Category Archives: Natural hair styling

How I achieved my best wash and go with 4b hair

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I finally achieved a wash and go style that I was happy with. My natural curl pattern was defined and held up pretty well. Contrary to what I use to believe, 4b hair does have a curl pattern. However, if you have fine strands and hair that loses moisture relatively quickly, your strands are unlikely to clump together in uniformity, like other hair types. So a little help is needed with a product that has a strong hold. Of course, by now we should know that no product is going to give your hair curls that do not already exist. So my expectations have never been unrealistic.

The first time I attempted a wash and go, I literally washed my hair, applied some gel and went out to dinner. My hair shrunk horrendously, which led to terrible knots the following day. I’ve tried conditioner only wash and go’s, where my hair turned into a glorious afro. I’ve also used the ever popular Eco styler gel. I’ve had the same tub of gel for three years! Here’s what I learned through my trial and error, which led to a successful  attempt recently.

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Day 2, After Working Out

 

 1. Stay in the shower

One of the mistakes I made was to apply the gel outside of the shower, believing that my soaking wet hair would remain that way. The reality is, your hair begins to dry as soon as you step out of the shower. Re-spraying my hair with water didn’t soak it thoroughly, and I would often forget to do this anyway. So the gel did noting but hold frizzy hair in place, as opposed to defined curls.  Curls are at their most defined when the hair is fully hydrated.  Staying in the shower creates a convenient way to reapply water, and ensures that you apply a good amount. Even after you have gone through all the steps, apply water one last time before exiting the shower. This will replenish and give the hair that last boost of moisture.

2. Use a product with a strong hold 

I love my homemade flaxseed (linseed) gel. I use it for styling twist outs, flexi-rod sets, you name it. I believe it works just as well, if not better than most popular styling products. It is an all natural alternative to the gels that are currently on the market and doesn’t leave the hair crunchy. However, I learned that my hair type is prone to frizz, as the hair strands don’t clump together naturally. So for definition, I went back to the Eco Styler gel, which claims to provide a maximum hold of 10. Without it my hair would frizz instantly upon drying.   The conditioner-only wash and go may work well with other hair types but it didn’t with mine. I learned a new technique for creating an afro but that was not the look I was going for. Avoid gels with harsh alcohols and with as few synthetic ingredients as possible.

3. An oil rinse will minimize the crunch effect

Maximum shrinkage is hard work, shrinkage cemented with gel is a disaster!  For this reason I avoided Eco Styler gel, as it brought back bad memories of previous attempts.  With this attempt I applied it differently and  did an oil rinse after deep conditioning, to seal in the moisture. This was simply applying oil, then lightly rinsing my hair with the water to remove  the excess.  The oil helped to soften the gel slightly and minimize the crunch effect that most gels have.  Most importantly that crucial moisture was sealed to promote curl definition.

4. Use a clarifying shampoo

Wash and goes work better on clean hair that is free from product buildup. Product buildup weighs the hair and can interfere with strands clumping together. Previously I have tried to do a wash and go after co-washing.  This did not lead to the best results.  This time, I used a natural clarifying shampoo, which left my hair with that squeaky clean feel.  It is important to follow clarifying with a good quality conditioner, free from silicones, mineral oil or petroleum.  Detangle thoroughly with the conditioner. I saw my curl definition immediately after clarifying.  The aim is to maintain and hold that definition.  This is achieved by keeping the hair hydrated and using the right gel. If you are styling your hair in back-to-back wash and go’s, co-washing will be more appropriate.  Product buildup should be minimal if it has only been a week or so since your last clarifying session. The use of clarifying shampoos should be limited, as frequent use could lead to dry hair over time.

5. Deep condition

This step is important, especially after using a clarifying shampoo. It also helps to maintain maximum hydration. Deep conditioning does not require you to leave the shower and sit under a dryer. Simply put a plastic cap over your head and continue showering for ten minutes or so. After rinsing out the deep conditioner,  apply your leave in conditioner.

