Saturday, September 28, 2013

Finding A Good Protein Conditioner

Because of my low porosity hair, it was difficult to find a good protein conditioner that my hair would accept, but I need one for my finer strands and to maintain my moisture/protein balance.  At first, I tried protein conditioners that other people recommended.  Two worked (Curl Junkie Repair Me! and Aubrey Organics Island Replenishing Conditioner) and two did not (Aubrey Organics GPB and Aubrey Organics Blue Green Algae Conditioning Hair Mask).  The science geek in me decided to investigate further; so, I analyzed the ingredients from the four, along with one from my relaxed days (Aphogee 2 Minute Reconstructor), by putting the ingredients into a chart.  I looked at the similarities and differences in the top 10 ingredients, along with all of the proteins.  In doing so, I noticed that the two conditioners that worked had hydrolyzed proteins and amino acids, as did the one from my relaxed days.

Next, I went to the internet for some hearty research.  Here is some of what I've learned:

1.  People with low porosity hair should usually look for smaller proteins, like hydrolyzed rice, silk and wheat protein.  A hydrolyzed protein is a protein that has been broken down into smaller proteins or individual amino acids (proteins are long chains of linked amino acids).

2.  Stay away from oat, animal, keratin or corn proteins because they tend to be too large for use on low porosity hair.

3.   Keratin amino acids may also be great because they can penetrate the hair strand, unlike regular keratin.
I plan to keep researching, and I will probably do another post on the different types of protein that are out there.


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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Determining Your Hair Properties

As I mentioned in my last post, even if you are a product junkie, it is important to do it in a controlled way.  You have to figure out the types of products that work for your hair.  Otherwise, you will end up throwing a lot of money down the drain.  A key step in figuring out the types of products that work for your hair and how to use them is learning your hair properties.  In my opinion, there three key aspects:

1.  Hair porosity - There are a few tests to determine hair porosity. GreenBeauty has a great Youtube video on three of them.  The most popular is the water cup test. Take a clean strand (i.e., no products on it) and place it in a clear cup of room temperature water. If the strand sinks to the bottom, it is high porosity.  If it floats in the middle, it is normal.  If it continues to float on top after several minutes, it is low porosity. Low porosity hair also usually takes a long time to dry.  It also doesn't need much protein, and you really have to work to get moisture into it because the cuticles on the hair shaft like to stay closed.  You may even notice water beading on top of it.  With high porosity hair, it's easy to get moisture in, but the trick is keeping it in because the cuticles like to stay open.  My hair is a mix of low and normal porosity, so it is really hard for me to get water or anything else into my strands.  I need to use lighter products, and I have to give products time to absorb.

2.  Hair Width  - This is the thickness of each hair strand.  Fine is thinner than a piece of thread. Medium is about the same diameter as a piece of thread, and coarse is thicker than a piece of thread. Fine is usually more fragile, and cannot use "heavy" products. Fine hair tends to like protein.  Again, my hair is a mix.  Due to my hair width and porosity, I can only use lighter proteins.  Note that hair width is different from hair density.  For example, I have fine hair, but high density (meaning a lot of it).

3.  Hair Texture/Type (Curl Pattern) - Some people would disagree with me on whether this is important, particularly because so many people get hair typing wrong.  However, if used right, I think typing can be helpful, just not as much as hair texture and porosity. There are a number of hair typing systems. The most popular is the Andre Walker system. This picture and this link from are a good descriptive guide on the system.  Like the other two properties, my hair is a mix here as well.  I have pen-sized curls (3C) in my crown, frizzy masses (4B/C) around my edges from the front to my ears, and the majority of my hair is small crochet needle size or smaller curls (4A).  I usually use product consistency and styles that suit my smaller curls, but use more product and twists on the edges or hairpins to blend the textures.

On my pinterest page, I have more hair property tips that I've picked up along the way.


*This post was updated 1/1/2017 to add a sentence on hair density.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Confessions of a Product Junkie

A large part of self love is accepting yourself for who you are.  I am a product junkie, and I have been for a very long time.  I used to call myself a "recovering product junkie", but I'm not sure I ever really recovered and I don't want to.

Right now, I have 45 products in my product stash, most of which are products that I've never tried before but I have at least some belief that they may work on my hair.  In the past, my product stash has gone up to over 75 products and has gone down as low as 20.  Right now, I'm experimenting with deep conditioners, butters and moisture milks.  I love the adventure!

 There is something wonderful in discovering new products, as long as you do it in a controlled manner. You should never spend your last dollar on a bottle of conditioner.  You should also make sure that the products you purchase have at least some chance of working on your hair.  Obviously, don't buy a sulfate shampoo if you know that your hair can't handle sulfates.  But, still remember to have fun.  You may even find a new staple in your exploration.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to Do Your Own Big Chop

As I mention in my hair story, I did my own big chop after a 7 month transition.   Unless you are planning to just use a hair clipper to cut all of your hair down to a teeny-weenie afro (TWA), there are important things to keep in mind when doing your own big chop:

1.  Use a sharp pair of hair scissors.  Just like with trimming your hair, you must use sharp scissors or you will create split ends.  These should be scissors specifically dedicated to cutting your hair.  If you use them for other things, they may be dull.

