Nine Common Mistakes Made With Relaxed Hair

Standard

I sometimes cringe when I remember my mindset during my ‘creamy crack’ days.  Due to a lack of knowledge, many mistakes were made. This confined me to hair that never seemed to grow past a certain point or risked severe damage. Here are 8 common mistakes made with relaxed hair that you may have been guilty of practicing.

Jenell of kinkycurlycoilyme said her hair never grew past a certain point when it was permed

Jenell of kinkycurlycoilyme said her hair never grew past a certain point when it was permed

Flat ironing relaxed hair

Using heat on relaxed hair is discouraged by hair care experts, as relaxed hair has already been stripped of its elasticity. Therefore it is weaker than hair in its natural state.   The use of heat is likely to weaken the hair further and cause breakage. Any use of heat should be  minimal. Using heat to combat new growth is futile. as any slight moisture on the scalp will simply cause the hair at the roots to revert. This may lead to an excessive use of heat, which causes dry and damaged hair.  Instead, embrace styles that allow the  new growth to blend, such as twist outs or braid outs.

 

Relaxing every six to eight weeks

I use to relax my hair every six weeks with super strength relaxer.  Hair care experts suggest relaxing your hair every 10 to 12 weeks or even less frequently. The more your hair is exposed to the harsh chemicals of relaxers, the more prone it is to over processing and weakening over time.

Check out vloggers Ebony and Erica of TwoLaLa. They relax their hair as infrequently as once a year! Now I don’t think I could have gotten away with that, but it shows that the more time that passes between relaxers, the better. This reduces the overall exposure of your hair to chemicals.

 

two la laRelaxing the hair bone straight

Relaxing your hair to the point where it is bone straight is not recommended. It should be no more than 80% straight, as this leaves some elasticity in the hair.  From my experience many hair stylists would only remove the relaxer once it started to burn. I also had hair that didn’t relax easily, so it would be left in longer than the recommended time. This is not good hair care practice. Hair with little elasticity is more likely to suffer breakage, especially at the ends.

 

Relaxing beyond the mark of demarcation

It is often stressed that only the new growth should be relaxed. The point at which the new growth meets the relaxed hair should not be crossed.  However from my experience this is not always followed, and it can easily happen by accident. Apply Vaseline to the relaxed hair to protect it during the application process. When the processed hair comes into contact with chemicals, it can lead to breakage.

 

Not experimenting with curly or wavy styles

Braid outs, twist outs and flexi-rod sets can also be done with relaxed hair, although the technique used may differ slightly.  The time between relaxers can be extended if these curly styles are incorporated on a regular basis. These styles are great for blending in new growth. Rather than trying to make the roots look straight it is easier to curl the processed hair without heat. These styles create diversity and give the hair more volume, which is sometimes lacking with relaxed hair.

 

Moisturizing my hair with oil

Since going natural, many of us have learned the importance of water for moisturizing the hair and the use of oil for sealing. I had no idea of this when I had relaxed hair and would often talk about needing ‘grease’ in my hair to moisturize it. Most afro hair stores still sell the old products that contain petroleum and mineral oil. Even when going natural, I would use a lot of Shea butter to moisturize my hair, instead of water. Now we know better. There are some oils that have moisturizing properties as they penetrate the hair strands, coconut and avocado oil for instance. But generally, when our hair is dry, it is crying out for water, not oil. Both are needed to ensure hair is moisturized and remains moisturized. Use a water-based leave in conditioner for moisturizing, and a natural oil for sealing in the moisture.

 

Not understanding how to retain length

When I had relaxed hair I didn’t understand how to retain length. Instead I was resided to the idea that my hair couldn’t grow past a certain point. If I had understood the importance of low manipulation and protective styling, I may have been more successful at retaining length. Protecting my ends-other than trimming them when they became weathered-should have been practiced, as much as it is now that I am natural. However, it is more of a challenge to retain length with relaxed hair as chemically processed hair is weaker. Women with super long relaxed hair are the exception, not the norm.

 

jennifer hudsonUsing harsh chemicals on damaged hair

Excessive shedding in between relaxers is experienced by many women with relaxed hair. Hair care experts are unsure of the exact reasons for this. I remember thinking I had to relax my hair as soon as possible to deal with it. Some even fall into the habit of relaxing damaged hair, rather than holding off until the damaged is reduced. If you are having problems with your scalp, such as excessive dryness and irritation, the last thing it needs is exposure to harsh chemicals that burn and irritate.  Also, examine the products you are using and eliminate any with chemicals that may be responsible for causing dryness, such as sulfates.

