Tag Archives: Health

Is your hair preventing you from working out consistently?

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findhair

Since the Madam CJ Walker’s straightening tools were invented, working out has conflicted with hair styling and maintenance, for many in the black community. People would straighten their kinks and curls, but any slight moisture on the scalp would cause their precious straight hair to revert back. The time and pain experienced during this process, meant that reverting back so quickly was not an option. Parents would  warn their little girls to look after their hair, to preserve the style for as long as possible. Even playing outside and running around could pose a threat to the hair.  In an 1982 article by Ebony Magazine, reader Pam Proctor recounts the many missed opportunities to swim or participate in sports because her hair would ‘go back’.  Then came the years of relaxers, which, are still going on til this day.  Some subscribed to this notion of ‘sweating out the perm’. This may be why stereotypes have  formed about black women in particular, not participating in swimming.  Not wanting to get their hair or weave wet, has typically been a reason given for avoiding it.  Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but many of these stereotypes started because of hair..

So how have attitudes changed since then? With access to the internet and the growth of the information age, people are becoming more informed about health and fitness. More of us, from all races and backgrounds are learning about prevention rather than cure. People are taking responsibility for their health and know that a lifetime of dependency on prescription drugs and medicines isn’t their only option.  Unfortunately, certain diseases are attributed more towards people of African descent (type 2 diabetes, certain cancers for instance). Most health problems are connected to poor diet and a lack of physical activity, Staying active is a huge step towards taking control of your health and breaking the cycle of disease.

Hair should be the last thing that prevents you from working out. For those who don’t want to be another stereotype or statistic; here are some tips on staying motivated to workout and not allowing your hair to get in the way.

gymhaircare

Plan your hairstyles around your working out, not the other way around

After styling your hair in a fresh twist out or spending an uncomfortable night with your hair in flexi-rods, the last thing you want to do is go to the gym and sweat profusely. A fresh new hairstyle can instantly switch your mind off workout mode. However, you could workout Monday to Friday and do a new style for the weekend. Consider flat ironing your hair as a treat rather than a necessity. Even if you regularly flat-iron, you can still wear curly and wavy styles, don’t be so hung up on achieving that bone straight look all the time.  You could even plan your styles around certain workouts that aren’t as strenuous. If it’s cardio day tomorrow, keep the hair in a bun, but if it’s weights day, your hair should not get too frizzy. If you have a special occasion coming up, you could prep your hair after your workout, and it will be ready for the event the next day.

Find your workout hair style

This depends on how you are styling your hair for the week. A protective style is probably the easiest style to manage when working out. Two strand twists, pinned up or put into a ponytail, work well. I prefer to put my hair in a puff, as it is the most convenient style for me.  If I want to preserve a twist out or curly style, I work out with my hair in a loose pineapple. Go for a style that keeps the ends of your hair away from your neck and off your forehead, so they remain dry. If your ends remain dry, your twist-out will still be somewhat evident, even if the roots become a little damp or frizzy.  I also find wash and gos hold up well when working out. To maintain a wash and go, I put my hair in low pigtails. Then I take them down when I am finished, give the hair a little shake, and I am ready to go.african-american-woman-running-400x295-300x295

Keep your hair up for as long as possible, after a workout

Unless you are taking your hair down to wash, perhaps leave it in a puff or pineapple. This will prevent your ends from becoming frizzy while your scalp dries.  It will also keep the hair taut at the roots so your hair is more stretched when it is taken down.

Avoid working out with your scarf or bonnet on

Sweating helps to regulate your body temperature by removing excess heat. We usually lose a lot of heat from our head. A scarf may cause you to retain more heat during a workout, as the heat is restricted from escaping. It is important that your scalp remains breathable, so the body does not become overheated. This can end up having a negative impact on your workout overall. If you want to keep your hair sleek, spray your hair with a mist of water after your workout, and then put the scarf on to sleek the hair and edges down. After 15 minutes or so, the hair will appear sleeker once the scarf is removed. From my experience wearing a scarf while working out never really prevented my hair from becoming frizzy anyway.

Practice co-washing more frequently

If you are working out during the week you will want to wash your hair more frequently. Many would want to avoid exposing their hair to frequent shampooing because of the drying effect this can have. Frequent co-washing is considered kinder to the hair and even moisturizing. Wash and gos may also work well for this reason. Check out the post: Stretching and styling your hair after washing for convenient styling ideas.


