Tag Archives: Afro-textured hair

Are wigs and weaves bad for your health?

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On a recent episode of The Doctors, actress Countess Vaughn spoke about lace front wigs and the damage they caused to her health. She candidly described the result of an allergic reaction she had to the glue used to install her wig.  The Parkers star admits to falling in love with the wigs after her hair stylists introduced her to them in 2004. She said she didn’t consider the health risks and was so excited about wearing them.

Countess Vaughn

Countess Vaughn

Immediately you have a full hairline.  I was wearing it 24/7.  5 years after, the drama came in. The red flag was the oozing, from the ears, from my forehead, the whole nap around my head, the puss. It had a horrible smell. It was painful

Her experience is a strong warning about the potential dangers of constant weaving.  This is not just confined to lace front wigs, which require harsh glues. The tension required for installing weaves and braids can also lead to hair loss.  Some wigs come with comb attachments that can put stress on the hairline.  Unfortunately, many hair stylists prefer to braid and sew tightly for neatness.   Traction alopecia  is more prevalent in females with Afro-textured hair, according to a piece written in the Dermatology Online Journal: The fringe sign for public education on traction alopecia. The study found that the prevalence:

  • Is higher in African schoolgirls than boys (17.1% vs. 0%)
  • Increases with age in girls [8.6% (6-7 years), 15.6% (10-15 years), to 21.7% (17-21 years)]
  • Is higher in girls with relaxed vs. natural hair (22% vs. 5.2%)
  • Is highest in adults (31.7% in women vs. 2.3% in men; with affected males more likely to wear cornrows and dreadlocks)

Countess Vaughn admitted that she now has to draw her hairline with an eyebrow pencil and people have assumed she has vitiligo due to the discoloration caused by a skin reaction to the glue.  Women who have experienced such hair loss are likely to have more of an appreciation for the hair they may have thought wasn’t good enough by itself. Vaughn’s honesty and openness about this topic is commendable.

The damage caused by  an allergic reaction to lace front glue.

The damage caused by an allergic reaction to lace front glue.

So does all this information mean that you should stop wearing weaves immediately and go ‘cold turkey’? As with everything, moderation is the key.  Occasional use of wigs and weaves for diversity and protective styling can be beneficial. If you wear weaves and wigs, there are ways to minimize the risks associated with them, whether your hair is relaxed or natural.

Here are some suggestions compiled by Transform Medical Group:

  • Hairstyles should be painless, and if you are experiencing pain, the only solution is to loosen the hair.
  • Traction hairstyles should not be done on relaxed hair until at least two weeks after relaxing.
  • Only new growth should be relaxed. Relaxing hair that has previously been relaxed can increase the risk of damage.
  • Heat treatment (straighteners etc) can damage relaxed hair and should be avoided
  • Weaves, braids  and dreadlocks present greater risk when done on relaxed hair

How many of us endured the pain and headaches associated with tight braids or weaves, instead of taking them out? There is a general belief that the tighter the braids, the longer they last and the neater they look. The pain from tight braids and weaves is only reduced when the hair strands weaken, break and fall out.  Many of us have also made the mistake of coloring our hair soon after relaxing it usually for convenience or because of impatience.

Relaxed hair is hair that has been weakened by harsh chemicals and stripped of its elasticity. So any additional styling or chemical use must take this into consideration. According to Dr Marboor Bhatty of the Transform Medical Group, many of the traction alopecia cases he sees come from people being ‘disrespectful to their hair’.

Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbell

So respect and look after your hair to avoid these dangers. Do not give more care and attention to your fake weave than your real hair underneath.

Have you had a bad experience with wigs and weaves? How do you minimize the risks associated with them?  Share your experience below.

Sources:

Transform Medical Group

Here is the link to the original article

http://www.transforminglives.co.uk/news-blog/blog/2014/03/hair-extensions-%E2%80%93-reducing-risks/

Dermatology Online Journal

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

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Cruel comments about Blue Ivy’s hair need to stop!