 

Using weaves or braids to mask the problems with the hair

Adding tension to your hair with weaves or braids may cause more damage long-term, and worsen the condition.  Although weaves and braids can give your hair a break from  chemicals and manipulation, they shouldn’t be installed on hair that is damaged and breaking. Hair in this condition may not be able to withstand the tension.  Also, such hair needs regular moisture and conditioning. It is harder to reach your hair or scalp when it is tucked away under a weave. When ever weaves or braids are installed, ensure that the stylist does not do t them too tightly.  Wigs (without tight combs or harsh glues) may be a better option, as they do not put tension on the hair. Crochet braids are also believed to be lighter and kinder to the hair.

‘Team relaxed’ can enjoy healthier hair. But ultimately avoiding chemicals is best for the health of any hair type. If a person chooses to use relaxers, they can at least avoid the common mistakes made by many, and minimize the damaging effects of chemicals.

Have you ever made these mistakes before? Do you have relaxed hair? Share your thoughts below.

 

Advertisements

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

Standard

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.

IMG_0773

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.

 

 

 

Products in Australia for Natural Hair

Standard

Since moving to Australia I have had to say goodbye to Shea Moisture products and access to all the products showcased by of my favorite vloggers and bloggers. Even in the UK there is much more access to American based products online, through sites such as beautybyzara.com. So far in Australia, although there have been attempts to provide this, it has not been successful. Most of the products are available on ebay.com.au, but the shipping costs get you every time. Beware of sellers that offer ‘free shipping’. They usually double the price of the item before they offer it.

However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t products available to women with naturally curly or kinky hair, here in Oz. If you find products with all natural  ingredients, it is likely to be suitable for your hair type. It may not be marketed towards our specific demographic, but that doesn’t mean it will not work well with your hair.

I have always been a ‘just juices and berries’ kind of girl.  As long as I can order shea butter online, have access to natural oils and can make my own flaxseed (Linseed) gel for styling, I’m pretty much sorted. I also use the Terressential Mud wash for washing my hair, which I purchased in the US. I stocked up on some products  last time I visited the States and I plan on doing the same when I go to the UK. Prices here in Australia are distressing to say the least, so it makes sense to stock up whenever you travel outside the country. However, not everyone has that opportunity.  So over the next few weeks I will be sharing the products I have bought and used, right here in Australia.

Shampoo – Giovanni Brazilian Keratin and Argan Oil

shampoo
I decided to try a new wash and go technique (I’m determined to succeed and won’t let this go 😀 ). It stressed the importance of clarifying the hair before attempting to define your curls. The Giovanni Tripple Treat Shampoo was recommended for clarifying. Giovanni products are now available in Australia. Try your local health food store like Healthy Life, which are found in Westfield Shopping Centres. They should have Giovanni products in store. If not they can order any for you. It can take up to two weeks to receive your goods though. They didn’t have this particular brand in store so I chose to use one that was on the shelf. I wasn’t patient enough to wait two weeks.

Instead, I  purchased Giovanni Brazilian Keratin and Argan Oil Ultra -Sleek Shampoo.  This claims to clarify and moisturize as well as: smooth every strand, create shine, and banish frizz.   It also states to contain no phthalates, artificial fragrance, dyes, sulfates, parabens and PEGs.  It is said to be for all hair types.

Here are the ingredients:

 Aqua (purified water), sodium cocomphoacetate, decyl glucoside, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, cocomidopropyl betaine, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, panthenol (pro-vitamin B5), beta carotene, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, argonia spinosa (argon) kernel oil, hydrolyzed poulinia cupana (Brazilian cocoa) keratin extract [phyto-keratin], aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice, aspalathus linearis (rooibos tea) extract, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, macadamia ternifolia (macadamia) seed extract, butyrospermum parkii (shea butter) extract, sodium benzoate, citric acid, potassium sorbate, polysorbate 20, gylcol distearate, sodium PCA, phenoxyethanol, natural fragrance

Note: sulfate-free shampoos may not contain sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate, but may still contain other surfactants,  for cleansing and forming.  Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate for instance.  These can still have a drying effect on some hair types. But for deep cleansing or clarifying, such detergents are considered necessary.