DaCostaWorkout1-big

Focus on the benefits of working out

Frizzy hair is not as serious as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stress or depression. Just a few health issues exercise has been proven to prevent or treat. The hair challenges that exercise may present, are minor in relation to the benefits. Such benefits will not be seen unless you workout consistently and make it a lifestyle rather than just a New Year fad. People who exercise also have a longer life expectancy and generally are better off physically and mentally. Besides, when you take care of your body, your hair and skin will thank you for it!

We have all been guilty of it at some point. How do you manage your hair when working out? Share your tips below.

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Eight Benefits of Cycling

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Some of you may be throwing gym membership money down the drain. Being indoors, running on a treadmill or trying to figure out how to use workout equipment, isn’t for everyone.  That doesn’t mean you should give up on exercising completely.  There are many other ways to get fit.  In Australia, where I am currently living, the weather is cooling down.  This actually makes it more conducive to exercising outdoors.  Those of you in the Northern Hemisphere should be seeing the first signs of spring, perhaps this has inspired you exercise outside.

cycling

 

Cycling is a great way to get in shape.  Here are eight benefits:

 

1. You can start indoors

Perhaps you are not quite ready for the tour de France, but you can get fit in front of the TV and leave yourself with no excuses.  According to Dr Lennert Veerman at the University of Queensland, being inactive can be just as bad for your life expectancy as smoking.  You can purchase an exercise bike or put your road bike on a bicycle trainer and cycle while you watch your favorite programs.  This will reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes as well as improve your fitness.

 

2. You can cycle on the way to work

Cycling on your way to work is convenient and cost-effective.  These days, many office buildings  have showers for employees to use.  Pedaling at 9 miles an hour burns about 287 calories per hour.  Exercise also releases endorphins which elevates mood and promotes energy. This is a great way to start the day and prepare for the challenges ahead.  Start planning what to do with the money you will save on transport and gym membership.

 

3. Mountain biking is better for fitness than road biking

You can burn more than 500 calories with an hour of mountain biking. Studies show that off-road bikers have higher bone density than road cyclists. Mountain bikes are not as fast as road bikes because the wheels are heavier, so they require you to work harder. Choose the most appropriate bike for the type of riding you wish to do. Check out your local national park, there should be a variety of biking tracks to use for some good off-road action.

 

4. Cycling helps you  sleep

A study at Stanford University School of Medicine found that insomniacs who began cycling 20-30 minutes every other day, fell asleep sooner and slept for longer.  Cycling outside during the day helps to get circadian rhythms back in sync. This reduces the stress hormone cortisol which disrupts sleep.  Good sleep is essential for weight loss and overall health. Researchers at Brigham Young University found that high quality sleep was associated with lower body fat while poor sleep correlated with higher body fat.

 

5. Stand up on the pedals for a greater workout

Standing on your pedals engages the whole body in order to keep balance and generate force.  This raises the heart rate and burns more calories.  It also builds strength in the upper body.  Switch between standing and sitting at different intervals.   Try  ten minute hill climbs, alternating between sitting and standing.

 

6. Exercising outside promotes vitamin D production in the body

Our bodies can produce vitamin D with direct exposure to sunlight. The main function of vitamin D is to regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in our bones and aid cell to cell communication in the body. Vitamin D helps to support the immune system, maintain healthy bones and even reduce the risk of cancer.  According to a study conducted by the Medical College of Georgia, vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining a healthy body weight. Vitamin D deficiency is common in people who wear sun protection frequently and in people of  African descent, because pigmentation reduces vitamin D production.  Vitamin D can also be received  through food and with supplements, however going outside for a bike ride  is a fun way of getting a much-needed dose of it.

 

7. You are less likely to get bored with cycling

You can always try a different route for a change of scenery and, treat  cycling as an opportunity to explore.  Try combining your cycling with some photography. I occasionally stop along the way to take photos if I find something interesting. From animals, beautiful sunsets, exquisite scenery, to classic cars or planes; you never know what you might find.

 

Cycling route, Glenelg SA

Cycling path, Glenelg SA

 

8. Cycling is a low impact exercise

Cycling is a good form of exercise for people with knee problems, as it does not directly put pressure on the knee joints. The  repetitive motion of cycling works the quadriceps and hamstrings, which are the muscles that support the knee joints. It is an exercise that strengthens the legs and promotes cardiovascular fitness. For the best results, cycle at least three or four times each week for 30 minutes.