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I was pretty disgusted to see the comments made against a baby on the BGLH (Black Girls with Long Hair) Facebook page, under the post: Blue Ivy is Rocking Twists. This is not the first time this blog has posted pictures of Beyoncé with her 21 month old daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. Each time, people feel the need to make negative comments about the baby’s looks, and hair. ALL of us had natural hair when we were babies, so why the scrutiny? During an interview with Oprah, Solange Knowles spoke about getting her first perm as early as four years old. With the cruelty targeted against her niece’s natural hair, I fear Blue may suffer a similar fate. Examples of these negative comments include ‘ Beyoncé really needs to do something  with her (Blue’s) hair’, ‘Beyoncé really needs to comb that girl’s hair’, ‘She’s a beautiful kid but why does her hair look unkept’, ‘Oh those are twists, I thought they were naps’. I noticed that some of the comments were made by women who appeared to have relaxed hair or weave according to their profile picture.  Such women probably joined that natural hair blog  to cause trouble and make negative comments about natural hair.

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Most of us with natural hair have heard comments like this, especially the usual demand that we comb our hair. People who make such statements have no knowledge of Afro textured hair. They compare it to straight silky hair and its noted differences are simply seen as flaws, rather than unique qualities. It disgusts me that such attitudes still exist in 2013 and people would resort to making such comments about a baby. These were probably the same people who were complaining about Beyoncé not showing any pictures of Blue Ivy for many months after she was born. Now we know exactly why she kept her hidden. These people seem upset that she has her father’s African features. They are upset that Blue Ivy didn’t get the ‘good hair’ but got the African/’nappy’ hair instead.

The majority of African-American women chemically straighten their hair or continuously keep their natural hair covered with other hair textures.  Comedian Cheryl Underwood received a backlash for calling Afro-textured hair ‘nasty’.  Judging by these comments, she was only saying what many African-American women think about their own hair texture. These are the same women who wouldn’t hesitate to put harmful chemicals on the scalps of their little girls.  This gives them the message that; ‘mama really has to do something with your hair because, your natural hair isn’t good enough, or, your natural hair is problematic and has to be fixed!’

FYI, Afro-textured hair is kinky and tightly coiled in nature, it may appear uneven at times because some women have tighter or loser sections. Combing it, doesn’t magically make it sleek or give it an even shape, where every hair is perfectly placed.  Babies especially have uneven hair because it is in the early stages of growth. You often find some babies with bald patches especially at the back of their head which they sleep on. To put the same standards on a baby that you would put on a grown women, is ridiculous!  In general, the use of a comb on Afro-textured hair should be minimized and only used on wet hair.  Finger detangling is just as good,  if not, more effective than a comb. So comments like the ones I read on this blog, only go to show how clueless people are about natural hair.  You often see clueless mothers subjecting their daughters to pain when combing their hair, because they have never learned how  to properly comb, Afro-textured hair in its natural state.

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I am not a  Beyoncé fan,  I’m a fan of natural hair. I am a fan of little black girls knowing that they are beautiful and that their hair is beautiful. I am a fan of young black girls not coming home from school and saying they want hair like the white girls. I’m also a fan of mothers taking the time to learn how to manage their daughter’s natural hair, rather than damaging it with relaxers or excessive heat and, I am certainly a fan of African beauty. If Beyoncé wants to experiment with Blue Ivy’s hair by putting it in braids, great! She’s taking the time to look after her daughter’s  hair, which is beautiful. Blue Ivy is not a natural hair inspiration or a celebrity yet; she’s simply a baby who has just started her life! And already, she is being told that her hair isn’t good enough, not by white people, but by black women with the same type of hair, minus the perms and weaves. Sad!

Have you seen these comments? Check out the blog post here: https://www.facebook.com/blackgirllonghair/posts/10151737920758391

Natural Hair On A Budget

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Having natural hair doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money on products. Many of the styles demonstrated on YouTube are not just achieved with the product brands featured in the videos.  These companies sponsor a lot of the natural hair videos.  Some would have you believe that such products are essential for managing and styling your hair effectively.  This is not the case and you will find plenty of YouTube vloggers that use simple, natural ingredients. Most of these natural ingredients are probably already in your kitchen cupboards.  They work well, if not better, than many product brands.

product j vs

Here are a few basic ingredients and tips you can apply

Shea Butter

Curly puddings are great but some of them can be quite pricey.  Miss Jessie’s curly pudding for example, is $38 for a 16 oz container.  Shea butter can be obtained online from sites such as eBay.com, Amazon.com or, online health food stores. One Kilo of Shea Butter really goes a long way and can last for many months. It is also relatively inexpensive. You can also mix it with your favourite oils to soften the texture.  In my experience, it works well for styling twist-outs, braid-outs and most curl manipulating styles that require a little hold.  I also use it for putting my hair in two strand twists and, it can be used as a sealant.