I have been so use to co-washing and using the mud wash that I had forgotten what it felt like to experience rich lather when washing my hair. It was great, my hair was lathering up a storm. It removed all residue thoroughly. My hair literally felt squeaky clean. Prior to using this shampoo, I would use Apple Cider Vinegar. This shampoo felt stronger than the vinegar for clarifying and I believe it was more through in removing residue.

I was concerned that my hair was going to dry out and I couldn’t wait to put conditioner in it. After conditioning, the balance was restored.   My hair felt both clean but moisturized. Make sure the conditioner to follow is  rich and creamy and doesn’t have any silicones or other harmful ingredients.  Even when using the shampoo, my hair didn’t feel dry. It simply didn’t have any slip because it was so clean. I wouldn’t equate this to drying my hair out.

I personally wouldn’t use this shampoo too frequently unless I was going swimming often. If you regularly use products which contain synthetic ingredients such as silicones, mineral oil or petroleum, perhaps you would need to clarify more often.   I would probably use it once a month or whenever I felt it was necessary.

After using this shampoo, I noticed that my curls were more defined than ever. This was simply because there was no residue to weigh down the strands, at all. This shampoo also contains frizz fighting ingredients such as aloe vera.  The keratin protein will work to strengthen the hair and reinforce it’s natural curl pattern.  Therefore this type of shampoo may work in treating hair that is suffering from heat damage.  It is better to use this in conjunction with products that are moisture based rather than protein based. This will ensure that the hair maintains an appropriate protein to moisture balance.   I have ordered the Triple Treat shampoo, so I look forward to trying this one as well.

Please be aware that results may vary depending on your hair type and hair needs.  This is not a sponsored post just my own opinions :).

Stay tuned for some more product reviews next week.   Have you tried this shampoo or any Giovanni products? If you live in Australia, which shampoos have you tried?

Hair Care for Children – Part 2

Standard

Many of us have bad memories of our hair being combed as a child. Due to a lack of knowledge and patience, we endured the pain of having a comb forced through our tightly coiled, kinky or curly hair.  For some of us, our natural hair was nothing but a source of pain and annoyance.   Meanwhile our straight-haired friends could run a fine tooth comb or brush through their hair with ease.  Not to mention being bombarded with images of silky, flowing hair via the media. We must change our mindset about our natural hair, it is a negative mindset that has developed for generations.  There is nothing wrong with Afro textured hair. The ability to run a comb through it, from root to tip, is not a measurement of beauty and quality. Neither is it inferior to straight silky hair.  It simply differs from straight hair and requires a different technique for care and maintenance. Part one covered moisturizing your child’s hair and the type of products to use, check it out. Here are six more strategies for managing your child’s hair.  Hopefully, we can pass on good hair care practice to the next generation.

Blue-Ivy

 

Comb with care

The quality of combs and brushes should be of the highest quality before using them for our small children. Large, wide tooth, seamless combs should be used as opposed to cheaply made plastic combs. The combs with longer teeth cause less damaged when detangling kinky or curly hair.  Use soft bristle brushes only,  for gently smoothing the hairline. Using brushes to detangle the length of the hair will likely lead to breakage. Brushes with harder bristles can work well for young boys with short hair. Mist the hair with water first, add oil or butter to soften the hair before brushing. Brush along the grain of the hair, not against it.

Most importantly, hair should be combed after it is sprayed with water or a water based conditioning serum. Never comb the hair when it is dry and unpliable,  this leads to nothing but pain and breakage.   Instead, comb tangled hair from the tips, a quarter of an inch or so at a time. Release any tangles gently and work your way down to the root. The more patient and gentle you are with their hair, the more it will flourish.

Finger detangling is another option, combs can be avoided entirely. This is generally recommended for textured hair, especially for kinky, tightly coiled hair. Combs may not always be necessary and can cause breakage.  Finger detangling is gentler and easier for textured hair.  Spray with water, add some oil or butter and gently finger detangle and smooth edges with your hands. Accessories like ribbons and bows can be added after.

