Relaxer Reflections: Was I Self Hating?

WARNING: This post contains old, poorly lit, badly edited photos of my relaxed hair. While I am cute, these images are definitely NOT, and are only presented here as a demonstration of how my hair used to be. Viewer discretion is advised.

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Relaxed, bleached in the front, and laid to oblivion at a Dominican salon.

In the last four years or so, natural hair has gone beyond being a trend. It is now past the point of being a cute look that a few girls have adopted and that fades as the media loses interest. Natural hair, as a concept, as a lifestyle, as a way of being, is now here to stay. It’s all over the internet in the form of blogs much better than my own that offer help, advice, and product recommendations. It’s in the beautiful black girls I see on the street, who are now much more likely to be rocking their curls and kinks than a relaxer or weave. It’s on the shelves of our stores, where whole sections are dedicated to products for our hair, with natural ingredients that cater to its unique needs.

This combined effort from bloggers, YouTubers, haircare companies, and everyday black girls has created an extremely passionate and informed community that we have never had before. From now on, anyone who wants to go natural will have years and years of blog posts, videos, and articles explaining exactly how to do so, and all the options will be presented to them immediately so that they can choose how to navigate their transition. I can’t tell you how much I wish this had been the case when I was a kid! If I had known how to do something other than put Blue Magic on my head and put it in a few big braids with barrettes, I probably would have stayed natural and not permed my hair at 12 years old.

However, with all this knowledge and passion comes a lot of negativity. There is so much criticism within our community — of ourselves, and of others who we feel are not as “enlightened” as us. It’s become so bad that the more zealous naturals online have been called “Natural Hair Nazis.” I hate this phrase, but I understand the frustration. Haven’t we all seen arguments break out in comments and message boards where people who  get relaxers or weaves are called “self hating” and accused of wanting to be white?

I’m not going to debate whether black girls who wear wigs and weaves are self hating or not — for me it’s a case by case thing and not something anyone should make a blanket statement about. But all the finger pointing does lead me to a question about myself…

Was I self hating all those years I was relaxing my hair?

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If I’m being honest with myself, the answer is yes. Here’s why.

I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood where I attended private school, and I was one of only a few (3 at most) black kids in my class. A lot of the bullying I endured as a kid centered around my race in one way or another. I wouldn’t say most of the kids who bothered me were racist — I wasn’t called the N-word or anything that extreme. They were prejudiced because for most of them, I was the first black girl they had ever had to interact with, and everything they knew of black culture was based on things they had seen on TV — criminals getting chased down on Law and Order, mugshots on the news, rappers and video vixens on MTV. They couldn’t understand why I wasn’t anything like those images they had seen. Why I “talked white.” Why I got better grades than they did. Why I liked to read so much. Why I was so incredibly passive and not “ghetto.”

But the thing they understood the least was my hair. Because it was always in braids and kind of shrunken, they thought it didn’t grow. And why was it so “frizzy?” Couldn’t I straighten it? In class pictures where every girl had long, waist length hair cascading down their shoulders and parted down the middle, my juicy braids and colorful barrettes stuck out like a sore thumb. I felt I didn’t belong, and I began to hate my hair.

I hated that it always looked short, even though when my mother helped me wash it, it was halfway down my back. I hated that on the rare occasion it was straightened with heat, using a flat iron or a hot comb, it would take forever because my hair was so thick, and then would revert within a couple of days. I begged my mother for relaxer for years. Thankfully, she waited until I was 12 and didn’t put those harsh chemicals on my hair when I was a small child.

For years, I was happy. My relaxed hair was easy to take care of, and stayed surprisingly healthy despite my barely doing anything to it.

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But then, in 2010, I started college. My new school was in Brooklyn, which meant I finally had a core group of black friends. And some of those friends were natural. The movement was in its early stages, and there still wasn’t a huge amount of info online at the time. One of my close friends had beautiful 4c hair that she always wore natural. She had been relaxed as a child, and transitioned as a teen. She used a combo of her own homemade DIYs and Carol’s Daughter products. She was never pushy, but explained the benefits of going natural and said she’d be there to help if I ever decided to do it.

I could have gone natural then, but was terrified of having short hair (I had HUGE hangups about having long hair that I’m still dealing with now), and I wasn’t patient enough to transition. In the end, it wasn’t until after a couple of years had gone by and I had been through some things that I chopped off my relaxed hair. I was on a journey of self love which I’ll probably be on in some form or another for the rest of my life, and loving my hair as it grows out of my head was part of that journey.

I’ve never hated being black — my parents made sure I took pride in my history and culture. But I did hate my hair for half of my life. When your only points of comparison on TV, in magazines, and in school are girls who are physically the exact opposite of you,  it’s harder to appreciate your own beauty. This is why representation in the media, which has improved drastically since I was a kid, is so important. It will be a determining factor for whether or not our little girls grow up with the same insecurities and self hate that some of us fell into when we were young. If I can make the little black girls in my life feel beautiful and equip them with the haircare knowledge many of us never got, then any trauma from my past experiences will absolutely have been worth it.

How was your natural hair received by your peers when you were a kid? Did that determine what you did with your hair when you grew up? How do you feel about media representation for our unique hair textures? Where can it be improved, what work still needs to be done? Let’s discuss in the comments here and on Facebook, shall we?

 

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Review: TGIN Honey Miracle Hair Mask

Hello, lovelies! Finally back again with another review! It’s been too long…as usual.

If you follow me on Facebook (and really, why wouldn’t you? The link is right here), then you know I bought my own little starter kit of TGIN (short for Thank God I’m Natural) products while trying out black owned beauty brands.

TGIN trio

I purchased their shampoo, conditioner, and deep conditioner, the products I tend to lean on the most in my hair care routine. I wanted to see if these products were on par with previous favorites, and if they were things I could see myself keeping in my rotation long term.

It must seem a little backwards to start with the deep conditioner review since it’s generally the last step before styling in your wash routine, but if you’ve been following me for awhile you guys know that deep conditioners are bae for me. They are the biggest reason why my hair stays as healthy as it does, and if you held a gun to my head and forced me to relax my hair again, that is the main hair habit I would take with me when returning, kicking and screaming, to my childhood hair routine. So I figured it made sense to start with the product I stood to make the most use of before moving on to the shampoo and conditioner.

Alright, enough preamble! Let’s get to the facts! All the info below comes directly from TGIN’s website:

TGIN hair mask

Product Name: Honey Miracle Deep Conditioner for Natural Hair

Price: $17.99 (often on sale for less)

What it does: “tgin Honey Miracle Hair Mask is like an instant make over for dry, damaged or colored treated hair. This luxurious deep conditioner contains raw honey for softer, shinier tresses and jojoba and olive oils, which nourish and heal strands in need of repair. The result is hair that never looked so good.”