So get on your bike, get in shape and start exploring!

 

Are you a cyclists? What benefits have you discovered from cycling? Share your experiences below.

 

 

 

Natural Hair Journey to Health Journey

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fitness woman

It’s amazing that so many women who are discovering their natural hair for the first time have also begun to consider their overall health.  Many have now embarked on a health and fitness journey.  If we are going to take the time to research what makes our hair healthy and what to avoid to prevent damage to our hair, how much more should we do this for our bodies? Hair and nails are the last to receive vital nutrients from foods. Our bodies are so amazing that they are designed to prioritize the vital organs. If we take the time to learn how to look after the least important part of our bodies; hair, then it’s only a matter of time before we desire to do the same for our overall health.

fitness

What goes on inside our bodies is reflected on the outside anyway. Having the best hair care products, the best regimen and the most creative hairstyles, will not get us very far if we are not healthy from the inside. If our bodies are not hydrated for instance, our hair  and skin will suffer from dryness to reflect this on the outside.  If we are lacking key vitamins and nutrients, it doesn’t matter if our shampoos or conditioners are ‘enriched with vitamins’, our hair and overall health will still suffer.

I am glad to see so many newly naturals not only embark on a natural hair journey, but also considering the effects of diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle on their bodies as a whole. I often hear many not only discussing good hair care practices, but fitness and workout regiments, weight loss and avoiding processed foods or drinks. Not only are they avoiding  chemicals in their hair products, they are also doing the same with their skin products and food.  Quite clearly it has become about much more than hair, and I for one believe it is a step in the right direction.

weight loss

I’m tired of reports suggesting that certain health problems are more prevalent within the black community and with black women in particular. Regardless of whether you believe such statistics are accurate, it should be a priority for us to break any negative trends and set a better example for our children.  Many health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer can be prevented by having a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Such diseases can also be cured or managed simply by improving your diet and adopting a healthier lifestyle. For example according to the America Diabetes Association, weight loss of just 10 to 15 pounds can make a huge improvement to the health of those with type 2 diabetes.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that overweight and obese women were at a higher risk of uterine fibroids.  A diet high in fruits and vegetables and thus high in fibre was found to be crucial for the prevention and treatment of fibroids.

More and more women in the natural hair community, and beyond are realizing the importance of healthy eating, exercise and the avoidance of harmful chemicals. We understand that we no longer have to be reconciled to a lifetime of taking numerous medications.   Instead, through education and basic research we can learn to look after our bodies as well as our hair.

fitness couple

Did going natural lead to a health journey for you or have you always been conscious of these issues? Maybe you are yet to embark upon a health journey. Share your thoughts below.

Why is it so difficult to find products that are 100% natural?

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Shea Butter

I’m sure there are people reading this question and thinking the exact opposite, it isn’t difficult to find such products, what is she talking about? However, look at it from the point of view of someone who lives in an area that only has the major stores such as Wal-Mart. They may not be internet savvy and know what websites to go on to find such products, or they may simply believe that retailers wouldn’t sell anything in the shops that could be harmful.

I’ve lived in the UK and I am now living in the U.S.A and it’s the same.  Unless you are aware of where to go to find natural products you are pretty much stuck with the major stores and their lack of variety. When I go into my local supermarket (whether here or in the UK) it is virtually impossible to find shampoos, body lotions, shower gels, deodorants etc that  have 100% natural ingredients. Since going natural with my hair, I have also become more aware of the ingredients of many popular brands, and the effects of such ingredients.  Why is it impossible to go to my local store and find products that don’t contain parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate, mineral oil, petroleum and other harmful ingredients and preservatives?

I stopped using relaxer, and was glad, because I became aware of the harmful chemicals used in them. Only to find that the same chemicals are used in my moisturizer! Why should a moisturizer contain sodium hydroxide? Why aren’t natural products available in major stores? I’m sure if I lived in a bigger city I would have more options, and I know that the larger stores of Wal-Mart now have  a ‘naturals’ section. That’s great, but what about people who do not live in major cities, why don’t all Wal-Mart’s have a ‘naturals’ section?

