elements like wind, humidity and rain :-)

Every once in a while, I get creative and try something fun to get rid of the boredom and add a little excitement.  I don't have a lot of creative ideas nor the stying skills to do a lot with the front, so the front looks the same, but I altered the back.

This is the style I wear when I get bored and want 
something a little different
Here, the back is just a big twistout with part of it
clipped up

Same look with an afro puff at the top
Same look with a pulled up twistout at the top.  I made this
twistout from smaller twists for a more defined look.
I like showing these pictures in sequence because it shows how much you can do with the same basic style :-)

What are your tips for handling breakage?
I believe some breakage is normal.  From what I understand, every twist and curve is a potential breaking point (I've actually noticed some splits in the middle of a curve, so I believe this is true).  Since our hair is full of twists and curves, then I believe it's not possible to avoid breakage entirely, but of course you want to minimize it to retain as much length as possible and keep your hair healthy.  

Inspect your hair and figure out why it's breaking.  Are those strands damaged?  If so, you need to trim.  Is your hair dry? Maybe you need to change your moisturizing product or your moisturizing technique.  Unless my hair is in twists, I moisturize every day.  With the twists, I try to remember to apply oil to my ends at least every other day.  If none of those things are the reason for your breakage, then maybe you're handling your hair too roughly.  I read somewhere that you should treat your hair like fine silk.  The tighter the curl pattern, the truer the statement.

I also suggest avoiding (or minimizing) styles that are "tangle monsters" - any fro style and wash and gos - especially if your hair is long and you have 4a/b/c/ texture.  

Of all my pics, this one has gotten the most love,
but you can easily see that this is a true "tangle monster"

Wear sparingly to avoid tangling
and unnecessary damage
My most dynamic pictures are of fro styles and although I love the look, I rarely wear them because I have to deal with lots of tangles and knots afterwards and if I wear them often, I won't have enough hair to produce that dynamic look LOL.  

Detangle as gently as possible and only when you have time to tackle the job so you don't rip through your hair in haste.  Always dry your hair in a stretched position (twists, braids, plaits, etc) to minimize tangles.   

You have a lot of hair. What is your secret?
I try to do everything I think is healthy for my hair, so I don't know what specific things to attribute to the growth.  I think it has a lot to do with handling my hair with care (see my detangling method below) and avoiding heat - I haven't straighten my hair or used a blowdryer in 3 years.  When I wore perms, my hair came to my shoulders and I thought that was as long as it would grow.  Now my hair reaches my shoulder blades when stretched.

Not bad for length especially since my longest hair is at the top
Focus on width, not length
I know some naturals realize their hair is growing and they want to straighten it to see how long it is.  Personally, I say - don't be obsessed with hair length.  Make a mental change - focus on width, not length.  The width you can clearly see without the assistance of heat.  What's ironic about it is the more you straighten it to see the length, the less length you'll have to see.  Talk about a cycle!

Do you use a specific detangler after you wash your hair?  Do you use a specific detangling brush?
No and no.  I recently started detangling on slightly damp hair loaded with coconut oil before washing.  I got the idea from watching African Export on youtube.  She detangles on dry hair loaded with conditioner and she uses a comb.  I modified her approach to fit what I think works best for me.  I spray my hair with a little water, load it down with coconut oil and use the best detangling tool known to man - my fingers! This approach works best if I kept my hair in a twisted style or kept my hair stretched by re-twisting each night.  Also, I started using my fingers to detangle about 2 or 3 months ago when I noticed some damaged for which I blamed the comb!

After I detangle, I put my hair in large twists.

What is your washing method?
I change my method often.  Currently, I have two different methods and which one I use depends on how much detangling I need to do.  If I need to work out a lot of tangles, I use my two day approach.  I detangle as stated above at night, cover my twisted hair with a plastic cap,wrap a scarf around it, cover my pillow with a towel (just in case the oil leaks) and call it a night.  The next day, I wash my hair with it in twists, untwist, apply my conditioner, sit under my hair steamer for about 20 minutes, spritze with my Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) rinse, rinse each twist under cool water, untwist, apply my leave-in conditioner and styling product and style.

If it's not very tangled, I'll handle everything in one day. I may opt to use my Aubrey Organics conditioner to finger detangle on dry hair, put in large twists, sit with a heatcap for 20 minutes wash and continue the process as stated above.  

Why the different methods?  I feel like I detangle better with oil, so that's the best approach when I have to work out a lot of tangles.  However, I love my Aubrey Organics conditioner and with this product, you're supposed to deep condition on dry hair so that's my happy medium.  Also, the 2 day approach works best for me when I have to work out quite a few tangles because I'll get tired and frustrated with the amount of hair I have to deal with which isn't good for my hair or anybody around me ;-)

I usually wash my hair every two weeks.  