Check out Naptural85’s Shea Butter mix

Natural oils

Extra Virgin olive oil is likely to already be in your cupboard and can easily be purchased from your local supermarket.  Other oils available at the supermarket include coconut oil, avocado oil and Grapeseed oil.  I do not use a leave in conditioner. Spraying my hair with water and sealing in the moisture, with natural oils, works well for me.  This is a simple and effective method of moisturising Afro-textured hair. Some oils actually penetrate the hair shaft and have moisturising properties as well. These include: avocado oil and coconut oil.

avocado oil

Smoothing down edges with water

Gels can be annoying because they may flake, harden the hair or contain alcohol, which dries the hair.  Some of the pomades or styling glazes on the market may be quite pricey, especially if the quantities are small.  These products may  not be accessible in your area too. Living in Australia, I would have to purchase most of the popular products online. This would result in expensive shipping costs.  The good news is, plain old water and your satin scarf may be all you need to smooth down your edges.  Style your hair as normal, then lightly spray your edges with water.  Smooth your edges gently with your hands, and put on your satin scarf, to hold the hair down in place.  Leave it for ten minutes or so (put your makeup on, or whatever else you do to get ready), when you take your scarf off, your edges should be smooth and pressed down.

Make your own deep conditioner

I absolutely love Shea Moisture’s deep conditioner. However, since moving to Australia, I am no longer able to obtain it.  Also, I would run out of it too frequently, as I have a lot of hair.  You can make your own deep conditioner, that doesn’t require blending ingredients or melting butter and creams on the stove.

Ingredients:

-¼ cup of honey

½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup of glycerin

½ cup Greek yogurt (optional, for added protein)

Adjust the ingredients according to the amount required.  To make it into a protein treatment, you can add an egg to the mixture. Whisk the ingredients together and it will be ready to use.

homemade

Water for defining twist-outs

Twist-outs done on freshly washed hair, are likely to be more defined and last longer.  This is regardless of whether you used a product brand or simply Shea Butter.  It’s the water that makes the difference. As Afro textured hair dries after washing, it forms the shape it was manipulated into.  Twist-outs done on dry hair, simply sprayed with water, may result in a more stretched out style.  However, it may not be as defined.

In Australia? Check out www.n-essentials.com.au for natural ingredients, such as Shea butter and natural oils.

Enjoy your hair, with no fuss :-)

Enjoy your hair, with no fuss 🙂

If you like trying out different products, that’s fine but, this information may be helpful to you, when you need to go back to basics.  Do you prefer basic ingredients or products brands. How do you save money with your hair care?

Is Relaxed Hair Really Easier to Manage?

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Here I discuss this misconception and review some of the major mistakes I made when my hair was relaxed? Perhaps this explains why my hair never grew past a certain point.

A certain reality TV star was quoted as saying that natural hair isn’t for everyone. This was puzzling to me and many others in the natural hair blogosphere.  How could a person’s natural hair not suit them? Was he claiming that for some women the only option was to alter their hair texture permanently or to be constantly reliant on weaves?  This is fine if it is a choice but it’s unfortunate when women believe they have no choice but to rely on relaxers.  This implies that there is something inherently ‘wrong’ with their natural hair.

natural hair

 It’s very rare that you hear people of other races make such comments. This idea simply isn’t true and is a major misconception.   After making these comments he later ‘clarified’ on Twitter that he wasn’t being critical, he was simply pointing out that not everyone knows how to ‘manage’ their hair in its natural state, so thus it isn’t for everyone.  Really? I use to think like this, ask many women with relaxed hair or those that tried to go natural and have since returned to relaxer. Some will say the same thing.

However, is relaxed hair really that much easier to manage? All I know is when my hair was relaxed it didn’t grow past a certain point. Now this may not be the case for everyone but many of us can relate to this. During my time with relaxed hair I also had to deal with occasions where my hair was over processed, which led to breakage and regular setbacks.  Looking back now, I simply wasn’t aware of good hair care practice.  The principles that I have learned since going natural are also important for women with relaxed hair. They don’t just apply to natural hair but are integral for promoting healthy hair in general. For example both relaxed and natural hair benefit from protective styling. If I had incorporated this principle when my hair was relaxed I may have seen better results.