6. Smooth, don’t rake

I was a big believer in the shingling method, which is simply raking the product through your hair with your fingers. Looking back, I believe this method actually created more frizz and worked against clumping the strands together.  For other hair types, this may work well but it didn’t with my 4b hair. Instead I took  a big clump of gel and smoothed it onto my hair gradually, until I coated every strand. I  noticed immediately that my curls were held together and had a more definition.  My hair looked a little flat when I came out of the shower but it gained more volume as it dried.

7. Use a leave-in conditioner with a naturally acidic pH levelNew Aloe Juice 500ml

The natural pH level of the hair and scalp is 4 – 4.5.   I sprayed my hair with aloe vera juice to use as a leave-in conditioner.  This has a pH level of 4.5-5.5. As it has an acidic pH level, similar to hair, it works to close the hair cuticles and thus eliminate frizz.  Using a leave-in conditioner with an appropriate pH level also helps the hair stay better hydrated. This all works to promote maximum curl definition. You can purchase pH strips online for testing your leave-in conditioner.

 8. Use a diffuser for drying and stretching

Rather than letting the hair air dry, I used a diffuser. My hair would simply take hours to dry and there was no guarantee it would dry fully before going to bed. A diffuser is a great tool for drying as it doesn’t mess up your curl definition. When the hair is about 80 per cent dry, you can switch to the concentrator attachment and begin to stretch your hair from the roots. Gently pull small sections taut from the roots until you achieve the desired shape and length.

9. Find a great way to maintain and refresh the style

My wash and go lasted for 5 days. Each day my hair got bigger, and gained more length.  So I actually preferred the style more as the days progressed.  I tried the pineapple technique but it involved too much manipulation and stretching for my hair. Instead, I put my hair in two low pigtails and banded each pigtail with three bands. I also kept my hair in this style for the gym or when I went running. After a workout I would remove the bands, spray my hair lightly with water, shake my hair out and shape as desired.

10. Add some oil for shine

To finish off the style I rubbed some almond oil into my hands and gently applied it to my hair, just patting it on slightly to prevent frizz. This made the hair shiny.  Use an oil of your choice. Grapeseed oil is also great for creating sheen.

 

Other techniques that may help

Whichever technique works best for you will depend on your hair type and individual preference.  I researched different techniques and applied it to my hair. Some vloggers advised using a Denman brush to smooth the gel into the hair and separate the strands. I preferred not to use the brush, but it might work for you. Some techniques involve shaking your head vigorously as a final step. This is to separate the curls and create volume. I was scared of ruining my definition so I chose not to do this. However, my hair was quite flat as a result (which I didn’t mind), so shaking the hair out may work for those who prefer more volume. I will probably try this method next time.

Denman Brush

Denman Brush

This style took me one and a half hours from start to finish. If I do it regularly I will be able to do it faster.   I like this style because it did feel like an actual wash and go, probably because most of it was done in the shower. I could do it before going out for the day and don’t have to wait overnight to see the results, like other styling methods. I also found it very convenient for working out 5 days of the week. Plus it allowed me to see and enjoy my natural curl pattern in all it’s 4b glory :-).

 

Which method works best for you and your hair type? Share your tips below.

 

 

 

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Wash and Go’s on 4b Hair

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Can wash and go’s really work on 4b hair? Here are some methods that may be more suitable for this hair type.

The first time I tried a wash and go I vowed to never do it again. The method I first used was to; wash my hair, coat it with Eco Styler gel and then literally go.  This resulted in severe shrinkage; my hair looked like a TWA. I didn’t mind the look but the next day my hair was severely tangled. I had to painstakingly separate every strand as carefully as possible or risk breakage.

So what has changed? I have tried a number of methods in the last few months. Now I believe the wash and go is a styling option for me. Stretched out styles are better for my hair because they result in less knots. However, wash and go’s are great for women who work out a lot and enjoy frequent co washing. Here are some of the methods I found useful.

The Winter Wash and Go

This method was demonstrated by Naptural85. The style is prepared overnight and there is no need to rake gel or curling puddings through your hair. Wetting and washing your hair helps to bring out your natural curl pattern and putting your hair in large twists allows it to remain stretched.  Some wouldn’t call this a wash and go but it is the most convenient method of bringing out your curl pattern.  It simply involves washing and putting your hair in twists, while in the shower. So it encompasses the convenience of a wash and go, that may be lost with the traditional method. It’s ideal for winter because you don’t have to walk around with wet hair all day.