EXCLUSIVE: Robin Givens strolls through midtown with her sons, Buddy and Billy

 

Braid gently with minimal tension

Braids should never be too tight. Style longevity should not be put before the long-term health of the child’s hair. What does it matter if the style lasts a week longer, when the hair breaks and thins dramatically once the style is taken out? Furthermore hair that is braided too tightly causes headaches as well as damaged hair. This will make it harder for them to concentrate at school and even disrupt sleep.   Always keep braids around the frontal hairline relatively loose so that no tension is placed on the hair as the child plays, sleeps, or makes facial expressions. Braiding tightly can cause permanent damage to the child’s hair follicles and prevent them from growing  healthy hair in their adult years.

Mist braids and cornrows with sprays daily and seal with oil for shine. This will prevent them from drying out.  With extensions, it is important to remember that synthetic hair is stronger and heavier than our hair. When intertwined with delicate children’s hair it can abrade the cuticle and lead to terrible breakage. Children under the age of seven should always have their own hair braided without extensions.

d80a02f7afbfb200e0470f52c4bf02b2

Establish a night care routine

Ideally a satin scarf at night is best. Getting them into the habit of using one is advisable. The next best thing is a satin pillowcase to minimize frizz and preserve their style. If the scarf keeps falling off , a satin bonnet may also work well. These methods will prevent excessive rubbing that can lead to nape and side hair breakage. It is also important to remove all accessories such as clips and hair bands as these can snag the hair as the child sleeps. Release the hair from ponytails at night to prevent ‘halo breakage’. This is when children develop breakage around the rim of their hairline and nape or when they have short hairs around their head that do not fit into ponytail holders. In the morning, to smooth their edges and eliminate frizz, lightly spray their edges and braids with water. Then firmly apply a satin scarf to flatten the stray hairs. Leave it on for five minutes or so and their edges should be smoother and neat once it is taken off.

Be gentle with ponytails and buns

Babies and young girls with very short hair should not have their hair forced into ponytails and hard barrettes. Their hair can be beautifully accentuated with satin headbands, ribbons and clip-on bows. When short hair is manipulated into a ponytail, the tension placed on both the scalp and hair can damage both the hair follicles and strands.  This leads to thinning edges and missing nape areas. The hair underneath the ponytail holder should have freedom to move. Perform a tension test by asking the child to move her head from ear to shoulder on each side and chin to chest. If there is any discomfort, loosen the ponytail. Limit ponytails to five or six, as smaller ponytails are more likely to lead to breakage.  Avoid rubber bands and ponytail holders with the metal crimp in the middle as these can snag the hair.

5e03eeee2658d7c55f7b649b1d4a99ab

 

Use kinder shampoos and conditioners

All natural, sulfate-free shampoos are best because they are gentle for the hair and scalp. If you must use shampoos with detergents, adding a couple of tablespoons of olive oil or almond oil will reduce the harshness of the shampoo. Stronger shampoos can be used for clarifying every two to three weeks if your child is particularly active and needs deeper cleansing. Clarifying will reduce product buildup or dirt.

Deep conditioning with heat caps isn’t considered necessary for children, as their hair should be at its healthiest. The exception is hair that is chemically treated, in which case a protein conditioner may be necessary every other week.  This will help to maintain the protein moisture balance that chemicals tend to disrupt.

images

Lead by example

If your child sees that you love your hair in its natural state, they will learn to do the same.  Many of us grew up believing that God made a mistake with our hair and that it needed to be fixed. We used a European standard of beauty to measure the worth and beauty of African hair. These misconceptions are slowly changing. How you teach your children to love the hair that God has given them is your decision. However resorting to chemical relaxers to permanently alter the texture of a child’s hair is unnecessary. Perhaps it should be left to your child to decide, when they are old enough to deal with the consequences and maintenance that is required for chemically treated hair.

 

How do you manage your child’s hair? Please share your tips below.

 

Hair Care for Children

Standard

Last week there was a lot of debate about baby Blue Ivy’s hair, after a ridiculous petition was created on change.org to ‘comb her hair.  It received over 3500 signatures.  It also brought natural hair into the forefront again and made me question if the stereotypes about it still exist. The woman who started the petition claims to have natural hair herself and has since said it was a joke. Perhaps people should think twice before ‘joking’ about somebody’s child or ridiculing a baby’s hair. So, what is good practice when it comes to hair care for children at various stages?  Here are 6 points that I believe are important for managing our children’s hair. Stayed tuned for more next week.