It upsets me, because the majority of people don’t know about the effects of certain chemicals and manmade preservatives.  They simply assume that if it for sale, it must be safe to use.  The fact is the majority of popular beauty brands produce products with chemicals that can cause skin or scalp irritation, allergies and in some cases, an increased risk of cancer. If I decide I don’t want to use a deodorant with aluminium in it I should be able to go to my local store and have the choice to buy a natural deodorant. I shouldn’t have to go to a special store or search on the internet, to order one from a company that is based overseas.

When I was in the UK I loved Holland and Barrett. I was upset to find that they don’t exist in the U.S. However I wasn’t a fan of their natural deodorant (it  left me smelling musty by the end of the day), but I didn’t have a choice. As far as I was aware it was their brand or a popular brand that was guaranteed to have aluminium in it. Thankfully in the U.S they have the Toms brand and I think their deodorants are great and they smell good. If I was still in the UK, I probably wouldn’t be aware of this brand, but if I was, I would have to order it online and pay shipping fees to have it delivered. What a pain, having to order online and wait for the items to be delivere.  Only to be told that the delivery came when you were out and you now have to go to the post office to collect it, I digress .  The point I’m trying to make is that, I wish I could just pick up the products I need when I do my grocery shopping, just like everyone else.

There are people suffering from dry scalps or dry skin and they think it’s simply something wrong with them and something they are prone to.  The reality is, many of us are suffering from these annoyances due to the products we use on a daily basis. My husband (who has European hair) noticed the difference when he started using the shampoos I use, instead of the generic one he picked up from the store.  He would regularly suffer from dry scalp and would constantly be scratching his head. It use to drive me mad. Then I realised that it’s not only women with afro textured hair who have ‘gone natural’ that should avoid shampoos with sulphates.  Anyone could benefit from doing so, whether you have afro textured hair or European hair. He switched to the shampoo I was using, that had no sodium lauryl sulphate and his scalp improved. When I went further and not only avoided sulphates but also chose to avoid shampoos with silicones, he noticed the problem improved even more and it is no longer an issue.

So the ingredients that are in products do make a difference.   I can understand people who don’t know any better,  using products that aren’t  natural.  However, I don’t understand when people who have been made aware of the dangers, still choose to use products with ‘junk’ in them.  Maybe it’s because of the inconvenience of having to find all natural products, or maybe they believe products that are 100% natural are more expensive. It is, when you have to order them from oversees and pay for shipping, or buy them from a specialist store that probably has to charge more, to cover their costs.

I don’t think 100% natural products are particularly more expensive, it depends on the brand and where you get them from, but a few dollars or pounds extra is worth it, in my opinion.  Besides, you can always make your own hair products and body lotion by simply mixing a few oils and butters together. However it’s a shame that natural products are considered specialists products.  They should be the norm and consumers deserve to have choice, variety and convenience when they shop. They should not be penalised through cost and time, simply for wanting the best for their health.  I guess if something is worthwhile it requires a little bit more effort. The companies that make natural products are doing a great job, I just wish they were just as accessible as general brands.

Sources

http://thegoodhuman.com/2007/06/21/what-are-parabens-and-why-should-you-avoid-them/

http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=291

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/AP-Deo

Ingredients in a moisturizer I purchased from Wal-Mart. I bought it because it had Shea butter in it. Well I realised, that wasn’t all it had in it!

It says on the bottle: infused with pure African Shea Butter and uncover radiantly soft skin. Skin Enriching Cream with a high concentration of pure African Shea Butter, a natural source of antioxidants & vitamins. This sounds great but look what it contains……….

Ingredients
Water, Butyrospermium parkii (Shea Butter), Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Petrolatrum, Ceteareth – 20, Hydroxyethyl urea, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter.

Ethylhexyl Isonanoate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Octyldodecyl Myristate, Hydrogenated Polydecane, Cetylesters, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone , Fragrance, Isohexadecane, C13 & 14 Isoparaffin.

Sodium Hydroxide, Stearic Acid, Carbomer, Mineral Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Methylisothiazolinone, Methlparaben, Propylparaben.

Look up the safety of most ingredients or products at: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

Do you find it difficult to find natural products? How can this problem be improved?