Conditioner only wash and go

Instead of using  gel, perhaps try the ‘shingling’ method with your favorite conditioner. All of this can be done in the shower. Use your fingers to rake the conditioner through the hair. Some choose to leave a little conditioner in their hair, not rinsing it out  completely. Now with other hair types, air drying may work best. However, with my 4b hair I found that this resulted in too much shrinkage, as my hair is very tightly coiled.  Using a diffuser to dry my hair, gently stretching it with my fingers in the process, worked much better for me. To seal in the moisture you could also add some oil to the hair and rinse it slightly so that your hair doesn’t turn out to be too greasy. This is called an oil rinse. Simply using conditioner as opposed to raking gel through my hair resulted in far less shrinkage.  The curls were not as defined and quite frizzy but I liked the level of volume my hair had.

Conditioner only wash and go

Conditioner only wash and go

Check out Alicia James’ wash and go tutorial, where she uses a diffuser to stretch her hair.

The traditional method

The traditional method is washing your hair and using gel or a styling product to enhance your curls. This usually ends with allowing your hair to air dry throughout the day.  I believe this method is less effective for 4b hair because the amount of shrinkage experienced can be excessive.  There is also a level of uncertainty about how the style will turn out because your hair will shrink gradually.  Many women become disillusioned with their 4b curl pattern because it isn’t usually as defined as 4a or type 3 hair.  While others can enjoy the convenience of this method and see their curls pop easily, 4b  girls may not have the same experience.  The other methods highlighted in this post may be more suitable.

Shrinkage

Shrinkage with traditional method

It is simply a matter of trial and error. Most importantly, remember that a styling product cannot naturally create curls that do not already exist.   I believe gel is more effective than a curl enhancing pudding/smoothie when trying this method on 4b hair. 4b strands need hold, in order to clump together. Otherwise the hair becomes more puffy and frizzy. However, I would avoid gels with maximum hold as they will cause too much shrinkage. Try gels that offer light to medium hold.

Eco Styler gel with a hold of 5

Eco Styler gel with a hold of 5

My natural curl pattern

My natural curl pattern

The fake wash and go

This is simply making a twist out look like a wash and go.  Put your hair into small to medium-sized twists when wet, for more definition. When untwisting, instead of separating the hair three to four times, separate the twists once.  This takes longer than a twists out, as the twists are smaller. However, you can wear your hair in a protective style for a few days and take your hair down for the weekend.  This way you get two or more styles out of one.  I find that this style lasts longer than a normal twist out because the twists are more defined.  It looks like a wash and go even though my hair would never look like that after a real wash and go. There is no shrinkage to contend with and you will avoid the dreaded tangles that 4b hair usually experiences after a traditional wash and go.

Check out the tutorial for this method by Alicia James.


Fake wash and go, a few days old.

Fake wash and go, a few days old.

Don’t be discouraged

If  the end result is the same it doesn’t matter which method was used, or that you were unable to achieve a wash and go by the traditional method. Do what works best for your hair type.  4b hair isn’t inferior to other  hair types simply because it is kinky rather than curly.  Your hair will have its own unique strengths, which you will discover as you practice caring for it.

Have you tried a wash and go? Share your experiences below.

Shingai Shoniwa – Natural Hair Inspiration

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Lead singer of The Noisettes; Shingai Shoniwa, is the first celebrity spokesperson for L’Oreal’s Mizani. Check out her style below.

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“Hair shouldn’t be stressful” – Shingai Shoniwa

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This style is achieved by putting the hair into a high ponytail, tying the ends into a knot and attaching two afro-textured faux buns.

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The afro was achieved by cornrowing along the hairline to frame the face, then  using an afro pick to fluff the hair. Although the second style looks like a twist-out, it was actually achieved using a curling iron.

Do you use Mizani products? We would like you to share your thoughts on this product below.