Click to check out vlogger KinkyCoilyCurlyMe's story below

Check out vlogger KinkyCoilyCurlyMe’s story below

Unfortunately, I believe many of us are still unaware of the effects of relaxers to the strength and overall health of our hair. This may be the reason why black women are considered to have the shortest hair length or  hair that ‘doesn’t grow’.  Relaxers may be one of the main reasons for this. Although there has been an increase in the percentage of women with natural hair in recent years, the majority still opt for relaxers.    After reading The Science of Black Hair, by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, I became more aware of  what chemical relaxers do to the hair. I realized where I was going wrong when my hair was relaxed. I wasn’t incorporating the practices needed to combat the negative effects of chemical relaxers.  I believe many women with relaxed hair are still not aware of how to manage their hair.  I’m not simply referring to styling, which is usually put before health.

Relaxers weaken afro textured hair because they strip the hair of its elasticity. With little elasticity, hair is more susceptible to breakage. Afro textured hair is naturally fragile as every kink and curl presents a potential breaking point. The American Academy of Dermatology found that relaxers make curly hair even more fragile and may therefore be the reason why the hair doesn’t grow beyond a certain point.  Afro textured hair certainly grows, that’s why we have to get a re-touch every 6 to 8 weeks. So the logical explanation is that the hair is breaking off from the ends and doesn’t reach a certain length as a result.

Good practices for relaxed hair

So what are the good hair care practices that would have helped me to manage my relaxed hair better?

Avoid bone straight hair

Hair care experts suggest that you should not relax your hair to the point where it is bone straight. Generally it should not be more than 80% straight; this leaves some elasticity in the hair.   I certainly didn’t know this when I relaxed my hair and my hair stylists didn’t follow this rule either. Instead they would wait until my scalp started to burn before they would even consider washing the relaxer out, this is not good hair care practice. Most of us believed that the straighter the hair the better. If  our hair wasn’t bone straight after a relaxer session it would have been considered a failure.  This doesn’t mean that such hair care experts are condoning the use of heat either in order to get the hair bone straight. In fact using heat on relaxed hair is not recommended, as this can cause dryness and breakage on hair that is already lacking in elasticity.

Wavy Relaxed Hair

Wavy Relaxed Hair

Relax the hair less frequently

Hair care experts also recommend that you relax your hair every 10 to 12 weeks rather than the popular 6 to 8 weeks. This is simply because of the harsh effects of the chemicals in relaxers and the risk of over processing. The more time that passes between relaxers the better, as this would reduce your overall use of chemicals.  How many of us followed this rule when we had relaxed hair? I relaxed my hair every six weeks without fail because I couldn’t handle the re-growth.  I didn’t like the very appearance of it. If you were going to follow this rule, you would have to learn to blend the two hair textures. Again, the use of heat to do this isn’t encouraged and it is stressed that such usage should be minimized. Using heat on the new growth is futile because any slight moisture on the scalp will result in the hair reverting. That’s why many of us fell into the trap of using heat too frequently, in between relaxers.  Some of us used it daily!  It would be beneficial to try braid-outs and twist-outs in between relaxers as this will blend the two textures well.

Don’t relax damaged hair

Dealing with two hair textures in between relaxers sounds like hard work to me and indicates that relaxed hair is not as easy to manage as people would love to have you believe. From personal experience the longer I waited in between relaxers the more shedding I experienced. This gave me the false idea that my hair was breaking without the relaxer and so I needed to relax it as soon as possible. The cause of heavy shedding between relaxers is still unknown and this topic has been debated.  It is suggested that you should wait for this period of shedding to subside before getting another relaxer.  Relaxing the hair is such a harsh process and should be done when the hair is in the best possible condition.

Respect the mark of demarcation

This is the point where the new growth reaches the straight, relaxed hair.  Hair care experts stress that when you relax your hair, you should not apply any of the mixture to the hair that is already straightened. You must only apply the relaxer to the new growth as this can lead to over processing. Well, I know from experience that this is almost impossible to do in reality.  Audrey Davis-Sivasothy suggests that you cover the relaxed hair with a thick cream or oil to form a protective barrier between the new growth and the relaxed hair. This may be the best way of preventing over processing. In practice, I know many of us did not take this rule seriously and I have seen hair stylists applying the mixture to about half of the hair. They certainly didn’t take care to ensure that they only applied the relaxer to the new growth. Hence, this is why many of us endured over processing as a regular occurrence.

