Tag Archives: afro textured hair

The Future of Natural Hair Care

Hi Loves,

I cannot believe that it is already mid-November and the year is almost over! Where does the time go? I had so many plans at the start of the year for my hair and my blog, but I’ve realized that sometimes life has a different plan for you and sometimes you just have to go with the flow. I apologize for my absence. The fire in my heart was raging today, so I had to post!

Where have I been? Basically, I’ve been in the same place physically, but in a new space mentally. I spent most of the year reflecting on what I really want to do in life and trying to better understand my larger purpose. Though I’m not 100% sure yet, gaining some clarity has put my mind at ease. Then, I spent the second half of the year training for the New York City Marathon, an experience that was life changing for more reasons than one. I still can’t believe that I ran 26.2 miles and I am so thankful for my amazing team, Athletes to End Alzheimer’s for supporting me each step of the way. They say if you want to learn about yourself, run a marathon. I dare you.

6362

As for the main purpose of this post, how is my natural hair? This past weekend I had the opportunity to “play” with my natural hair for the first time in 2-3 months and my emotions went from 0 to 100; the process went from feeling fun to frustrating almost immediately. Wash day has literally become wash weekend – a nightmare. For context, I kept my hair in a protective style for 12 weeks. Underneath my clip-in extensions, my hair was braided in cornrows. I spent Friday night taking out the cornrows and washing/ detangling/ deep-conditioning my hair. I spent Saturday blow-drying and trimming my hair. I spent Sunday getting my hair re-braided at the salon and prepping my new clip-ins for the installation (dyeing, washing, and conditioning). That was my whole weekend in a nutshell. The longer my hair grows, the more difficult it becomes to manage. In regards to the health of my hair, I cannot complain because it has been thriving. I no longer have any dyed pieces of hair, heat damage, or noticeable breakage in my crown. Blowing out my hair allowed me to see how much my hair has grown and how healthy it is! See pictures below!

64   65

66   67

Despite this amazing progress, more recently I’ve found myself ranting about my natural hair to my girl friends, guy friends, family members… basically anyone who will listen to me speak or give me a platform, with more passion and higher frequency. I’ve spent a lot of time and money on my hair, an investment that has not generated any monetary reward for myself, but has the potential to inspire, uplift, and empower women all over the world. I even called my mom this weekend to semi-apologize for giving her a hard time about relaxing my hair when I was only five years old. Being six years natural and shedding real tears as an adult while trying to comb my hair finally made me realize why she did what she did. It even made me wonder how my future self can raise a daughter with 4c, afro-textured natural hair and still maintain my sanity. Moms are the real MVPs! But does that make my Mom’s actions and those of other Black women who follow suit justified? No. How companies can justify selling hair products with the same chemicals used to unclog drains is beyond me. And the fact that we turn to these products out of convenience is disheartening.

I’ve spent the last few months asking myself why my hair matters so much to me. My passion for natural hair is not in vain, but stems from the impact my hair had on my self-esteem growing up and how the lack of role models with hair like mine affected the opportunities that I pursued. Like many other African American women, I grew up in hair salons. I spent 15 years of my childhood and adolescence hiding behind chemical relaxers, braids, extensions, and hair that wasn’t mine because I was afraid and didn’t know how to take care of my hair. Anyone who thinks the discourse surrounding Black hair is simply about hair is missing the main point. The conversation is not about hair at all. In fact, it’s about identity, confidence, and acceptance, among other things. It’s about a marginalized group that was born into a situation that it cannot change but tries to figure out how to make the best of that situation with limited resources.

Six years ago I made a bold decision to cut off all of my hair and go natural on my quest to attain long hair of my own, backed by the support system I gained through the online natural hair community. My pursuit to obtain long hair is less about length and more about achieving a goal I was conditioned to believe was outside of my reach. As a young girl, with damaged, relaxed hair, my hair broke off faster than the rate at which it grew. Growing up, Black girls “didn’t have long hair.” I’ve been following several natural hair YouTube gurus on their journeys over the last few years. Many have taken similar paths, concluding the road to achieving long natural hair is not desirable or sustainable. So instead, some reverted back to relaxers or now maintain shorter hairstyles. I on the other hand, am not ready to call it quits.

Though the natural hair trend has surged in recent years, many women remain uneducated about hair care or simply do not have the time to dedicate to such care. Seeking convenience, they have become heavily dependent on weaves, wigs, and extensions. But, by increasing demand for these items, they’ve created a marketplace that, in my opinion, does more harm than good by charging African American women exorbitant fees for products that they’ve been taught are central to their identities. I’ve conducted some research of my own, and though it’s not conclusive, it does shed some light on an imbalance in the hair care industry: Black women are willing to spend more on their hair. In one example, an ethnic hair conditioner by a multinational brand costs $9.99 for a 13.5oz bottle ($0.74/ oz) from Target; meanwhile a similar hair conditioner by a mainstream brand costs $2.67 for a 13oz bottle ($0.21/ oz). Black hair care is not only more time consuming, but in most instances it is also more costly.