Step Away From The Relaxer (part 3)

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Here is some more advice for those who are at the awkward stage of their journey. Your hair is growing well and it is no longer a TWA. It may be more of a challenge to manage, as a result. Perhaps you are entering an area of the unknown, where you have to figure out how to style your hair at this new length.This is particularly problematic when you remain as busy as ever. The demands of work, school, or looking after children make hair the last thing you want to  concern yourself  with. Remember, it isn’t our hair that is the problem, it is our lack of knowledge. Once we learn how to manage our hair effectively at this stage, it is no longer an issue. Have a look at parts 1 -4, if you haven’t already. This week will be tips 5 and 6.

5. Beware of texturizers.  I almost fell for it. I was told I could texturize my hair to ‘soften it’. As if my hair is made out of concrete! I will repeat this; it isn’t the hair that is the problem, it is our lack of knowledge.  I was someone who was regarded as having ‘tough’ hair. Why? When I first tried to relax my hair it didn’t work. It only relaxed on the third try and would look kinky again after two weeks or so.  Then I started using super plus relaxer (Elasta QP Super!).

So if anyone is considered to have ‘tough’ hair it should be me. Now, when my relatives comment on my hair they say, I’m fortunate that my hair is soft, that’s why I have managed to stay natural. No, it is not that my hair is softer than anybody else’s; it’s that I have learned to care for it, in a way that allows me to handle it effectively. I no longer use products that contain harsh sulphates for example, which dry out the hair. I have also learned how to keep my hair stretched out.  Refer to my post: How to stretch out your hair without heat.

When your hair is dry and tangled it makes it a lot more difficult to manage.  So don’t fall into the trap of believing that a texturizer  will ‘soften’ your hair and you  will still be natural. Texturizers are similar to relaxers, they are designed to permanently alter your curl pattern. Relaxers take away your curls completely and texturizers are believed to loosen your curl pattern. However if you have a Z shape curl pattern, the result will be very different from the photos on the box. Even if you have an S shape curl pattern results of texturizers can still vary and they are not temporary but permanent, like relaxers.   Your hair will not magically go back to its kinky, coily texture when wet.

Is my hair really going to look like this?

I know people who made this mistake and came out of the salon with hair that looked relaxed. Hence they had to start all over again.  Look at the ingredients in texturizers, they also contain chemicals that permanently alter your hair, such as calcium hydroxide or sodium  hydroxide (lye). They also contain ingredients that dry out the hair, such as: petroleum, mineral oil and sodium lauryl sulphate. So don’t be fooled by the smiley faces of the models on the front of the box, and words such as ‘hydrating’, ‘anti-breakage’ and even , ‘organic’. Many of these products use the word organic while containing a number of harsh and unnatural ingredients. They throw in 1% of a natural ingredient and give you the impression that the 1% is the main ingredient. It’s simply a marketing tool. Don’t forget the website http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/. You can type in the name of a product or ingredient and find out how it is rated, in terms of safety.

If you are having a problem with managing your hair, simply do some research. There is a great deal of information on the internet, and you can ask questions on forums, facebook pages and YouTube.  You will find someone who can relate to you and give you some helpful advice. I’m still learning better ways of managing my hair. It use to take me  1 hour and 30 minutes to detangle it. Now it takes me 30 minutes because I followed some advice I found on YouTube. It’s trial and error and you have to be willing to learn and make mistakes at the same time. You will be thankful that you didn’t go back to relaxers or texturize your hair, when you really didn’t need to.

Have a look at Kimmytube’s natural hair story (parts 1 and 2). It is very inspiring and highlights that fact that we are all learning. Her hair was the same length for the first ten years of being natural. It is only when she began researching how to truly manage her hair, she began to see great results. She also tried texturizers and it didn’t work out.

6.Protective styles  give you a well-earned break. These are styles that ensure your ends are tucked away, so that they do not become damaged. If your ends are protected they are less likely to break off and, your length will therefore be retained. I believe the reason my hair never grew beyond a certain point (when it was relaxed) was because it broke off at the ends. My hair was certainly growing from the roots. The fact that I had to relax my hair every six weeks due to re-growth was evidence of that. So the only explanation could be that there was a problem with the other side of my hair, the ends.

The benefits of protective styling are evident and there is so much information about it.  Protective styles include: twists, cornrows, braids, French braids  and basically any style where your ends are tucked away and protected for consecutive, days, weeks or months. If you do braid or twist your hair and leave your ends out, technically, this is a low manipulation style but it still serves the purpose of ensuring that your hair is left alone.