Ingredients: WATER, RAW HONEY, OLEA EUROPAEA (OLIVE) FRUIT OIL, SIMMONDSIA CHINENSIS (JOJOBA) SEED OIL, ALOE BARBADENSIS (ALOE VERA) LEAF JUICE, STEARYL ALCOHOL, CETYL ALCOHOL, STEARAMIDOPROPYL DIMETHYLAMINE, GLUTAMIC ACID, FRAGRANCE, BENZYL ALCOHOL, EDTA, CYCLOPENTASILOXANE, DIMETHICONE, METHYLCHLOROISOTHIAZOLINONE, METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE.

Curly Girl Method Friendly?: No

Their  instructions on how to use the product were pretty straightforward — after using their shampoo and conditioner, apply the mask, and then place a plastic cap over your head. If you’re using heat, leave it on for 15 minutes. If not using heat, leave it on for 35 minutes to an hour. This is how I usually use my deep conditioners anyway, so that’s exactly what I did with this one.

The first thing I noticed upon opening the Honey Miracle Mask was the smell. Which surprised me, because I have a horrible sense of smell and almost never notice how a product smells unless I go out of my way to get in close and sniff it. But the scent on this was strong enough that I noticed it right away. As you would expect based on the title, it smells exactly like highly concentrated honey. To me it’s a pleasant smell, just a tad overwhelming when you first open it. Nothing wrong with it, but something to be aware of if you’re more sensitive to smells than I am.

This deep conditioner has silicones in it, as you can see from the ingredient list, so if you’re following the Curly Girl Method, you’ll probably pass on this product. However, I think it’s the silicones that give this product the great slip that allows it to glide through my hair easily. I don’t use deep conditioners to detangle, I always do that with a rinse out conditioner while in the shower. But I could see myself detangling with this product if I wanted or needed to because it’s not too thick, and not too watery. It’s in that Goldilocks zone that allows me to get it through my strands easily but also allows it to sink in and provide some much needed moisture.

Generally, I prefer to use heat with my deep conditioners just to be on the safe side and make sure my hair is getting as many benefits from the product as possible, and this mask was no exception. I sat under my tried and true bonnet dryer for 15 minutes or so, and made sure not to stay under too long. I wanted to see what this could do in the time it stated on the jar, and I felt leaving it in for an hour would not give a fair assessment of how this works.

As soon as I rinsed it out in the shower the first time, I knew this mask would be on my repurchase list. This conditioner made my hair super soft, and also defined my curls and slicked down flyaways, making it MUCH easier to style my hair in whatever way I wanted once it was rinsed out. I was honestly surprised because other comparable brands had been disappointing me in the deep conditioner department (looking at you, Carol’s Daughter), and I wasn’t expecting much for the price. $17.99 may seem steep if you’re used to drugstore conditioners that cost around $8 or $9, but keep in mind this is almost always on sale somewhere, whether it’s Target, CVS, or even TGIN’s website itself. Most of the time, you won’t have to pay full price, and even if you do, the quality of the product is worth it. My hair has experienced less breakage, my curls pop when using it weekly, and despite the silicones in the ingredients, it doesn’t build up on my hair and cause scalp irritation. I clarify my hair once a month or so to remove any potential buildup, but haven’t experienced any issues between those washes.

As I mentioned at the beginning, this is also a black owned brand. And when I say black owned, I mean that literally — unlike so many formerly black owned brands, TGIN is still under the control of its founder, Chris-Tia Donaldson, and has not sold out to a larger, white owned brand (no tea, no shade). So this product is a win both ethically and in terms of quality. If you’re in the market for an affordable natural hair line that is readily available and not overpriced, TGIN just might be for you.

But I’ve rambled long enough, I want to hear from you! Do you guys deep condition your hair? If so, how often and with what products? If not, why not? Let’s get a discussion going in the comments under the post, as well as on my Twitter and Facebook pages! In the meantime I’ll get to work on a shampoo and conditioner review for this line. Were they a hit like the deep conditioner, or were there issues that keep them from getting the same glowing recommendation??? Stay tuned!

 

Changes in My Hair Routine: A Quick Overview

Hello, lovelies!

I figured before we get into more product reviews, and more natural hair talk in general, it would make sense to update you guys on what’s changed about my hair routine since the 2nd big chop and my decision to quit using Shea Moisture products. When I say I rode hard for Shea Moisture in the past, I mean it — about 90% of all my hair care products were from that brand. But I was firm in my resolve to quit using their products after the ad scandal that rocked the internet. Like so many of you, I had no problem with SM wanting to expand their brand and market to women of different races and/or with different textures, but I did take issue with their complete dismissal of their core audience, the kinky haired naturals who put their brand on the map in the first place. I’m not doing a whole post on the issue because there are already so many of them, but I realized I didn’t want to invest money in this business when it’s clearly not checking for us anymore.

Lucky for me, the natural hair community was mostly united on this issue, and loads of articles sprung up offering alternative black owned brands to replace Shea Moisture. I had known of these brands, seen their ads, heard other naturals rave about them, but had never attempted to use them. Brands like Camille Rose Naturals, Mane Choice, As I Am, and Thank God I’m Natural. All of these brands have expanded and become more mainstream in recent years, but they still go out of their way to indicate that their products are mainly for black hair, which is much appreciated.

I’m still not quite at the level of product junkie-ism I was when I first big chopped and went natural (Lord, the money I wasted…), but I did cherry pick a few popular items to start experimenting with, mostly from Camille Rose and TGIN. Before we get into that though, let me give you a basic outline of my routine these days. The actual products used may change over time depending on my needs, but the types of products used and the order they’re used in does not change much. I think it’s consistency in the basic outline of your routine that will get results long term, and also show you where your routine is going wrong if you’re struggling.