2.  Saturate your strands to make the distinction between textures more apparent.  Personally, I preferred to use conditioner, rather than water, to do this because it really helped to clump my relaxed strands together.

3.  Do not assume that all straight pieces are relaxed hair.  Prior to doing your own big chop, you should have a good idea of how long your natural hair is.  Otherwise, if you have multiple textures on your head, you may accidentally assume that some of the looser curls are relaxed ends.  I made this mistake in a few places.  After I did my initial cut and I went back over my head to catch the straight ends I missed, I saw a few straighter ends at the top.  At the time, I thought they were relaxed strands, but they were not.  I didn't know that my curl is looser at the crown than on the sides, back and front.  A simple guideline for hair growth is 1/2 inch per month, but also look at your hair to locate the demarcation line.

4.  Take your time.  There is no hurry, and if you rush, you will either miss relaxed ends or accidentally cut your natural strands.   Start by cutting off the ends that are clearly relaxed, leaving about an inch of relaxed hair behind.  Then, using small sections, begin refining the cut.  Take each small section, gently pull it as straight as possible and then cut where you see the relaxed hair ends and the natural hair begins.  If you are nervous about cutting off too much, you can always cut down to where you feel comfortable, and then trim later as your hair grows out.

Now that you have those important points in mind, HAPPY CUTTING!  

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

My Personal Baggy Challenge

Because of my hair's low porosity, it is really difficult to get moisture into my hair.  My hair was feeling a little dry, so I decided to give it a moisture boost.  Thus, this week, I decided to use my homemade oil/water spritz to do a personal baggy challenge.

As part of my challenge, I did my usual wash regimen, then I flat twisted my hair with Bee Mine's Bee-u-ti-ful deep conditioner.  Every night, I spritzed my hair with my oil/water mix, then I put on a plastic shower cap and tied it down with a satin scarf.  In the morning, I took the plastic cap off to let my hair breathe during the day.  I baggied nightly for four days, and my hair feels wonderful.

The basic idea of the baggy method is similar to a greenhouse.  The moisture is trapped in the bag, and has no place to go but into your hair.  Further, because of the body heat that is also trapped in the bag, it makes it that much easier for the hair to absorb the moisture.  You can do a whole head baggy with a shower cap, grocery bag, or saran wrap.  There is also the option of baggying just one section using a sandwich bag or saran wrap.  However, while the baggy method can be great for moisture, as with anything else, you have to listen to your hair to make sure that you don't overmoisturize it or irritate your scalp.
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Saturday, September 7, 2013

What To Expect When You Big Chop

If you do decide to transition, and even if you don't, you should do research on what to expect because natural hair is obviously not like relaxed hair.  Here are my top 4 things that I am happy I learned before I big chopped:

1.   Your hair may be in "shock" for about 3 months after you big chop.  During that time, your hair may be frizzy and your curls may refuse to clump together as your hair adjusts to its new found freedom and relearns how to behave naturally.  The relaxed ends tend to weigh down the hair; and, once the relaxed ends are gone, the natural hair is finally able to curl up the way it wants to but it has to remember how.  Therefore, months after the relaxed ends are gone, your curl pattern may begin to change and your curls may clump.  Then, six months later, just as you are beginning to get the hang of your hair and increase it's moisture level, the curl pattern may change again as your hair gains more length/weight.

2.   You will need to infuse a lot of moisture into your hair initially.  This will get better as your hair gets healthier and reaches its optimum moisture level.  Initially, to moisturize my hair, I did frequent conditioner-only washes (known as co-washes); deep conditioned once or twice a week; rarely shampooed my hair; and spritzed my hair with a heavy oil/water mix twice a day.  Now, I shampoo with a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo and deep condition once a week, and I only co-wash in between shampoos when I need to, like after a really intense workout.  I still spritz my hair twice a day, but I suspect this will decrease as I continue to raise my hair's moisture levels.

3.   You may become a product junkie.    I was a product junkie when I was relaxed until I figured out which products worked for my relaxed hair.  Once I went natural, I had to begin that process again.  Many of the products that worked for my relaxed hair no longer worked as my hair changed texture and porosity.  I am now just over a year into my transition, and I only recently have started to nail down my staple products.  I tried recommendations from others; but, as you will see, not every product will work for every natural.  In subsequent posts, I'll try to provide some suggestions on how to make your journey a little less expensive than mine was.