Image

Less is more when it comes to newborns and babies under 2 years

Not much should be done with their hair at this stage as their scalps are very sensitive; any manipulation is likely to cause damage or pain.   The hair fibers will  be developing and changing rapidly. In the early months their hair is usually fine, wavy or curly. As they grow, their hair will develop more texture. Most of us have baby pictures of ourselves with softer, loosely curled hair and probably believe it is a contrast to our hair now.  It is also common for newborns and young babies to have uneven hair and bald spots . The most likely area for a bald spot is at the back of their head. This is due to them constantly sleeping on their backs and the friction caused by rubbing. To prevent or minimize this, rub a little coconut oil on the affected area to protect it and lay them on a satin blanket.

Shampoos are not considered necessary at this stage either; a simple rinsing with warm water will suffice.  As the hair grows in texture and thickness, co-washing can be introduced.  A light moisturizer may be used daily to  style and nourish the hair.  As the hair thickens, a thicker moisturizer can be used, followed by a light oil for sealing.

img-thing

More moisture is needed for toddler years and older

As a child’s hair texture thickens and matures, the hair fibers will require more moisture, to keep them supple and pliable. A lack of adequate moisture will weaken the hair and lead to breakage. Avoid products that are too harsh for textured hair. With the growth of the natural hair community, there are now a plethora of products catered to natural hair.  Many of these products are 100% natural and free from drying ingredients, like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or silicones. There are a number of kinder shampoo and conditioners that are sulphate-free. Use conditioners that are rich and creamy for adequate slip when washing and detangling.

Low manipulation styling is key

Low manipulation styling should be practiced as the norm. Avoid heat, chemical relaxers and weaves (yes I have seen young children with weaves), as these can hinder healthy growth.  Traction alopecia is most prevalent with women and young girls of African descent. This is a cycle that must be broken.  Most of our bad habits relating to hair started in childhood.  The reasons we are known as the race with the shortest hair is because of generations of chemical use, excessive heat,  lack of knowledge about our natural hair and, an over-reliance on tight weaves and braids.  It is not because there is anything inherently wrong with our natural hair, or because it doesn’t grow.

Don’t fall for marketing gimmicks.

Be wary of marketing gimmicks such as ‘no tears’ formulas in baby shampoos.  These products are marketed as being gentle, but are just as strong and drying as adult shampoos. They still contain high dosages of detergents and surfactants. Being easy on the eyes should not be the only qualifying factor, as they can still be harsh on the hair and have little conditioning values. Afro-textured hair is prone to dryness by its nature. Baby shampoos strip already fragile curly or kinky hair types, leaving the hair shaft unprotected.

Also, be aware that relaxers targeted at children are not gentler than adult relaxers, the ingredients are the same. The only difference is the children on the packaging. The same goes for texturizers, which work the  same as relaxers. Both use the same ingredients, either sodium hydroxide or Calcium hydroxide.  They permanently alter the natural curl pattern, strip the hair of its elasticity and straighten kinkier hair textures. Texturizers rarely leave the hair wavy or curly like it appears on the box.

Image

Consider using no shampoo and conditioner for the under 5s

A shampoo free regimen is best for those under five years of age. Young children this age typically do not need to use shampoo of any kind on their textured hair, unless it has been heavily soiled (food, playing in the sandbox, swimming etc).  No shampoo or conditioner-regimens insure that moisture is reinforced within the strands and is not depleted due to the harsh detergents found in shampoos. This may be a method to consider if your child’s hair continues to suffer from excessive dryness no matter what shampoo you use.

Image

Butters, oils and leave in conditioners

There are many products with petroleum and mineral oil that claim to combat dryness.  Instead, these ingredients coat the hair and prevent moisture from being absorbed. This leads to dryness and causes a dependency on the product, causing you to constantly reapply it for temporary relief.  Such products have resulted in dry, weighed down tresses for many of our children.  Baby oil is 100 percent mineral oil for instance.  Instead use natural oils such as coconut oil, grapeseed oil or avocado oil, for sealing and styling.  The type of moisturizer used depends on your child’s hair type. Thicker, kinkier hair works well with heavier butters and creams, whereas looser curls and finer hair would need lighter products, so it is not weighed down.