So, without further ado, here’s how my routine (usually) works:

  1. Pre-Poo. My hair my be a lot shorter after my 2nd big chop, but it’s still long enough to get badly tangled if I’m not careful. Pre-pooing with coconut or avocado oil the night before wash day helps enormously with detangling once I get in the shower. It softens my hair and makes it easier to manipulate so that I deal with less breakage and shedding. This is especially important when I’m working with a week old wash and go, which will get far more tangled than, for example, a twist out.
  2. Shampoo at least once a week. I’ve found that shampooing my hair, as opposed to constantly cowashing, is the way to go if I want to properly cleanse my hair. Cowashing is fine for an in between refresher if I’ve been hitting the gym and my hair is frizzy, but it doesn’t replace shampoos for me at all. In other words, cowashes are optional, shampoos are not. I look for sulfate free, moisturizing products so that my hair doesn’t feel stripped or start breaking, and even if my hair does feel a little rough after washing, I have good quality conditioners to replenish the moisture that’s been lost.
  3. Use a rinse out conditioner to detangle. This has been my detangling method since the beginning. I drown my hair in conditioner (really, who uses a “dime sized” amount, anyway?), and then gently brush it with a Tangle Teezer or Denman Brush. I know neither of these are universally popular anymore, but they work for me. My hair is far too thick and dense to try finger detangling, so this gets the job done in a timely manner.
  4. Deep condition every other week or so. Now that my hair is not color treated, I don’t deep condition as often as I used to. Now it’s usually every other week, or just when I feel I need it. I’m still looking for good deep conditioners to replace my Shea Moisture ones, so if you have suggestions, let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page!
  5. Style as a Wash and Go (most of the time). Unpopular opinion — wash and gos work better for me than any other style. Yes, twist outs keep my hair slightly more stretched and therefore result in fewer tangles, BUT the style just doesn’t hold in NYC humidity the way a wash and go does. Eco Styler gel is still my ride or die — it plays well with all my other hair products, defines my curls well, and makes my wash and go last a week or more. Twist outs, if I’m lucky, last me 2 or 3 days. The extra manipulation of having to constantly restyle kind of cancels out the benefits of wearing my hair stretched. This may change in the winter when my hair isn’t constantly frizzing up, but for the summer, this has been my go-to style, with twist outs only being a once in awhile thing.
  6. Clarify once a month. I was basically following the Curly Girl Method when my hair was longer, not because I believed it was better than any other routine, but because it preserved my color. So I used no sulfates in my shampoos, and no silicones in my conditioners or styling products. Now that my hair is not dyed, I’ve introduced some silicones into my routine, and that meant adding a sulfate shampoo to clarify and wash out those silicones every so often. I only use that shampoo about once a month, and make sure to moisturize and condition my hair afterward to prevent damage.

Last but not least, here’s a shot of my hair in a wash and go, so you can see my progress since my haircut!

I know it’s hard to tell because of shrinkage, but it’s coming along nicely! My bangs especially are coming in fast. I hope you enjoyed this post, and that what I said is helpful to some of you. Stay tuned for more product reviews, and of course length checks as the months go on! I’d love to compare this shot to my hair at the end of this year!

My 2nd Big Chop: Why I Did It

I’ve been on hiatus for awhile, primarily because I had nothing new to say about my hair or my routine. I’ve been working jobs where I couldn’t dye my hair crazy fantasy colors as I would like to, and nothing drastic changed besides my roots growing in strong and my burgundy color fading into a coppery red.

…And then this happened.

 

 

Let’s discuss, shall we?

About two months ago, my hair started feeling…different. It was getting quite long, a little past APL (armpit length), but not quite at BSL (bra strap length). I was trimming regularly, deep conditioning weekly or bi-weekly depending on how busy I was, and basically incorporated all the good hair care practices I had always used to maintain my curls. But suddenly they weren’t reacting the same, even though nothing had really changed. My ends were tangled beyond belief ALL THE TIME. No matter how much or how gently I detangled, no matter how much slip my conditioner had, the part of my hair that was still bleached and dyed was not cooperating anymore. Instead I was getting HUGE knots which would then rip out of my hair causing breakage. I was losing more hair than I was growing, and my ends looked like crap despite regular trims.

I’m no stylist or hair expert, so I can’t say for certain why my hair began reacting this way. My guess is that the ends of my hair, the bleached part, had finally become damaged past recovery. These strands were more sensitive to the environment, friction from clothing, and general dryness than the rest of my hair, and there wasn’t much I could do to fix them. Even protective styling didn’t stop the endless tangling and breaking cycle. I knew I should cut my hair, but was hesitant because I didn’t know if I wanted to go back to a short hairstyle, I had hated the super short days post big chop when I went natural, and wasn’t eager to go through that again.

But upon further reflection, I saw the situation differently. Because of my new hair struggles, and all the extra length I’d gained from being natural 2 years, wash day had become hell. What was once a fun beauty ritual now felt like a chore to be endured, and one which wasn’t making my hair look or feel any better. I also knew that this time around when I cut my hair, I could be more creative with the type of cut and shape. I didn’t have to lose all my length, and my wash day would be much quicker and easier. I had been eager for the last 6 months to have my hair all one color, but didn’t want to dye it black. Cutting off the damaged ends would bring me back to my natural dark brown color without any more harsh dyes, and give me a clean slate if I wanted highlights at another time.

So I took the plunge last Monday. I cannot stress enough how much it helps to have a stylist who vibes well with you and knows what you want. I’ve been seeing the same person for about 6 years, so I wasn’t nervous about the shape of the cut or the quality of the work. I left super satisfied and happy.

I think I’m going to enjoy my 2nd big chop far more than I enjoyed my first. I vowed after cutting off all my hair to go natural that I would never fear a haircut again, and I plan to keep that promise. I’m going to rock this bomb cut in all it’s glory for as long as I like, and when I’m ready to grow it out, it will be as long and gorgeous as it ever was. I’m so happy and proud that  I’ve reached a place where I can feel confident in both looks, and that I’m past the obsession with length that still plagues so much of the natural hair community.

Oh, and speaking of that community…

Most of you have already heard what happened with Shea Moisture. I considered writing a post about it, but there are so many think pieces, videos, blog posts, Facebook posts, Instagram posts…there is literally nothing I could say about it that hasn’t already been said. If you look back at my oldest blogs, you will know I rode hard for Shea Moisture and most of my haircare staples came from them. All I will say is I’m deeply disappointed and will no longer be using their products. This is a great opportunity, though, because I’ve been experimenting with other black owned brands as I look for new things to fill my regimen, and product reviews will be on the horizon again as I find my feet. Thanks for sticking with me, and with this long abandoned page. We’ll talk soon!

Review: Shea Moisture High Porosity Shampoo

Before we get started, if you haven’t seen my previous post on the Shea Moisture event at Ricky’s NYC in Manhattan and the free goodies I received when I attended, please do so here.

Also, a quick disclaimer: I received this product in a full size bottle for free at the event mentioned above. However, the review is NOT sponsored! Shea Moisture is not paying or otherwise compensating me to write this, and all views expressed in the following review are my own.