Do you go to a hairstylist or natural hairstylist?
I've never been to a natural hairstylist and I haven't been to a hairstylist in 3 years for a few reasons:

  • From my experience, hairstylist do not handle my hair gently.  Since I know my hair is fragile, I rather handle it myself with the ultimate TLC.
  • The only hairstyle I know of that will last any period of time is twists and I can do that myself.
  • I need to learn how to care for my hair and I think the best way of doing that is dealing with my own hair.

What do you do with your hair when you're working out?
Tie it up in a scarf so that none of my hair is touching the back of my neck or my forehead.  I don't sweat a lot and even during my most intense workout sessions, it's not my head that's sweating, but that may be too much information (lol), but my point is I don't see the need to wash my hair after every work out and the reality of it, is I don't have that kind of time.  Since I'm not noticing any damaging effects from my current routine, I'm sticking with it for a while.

What shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer do you use?
Over the past 3 years, the only product that I have consistently used is my Rosewater spritz with Rosemary and Basil EO added (maybe that's the growth serum!).  I add vegetable glycerin to this mixture during the warm humid months.  For the other products, I like Carols Daughter Rosemary Mint Shampoo, any Aubrey Organics Conditioner (Jojoba and Aloe Desert Herb is my favorite), and Jane Carter Conditioner and any Alba Conditioner.  I've also started using Qhemets Amla and Olive Heavy Cream (use sparingly to avoid a greasy feeling) and their Olive and Honey Hydrating Balm for my twists.  

BTW - I recently watched a youtube video on PH balances.  My test strips are in the mail, so I may adjust my products depending on what I find out.  If you haven't checked out kimmaytube, then it's a must.  Kim Love is behind kimmaytube and she has a video series that discusses the structure of hair and PH balances.  Those videos have definitely changed the way I look at my products.

Do you mix any of your own products?
A few. I have my rosewater mixture I referenced above and I mix a few oils together for whenever I want to use oil.  I hesitate to give my recipes because they are not based on anything but a whim, but here's my current oil mixture:

2 tablespoons of Jojoba Oil
1 teaspoon of Castor Oil
1/4 teaspoon of Vitamin E Oil
6 - 8 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil
6 - 8 drops of Basil Essential Oil
I can't say this mixture is responsible for anything since I just started using it a couple of months ago, but I like it and this is what I'm using right now.  

I also mix my leave-in conditioner, but I use a recipe that was recommended to me by a fellow natural and it's also used by Kim Love.  The ACV rinse is from Kim Love too.

Leave in mixture:
  • 2 tablespoons of Kinky Curly Knot Today (I use my Alba Leave-In)
  • 2 tablespoons of aloe vera juice
  • 2 teaspoons of jojoba oil
  • 2 teaspoons of castor oil

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Rinse
4 oz of distilled water with 1/4 teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar

Twistout from large twists

Look at how loose the curl pattern is -
Since I retwist each night, detangling
this will be easy when I wash.
What's your daily hair regimen? 
I usually wear twistouts made from large twists.  When I'm wearing this style, I'll spritz my hair with my rosewater mixture each night and retwist.  I may add a little oil or Olive & Honey Hydrating Balm (OHHB) to each section before I twist.  I won't use the OHHB, too often though because it contains vegetable glycerin and although that's great for moisturizing during humid weather, it also softens my hair to the point where it won't hold my twistout look!  I'll have a fro by the end of the day.  If I'm wearing twists, I'll add oil to the ends at least once every two days.  If my twists are large, at the end of the week, I may take them down, spritz with my rosewater mixture, apply a little oil or one of my other styling products and retwist.

Do you trim your hair? If so, how and how often? 
Yes, but I don't believe in trimming based on a schedule.  I trim based on a need.  When my ends feel raggedy or they are very thin, I trim.  I trim by stretching the section after detangling and clipping the ends.  I don't worry so much about whether it's even since I don't intend to straighten it.  I also occasionally inspect my hair and trim where I see damage (search and destroy method).  Remember I said every twist and curve is a potential breaking point?  Well, I noticed that I sometimes find splits that are a third or two-thirds up the strand.  A trim will not get those and I'm not willing to cut that much hair to try to get those few random strands.  Also, inspecting my hair allows me to see what kind of shape it's in and helps me determine if I need to make any adjustments in my styling routine.

Whew!  Sounds like a lot, doesn't it?  Well, looking at the growth of my hair from 3 years to now, tells me that I'm doing something right.  So if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Also, I developed my routine over the years as I made adjustments based on what was working and what wasn't.  There were some things I initially said I wouldn't do - like finger detangle - and now that's what I'm doing because I think it's a gentler approach that will help me with retention.  

Any other questions?  Please post them.  Thanks!

~Loving Me Naturally