Protein and moisturizing treatments

How many of us knew the difference between protein and moisturizing treatments when our hair was relaxed? And the importance of balancing moisture and protein with our treatments and products?  I can now concoct my own homemade protein and moisturizing treatments and I’m aware of the benefits. I don’t do protein treatments very often because I don’t have to, but with relaxed hair frequent protein treatments are a must.  Getting the protein/moisture balance right takes time and practice.   Protein treatments combat the weakening effects of the chemicals in relaxers.   Regular moisturizing treatments are also important in between relaxers. Relaxed hair is even more prone to dryness due to the chemicals in relaxers, despite clever marketing to convince you otherwise.

I only had treatments at the salon once in a while and the treatments I bought from the shops were mainly moisturizing treatments. I probably should have been having more protein treatments but I was unaware of the difference.  According to expert advice, protein treatments should be done every two to three weeks and moisturizing treatments should be done weekly with relaxed hair.

relaxedhair1

SimplYounique's hair growth

SimplYounique’s natural hair growth

After truly researching the effects of relaxers, I do not consider relaxed hair easier to manage. It also takes time and effort to maintain the health of relaxed hair. Dealing with the effects of chemical relaxers can be more of a headache, literally and figuratively speaking.  I think it was a miracle I made it through my relaxed years with hair still on my head, because I broke so many hair care rules.  Besides, you can still have straight hair when it is natural without the use of chemicals. If you are happy with your  relaxed hair that’s great!  You may still believe it is easier to manage.  We are all allowed our own opinions and our individual experiences differ.  However, I would suggest doing your research and adopting good hair care practices whatever your hair texture.

Click to check out hair Chime Edwards on Youtube

Click to check out hair Chime Edwards on YouTube

Whether relaxed or natural we should all learn to manage our hair correctly and no longer be stereotyped as the race that has the hair that doesn’t grow. Or that women with long hair in the black community must be bi-racial. I know there are black women with healthy, long relaxed hair too. But when I was growing up they were always the exception, not the norm.  For me personally, it was not a healthy period for my hair or for my self-esteem. Now my hair is longer than it has ever been. It is a wonderful experience to not have to rely on weaves or extensions for length and thickness.  It takes time to learn how to manage your natural hair but it is worth it!

What do you think?  Whether you have relaxed or natural hair, share your thoughts below.

Sources

·         The Science of Black Hair, Audrey Davis-Sivasothy; Saja Publishing Company 2011

·         www.blackhairscience.com

·         Ultra Black Hair Growth II, Cathy Howse, UBH Publications 2000

·         Grow It! Chicoro; ChicoroGYM Publishing 2009

·         http://www.curlynikki.com

Caring for 4b Hair

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My top six tips for caring for 4b hair and retaining length.

ErykahBadu22

1. Moisturize regularly

Afro textured hair has a tendency to be dry.  With all the kinks and curls it is difficult for moisture to penetrate every strand thoroughly. Therefore we constantly have to keep our hair moisturized. Moisturizing in advance is better than waiting for your hair to dry out before adding moisture. This will also minimize the breakage that occurs as a result of dryness.  A moisturizing deep conditioner applied after shampooing will give your hair a well needed moisture boost. How often you do this is up to you.  I try to do mine once a week but if my hair is in a protective style like mini twist I find it easier to do a hot oil treatment instead.

Washing your hair doesn’t just clean it; it adds moisture that you can seal in for days or even the whole week, depending on how well your hair absorbs and retains moisture. After shampooing and conditioning, use a good sealant to lock in the moisture. A natural oil such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or Shea butter will work well for sealing in moisture. Then check your hair during the week to ensure that it isn’t getting dry. A spray bottle with water can be used to top up the moisture of your hair or you can use a leave in conditioner of your choice. Make sure any leave in conditioner you use is water based. Water should be first on the list of ingredients.  Some people prefer to use a leave in conditioner especially if they have their hair in a twist out or braid out style. Spraying your hair with water can cause frizz and not allow your style to last as long. I usually just lightly mist my hair and then rub some oil into my hands and pat my hair lightly.  It depends on what style my hair is in. If your hair is in twists, you can spray or moisturized more easily. You have to do what works best for you. I think the main rule is to take action if you notice that your hair is getting dry, don’t simply ignore it.