As your hair gets longer you should consider incorporating protective styles into your style repertoire. I like to do French braids, twists or rolls. Mini twists are great as well. I usually keep them in for a month but with French braids I can take them out when I get bored, so there’s less commitment. Protective styles also give you a break from styling and manipulating your hair. This comes in handy when you are pressed for time.

What is your favourite protective style? Have you ever texturized your hair before?

 

Step Away From The Relaxer (part 3)

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Here is some more advice for those who are at the awkward stage of their journey. Your hair is growing well and it is no longer a TWA. It may be more of a challenge to manage, as a result. Perhaps you are entering an area of the unknown, where you have to figure out how to style your hair at this new length.This is particularly problematic when you remain as busy as ever. The demands of work, school, or looking after children make hair the last thing you want to  concern yourself  with. Remember, it isn’t our hair that is the problem, it is our lack of knowledge. Once we learn how to manage our hair effectively at this stage, it is no longer an issue. Have a look at parts 1 -4, if you haven’t already. This week will be tips 5 and 6.

5. Beware of texturizers.  I almost fell for it. I was told I could texturize my hair to ‘soften it’. As if my hair is made out of concrete! I will repeat this; it isn’t the hair that is the problem, it is our lack of knowledge.  I was someone who was regarded as having ‘tough’ hair. Why? When I first tried to relax my hair it didn’t work. It only relaxed on the third try and would look kinky again after two weeks or so.  Then I started using super plus relaxer (Elasta QP Super!).

So if anyone is considered to have ‘tough’ hair it should be me. Now, when my relatives comment on my hair they say, I’m fortunate that my hair is soft, that’s why I have managed to stay natural. No, it is not that my hair is softer than anybody else’s; it’s that I have learned to care for it, in a way that allows me to handle it effectively. I no longer use products that contain harsh sulphates for example, which dry out the hair. I have also learned how to keep my hair stretched out.  Refer to my post: How to stretch out your hair without heat.

When your hair is dry and tangled it makes it a lot more difficult to manage.  So don’t fall into the trap of believing that a texturizer  will ‘soften’ your hair and you  will still be natural. Texturizers are similar to relaxers, they are designed to permanently alter your curl pattern. Relaxers take away your curls completely and texturizers are believed to loosen your curl pattern. However if you have a Z shape curl pattern, the result will be very different from the photos on the box. Even if you have an S shape curl pattern results of texturizers can still vary and they are not temporary but permanent, like relaxers.   Your hair will not magically go back to its kinky, coily texture when wet.

Is my hair really going to look like this?

I know people who made this mistake and came out of the salon with hair that looked relaxed. Hence they had to start all over again.  Look at the ingredients in texturizers, they also contain chemicals that permanently alter your hair, such as calcium hydroxide or sodium  hydroxide (lye). They also contain ingredients that dry out the hair, such as: petroleum, mineral oil and sodium lauryl sulphate. So don’t be fooled by the smiley faces of the models on the front of the box, and words such as ‘hydrating’, ‘anti-breakage’ and even , ‘organic’. Many of these products use the word organic while containing a number of harsh and unnatural ingredients. They throw in 1% of a natural ingredient and give you the impression that the 1% is the main ingredient. It’s simply a marketing tool. Don’t forget the website http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/. You can type in the name of a product or ingredient and find out how it is rated, in terms of safety.

If you are having a problem with managing your hair, simply do some research. There is a great deal of information on the internet, and you can ask questions on forums, facebook pages and YouTube.  You will find someone who can relate to you and give you some helpful advice. I’m still learning better ways of managing my hair. It use to take me  1 hour and 30 minutes to detangle it. Now it takes me 30 minutes because I followed some advice I found on YouTube. It’s trial and error and you have to be willing to learn and make mistakes at the same time. You will be thankful that you didn’t go back to relaxers or texturize your hair, when you really didn’t need to.

Have a look at Kimmytube’s natural hair story (parts 1 and 2). It is very inspiring and highlights that fact that we are all learning. Her hair was the same length for the first ten years of being natural. It is only when she began researching how to truly manage her hair, she began to see great results. She also tried texturizers and it didn’t work out.