Do we really need another natural hair product line on the market with a new oil unknown to mankind? – Absolutely not. What we need is a hair care company that is sensitive to the Black hair experience. A company that can create innovative solutions to deliver the most value to the vast community it serves in the form of high quality products and hair extensions at a low cost. A company that views solving this challenge as its ethical duty. A company that realizes it cannot change how our hair grows out of our heads, but sees a unique opportunity to facilitate a less burdensome experience rooted in research and compassion. We need to change the narrative around Black hair care for women. We need to create programs that support and teach young girls how to care for and maintain their natural hair from an early age. We need to build businesses that capitalize on the opportunity without serving as a detriment to our wallets or our communities.

I dream of a day when the Black hair care experience is more manageable, commoditized and normalized, not costly, exploitative and time consuming. Nowadays, I try to spend less time styling my natural hair and more time understanding how to solve our problems. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Thank you for reading, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Ijeoma ❤

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Wash Day Regimen

I’ve been getting a lot of requests to post about my hair regimen and I planned to post this sooner… sorry for the delay.

Before I tell you about my regimen, I will tell you a little bit about my hair. I am 100% Nigerian and my hair is extremely coarse, nappy, kinky, coily, and wiry in its natural state. If you follow the hair typing system, I would describe it as 4c with 50%-75% shrinkage. Both my mom and my sister have thin, fine, soft hair… but somehow, I ended up with the polar opposite. I have a full head of hair; my hair is thick, dense, and super dry. Whenever I go out, people (Nigerian guys especially) ask to touch my hair. Its softness surprises them, which is a good indicator that my moisturizing techniques/ products work well for my hair. Below are two old pictures that help give you a sense of my hair’s thickness and texture.

28     29

Regardless of what stage of your natural hair journey you are in, you should develop a hair regimen that works for you and maintain it for a few weeks or months to assess your results. Like any good experiment, you must conduct multiple tests over time. When I first big chopped, I laid out a few simple hair rules and followed them religiously. For newly naturals who recently big-chopped and are feeling overwhelmed, don’t fret. Natural hair is really easy to manage if you keep things simple. Less is definitely more. As long as you understand a few basic concepts about how hair grows and what it takes to retain length, you will have long hair before you know it.

Tips for Newly Naturals

1. Carve out a few hours every 1-2 weeks to dedicate to “Wash Day.” For me, this day is usually a Friday evening after work and usually takes 2-4 hours from start to finish. Dedicating one day to do your hair helps eliminate unnecessary manipulation during the week and promotes consistency, which leads to results. I generally wash my hair every week, or every other week depending on my schedule.
2. Find products that work for your hair. I think every regimen should contain 6 essential products: a cleansing shampoo, a detangling conditioner, deep conditioner, liquid moisturizer/ leave-in, styling product, and an oil. It is okay to be a product junkie… the only way to determine what works for your hair is to try a bunch of products. Natural hair care is all about trial and error. And what works for one person may not work for you, which is why it is important to learn your own hair.
3. Only comb your hair on wash day with a wide tooth comb when it is wet/ saturated with conditioner. Combing hair dry leads to breakage. If you must detangle during the week, gently use your fingers. It is good to develop habits that keep your hands out of your hair as much as possible.
4. Always sleep with a satin bonnet, scarf or pillow case. This will help your hair retain moisturize and prevents friction which can break your hair.


My Natural Hair Care Routine

Being natural for four years has taught me the importance of not only maintaining a consistent regimen, but also adapting it periodically to account for change. Although my hair is at a decent length now, I probably could have retained more length if I adjusted my wash regimen sooner.

22      23

24      25

PRE-POO
The night before wash day,  I unpin my twisted undo and finger-detangle each two strand twist using coconut oil from tip to root. I combine two smaller twists into one twist, so by the time I finish this process, I have a total of 8 large twists (4 on the right side, 4 on the left). It generally takes me about 1 hour to section off my hair and detangle. If your hair is still short, you can probably skip this step.

SHAMPOO
I only recently started washing my hair in sections last month, instead of piling my hair on top of my head and massaging my scalp. Because I used to wear my hair in box braids quite often, I never had to worry about this. However, I quickly realized that once your hair passes a certain length, washing your hair stretched and in sections is essential if you want to retain length. I shampoo my hair in the shower using a lower sulfate shampoo. Although sulfate shampoos strip moisture from your hair, I prefer shampoos with sulfates because I like my scalp to be squeaky clean. Since I have acne prone skin, I do not like product buildup or residue left from co-washing (“washing” hair with conditioner) lingering on my face. I use a quarter sized amount on each section and massage it through my scalp. I let the shampoo run through the entire length of the twist as I rinse and repeat for all 8 twists.