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Photos from: cosmopolitan.co.uk and grazia.co.uk

Do our curls always have to be defined?

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Is there a need to always have super defined curls ? Solange Knowles has been criticized in the past for not wearing twist outs or braid outs and there are numerous hair care products  that claim to define your curls, some of them cost an absolute fortune! Sometimes it’s nice to wear your hair  out big and beautiful and not worry about how defined your curls look. So, you’ve had a twist out for a few days and it’s looking more like a big afro, that’s fine. I like this stage and often wear my hair like that for a couple of days before I go ahead and wash it.  Who says  our curls have to be defined all the time or that our twist outs, braid outs or roller sets have to look perfect. If you wake up in the morning and your curls are no longer defined, don’t give yourself a hard time because you don’t have time to retwist it.  Big, fluffy hair can be just as beautiful as defined, neatly arranged coils, twists or waves. So if you don’t feel like doing a twist-out, or your ‘wash and go’ didn’t result in super define curls, that’s okay!

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I’ve never painted myself as a team natural vice president. I don’t know the lingo and I don’t sleep with a satin cap…

However, I did noticed when I picked out my hair, I kept seeing feedback about needing a “twist out”. Connnnfesssioonnn: I HATE twist outs.Solange Knowles

Check out Essence magazine’s top 50 natural hairstyles of the year.  Here are some of my favorites that do not necessary include super defined curls.

essence  50 styles

essence updo 50

Do you feel the need to always have super defined curls? Personally, at this stage I’m over it. Share your thoughts below…….

The Versatility of Natural Hair (Part 2)

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If you haven’t seen part 1 check it out. Here are some more examples of why natural hair is so versatile. It certainly dispels the myth that I had when my hair was relaxed, that you can’t do as much with natural hair. I haven’t covered everything as there are many more styles and techniques I am yet to discover myself. I hope this inspires you and really gets you to explore the different styling options available to you. Of course the beauty of natural hair is that it can be straightened as well. The only difference is that it isn’t permanent (if you take care when doing it). So  you can try out all these different styles and still straighten your hair occasionally or wear wigs and weaves. There are many options available to women with natural hair.

Puffs

This is definitely my back-up style. If all else fails I just put my hair in a puff.  I also found this style suitable for work and very convenient to do in the morning. You can cut off the leg of an old pair of tights or pantyhose and use that to put your hair in a puff.  Or you could use a stretchy headband. I use the Goody brand.  You don’t need to gel your hair back first, you could just use Shea Butter or Aloe Vera gel  to smooth your edges.

Side puffs

High Puffs

Normal Puffs

Curl formers

I haven’t actually tried these myself (curl formers are expensive!) but they show how versatile natural hair is. Check out these tutorials.

Short hair

Long hair

Flexi rods

Again I never thought it was possible to put natural hair in rollers or rods (I know, silly right?). I thought perhaps natural hair was too thick to stay in the rods and that our natural curl pattern would interfere somehow.  Anyway, below is my favourite flexi rod tutorial. These styles would be great for special occasions. Putting your hair in flexi rods or curlformers also helps to stretch out your hair, so you could take advantage of this by doing a twist-out or braid-out afterwards. It will turn out great with stretched hair.

Updos/buns

Great for work and formal occasions. There are so many updo styles I can’t list all of them in one post! Below are some of my favourite ones.

High bun

High bun (without donut piece)

Grecian inspired French twist

This is one of my favourite protective styles.  It is easy and quick to do and lasts for about one week. I can’t really do one big twist all the way around my head so I do two on either side.  Check out the tutorial below.

Cornrows and Flat Twists

These are great for protective styles and when you are transitioning.  I have started cornrowing my hair and it is a skill I really want to develop. I believe it is a skill that will come in handy when you have children. YouTube is great for learning how to cornrow and flat twist.  Below is a picture of a style I achieved through following a tutorial. The video taught me how to section my hair before cornrowing. Although it was a style done one a child’s hair,  I thought I’d give it a go, and I was happy with the results. Unfortunately that YouTube account has since been closed.