6.Protective styles  give you a well-earned break. These are styles that ensure your ends are tucked away, so that they do not become damaged. If your ends are protected they are less likely to break off and, your length will therefore be retained. I believe the reason my hair never grew beyond a certain point (when it was relaxed) was because it broke off at the ends. My hair was certainly growing from the roots. The fact that I had to relax my hair every six weeks due to re-growth was evidence of that. So the only explanation could be that there was a problem with the other side of my hair, the ends.

The benefits of protective styling are evident and there is so much information about it.  Protective styles include: twists, cornrows, braids, French braids  and basically any style where your ends are tucked away and protected for consecutive, days, weeks or months. If you do braid or twist your hair and leave your ends out, technically, this is a low manipulation style but it still serves the purpose of ensuring that your hair is left alone.

As your hair gets longer you should consider incorporating protective styles into your style repertoire. I like to do French braids, twists or rolls. Mini twists are great as well. I usually keep them in for a month but with French braids I can take them out when I get bored, so there’s less commitment. Protective styles also give you a break from styling and manipulating your hair. This comes in handy when you are pressed for time.

What is your favourite protective style? Have you ever texturized your hair before?

 

Step Away From The Relaxer (part 2)

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Here are tips 3 and 4 in the Step Away From the Relaxer series.  These are some encouraging tips for those who have recently done the big chop or are transitioning and have now come to the ‘awkward’ stage of their journey. Some people give up at this stage and go back to relaxer.  I hope you find these helpful and they give you a few ideas to get through this point. The results are worth it, so hang on in there!

3.  Accept the facts and remember the benefits of natural hair. I believe caring for natural hair requires more effort and the sooner I accepted this the easier it was for me to adjust. It is not going to be like when your hair was relaxed. If you keep comparing the two experiences you will put unrealistic expectations on you and your hair.  When my hair was relaxed I didn’t have to worry about detangling it and shrinkage was never an issue. When I went to bed I didn’t have to worry about stretching it out to style it the next day.

However,  with natural hair, it simply isn’t the same experience. In spite of this the benefits make it worthwhile. I personally didn’t like how flat my hair looked when it was relaxed. I would prefer it a couple of weeks after, when it appeared thicker, as opposed to when it was freshly relaxed. I have always liked big hair!  Now, my hair is the longest it has ever been. When my hair was relaxed it always grew to a certain point (halfway down my neck) and it would not grow beyond that point. I also believe natural hair is much more versatile. There are many more styling options with natural hair that I was previously unaware of. Check out my posts: The Versatility of Natural Hair parts 1 and 2 for inspiration. To be honest I don’t miss the harsh smell of relaxer, neither do I  miss the burning and the scabs on my scalp that followed!

Freedom!

I’m a lot more conscious about ingredients and always scrutinise labels. This goes for hair, skin and food products. Overall, I’m no longer only concerned with the health of my hair,  but with my skin, body and overall health. Hair is the least important part of our bodies so if we are going to make an effort with caring for the health of our hair, how much more for our overall health.  It’s not just about avoiding relaxers but other harmful chemicals and ingredients. When you understand the health benefits of your actions it encourages you to continue doing what is best for your health. So perhaps research the effects of the chemicals they put in relaxers (sodium hydroxide for example). Once you know the facts you can make an informed decision. It’s a personal choice but nothing should be done out of ignorance. Since most of us got relaxers when we were kids I doubt we were fully aware of the facts.

 4. Learn how to manage shrinkage.  This is one of the main challenges for kinky, coily hair.  You will experience it after washing and if you are wearing your hair out during the week it may gradually begin to shrink up.  When you wake up in the morning you may find your hair has been flattened from laying down all night and you have to spend time fluffing it out again. This can be annoying, especially when your hair doesn’t cooperate and you don’t have time.  I found that I relied heavily on blow-dryers when I first went natural because I wanted my hair to remain stretched out. If I had known what I know now, I wouldn’t have used them. Please refer to my previous article: How to stretch out your natural hair without heat. Basically braiding or twisting your hair stretches it out. So before bed you can put it in 5 or 6 medium to large-sized braids. Also, remember when your hair has shrunk and you want to handle it to style, always add water before trying to comb or pick it out! Otherwise you’ll be dealing with tangled hair and if you are in a hurry you are more likely to cause damage to your hair. I always wash my hair in twists or braids so that the shrinkage is minimised, and your hair is reinforced when it is in braids, making  it less fragile.

How do you manage shrinkage? What benefits have you experienced since going natural?