Tag Archives: Braid-outs

Is Relaxed Hair Really Easier to Manage?

Standard

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

Advertisements

Do our curls always have to be defined?

Standard

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

solange-0331

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

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

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

essence  50 styles

essence updo 50

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

How to stretch your hair without using heat

Standard

Same hair stretched out

Fully shrunken hair

Every time I go to the hairdressers to have my hair put in cornrows they whip out the blow dryer and hair straighteners.  They always feel the need to straighten my hair before they can braid it. I certainly didn’t have this problem when my hair was relaxed of course. However with natural hair it seems many hairdressers are clueless and simply seek to put your hair in a state they are more familiar with before they can style it.  It’s only when I learned to braid my own hair that I realised my hair didn’t have to be straightened before I could braid it neatly. It’s funny, when men get their hair cornrowed at the barbers they don’t have to have their hair straightened beforehand and their cornrows turn out perfect!

After washing
So what are the different ways you can stretch your hair out before styling it. I’m not going to lie, when my hair is in a shrunken state it is impossible to deal with. In fact shrinkage was one of the biggest obstacles to deal with when I first went natural.  I wasn’t use to it and couldn’t believe how much my hair shrunk after washing, at least 75% of the overall length. When I was a kid I use to hate washing my hair simply because of the shrinkage and the harsh combing and painful detangling that followed.

So how do I stretch out my hair after washing so that it is easier to style? My hair gradually shrinks during the week if I wear it out, perhaps due to the weather or simply sleeping on it. I often have to stretch it out if I’m between washes.   Well it’s very simple. First of all I find it a lot easier to wash my hair in loose twists or braids (about six big ones). This stops it from shrinking completely in the first place and when I towel dry my hair I never let it get completely dry before styling. Damp hair is much more durable and thus easier to style, this minimises breakage as well.

Braids and other methods
Then, I simply put my hair braids, adding leave in conditioner or oil to lock in the moisture from the water.  If I want to do a braid out that week  I will braid my hair accordingly and undo the braids the next day. If I want to put my hair in cornrows or another style I will do the same but  it will not be necessary to do as many braids. I usually do medium-sized braids.   After braiding my hair and allowing it to dry overnight, it will be stretched out the next day when the braids are taken out. Then it will be a lot easier to either cornrow,  French braid or style however I want.  Styling is a lot easier to do with stretched-out hair.  I have not used a blow dryer or straightening iron for almost a year now. It was simply a personal decision for me, many people are fine with applying heat to their hair but I choose to avoid it as much as possible now.

So just to recap; to stretch out your hair I would recommend washing it in large braids or twists and braiding after washing and leaving them to dry overnight.  Twists will also stretch out your hair and if you ever put your hair in rollers or curl formers, one added benefit is that they stretch out your hair as well. Perhaps after having your hair styled this way, before washing, you could use the opportunity to do a twist or braid out and enjoy the length that will result from your hair being stretched out. Simply finger combing will get rid of the waves or curls and your hair should be near its maximum length! Putting your hair in Bantu knots also help to stretch it out. Have a look at the video below:

So I hope this helps you find an alternative to heat and helps you to deal better with shrinkage. Most importantly remember that shrinkage is a good thing. It shows that your hair is doing what it is supposed to do. Healthy hair will shrink back to its original curl pattern (which is usually tightly coiled for natural textured hair) when wet. It’s all part of the fun. Unfortunately with hair that has been damaged by heat it may not return to its natural curl pattern. Till this day I still have some straight strands in the front of my head which I know is a result of heat damage. So be aware of the risks that come along with using heat. For those that want to be heat free, give it a try!

How do you stretch out your hair without heat? Share in the comments below.

The Versatility of Natural Hair (Part 1)

Standard

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

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

1. The big chop

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

Viola Davis – 84th Academy Awards

2. Wash and Gos

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

Esperanza Spalding‘s wash and go

SimplYounique

Short hair

3. Blow outs

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

Esperanza Spalding’s glamorous look

4. Twist-outs

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

Yaya’s Twist-Out

Flat twist out tutorial

5. Braid-outs

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

Braid-out

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

6. Bantu-knot outs

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

Corinne’s Bantu knot-out

SimplYounique

xGOLDn

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