4.   Not everyone will be as excited about your hair as you are and it won't always be magically easy, but that's ok.  You may assume that after you big chop, you will automatically grow long hair, you will miraculously always know how to style it, and your friends and family will all be thrilled to learn about your endeavors.  Not true.  If you don't properly care for your natural hair, it will break just like relaxed hair.  Not everyone can just wash and go, especially as the hair gets longer, so you will need to learn how to style your hair.  Your friends and family may be happy for you, but they won't be as in awe at your hair as you might think.  That is why it is important to remember that, at times, your journey will be a labor of love.  It may be frustrating at times, you may have setbacks; but it is worth it in the end if you did this for you.
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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Making The Transition

As I mentioned in my hair story, I big chopped after a seven month transition.  Some people transition for less time, and some people transition for longer.  One of the most difficult struggles in the transition is dealing with the two textures -- your relaxed hair and your natural hair.  The point in between them is called the line of demarcation.   If you have ever stretched a relaxer for a lengthy period of time, you know that the line of demarcation is very fragile, and your hair will easily snap here, if not properly care for.  Thus, is important to keep the following things in mind:

1.  Moisture is your best friend.  The moisture will help to keep the line of demarcation from snapping.  To keep moisture in, deep condition at least once per week; and use moisturizing products in between when your hair feels dry.  Also, consider sulfate-free shampoos because sulfate can strip the moisture from your hair.

2.  Strengthening treatments are also important.  You can use henna or protein.  I used a protein reconstructor because my hair does not like heavy proteins.  The strengthening treatment will reinforce your hair strands.  Just make sure that you do not overdo it or your hair will easily snap.  Also, follow-up any strengthening treatment with a moisturizing conditioner.

3.  Use blending styles and protective styles.  These include styles like twists, braids, twistouts, braidouts, rod sets, straw sets, rollersets, buns, and bantu knot outs.  You can look at my pinterest page for inspiration.  Black Girl Long Hair also has a great article on transitioning styles.  While you could blowdry, flat-iron or press your hair, you risk heat damage, which could ruin your natural curls and weaken the integrity of your hair.  Thus, if you do decide to use heat, use the lowest possible setting and use a good heat protectant.

4. Limit combing, brushing and styles that put too much stress on your fragile strands.   When you do comb, use a wide tooth comb.  Detangle very gently and in sections.  Expect that it will take longer than when you just had relaxed hair.  Also, while protective styles like buns and braids are great, make sure that you are not braiding so tight that your hair snaps from the strain.

5.  Slowly trim away your relaxed ends.  If the goal is to end up with all natural hair, then you have to start somewhere.  Trim at the pace you are comfortable with because you want to make sure that you are at complete peace with your decision to go natural.  Of course, if you change your mind on your transitioning goal and start to get impatient, you can always big chop the remainder, like I did.  Just make sure that you are ready.

6.  Join a support group.  Transitioning is more than just a physical change.  It is also psychological, and you may need some support as you go through the transition, especially if your family and friends are not on board.  There are some great forum threads out there to help you on your journey.  Like I mentioned in my hair story, I was part of the Long Hair Care Forum's Transition without BC'ing Support Thread.  There were women who transitioned for a short period of time, like 3 months, and some who transitioned for a long time, like 2 years.  Without the women in this forum, I may have given up on my transition before I was ready.

7.  Enjoy your hair and have confidence.  Enjoy experimenting with your hair or you may be miserable.  Know that you will have some breakage.  You are really just trying to minimize the amount of breakage that you have.  Know that you will have some frustrating days, but don't let every day frustrate you.  Above all else, remember why you are transitioning and have confidence that you are doing the right thing for your hair, or you will never make it.  Try taking a picture of your natural root to motivate you.  Here is the one I took about four months into my transition:


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Monday, September 2, 2013

My Hair Story

I was natural until my sophomore year of high school.  At the time, I had no idea how to take care of my natural hair, and neither did my mother.  However, because I kept it in two cornrows, it grew down to the middle of my back.  In high school, I "thought" that everyone else was getting a relaxer; and, with much convincing, my mother allowed me to get my first relaxer.  Unfortunately, I still had no idea how to take care of my hair, and it began to break.  After getting my first relaxer, my hair got shorter and shorter.

In 2005, after moving to a new state, I finally began my healthy hair journey.  I began reading every book I could find, and I joined the Long Hair Care Forum.  I also found a great stylist, who taught me how to roller set; and I started to develop healthy habits, like stretching relaxers.   My hair finally began to grow again!  Then, I moved back to my hometown and I could not get it further than a little past shoulder length.

In 2012, I had a major setback and my new stylist suggested that I try a six-month relaxer stretch.  As someone, who usually stretched for 4 months, this was a challenge.  Thus, I immediately hopped on YouTube and went to LHCF for advice.  Little did I know that this would lead me on a new journey.  As I started to do research, I came across a lot of information about transitioning and met naturals, who inspired me with their length and retention.  Then, I joined the Transitioning Without BC thread on LHCF to get tips, and ended up staying.  I haven't looked back since.

My last relaxer was August 11, 2012.  After 7 months of transitioning, I did my own big chop on March 23, 2013.  I've been through a lot of products, read a lot of forums and books, and watched a lot of videos to help me in my journey.  Now, I hope to help others as I continue to learn more myself.
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