The simple use of water in a spray bottle will suffice, or a water based spray or leave in conditioner can be used. You can purchase detangling sprays, leave-in conditioners, creams, custards or simply make your own water, oil and conditioner concoction.  Nourishing butters such as avocado, cocoa, mango and shea can also be used instead of mineral oil or petroleum.  The same moisture-sealing rules apply with children. Hair must be moisturized with water, or a water based moisturizer and sealed with an oil or butter.  This will help the hair retain moisture, promote shine and improve manageability.

Shea Moisture for Kids

Shea Moisture for Kids

Next week will include: appropriate hair tools, methods of styling and washing your children’s hair.

Please share your hair care tips for children below?  What did you think about the Blue Ivy hair petition?

 

Sources: babycenter.com

Davis-Sivasothy; The Science of Black Hair

The “fringe sign” for public education on traction alopecia:

http://escholarship.org/uc/item/1h81c7s1

Is it really ‘just hair’? – The historical significance of black hair.

Standard
Naptural85 before her hair grew to waist length.

Naptural85 before her hair grew to waist length.

I was watching one of my favorite vloggers showcase another tutorial, with her thick waist length hair. I scanned the comments, most of which were gushing about how beautiful her hair is, only to find one that had a lot of replies. One unsuspecting viewer made the mistake of asking if the vlogger, Naptural85 was mixed. I’m sure she wasn’t expecting it to become a heated discussion. Many commenters began to tell her off for implying that Naptural85 must be mixed with another race, in order to have long, luscious hair. Another began to educate her about this misconception and what someone is really saying when they ask this question. Then another inferred that ALL black people are mixed and this started a whole new debate. There were discussions about our ancestral links to other races, the intermixing that took place during slavery and so forth. Others gave examples of the diversity of Africa and how you would find tight kinky hair, to loose curly curls and even straight hair, within the vast continent. During such discussions someone always tries to be the voice of reason and say, it’s just hair people! Although it is true that this all started from a simple hair tutorial, here are some reasons many would consider this emotive topic to be about more than ‘just hair’.

natural-hair-headband

Hair has always been extremely significant in all African cultures. It has long been socially important because it communicated age, marital status, ethnic identity, religion, wealth, geographic origin, and even one’s rank in the social hierarchy.  Royalty would wear hats or elaborate hairstyles to emphasize their status. Traditionally in West Africa, long thick hair was praised on women, as it symbolized the power of life, prosperity and the promise of many healthy children. Widowed women would not take care of their hair during their period of mourning, as not to attract other men. Wolof culture in Senegal shaved their hair to show that they were not courting. Cornrows and other braids are used for grooming African hair and may often be styled with beads or shells.  Although curly and kinky hair was gloried in West African societies, it became a symbol of inferiority once enslaved Africans reached American shores. “The pride and elegance that once symbolized curly/kinky hair, immediately became a badge of racial inferiority”, says author Ingrid Banks.

Hair use to mean the difference between freedom or enslavement

Straight hair has been pursued by black people ever since. Both women and men desired straight European hair because it was seen as the beauty ideal. Unfortunately this mindset still exists today within the black community. After centuries of slavery, straight hair provided economic opportunity and was a social advantage.  Hair was used to determine Negro status, even more than skin color.  After slavery, up to 80 percent of former slaves were mixed with European heritage due to interracial coupling between slave and master.  Many had skin as light as Caucasians. The general rule was that if the hair showed just a little bit of kinkiness, that person would be unable to pass as white. This would likely lead to them being recaptured and enslaved again. “Essentially the hair acted as the true test of blackness, which is why some male slaves opted to shave their heads to try to get rid of the genetic evidence of their ancestry when attempting to escape to freedom”; says authors Byrd and Tharps in their book; Hair Story: untangling the roots of black hair in America.

Image

Henry Bibb, a runaway slave who was being held in Louisville, Kentucky before escaping.

Perhaps even today many people of African descent, living in Western countries subconsciously associate straight hair with economic advantage and social acceptance. When I first went natural I was reluctant to wear my hair out at work, for fear of being ‘misunderstood’.  One of my friends felt she had to seek permission from her supervisor before she could display her natural hair.  Numerous cases have been reported of people being discriminated against because of their afro hair texture, and not only by white owned establishments.  The article Natural Hair in Nigeria, highlighted the negative attitudes that exist there towards natural hair; for example natural hair being referred to as ‘village hair’ or believing it would prevent a woman from finding a husband. There is still a fear that our hair will put us at a disadvantage in many walks of life.  These attitudes are especially likely to exist with people from older generations.