I’m certainly not the first natural hair blogger to be all over the new porosity lines Shea Moisture has released — the internet was buzzing about this months ago. I remember being excited about all the new product lines when I first heard about them on social media. Back then, there weren’t many detailed reviews of any of the products, and what did exist on blogs often didn’t go beyond a celebratory description of the line’s release and a blurb explaining what stores it’s available at. Now, we have more bloggers and YouTubers contributing their views on these products. If anything, I’m a bit behind as these products don’t really qualify as “new” anymore. But I wanted to use them several times before giving my opinion, since I feel that with skin and hair products, it’s very important to give your body time to react to the new products it’s being presented with, and one or two uses just doesn’t cut it since you don’t get to see the product in different scenarios or view the potential pitfalls or added benefits of playing with its placement in your routine.

Sooooo, with all that said, let’s get to the review!

Oh, one more quick disclaimer: as a I rule, I ALWAYS, without exception, pre-poo my hair with coconut oil the night before I plan to shampoo it. My hair is both very thick and very dense, and any shampoo will inevitably tangle it and dry it out if there isn’t a barrier with lots of slip to help me along. While it could be argued this gives my hair a “boost” of sorts that makes shampoos work better, I would have to humbly disagree. Rather, it gives my hair a fighting chance to reap the benefits of the shampoo and be properly cleansed without tangling on itself unnecessarily. It’s not a big deal to me because it’s just part of my routine, but it’s still a factor in how my hair deals with pretty much any cleansing product I use, so in the interest of full disclosure, I’m explaining this now.

Okay, for real this time. Let’s go!

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Since going natural, I have mainly used Shea Moisture shampoos (with the exception of the one Carol’s Daughter shampoo I bought from the Monoi collection), so that is my point of reference for this one. Unlike my original go-to SM shampoo from the Coconut and Hibiscus line, which is almost clear and has a watery consistency, the Mongongo and Hemp Seed Oil shampoo has a thick, almost creamy consistency. It’s an off-white color and appears to have a pearlescent sheen when viewed in the bottle. This initially concerned me because I feared the thicker consistency would tangle up my hair, a common problem I face when shampooing. However, upon application, I found that the formula glided through my strands very easily, and the creaminess helped me get through my thick roots and loosen up the excess dirt and oil without excessive scrubbing.

Other reviewers have described this as being one of SM’s harsher shampoos, bordering on the harshness of a clarifying shampoo. This was not my experience. The coconut oil probably helped in this regard, but a really stripping shampoo would cut through that, anyway. I found the two products played well together, and upon rinsing my hair, it didn’t feel completely stripped. It certainly felt like it needed conditioner, but it didn’t feel damaged or like it was on the verge of breaking off. The result was clean hair that gave me a clean slate for moisturizing it with conditioner and a deep treatment, as well as the LOC method (if any of that was confusing, stay tuned for later posts, let me know what things need explaining/deserve a separate post!).

So, final thoughts. This is a perfectly competent shampoo. Personally, I am not all that particular about my shampoos. They all do the same job, essentially. As long as they are sulfate free and color safe (which all the SM shampoos are), I’m not too concerned with ingredients. This one did its job and did it well, and my hair has not suffered at all from it. If you are protein sensitive, your results may not be as positive, so keep that in mind not just with the shampoo, but with the entire high porosity line. However, if your hair has no reaction or responds well to protein, this shampoo is definitely worth a shot.

If I had to name one problem I have with this product, it is its lack of easy availability, and this applies to all of the products in the high and low porosity collections. Last I checked, they were only available at Target and a few beauty supply stores here and there. I don’t have a Target near me, so if and when I want to restock these products, I would have to either go out of my way to find one, or order them online. Both options are inconvenient for many people depending on where you live, so I hope that as the line gains some traction, it becomes available in more stores (CVS would be nice for a start!).

Stay tuned for reviews on the high porosity co-wash and deep conditioner, as well as updates on my hair, my wash day routine, and how I achieve the styles you see me rocking on Instagram! If you have any ideas or requests for blog posts, feel free to leave them in the comments under the post or on the Scared Curly Facebook page! Thanks for reading, and welcome to the new people who seem to be showing up here (at least according to my stats, lol). The posts around here are going to get a lot more consistent, pinky swear!

 

 

What Is My Hair Type, and Should it Matter?

This topic has been done to death in the natural hair community. I’ve seen countless YouTube videos, blog articles, message board discussions, and social media comment sections dedicated to this issue. However, since there isn’t really a consensus on how much or how little hair type should matter, and there are still sooo many naturals running around on the internet who don’t even know their hair type, I figured throwing my hat into the ring wouldn’t be so terrible.

Okay, so let’s start with the obvious — what is hair typing? This isn’t a full scientific analysis of black hair or hair in general, since I am not qualified to give any sort of analysis on either. In fact, the typing system that started all this isn’t entirely scientific itself. Andre Walker, a celebrity hairstylist who worked for Oprah back in the day, created his own hair typing system for women, with Type 1 being the straightest, and Type 4 being the curliest/kinkiest. Within those numbers are letters with more specific descriptions. Two new letters, Type 3c and 4c, were essentially added in by naturals who felt those categories weren’t well represented in the original chart. You won’t find them in Walker’s original book on the subject, but these two “new” types are very common in naturals and you will see those terms in every natural hair message board or article on this topic.

I’m not here to pull a Melania and plagiarize other people (yes I really made that joke), so I’ll just link the photos and descriptions for the hair types HERE. I love NaturallyCurly.com because their photos are the clearest and most accurate and they have good descriptions of each hair type. They also have a very quick and useful quiz to help you if you’re still stuck like I was.

But why do we even bother with the hair typing? Many naturals have stated that in terms of finding products and care techniques for your hair, typing isn’t all that useful. How your hair does or does not curl doesn’t necessarily effect how it retains moisture. Other factors like hair porosity and density tend to be good measures for how healthy or unhealthy our hair is, which is why natural hair lines like Shea Moisture are marketing more towards porosity these days than curl types.

The internet knows this. But the internet still has loads of people referencing their hair types in conversation. Why? Because like any other online community, the natural hair community has its abbreviations and “language” for lack of a better word that allow people from different places and with different experiences to communicate effectively and get advice. Hair type may not be the defining characteristic that determines my hair health, but if I wanted advice on a forum or a comment section about styling, it would be the quickest way to give an idea of what my hair is like, and can help more than a grainy, poorly lit photo sent to strangers to get an idea of what to do. So, in spite of the inherent divisiveness of the typing system, and the hierarchy that developed through texture discrimination, which is for another post entirely, the typing system CAN be helpful.

 

My hair in a fresh wash and go.
My hair in a fresh wash and go.