Plastic caps are also good for locking in moisture after lightly misting your hair. You could wear one around the house during the day or to bed at night. You will notice that the moisture has remained in your hair overnight and your hair should feel soft and moist in the morning. Cover your head with a silk or satin scarf or use a satin pillow case. Cotton pillow cases absorb moisture and dry your hair out.  Most importantly be aware that moisture comes from within, so don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

 

2. Handle your hair with care

Once your natural hair gets longer you will find that your level of patience must also increase. Afro-textured hair is usually more delicate than Asian or European hair because the strands are finer in diameter, especially around the bends and twists of the strands.  Therefore our hair is more prone to breakage with heavy manipulation and rough handling.  4b hair in particular is tightly coiled and every kink, curl and bend presents a potential breaking point. Growing up, I  always believed I had ‘tough’ hair because my hair has a thick density. However, I know now that my individual strands are quite fine.  According to The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy; medium-sized strands are the same size as a strand of frayed thread. If your strands are thinner than this they are considered to be fine.  If your strands are larger than this, then they are thick.  I must be extra careful when handling my hair. It’s just isn’t wise to do my hair when I’m in a rush because there will be little broken hairs on my shoulders or on the floor! Be careful when styling your hair and use your fingers as much as possible to detangle, before using a wide tooth comb. Hair should also be handled when damp as it is more pliable in this state. Finally split your hair into sections before styling. This makes it less daunting and allows you to concentrate on one section at a time. This will minimize the damage and breakage from styling and manipulating.

Lauryn-Hill

3. Low manipulation and protective styling

Almost every time we style and manipulate our hair there is always the potential for breakage or damage. The aim is to keep this breakage to a minimum. If you have 4b hair, separating your strands through combing, detangling and styling is always risky business. Therefore the less manipulation your hair goes through the less breakage it will experience. Keeping your hair in protective styles or low manipulation styles like buns, twists, braids or updos, will give it days, weeks or months of little to no manipulation. This will give you a break from managing your hair and protect the ends of the hair from damage.  It will also help you to retain length, maintain the volume of your hair and reduce tangles and knots. Be aware that leaving your hair in  a protective style for too long may cause the shed hair to tangle with the existing hair strands and create more knotting. Also, failing to moisturize your hair while in a protective style, can counteract the benefits of that protective style.

 

4. Keep your hair stretched

The first time I tried a wash and go I literally washed my hair, raked some gel through it and went to dinner. My hair was completely shrunken, it looked like a TWA. I was happy to have tried a new style but I suffered the next day. My hair was so tangled I thought I would never get it back to normal. Although I tried to remove the knots and tangles with my fingers as carefully as possible, I couldn’t avoid the breakage and damage that occurred as a result. So I realized the importance of keeping my hair stretched. Other hair types may thrive with wash and goes but it is not always the best choice for us 4b  girls, considering how tightly coiled our hair is in its most shrunken state. Others hair types may not shrink as much and thus avoid the tangles that result the next day.

Hair can be stretched without using heat simply by putting it in large twists, braids, bantu knots or through banding. Twist-outs, braid–outs and roller sets are also great styles that allow your hair to remain stretched throughout the week. When your hair starts to shrink in between washes, it may be time to take action. Spray it lightly with water (or use your leave in conditioner) and put it in some twists or braids before going to bed, to refresh your style. Even when I wear my hair in a puff I like to put the ends in twists at night so that it is stretched out in the morning before styling my hair again. Otherwise I find that the puff gets flatter and smaller throughout the week as my hair gradually shrinks. This creates more knots and tangles and makes detangling more difficult.

I have since found a better technique of doing wash and gos (see below) but the experience taught me a valuable lesson.

Naptural85 Winter Wash and go technique

Maintaining a Wash and Go

Banding technique for stretching natural hair

 

5. Trim when needed

It’s simply a myth that trimming your hair helps it to grow, as hair grows from the roots. However, if your ends are split, they will break off eventually anyway. Therefore it is better to remove them yourself as a preventative measure. If you are looking after your ends by keeping them well moisturized and tucked away through protective styling, you will not have to deal with damaged ends as often.  Therefore you do not have to trim religiously, regardless of whether it is needed or not. This will simply result in you cutting off perfectly healthy ends and reducing your length for no reason. However, when your ends are damaged, trying to hold on to them can cause more harm than good.  This can result in more tangles and knotting and your ends will look see-through and frayed. Hair  in this condition does not look very healthy. So in order to avoid more knotting and tangles, difficulty in styling (as your ends are unlikely to hold well) and breaking hair, trim when needed.