 Hair texture hierarchy

There is also a clear division within the black community, when it comes to hair and skin tone. The debate about the hair typing system and perceived hierarchy is still evident. The very suggestion that someone with long, defined hair must be mixed, implies that only mixed people have nice hair.  Of course such divisions have existed since slavery and have not been eradicated in the minds of many black people today.  We’ve all been taught that the slaves with straighter hair worked inside the plantation houses, avoiding backbreaking labor.  The house slaves had access to clothes, better food, education and, the promise of freedom some day.  During this era a skin-shade, hair texture hierarchy developed within the slave community, hence the emergence of good vs. bad hair.  Good hair was thought of as long, kink-free, no frizz or tight curls.  The straighter the hair, the better.  Bad hair was African hair in its purest form.  Orlando Patterson (1982); In Slavery and Social Death: A comparative study; argues that hair, not skin color, became a more potent mark, that symbolized servitude during slavery in North America and the Caribbean. “Hair type rapidly became the real badge of slavery”. Today it’s our minds that may still be enslaved by these principles and not just in America.  There has been much debate over whether the natural hair community has adopted a hair texture hierarchy, with type 3 hair (loose/defined curls) being preferred to  type 4 hair  (kinky/tightly coiled).

Image

Leyla of Fusion of Cultures who is Ghanaian

Despite being free, this mentality continued in the minds of black people and still exists today.  The spread of European colonialism has also had an effect.  The pursuit of European style weaves and wigs and relaxers is evident of that.  In an attempt to educate people, some of us explain our thoughts on this subject passionately. When someone tries to dismiss those attempts with the phrase, “it’s just hair people!” it can be quite frustrating.  Should we be fixated on hair? No, but certain mindsets should be challenged in order to prevent them from being passed on to the next generation.  These attitudes exist after 400 years, simply because they have been passed on from mother to daughter, grandparent to grandchild, father to son etc. Conforming to European standards of beauty did not lead to acceptance after slavery.  Black people with straighter hair who emulated fashions and hairstyles of whites were ridiculed and satirized in the press, in theaters and on the streets.

“Be yourself because an original is worth more than a copy” ~ unknown

Degrading African features

Wunmi of womaninthejungle.com is Nigerian

Wunmi of womaninthejungle.com

During slavery the idea was pushed that darker-skinned black people with thicker hair were less attractive, less intelligent and worth less than their lighter-skinned brothers and sisters. This was simply to divide, and sadly some division still exists to this day. Some people are still of the mindset  that African hair in its purest form is ugly. And a black woman with nice hair has it, despite being fully black, or a person is beautiful despite being dark-skinned.  Whatever a person’s skin tone or hair texture, we should see their beauty, inside and out. It’s natural to have preferences but prejudice is a different thing entirely.  Perhaps we should stop asking people with two black parents if they are mixed, simply because their hair is long or defined.  Most people, knowingly or unknowingly (whatever their race) have links to other races or nationalities.

So no, it is not ‘just hair’, our hair is linked to our African identity. Our hair has emotive links to a history of oppression. Our hair is also linked to freedom of expression and African pride.  Try to understand where a person is coming from and what they are trying to teach and correct, before dismissing the discussion. For you, it may be just hair, but for many it goes beyond that. Thankfully the ignorance surrounding natural hair is being addressed and many of us are learning to embrace it, however, some still have a long way to go.

 

Do you think it is just hair? Share your thoughts below.

Seven Reasons For Excessive Shedding or Breakage

Standard

Hair sheds naturally each day. This occurs when a hair strand has reached the end of its growth cycle and falls out, making room for the new strand.  On average a person sheds up to 100 hair strands a day. Naturally shed hair usually has a white tip at top and will be near to full length. However, at times you may experience more shedding than usual for a number of different reasons. As you know your hair better than anyone, you can monitor the shedding of your hair and spot when it becomes excessive. Shed hair is usually evident after detangling, combing, or styling. At times the shedding may increase to an uncomfortable level. Seven reasons why excessive shedding may occur are as follows:

 

Protective styling

The benefits of protective styling are evident. However there is a way to do it safely to minimize damage to the hair. Weaves, braids and wigs should not be too tight and it is better to have a break in between protective styles so your hair is not constantly subject to tension. Excessive protective styling, done poorly can lead to traction alopecia,  Traction alopecia is more prevalent in black women than any other group. After taking out a protective style, you may find that you have a lot of shed hair. This is perfectly normal as shed hair is built up for as long as the style is kept in. Monitor the amount of shed hair that accumulates each time you take out a protective style. If this amount increases dramatically after a particular style, damage may have been caused.