What’s my hair type? It took me FOREVER to figure it out. It doesn’t help that many naturals, myself included, have sections with different hair types all on one head! As my hair grew out from my big chop, it took a good 6 months to get a feel for what my hair wanted to naturally do and how it curled or kinked in various sections. So my rather confusing verdict at this moment is that my hair is mostly 4a. The front section that frames my face leans more 3c (it’s a mix, really), and the sides by my ears, the kinkiest sections by far, are almost 4b. The back is a VERY tightly coiled 4a that takes the longest to detangle and is the hardest to stretch when setting at night. Left to it’s own devices, the back would be a matted mess within a day of washing! That, in the nutshell, is my hair, and I love every strand on my head no matter what it chooses to do. Seeing my mother go natural  in recent months, and realizing she has the EXACT SAME change in curl patterns (curly in front, kinky on sides, tight in the back), strengthened my feeling that my hair was beautiful. Now it wasn’t just pretty because I liked it — it was pretty because my mama gave me her curls!

Now, the last important question: Does knowing my hair type effect my hair routine? Well…somewhat. Knowing what your hair can or cannot do can help immensely with styling. If my hair was 4c, for example, which is a kinkier texture where curls don’t clump the same way they do for other hair types, I wouldn’t be able to do a wash and go in the exact same way I do it now as a 3c/4a type. 4c naturals, for example, generally cannot wet their hair, pile on a bunch of gel to clump their curls, blow dry with a diffuser and be on their way. They CAN wash and go, but they can’t use the same method as every natural they see on the internet. By the same token, I’m not a 3a, which is a looser curl pattern that falls in more defined, consistent ringlets. So I can’t wet my my hair, throw in a cream with some coconut oil in it, shake and go like some 3a girls can. My hair needs gels to be defined the way I like because they weigh down my curls and force them to clump uniformly rather than frizzing, which they are highly prone to do if left completely to their own devices.

With all that said, after I started coloring my hair in July of last year, it wasn’t hair typing that helped me learn how to care for the health of my hair. My hair has thrived the most by understanding my porosity (again, needs to be covered in a separate post) rather than my curl pattern. Through that, I learned how to keep my hair moisturized for longer and how to work protein into my deep conditioning routine to keep my hair strong and prevent my delicate strands from breaking. So in order to put ALL the puzzle pieces together — hair health, hair care, hair styling — hair typing is a key component. Just make sure it’s not the only component, and that you do the research necessary to look after your hair’s overall health.

Ricky’s NYC Meets Shea Moisture

Okay, so…let’s rewind to March.

Ya’ll know that I love Shea Moisture. About 90% of the products I use on my hair are from this brand. And it’s not because of any sponsorship or payment on their part — I have no involvement with the company on a business level. I started buying their products because they were the only all natural drugstore hair brand that came highly recommended in the natural hair community that I had immediate access to at my local CVS. Everything else back then was only available online for me — Carol’s Daughter, Eden’s Bodyworks, Miss Jessie’s, Camille Rose…I could go on and on.

Carol’s Daughter has a (limited) selection in my CVS now, but all those other brands still require a Google search and some shipping payments from me if I want to purchase them. And I do, sometimes. But as I’ve branched out into other brands, I still always make my way back to Shea Moisture anyway. Not just because of the convenience, but because it has so many great lines aimed at different hair needs, and I can always find things that work really well for my hair, all while never having to break the bank.

So, when I found out one morning on Twitter that Shea Moisture was going to be hosting an event at Ricky’s NYC at the Union Square location, and that Jenell Stewart, one of my favorite YouTubers and natural hair bloggers, would be available for a meet and greet, I was super excited. I spent the next several hours confirming the news, dressing, and doing my hair and makeup. I even dragged my boyfriend with me when he got off work since I don’t handle crowds well.

Turns out I was right to be a little anxious about the crowds. Ricky’s on Union Square is a large store, much larger than the Ricky’s in my neighborhood, and it was filled with naturals of every age, height, weight, and curl pattern. I must say, it was a little overwhelming to be around that many naturals all at once, when unfortunately I don’t get to spend that much time with young black women my age.

I met a few nice people, and we chatted about our hair journeys while sipping the free cocktails offered. It took awhile before I could get to the person I came to see, Jenell Stewart — she was surrounded by admirers and hardly had a break in between fans. I admired the fact that even though she must have been tired and perhaps a little overwhelmed by the hours and hours of greeting, she made sure to have full, meaningful conversations and connections with every person that came up to her. She was never dismissive or rude, and each person left feeling she was as sweet and relatable as she had appeared to be on her YouTube videos.

After what seemed an eternity, I met her myself and was thrilled to bits that she thought my hair was beautiful. We talked styling techniques, the new options that open up as your hair gets longer, and how cute her outfit was (apparently she’s vegan now, and she has clearly lost a LOT of weight). And ya’ll know I had to get a picture:

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Right after this pic was taken, I got a very unexpected surprise. I was about to make a quick and quiet exit, knowing there was a line of women behind me waiting to talk to Jenell, when she said that that before we left, she had something for us. There was a big Shea Moisture sign hanging behind her (you can see it in the pic above in the background), and she reached behind it to reveal a reusable bag full of Shea Moisture goodies that were FREE! I was thrilled, since many of the products were things not yet available in my local CVS.

When I got home and explored the contents of the bag more thoroughly I was…intrigued. With the exception of one item, they were all from the new High Porosity and Low Porosity lines the brand had just released. Now if ya’ll have been keeping up with Shea Moisture at all, you know that in the last few months that have gone CRAZY with the release of several new product lines. It’s my understanding that the goal with this is to cater to as many different hair types and hair needs as possible, so that everyone can find a line that they like and are able to use.

The flip side of this, which I’ve seen from consumers who write comments on their social media, is that some people feel overwhelmed by the vast selection, and feel there are simply too many options. Some pick one or two lines to try, and upon realizing they don’t work for their hair, dismiss the brand as a whole. This is problematic because it’s down to user error — if you tried two lines that didn’t work out for you, it’s likely because neither of them was meant to cater to your hair type or hair needs. Just like with any other brand, a little internet research and a knowledge of your own hair’s needs will do wonders for narrowing down the selection so you can pick products that work for you.

Okay, enough babbling. These are the products that came in my lovely goody bag. I was really surprised they gave me so much. Also, with the exception of the coconut oil, these were all in FULL sizes like you would buy in the store, not travel sizes or samples.

100% Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Head to Toe Nourishing Hydration

Mongongo & Hemp Seed Oils High Porosity Moisture Seal Shampoo

Mongongo & Hemp Seed Oils High Porosity Moisture-Seal Co Wash

Mongongo & Hemp Seed Oils High Porosity Moisture-Seal Masque

Baobab and Tea Tree Oils Low Porosity Protein-Free Shampoo

Baobab and Tea Tree Oils Low Porosity Protein-Free Conditioner

Baobab and Tea Tree Oils Low Porosity Protein-Free Leave-In Detangler

Of the many lines that Shea Moisture was popping out in late February/early March, the lines that got the most attention, both from the brand itself in its advertising and from consumers, were the High and Low Porosity lines. Over the last year or so, many in the natural hair community have been arguing that rather than using hair typing, which indicates curl pattern, to determine what products we should use on our hair, we should focus instead on porosity, which gives a scientific explanation of the two extremes at which your hair can struggle to retain moisture.

I’m not very good at the science behind hair, and if you want details on how the porosity of your hair can impact your hair care routine, I’d suggest researching online. However, I can try to sum up, in VERY brief and unscientific terms, the general idea of each type. Low porosity hair, as the name suggests, is not very porous, and therefore doesn’t let in the amount of moisture your hair needs. People with low porosity hair tend to have a sensitivity to protein, so protein treatments, or even daily moisturizers that are protein heavy, can be a bad idea. High porosity hair, on the other hand, is a tad too porous. It lets moisture in, but because it’s so porous, that moisture flows right back out again — think of water going through a strainer, if you need a visual aid. A strainer bowl doesn’t retain the water you put in it — water comes in, but it goes right back out through all those holes. Same is true for high porosity hair. Generally, people with high porosity hair have chemical damage of some sort, either from relaxers, or from bleaching and dyeing their hair. I’m speaking in broad terms here, and the things I’ve said do not necessarily apply to every single person with these traits — again, not a scientist. But if your hair fits any of those broad descriptors and has a hard time retaining moisture, it’s worth looking into it further and doing your own research.

I liked the idea of this system, but was hugely confused about how to figure out if my hair was high or low porosity. The tests YouTubers suggested yielded mixed results. Luckily, Shea Moisture came to the rescue and put a quiz on their website to help confused people like myself. Each time I took it, even if I changed the answer on certain questions I was confused/unsure about, the results were the same — apparently, I have high porosity hair. This is likely because my hair is bleached and colored. So, since receiving these items, I’ve been using the ones that are in the the High Porosity line. This was exciting for me, because that line comes with a new hair masque, and I loooovvee Shea Moisture’s deep conditioners. I was also intrigued about the shampoo and co-wash, and have been working them all into my routine to see how I like them. I decided not to test the Low Porosity line. Since my hair falls in one camp and not the other, the opposing line probably would not yield positive results for my hair. I gave those products to my mom, who’s recently big chopped and whose porosity is, as yet, undetermined since her hair is very short.

I decided to explain my experience with Ricky’s, and my acquisition of so many new products, as an introduction of sorts to the product reviews that are to come in the next few weeks. I will review all the High Porosity line items I own, and then move on to other products I’ve been using that I bought online. I’ve noticed, surprisingly, that a lot of people haven’t done in depth reviews on the new Shea Moisture stuff yet — I suppose it’s because there’s just so much, and it’s easier to do overviews of the products than to review them one by one. But I will try to split up the reviews and focus on specific products so I can give you as much info as possible. Hopefully it’ll be helpful for everyone. 🙂

Thanks for reading my second ridiculously long post in a row. Stay tuned, reviews should be coming in the next week!

Coloring Natural Hair: My Journey

Okay, so let’s address the giant pink sequined elephant in the room before we really get into this. I haven’t blogged in a very long time. I could use the classic, “Life got in the way” excuse, and that is accurate to an extent. But the more honest answer is simply that I felt I had nothing to blog about. My hair was still growing and was healthy, but at the time of my last post, early summer 2015, I wasn’t doing much in the way of experimentation with my hair and was just desperate for it to not be short anymore. I got into a haircare regimen that worked for me and my product junkie tendencies were lessening, so I didn’t have much to contribute on the product review front. I feared my content would grow too repetitive, and not be able to provide enough new or relevant information for the blog to be worth reading. So eventually, I just decided to stop writing all together.

It’s been almost a year since I made that decision, and loaaaddsss about my natural hair journey has changed since then. I’ve got way more hair, so there’s just more to do and more to take care of now than there was when you last saw me. In addition to the changes brought by new growth, I decided pretty early on that having my hair all one color was just too boring. The minute I had enough length to play with, I began my journey into bleaching and dyeing my hair, something I didn’t initially think I would do so early.

I remember researching how to color my hair and what the process would be. Every piece of new info increased my excitement, but also increased my anxiety. For every story or tip on how bleaching natural hair could make it look amazing, there was another story about how doing so had caused horrible damage, sometimes so much that the person had to do another big chop! I was, understandably, very nervous. But I knew going in that I had a few things working in my favor:

  1. My hair was still very short at this point, About 3 inches if I pulled the longer strands straight. Even if my hair somehow got horribly damaged, big chopping wouldn’t feel too bad since I wouldn’t be losing much length, anyway. Some people cut more than that off doing a routine trim!
  2. Though I didn’t have a lot of hair at the time, I was VERY careful with my hair regimen to stick to my goal of retaining length. I was shampooing with all natural shampoo, conditioning and deep conditioning, and keeping my hair well moisturized with oils and butters throughout the week. I knew I would have no problem dealing with more high maintenance bleached hair, because I already was overprotective and made sure to baby my curls so they wouldn’t split or break.
  3. In the early stages, the plan was always to bleach a few key parts of my hair and see how my hair took it. I never planned to do my whole head in one go, since I didn’t know how my hair would react. So the worst case scenario was having  one damaged section or several damaged pieces which would grow out over time. This goes back to point 1, there was low risk overall because of my lack of length and the limited amount of bleaching I wanted to do.
  4. I always, from the moment I decided I was going to work with color, planned to work with my stylist. This means I had the best possible chance of the experience being a good one. I don’t like the idea of doing my hair at home beyond washing and styling. Anything that involves trims or chemicals is left to the professionals for me. I’d rather pay extra to have everything done exactly as I like than do it at home and run the super high risk of making mistakes.

So, with all my new information swimming in my head, I sent to my stylist. I had never been blonde before, and knew that with my skin tone I probably couldn’t pull off a full head of blonde locks. So I told my stylist to give me a “Beyonce blond” that would highlight my short hair and make it look cute. She sectioned off the top front section of my tapered TWA, which was the longest part of my hair at the time, and bleached only that. She also focused on the last 3/4 of the strand, rather than bleaching down to the root, so no burning for me! The result looked like this:

Blonde hiar

 

As you can see, my stylist did a really good job, giving me a honey blonde that was not too brassy or orange looking. My hair was pretty well taken care of (pats self on back), so though it’s just been bleached in this shot, you can tell it’s not been dried out or damaged at all. My hair is in very small finger coils here, but even when my hair was still really short, I liked to get it as big as possible while still maintaining definition. So when I went on vacation a few days after getting my hair done, I washed it and restyled it, with results that were more to my taste.