shingai_bluedress

 6. Limit the use of heat

When I first went natural in my naivety I thought the only way to stretch my hair was to blow dry it. I blow dried it once a week after washing but I wasn’t deep conditioning to prepare it for blow-drying and I certainly wasn’t moisturizing it enough to replace the moisture lost in the process. This affected my length retention and I didn’t achieve the length that I could have. Since refraining from heat, I have retained much more length and noticed the benefits.  Blow drying and flat ironing strips your hair of moisture and there is always the risk of heat damage, which is irreversible.   I’m not against using heat but it should be limited if you have certain goals for growth and length retention. Try not to rely on heat but use it more as a treat or for when you feel like a change.  Learn about the alternative methods of stretching your hair and experiment with them.

 

Feel free to add any more tips for caring for 4b hair and afro-textured hair in general. You may do things differently for your hair. Share below.

I can’t go natural! My hair is too tough (part 2)

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Before concluding that your natural hair is too tough to manage, do some research

When I researched the best way to care for my hair I soon became aware of the mistakes I made and why I had problems managing it. I didn’t even comb my hair correctly.  Not being able to put a fine tooth comb through my hair from root to tip, left me to conclude that there was something wrong with my hair.  I should have been aware that kinky, coily afro textured hair should be combed with a wide tooth comb and combed gently from the ends, working out the knots and gradually moving the up towards the roots.  There are many examples of misconceptions related to detangling, moisturizing and styling natural hair.

If you think your hair is ‘too tough’ to go natural, do your research before concluding this. Here are some important facts about natural hair, if you weren’t aware of these then yes you would find it hard to manage your hair. If you apply these you will find managing your hair easier and become a pro in no time.

  • Water moisturizes the hair not oil (although oil seals in the moisture).  It is your friend not your enemy so don’t avoid it.
  • Hair can be washed while in loose braids or twists. The braided or twisted strands reinforce each other and less shrinkage, knotting and breakage occurs during washing.
  • Many mainstream black hair care products have sulphates, silicones, petroleum and mineral oil. These clog and dry out the hair.
  • Natural hair must be detangled regularly and shed hair should be removed in the process.
  • Finger combing can be just as effective as combing but gentler and less damaging.
  • Never comb your hair when it is dry and tangled. Spray it with water first.
  • Afro textured hair is actually quite delicate and must be handled with care to avoid breakage.
  • Shrinkage is good as it shows that your hair is healthy and reverting back to its natural curl pattern when wet.
  • Natural hair can be stretched without using heat, simply putting your hair in large braids, twists or bantu-knots will stretch it out and make it more manageable for styling.
  • Natural hair is very diverse and has many styling options appropriate for all occasions. Check out the posts: The versatility of natural hair part 1 and 2
  • Rather than tough, natural hair is actually delicate and is prone to breaking off at the ends. Protective styles help to protect your ends and thus retain length.
  • Sleeping on a satin pillowcase or covering your hair with a satin scarf will help to retain moisture while you sleep.
  • Manage your hair in sections (usually 4-6 sections); don’t just plough a comb through your hair as this will lead to breakage. A small section of hair is less daunting than dealing with a full head of hair.

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There is much more information about natural hair relating to products, hair types, styling and even how diet affects the hair.  Do your homework and you will feel more confident about going natural. Everyone’s hair is different and you will have to adapt the information to suit you but that’s what is so wonderful about natural hair. Saying you can’t go natural because your hair is too tough is like a learner driver saying they can’t drive because it is too difficult. Experienced drivers never say driving is too difficult because they know how to handle a car and deal with the roads.  Your hair isn’t too tough; you just haven’t learned how to manage it yet.

What was your main fear about going natural? How have you found the experience so far?

Share your stories below.

I can’t go natural! My hair is too tough (part 1)

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In part one of this article, I address one of the greatest misconceptions about natural afro-textured hair.

I have heard this statement many times from women who are apprehensive about avoiding chemical relaxers and wearing their hair natural.  When I point out that I no longer rely on chemical relaxers, they tell me that I must be fortunate to have soft hair and this has allowed me to stay natural. I usually laugh out loud when people tell me this because the last thing people used to say about my hair was that it was soft. I have certainly broken a few combs in my day and remember constantly having to replace the comb attachment on my blow-dryer, and this was when my hair was relaxed!