Deep conditioning for too long

Deep conditioning is a vital part of our hair care regimen. However there seems to be a growing idea that the longer it is left in, the better. Some women choose to leave their deep conditioner in overnight. This is considered unnecessary by some  hair care experts. It is important to note that hair is more fragile when saturated in deep conditioner that is water based. While sleeping, a person is likely to move around a lot, turning their head numerous times. This may cause a lot of rubbing and hair strands may be tugged and pulled in the process, which may result in broken or weakened strands.  This may cause them to shed before their time or break off easily when styling the next day.

Image

 

Product ingredients

Glycerin is a humectant that absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. It is a great ingredient to create long lasting moisture for the hair. I like to use ‘glycerin heavy’ products when  putting my hair in a protective style, so the moisture can last a few days without having to reapply frequently. However sometimes I find that my hair becomes more fragile after this and this can result in excessive shedding.  After washing my hair and simply using water for moisture, along with oil for sealing, I experience much less shedding. Glycerin can weigh the hair down and keep feeling damp for longer periods of time, this may weaken the strands. The amount of glycerin used should be limited, as a little goes a long way. If too much is used, it may be better to wash your hair sooner, so it doesn’t  build up and become detrimental to the strength of your hair.

Protein/moisture balance

Too much emphasis on moisture may result in weaker hair strands, as the hair needs protein to rebuild and reinforce itself. However constantly using products that contain protein may cause excessive dryness. Hair that is too dry also becomes brittle. So the protein moisture balance is important for healthy hair. Substitute every forth deep conditioner for a protein treatment and avoid using products that are protein heavy unless necessary.  Alternatively, simply examine your hair regularly and decide if it is in need of protein at that time, instead of your usual deep conditioner.

Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the body starts to lose more fluids than it takes in. Hair is one quarter water and water carries vital vitamins to the hair root. It hydrates the entire strand from the inside. Water is also the main source of energy for hair cells, including the ones that promote growth. It also clears the body of pollutants, which cause hair loss. Suffering from dehydration causes a shortage of a water supply to the hair. Water is then rationed to vital parts of the body, such as the brain and heart. This leads to excessive shedding and the roots will not be stimulated enough for new hair growth. So drinking plenty of water is crucial to the health of your hair. It is recommended that we drink six to eight glasses of water a day.

Medication

Hair loss may be a side effect of certain medications, so check the labels of your prescriptions. Some particular medications that may cause excessive shedding include blood thinners, antidepressants, and birth control pills. For birth control pills, the American Hair Loss Association recommends that all women interested in using oral contraceptives should only use low-androgen index birth control pills. If there is a strong predisposition for genetic hair loss in your family, they recommend the use of non-hormonal forms of birth control. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your medication.

Stress

There are different types of stress.  Telogen effluvium causes a large number of hair follicles to go into the resting phase of the hair growth cycle. The affected hair might fall out suddenly within a few months when simply combing or washing. Trichotillomania is when a person feels a sudden urge to pull their hair from the scalp to cope with  stress and anxiety.  Lastly, alopecia areata is one of the more serious forms of hair loss. This is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss. This can also be caused by stress. This can be reversed with better stress management techniques, exercise and reducing your caffeine intake may help for instance.

Image

Leyla of FushionofCultures has spoken about dealing with Trichotillomania

Dieting or poor nutrition

Crash dieting or failing to maintain a healthy diet, may have a negative effect on your hair. The hair is the last part of the body to receive nutrients, as major organs are prioritized. Hair needs the right vitamins and nutrients to be healthy. Two vitamin deficiencies that can particularly cause excessive shedding, or breakage, are vitamin A and iron.

Have you experienced excessive shedding or hair loss? If so, what  was the reason?