Cornrowed Bun

If you are feeling really creative natural hair is so versatile you could try out all sorts of styles with cornrows and flat twists.  You can even create your own styles when you become really good at it. Who knows what you could come up with? All it takes is practice and creativity and you could practically learn anything with YouTube

Felicia Leatherwood Cornrowed Updo

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Mini twists

This style is great for going on holiday or for when you miss your hair resting on the back of your neck. Mini twists are a good low manipulation style, meaning that once they are done you can leave your hair alone for a while. I usually try to keep them in for a month. You can wash and deep condition your hair in mini twists and you can curl them and try out different styles. Check out Naptural85’s tutorials and styling ideas on mini twists.

The Afro!

No explanation needed.

I hope this has been helpful. Share your favourite hair styling ideas here and anything I may have missed. I’m sure there is a lot more to discover.

The Versatility of Natural Hair (Part 1)

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One of the biggest misconceptions I had about going natural was that I wouldn’t have a lot of options for styling my hair. If you are thinking of going natural  and worry about this, continue reading. If you are already natural and are stuck for ideas I have complied a list of my favourite styling options. I have tried many of these styles. I have also included some links to some very useful vloggers who give you step-by-step instructions on how to achieve  these styles.

Natural hair is extremely diverse. There are a lot of styling options available. We just have to do our research and try the many different styles. It is also important to share ideas with each other.  As I recall when my hair was relaxed I simply wrapped it and wore it down or up, that was about it. When I curled it the curls wouldn’t last. However curling natural hair is a lot easier because natural hair can be shaped and molded in many different ways. So have a look at the styles below and let me know what you think.

1. The big chop

If you’ve heard the term TWA it stands for Teeny Weeny Afro. I loved my hair at this stage because I was able to see my natural curls for the first time in my adult life.  Hair styling is very simple at this stage as long as you keep your hair well moisturized.  I used a glycerin and water mix that I put in a spray bottle and would spray my hair everyday. You could also use an oil of your choice and water. There are also many accessories you could use:  headbands,  flowers, decorative clips and hair pins. A simple side or middle parting also adds another feature to your style.  When it gets a little longer you can do a mini twist out to really play with your curls.

Viola Davis – 84th Academy Awards

2. Wash and Gos

These are an excellent way of emphasising your natural curl pattern and they work well on short  to medium hair but can also be done with long hair.  You go through your usual wash and deep conditioning routine then use a curl enhancing product to bring out your curls.   Then you allow your hair to dry naturally. Below is a good example of a wash and go done with Eco Styling gel. Jane Carter Solutions also has some excellent products for this.  However, this style  requires you to embrace the shrinkage of your hair as oppose to other styles that stretch out your hair.

Esperanza Spalding‘s wash and go

SimplYounique

Short hair

3. Blow outs

Sometimes its good to just get a blow dryer and blow it out into a huge afro. This style is a lot of fun and very glamorous. It’s important to make sure you use a good heat protectant before applying heat to your hair. I think this style is best for special occasions when you really want to stand out.

Esperanza Spalding’s glamorous look

4. Twist-outs

This can be achieved by two-strand twisting your hair (usually around 12 medium-sized twists) and simply undoing the twists the next day.  One of my favourite styles that gives you great volume and defined spiral or wavy curls. Check out Natural Chica’s channel and her methods of achieving this style. You don’t have to blow dry your hair out first so I have included both methods where she uses heat and where she avoids it. Twist-outs work on both short and long hair but your hair does have to be long enough to twist obviously.

Yaya’s Twist-Out

Flat twist out tutorial

5. Braid-outs

Again, similar to the twist-out but done with braids instead. I personally do these more than twist-outs as I usually braid my hair after washing it to stretch it out. So I end up doing a braid-out after every wash. These give your hair a nice crimped look and create a lot of volume.

Braid-out

Again you do not have to use heat to do this it can be done immediately after washing. If your hair isn’t stretched out enough the next day you can simply re-braid it and it will stretch it out further.

6. Bantu-knot outs

Back in the day these use to be called China bumps! I love these as your hair works as its own set of rollers. It’s a lot cheaper than buying a set of curl formers or rollers. It is quite easy to do this style and you can decide how big our small you want your knots to be. I will feature two methods below and you can try whatever works best for you. You could even leave the bantu-knots in and wear your hair in a funky style like that.