Hair 2

This is probably my favorite picture of my hair when it was at this stage. My initial goal in going partially blonde was to make those looser curls I have in the front of my hair more visible — when it was all one dark mass of hair, it was hard to tell where the curl definition really was. This pic shows that my stylist totally gets me and dyed the perfect amount of hair in a color that worked for me.

As the months went on, I stayed on top of my hair routine to make sure that bleached section didn’t dry out, break, or get damaged. I was already addicted to Shea Moisture products before coloring, and as most of you know, pretty much everything they make is sulfate free and color safe, so I didn’t have to really change my products after coloring, just had to read labels for anything new I bought.

The hair continued to grow, and since the blonde was never down to the root, as it grew out it still looked super cute. Shrinkage was my friend here, because you couldn’t really see how much it had grown out, even as my hair got bigger…IMG_0596

November 2015

It was around the time this pic was taken that I began to get bored with my hair. This really shouldn’t have surprised me, because even when my hair was relaxed, I was always changing the cut, style, and to a small extent the color, from one salon visit to the next. By this point, it had been clear my experiment with bleach had not turned out nearly as bad as some naturals on the internet would have had me believing it would. My hair was not dry (at least not any more than it was before, lol), it wasn’t brittle, and it wasn’t breaking. In fact, my hair was still super soft and relatively easy to work with. I was confident that if I bleached my whole head, the results would be the same.

A new issue arose at this point. I knew I wanted something different, and I knew I wanted to double process my hair — basically, I wanted to bleach all of it to lighten it, and then add an intense semi permanent color on top. The question was, WHICH semi-permanent color? I was lucky in that my job at the time had no dress code at all, and encouraged freedom of expression, so I could literally do whatever I wanted with my hair with no consequences. This also meant that my indecisive nature was going to work against me, because I had so many ideas, and not enough confidence in any individual one to go through with it.

So I did what girls have done for years — I appealed to my friends, albeit on social media, to decide with me what might look good. I put up a few pictures of color ideas I found on Google. I made sure all the girls were WOC with natural hair, to get an idea of what the colors might look on my kinky/curly texture. I had three main ideas swimming in my head at the time — one was a deep red/burgundy, similar to the way my mother had been coloring her hair for years. Another was about the same blonde I had in my hair already, just in highlights all over. The last, which I loved but was nervous about, was a gorgeous dark purple. Not a safe color by any stretch, but certainly beautiful if done right.

I posted the pics and a brief explanation of my situation. I went in with the expectation that almost everyone would suggest the red hair, since most WOC I know can pull off some shade of red and look awesome, and since my mom had already successfully styled her hair that way for over a decade. But to my surprise, the clear winner was the purple look I had posted. Almost everyone who commented voted for it, and I had to admit upon looking at it again that it had been the color I was most curious to try, because it was so hard to picture myself with something that far out of my comfort zone.

I have said it before and I will say it again, having a stylist who you like and who knows what they’re doing with regards to your hair is CRUCIAL, particularly when you’re dealing with any sort of chemical process. Jasmine has been my stylist for years, and kept my hair super healthy even when it was relaxed. I had wanted to bleach my bangs years ago when she was still perming my hair, and we tried it briefly ONCE. No serious damage was done, but it also clearly wasn’t lifting my color and leaving it on too long or applying it at the wrong time in between touch ups would have meant serious breakage, which she explained to me at the time.

The only reason she agreed to double process my hair at this point was because it was natural and she felt I was taking very good care of it with my regimen, which would give it the best chance to withstand the potential damage of the bleach. We planned out a date, I sent pictures to her to give her an idea of what color I wanted, and she mixed several dyes at the salon until we got to a shade I liked. I wanted something leaning more on the blue side of purple rather than the red/pink side.

December 2015
December 2015

This photo is hideous, BUT it’s one of the only photos from when I first colored my hair purple that accurately shows what it looked like in the beginning. We went with a realllyyy dark shade of purple. In dim lighting, it could probably have passed as black. Even my boyfriend, who knew I was dyeing my hair purple that day, said that it looked like I’d just dyed the blonde part dark to match my natural hair color, when in reality I’d been in the salon all day bleaching the rest of my hair and then having it colored! The only way it showed up in photos at first was with flash, which is why this photo has such harsh lighting. Later, as some of the color began to wash out, it started to show as more of the true purple I had originally intended:

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My routine had to be tweaked a bit at this point. Maintaining blonde hair is, in some ways, easier. Or at least it was for me, because with blonde hair, you’re only lifting the natural dark colors in your hair, and not placing a pigment on top of that. I’m not much for pools or swimming, so barring the risk of chlorine damage, there isn’t much I could have done that would have drastically altered the shade of blonde I had. Once you’ve double processed however, meaning added a dye on top of the bleached hair underneath, there are other things to consider. The color can and will bleed out a bit with every wash. How quickly it fades and how good it looks while doing it depends on what you do on wash day. All my products were still sulfate free, so there wasn’t an issue there. It was a bit of an adjustment to rinse with cool water instead of hot, though! All in all, the color faded very slowly and I had plenty of time, a good two or three months, before I started to feel I had to get back to my stylist and recolor my hair.

That pretty much brings us to the present. By the time I went in to recolor my hair, spring was around the corner, and I decided the purple might be a little too dark going into the warmer months. I didn’t know what color I wanted to switch to, but Jasmine suggested a plum/burgundy since it was in the same color family. I looked up pics to get an idea of what specific shade I wanted, and set up an appointment. It took a few rounds for the color to really take to my faded brownish-purple hair, but I can now say with some confidence that the color is here to stay, and doesn’t fade as quickly as it used to.

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During this time, my hair has also grown leaps and bounds. It’s firmly out of both TWA territory and that awkward length stage where it’s not long or short. The back is close to hitting my shoulders while curly, and hits a little past my shoulders if I pull a curl straight. Coloring my hair has also had the added benefit of giving me a very clear line of demarkation to indicate where the new growth is coming in. Right now there’s about 2 inches of new growth at my roots. I’m trying to let it grow out as much as possible before bleaching it. I don’t want to risk the more delicate sections of my hair thinning out from bleaching too frequently. But overall, I’m super happy with my experience, and I’m glad I followed my own instincts (and my stylist’s advice) rather than just being scared off by people online who had worse experiences than I did.

