Tag Archives: washing natural hair

Stretching And Styling Your Hair After Washing

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Wash day can be just that, a whole day. However, we shouldn’t have to draw a line through the day just to wash our hair.  I am now able to wash my hair and go out to dinner within the hour. Washing your hair should not have to result in a night in front of the TV, waiting for our hair to dry in twists. Some of us avoid swimming because of the time spent washing and detangling our hair afterwards.  Here are some styles that are appropriate to do after washing. They allow you to wash, style and go. Plus, they have the added bonus of stretching the hair, making it easy to re-style the next day.

 

Roll, tuck and pin

Kimmytube first introduced me to this style. It is simply rolling the hair around the head and pinning. This is a great style for medium length hair, which, may not be long enough to put into a bun. It also helps to stretch the hair, as it is pulled taut to roll and shape. Use hair pins or bobby pins to secure the style.  Cover hair with a satin scarf and leave for five minutes to smooth your edges down.

 

 

Low pigtails/buns

Pigtails are easier than putting the hair into a bun, as you only need to style one half of the head at a time. This works well for thick hair, which, can be difficult to put into a ponytail, especially when wet and shrunken. I don’t worry about doing the perfect part down the middle. I simply use my fingers.  If you want to do a neat part use a rat-tail comb.  All you will need are two snag proof hair bands.

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This style can be modified in three ways:

1. If your hair is short to medium length , you can leave it in pigtails. The front will be pulled taut and be stretched from the roots.

2. If your hair is medium to long, you can put each pigtail into a bun. Twist each one and roll into a bun. Pin to secure or use another hair band to hold the buns in place.

3. You can braid each pigtail, creating two jumbo braids. This will stretch out the hair the most. If you are worried about looking like a school girl, pin both braids up and across from each other, to create a more mature style.  This is demonstrated in the video below.

Check out whoissugar’s after washing styles and, styling ideas for the following day.

 

Top knot

Put the hair in a high ponytail and pin into a bun. The ponytail can be twisted or braided. This will make it easier to shape, and protect the hair as it is manipulated. Or, shape the bun loosely, in whichever way you desire.  Be gentle when styling wet hair, as it is more fragile. This is an easy style to do.  It still looks good even when it is a little messy. So you don’t necessarily have to worry about obtaining the sleek look and smoothing down your edges.

Top Knot

Top Knot

 

A low bun

This is great for medium to long hair and, looks elegant for going out later. To ensure that the hair looks as sleek as possible, use the palm of your hands to smooth your edges. If you use a product for smoothing  add accordingly. I use my homemade flaxseed (linseed) gel to hold my edges down, if necessary. The most important step is covering your head firmly with a satin scarf. Leave it on as you finish getting ready (10 minutes or so).  When you take if off the hair should looker sleeker. You can also use a donut to fill out the bun, which, could also be made using an old sock.

donut

 

 Two french braids

Split the hair in two and put each side into a French braid. Again splitting the hair will make it easier to manipulate. Sleek down the edges with some product or water and cover with a satin scarf. The next day the hair should be stretched and wavy. I have worn my hair out in this stretched out style before.

french braid hair

French Braids

 

A Jumbo Braid

My favorite after washing style is the jumbo braid. Just put your hair into a low ponytail. Divide the ponytail into three and braid down. I find this stretches my hair the most and leaves it wavy when taken down.  This is the quickest and most convenient after washing style to do. Add some flaxseed gel to smooth your edges and use your satin scarf.

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After swimming

If you have gone swimming in a pool that has chlorine, it is best to use a clarifying shampoo (if not that day then later during the week). Immediately follow this with a conditioner to relieve that squeaky clean feeling.  Co-washing is even quicker, as there are fewer steps. Take a medium-sized section of hair, detangle and remove shed hair with the conditioner in.  Add your leave in and/or oil for sealing, to that section of hair. Twist it to prevent it from getting tangled again.   By the end, you should have four to six large twists.  Cover the hair with a t-shirt to remove the excess water.  Then you can style the hair using any of the above methods, if you have somewhere to go afterwards. If your hair needs to be deep conditioned or requires extra care and attention, this can be done at home later.

 

Two important tools

A satin scarf and t-shirt are crucial.  Loosely wrap your head with the t-shirt to remove the excess water. It only has to be on for a few minutes. This will ensure that your hair is not soaking wet when styling, making it easier and safer to manipulate. Do not leave your hair to dry completely before styling.   Use the satin scarf to smooth down your edges. Smooth your edges with the palms of your hand. Place the scarf on firmly and continue to get ready for the day. After about 10 minutes your edges should be a lot smoother and, the style will appear less frizzy overall. The longer you leave the scarf on the better.

Your hair can also look great in twists

Your hair can also look great in twists

 

After washing and styling, your hair will still be a little damp but look presentable.  This will enable you to continue on with your day. Obviously, if you want to do a braid out or twist out, you should put your hair in braids or twists after washing. Some women like to wear their hair in large twists or braids as a style. This is another option. For those who are not a fan of this look, it usually means staying in for the day or covering your hair with a scarf or hat. The above styles allow you to style your hair quickly after washing and, still look presentable.  Then you can do a braid or twist out on stretched hair another day. I no longer dedicate a whole day to washing my hair, unless I want to.

How do you style your hair after washing? Share your ideas below.

 

 

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Caring for 4b Hair

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

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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.

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 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.