Re-growth terrified me because the more re-growth I had the harder it was to manage my hair. So I would relax my hair every six weeks without fail, whereas most of my friends could wait at least eight weeks.  I have terrible childhood memories of the first attempt at relaxing my hair. The first time, my mum used a ‘kiddy kit’ and it was as if she simply put moisturizer in my hair. Nothing happened. Then we tried again a few weeks later, with an adult relaxer. My aunty, who happened to be a hair stylist, left the relaxer in my hair for a very long time and my scalp was burning, only to find that my hair had barely straightened. I was so disappointed. On the third attempt it finally worked but my hair never really stayed sleek for the full six weeks. After two weeks it would start to look frizzy. So for as long as I can remember I used super strength relaxer. If anyone was to say their hair was ‘too tough ‘to go natural, it would be me.   In fact, isn’t that one of the main reasons the majority of black women use chemical relaxers in the first place?  According to a recent article in Ebony magazine, over 65% of black women in America opt to use chemical relaxers to straighten their hair. One of the reasons for this is this misconception that afro textured hair in its natural state is hard, unmanageable and doesn’t look presentable.

After years of believing that lie I had to really ask myself why people of other races could manage their hair with no problem, but when it came to black people we had to resort to chemically treating our hair as a norm. The pain of harsh combing when I was a kid, the burning of my scalp when I relaxed my hair, only reinforced the lie, that there was something wrong with my hair and that it needed ‘fixing’.  The solution for that was relaxer. Getting a relaxer was seen as a rite of passage among young girls when I was growing up in the UK. In fact I didn’t get my first one until I was 13. As a result I was bullied in school for being one of the remaining few to still have natural hair. When my hair wasn’t braided it looked messy as I didn’t know how to style it and I received negative attention from some of the other children. I couldn’t wait to get a relaxer (or perm, as it is referred to in the US)!

So what changed?  Well I grew up and was no longer an impressionable kid trying to fit in. I was a grown woman approaching thirty, who refused to believe that there was something wrong with my hair or that afro textured hair had to be fixed. I realized that I never really learned how to look after my hair in its natural state. I had only learned how to alter it and never embraced it as it was. I was also curious to see what it looked like in its natural state.  Perhaps if I learned how to manage my hair it wouldn’t be so unattainable to have it natural. I stumbled across some helpful advice and information on the internet and saw positive examples of women with natural hair on YouTube. If they could do it then surely I could.  I was tempted to simply dismiss their success by telling myself that they must be the exception, perhaps they are just fortunate to have ‘good hair’, hair that was soft, or maybe they were mixed.

I cringe every time I hear women make such statements to convince themselves that there is no way they can go natural even though they are interested in doing it.  The number of black women wearing their hair natural is increasing. According to a 2010 study commissioned by Atlanta based black hair care company Design Essentials; the number of black women wearing their hair natural increased to 36% in 2011. Sales of chemical relaxers were also believed to have dropped by 17% between 2006 and 2011, according to the market research firm Mintel.  So more and more women with afro textured hair are learning how to manage their hair and no longer rely on chemical relaxers, something that seemed unattainable just a few years ago.  There is also a greater awareness of the dangers of relaxers and the effects they have on the health of our hair and scalp. Many women with natural hair testify to the improvement of the health of their hair and scalp since going natural. The American Academy of Dermatology states that highly textured, curly hair is, “by its nature, more fragile than naturally straight hair,” and “relaxers make curly hair more fragile.” My hair is the longest it has ever been simply because I handle it with care, keep it well moisturized and wear protective styles from time to time. 

Afro hair is very diverse and no two heads of hair are the same, even within the same family. Some of us have more kinks than curls or more coils and some have a combination of all of these.  However, the principles of managing afro textured hair are the same and if they are applied you will have healthy, manageable and yes, long hair. We may all face different challenges; our hair may grow at different rates, vary in thickness or retain moisture differently.  But if you learn how to manage your natural hair then it will thrive. I always say that it is our lack of knowledge that is the problem not our hair. There is nothing wrong with your hair; you simply need to learn how to manage it. Any hair that is dry, knotted and damaged from styling will be harder to manage, whatever type of hair it is. I have always had very thick hair and that was one of my biggest challenges I had when it came to managing my hair. The very thing I hated about my hair is the main reason I receive compliments today. I have learned how to manage my hair so I no longer consider it ‘unmanageable’. In part two of this article I will list some of information I learned about natural afro textured hair.  This information gave me the confidence to take the next step and continue on my natural hair journey.

What were some of your main concerns about going natural?