CONDITIONING
After shampooing, I step out of the shower to condition my hair. I unravel one twist, lather with conditioner, finger-detangle and re-twist. Because I also finger-detangle the night before, this step lets me catch any shed hairs I may have missed during the pre-poo. It is important to detangle your hair thoroughly and remove all shed hairs, so that they do not snag other hairs and cause tangles/ breakage. I repeat this process for all 8 twists, then rinse thoroughly in the shower.

DEEP CONDITIONING
I use either a moisture or protein based conditioner depending on my hair needs… sometimes I rotate weekly. I apply the deep conditioner to each twist and then sit under my Heutiful Hair Steamer for 20-40 minutes. In my opinion, this step is not necessary, however, I love the way it makes my hair feel… whether or not it actually makes a difference is questionable. Days when I do not feel like steaming my hair, I simply cover it with a shower cap and let it sit for an hour before rinsing.

STYLING
After rinsing the deep conditioner out, I proceed to style my hair. I start by blotting my hair with a t-shirt instead of a towel (there is definitely a difference. I didn’t believe it at first, but the t-shirt method does not snag my hair or create frizz). I use the L.O.C Method to moisturize my hair. If you’re not familiar with this method, there is a ton of information about it online, so I won’t describe it in detail. In summary, it stands for liquid or leave-in, oil, cream and helps to maximize moisture retention. First I apply my favorite leave-in to damp hair, then I apply coconut oil, and lastly, I apply my cream, which is usually a hair milk or butter. I split each of the 8 sections into 2 two strand twists so that I end up with a total of 16 twists. I also apply a dime sized amount of castor oil on the ends of each twist. I pin the twists into an up-do that protects the ends and repeat the entire process weekly. (This is part of my “No Puff September Challenge”)

26     27

I’m hoping that this new regimen helps me minimize breakage on wash day while maximizing length retention during the week. If you are feeling discouraged or need help creating a regimen, feel free to email me at ije.curltivate@gmail.com and I’ll gladly help!

Happy growing!

Sincerely,
Miss Ije ❤

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No Puff September

Hi Loves,

Happy September! I cannot believe that summer is over and we are already three quarters into 2014! I recently decided that this month will be “No Puff September.” Four years into my natural hair journey and I think I finally hit the dreaded “natural hair plateau,” often referred to as “the shoulder-length plateau.” …that point in your hair journey when you reach a standstill and feel like you are no longer retaining length.

At all stages of my natural hair journey, I have worn afro puffs. They are definitely my favorite hairstyle because they are so simple yet versatile. My routine after washing/ conditioning my hair is usually a two strand twist out turned into some variation of a puff. I’ve tried high puffs, medium puffs, half puffs, side puffs, pompadours and puffs… all kinds of puffs.
18  20  17  19

I generally do not measure my hair from month to month, or year to year, but I realized that it is finally time for me to part with this hairstyle if I want to continue to reach my natural hair goals (which I will speak about in a later post). While I think puffs are a great style for all naturals, they should be worn with caution due to the following reasons:

The Headache from Hell

If you double/ triple your headbands around your head so that they are extremely tight and hold your hair in place, chances are, after a few hours you will probably develop some discomfort or a headache due to the strain it causes to your scalp. Sadly I am guilty of enduring pain for hours just to achieve a certain sleek style. To avoid this issue, you can use loosely tied scarves instead of elastic bands.

Tension on Edges

The length of your hair partially determines the position where your headband rests. If you have shorter hair, the headband will most likely sit around your temples or closer to your forehead. If you have longer hair, you have more freedom to wear the headband further from your forehead which alleviates the pressure felt on your head. A few months into my natural hair journey I was so eager to wear puffs. But because my hair was pretty short, I wore my headbands right behind my ears. I quickly noticed that this caused bald spots and breakage on the right/ left sides of my temples due to too much pressure on the same location, so I definitely recommend switching up the location of your puffs and wearing them occasionally if you must.

Hand in Hair Syndrome/ Tangles

If you are like me and sit at a desk all day, you will probably find yourself randomly playing in your hair. Since the tips are the oldest, weakest parts along the hair shaft, constantly touching them can cause breakage. And when you wear your hair freely in styles that permit the hair strands to coil around each other, you will encounter a mass of tangles/ single strand knots on wash day. Instead of wearing puffs every day, wearing your hair in two strand twists during the week and freely the last few days before wash day can help minimize these issues.

These are some of the challenges I have faced lately with afro puffs, so I am going to see if I can survive a month without them. Though this information is not new, sometimes you need a friendly reminder to break bad habits. If you have any tips for how to balance wearing puffs, leave them below!

Happy growing!

Sincerely,

Miss Ije ❤

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

4 Year Natural Hair Montage

Hi loves!

I rummaged through all of my natural hair pictures that I could find on my computer. Here is a video documenting my hair journey over the last four years! This is the longest and healthiest my hair has ever been. Enjoy!

Sincerely,

Miss Ije ❤

Tagged , , , , , , ,