Corinne’s Bantu knot-out

SimplYounique

xGOLDn

That’s it for now! I will be featuring some more styles for part two of this article. There are many more and some that I haven’t even discovered yet. Styles for formal occasions such as weddings for example and updos, cornrows, flat twists, the list is endless. Let me know if you have tried any of these styles and what your favourite style is.  Remember to look out for part 2 of this article that will follow shortly. If you have found this helpful let me know in the comments below.

Natural Hairstylists: Felicia Leatherwood

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Felicia Leatherwood was recently featured in Yahoo’s Secret’s to your success. Here she tells her story about how she became a successful hairstylist and what inspired her. She is described as the ‘hair whisperer’ and her specialty is said to be :

Creating natural hairstyles and helping African-American men and women love their natural hair, sans chemicals and over-processing.”

It is good to hear about hairstylists who have studied natural hair and are passionate about promoting healthy and natural hair care. Since going natural I have struggled to find a hairdresser with expertise in natural hair care and have frankly been disappointed. I’m sure if I really did my research and was prepared to spend a lot of money I would find a good one eventually. Initially, I thought if I went to the Afro hairdressers in my area they would know about natural hair, boy was I wrong! If I was to find a good one in the London area I would have to be prepared to spend good money and travel to the other side of London. I really wish there was more choice when it came to hairdressers and stylists for natural hair.

Let me share a couple of horror stories with you. I use to get my hair cornrowed and I would wear a fake puff. I figured this would be the easiest way to manage my hair and it was quite protective as my real hair was cornrowed and tucked away. I got a lot of compliments for this style. However the damage done to my hair to create this style was simply not worth it. First of all, the hairdressers I went to would always blow-dry my hair before even beginning to put it in braids. Some hairdressers would blow-dry and then even flat-iron my hair all before braiding or cornrowing it. Some wouldn’t even bother to use heat protectants on my hair before putting it through this grueling procedure.

Also, there were the hairdressers that insisted on using a fine tooth comb on my natural hair! I didn’t even see a wide tooth comb in their selection of equipment. It’s sad to say that on one particular occasion there was a lot of shed hair on the floor, not naturally shed hair, most of it broke off from all the pulling. The hairdresser even used this to imply that my hair was breaking and that I should get a treatment and spend even more money in that place! They never saw me again after that. I have learned to be patient and extremely careful with my natural hair, I couldn’t possibly put my hair in the hands of a careless, impatient hairdresser ever again.

One bad experience after another. The only way to get around it was to blow dry my hair myself using my own heat protectants and handle my hair with care before going to the hairdresser. However, it still wouldn’t be straight enough for them and they would want to run a flat-iron through it as well. You certainly get what you pay for, that’s for sure. This is why I am so grateful for all the information I have acquired from bloggers and vloggers on the internet. People who have given me valuable information for free. From women sharing their personal experiences of going natural, to natural hair experts who have studied natural hair for years . It’s nice to hear about people who really know what they are talking about when it comes to natural hair, it’s so refreshing.

Felicia Leatherwood explained the importance of reciprocity in her success. The more you give to others the more others want to give back. As well as having celebrity clients like Jill Scott she also hosts seminars and provides information on the web, often giving away her expertise for free. People appreciate this free information and it’s one of the reasons she has loyal customers today.

After what I’ve experienced with hairdressers if I find a stylist that genuinely cares about my hair and really knows about natural hair,  I certainly wouldn’t take it for granted. Most importantly If I come across a bad, clueless hairstylist,  I would pick up my purse and simply walk out before they do any damage to my hair.   I now style my own hair and I don’t have to blow dry my hair to braid it, I can’t even remember the last time I used heat to style my hair. It would be nice to go to a good hairstylist though. I’ve since moved to America and I am currently in Arkansas (near Little Rock). I will be in Dallas Texas for a few months also, so if you know any in those areas let me know. Thanks!

Have you had a similar experience? Share your stories below.

Felicia Leatherwood Updo

Client Jill Scott