As with anything else, you have to research this on your own and decide what will be best for the health of your hair. For myself, I’m tired of dealing with gray (yes, GRAY at 24 years old!) strands all over my head, so bleaching and coloring helps me not have to deal with that, as well as gives me the freedom to be creative with my curls. What more could I ask for?

This post was super long, and you are a trooper if you actually read the whole thing and made it to the end. 🙂 It seemed pointless to split it up, honestly. Over the next few weeks, my goal will be to post some product reviews — I’ve tried loads of things since we last spoke, and Shea Moisture went cray cray with the release of several new product lines, which I got a chance to try (some of it for FREE!). I can’t wait to share all my experiences, and as always, I hope it will be helpful and informative. Love and blessings!

Hair Updates and What I’ve Learned

Hello all! I have become the thing that I loathed in other social media junkies — a creeper. What is a creeper? A creeper is a person who looks at everyone else’s blog posts, Facebook statuses, and Tweets every day, but doesn’t contribute much, if anything, to any of these forums. Yeeaaaahhhh, I’ve been lazy. I miss blogging, but between my new job, thriving relationship, and the fact that I didn’t know what I even wanted to blog about, I was pretty stuck and decided to leave it alone for a bit and focus on life, hoping that inspiration would strike me.

I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself, both with and without my therapist (she was away on vacation for a bit), and I really feel like I’m in a good place. As a result, my creative side has flourished. I’m back to crocheting again, a hobby I LOVED for a long while, and am working on a gift for someone that I’m super excited about. I also have been taking good care of my hair, and continue to be natural (woop woop!). I have good and bad days when it comes to my hair, like any other woman, but the good days outweigh the bad, and I fall more and more in love with my texture every single day.

Looking back, I’m almost afraid to read my old blog posts regarding natural hair, because I really didn’t know what I was doing. There is a wealth of information out there, but not all of it is right, and the sheer volume of info can be overwhelming to a new natural in addition to being helpful. Now that I’ve been taking care of my hair for about 5 months, I have a list of things I know today about my natural hair that I was clueless about when I big chopped:

1. I have a pretty good handle on my hair type. This, I’ve discovered, comes from a combination of research, working with your hair, and letting it grow long enough to see a clear curl pattern. Most of my hair — the front, crown, and back — are 3c/4a, with ringlets that range in size from teeny tiny to big and loose. The sides and bottom back section of my hair lean more on the 4a/4b side — they have less curl definition and take more effort to style. But thanks to my stylist and lots of practice, I’ve been able to get my hair looking pretty uniform all around and have figured out a wash day routine that works for me.

2. My hair LOVES all or mostly natural products. Sulfates dry it out, and so do the so-called natural products made by brands like Dark and Lovely. The only reason a company famous for its relaxer starts an Au Naturale line is to profit off what they see as the “natural hair trend,” and I’m not interested in feeding into that. Plus, their products did NOTHING for my hair! On the flip side, Shea Moisture products are amazing for my hair. They are, to my knowledge, all natural, smell fabulous, and do wonders for my hair, keeping it well moisturized and clean without stripping it.

3. Deep conditioning is a MUST! I did it once with my stylist two months ago and thought I wouldn’t have to be bothered with it. But my hair is so much easier to deal with when I deep condition it once a week. I’ll be reviewing the one I’m using in an upcoming post if you want a more in-depth explanation of my routine.

4. Heat is not always the enemy. I have banned and will continue to ban flat irons, blow dryers, and curling irons from my head. However, a hooded dryer helps a lot with deep conditioning, and the heat is evenly distributed in a way that doesn’t attack your hair. I recently bought a dryer for at-home use from Hot Tools, and I love it so far, even though it makes my head look like Jiffy Pop, lol!

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5. My hair grows fast, but my curls make it harder to see. I was getting very discouraged thinking that my hair was growing too slow, and that I would never achieve any real length. However, I started looking at old big chop pics and comparing them to newer selfies, and I realized that my hair has grown quite a lot in the last few months. It’s easy to not see it because it is so gradual, and because my hair can get flat at night and look super short. But it’s slowing turning into a bigger, better afro, and I absolutely love it.

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With all this new knowledge in hand, I feel like I can get some decent growth by the end of this year. I don’t have any specific goals, because so many factors effect hair growth, and many of them are beyond my control. All I want is to continue to see progress, and focus on the health of my hair so that it has the best chance of length retention. I will try to be more diligent in documenting this on here as well, so that you and I can watch the progress together, and I can have evidence of what works and what doesn’t. Thanks for sticking with me, I’ll talk to you soon!

To Wig or Not to WIg? That is The Question!

So I’ve been having this recurring dream, and it’s been very consistent for the last month or so. In the dream, I’m always shopping for — you guessed it — a wig. But there’s always some obstacle that keeps me from being able to purchase one. The salespeople are unhelpful, none of the wigs fit my head, or they just don’t look right on me. No matter the situation, I always wake up wig-less and shocked at my short hair.

It seems my brain is so used to me having long hair, it’s willing to create that length by any means necessary. Naturally in my waking life, I’ve started asking the controversial question: To wig, or not to wig?

Let’s face it, if you’re black (can’t speak for other races, but if this happens to you, let me know), wigs are EVERYWHERE. Beauty supply stores are chock full of ’em. And depending on what neighborhood you’re in (think parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx), beauty supply stores aimed at black hair needs are pretty much everywhere. I may be a Queens girl, but I’m in these two boroughs all the time, because Ramon lives in one, and I go to school in the other. And if you’re in my position, with very short hair that doesn’t have the myriad styling options that long hair does, it’s very tempting to recreate the length I miss with fake hair.

But therein lies the issue. It’s FAKE hair. And everyone knows it. I’ve been very public about my natural hair journey and my big chop, a decision that I do not regret and would do again in a heartbeat. But it makes it difficult to plop a lace front weave on and pass it off as my hair. It may not even look 100% real for one thing, but even if it did, it’s common knowledge that my hair is short and we all would know it didn’t magically grow 10 inches overnight. So if I wore a wig, I’d have to be okay with everyone knowing it’s a wig and being aware that I’m rocking fake hair. And while that works for lots of people, including some old friends of mine, I don’t know that it would work for me.

I wanted a wig because I deeply miss the versatility of long hair. I miss twirling strands of hair around my finger during class, I miss flipping it over my shoulder when I get warm or want it out of my face, I miss running my hands through it. All of this was a normal part of my life for 22 years, and now it isn’t. And I think I need to find a way to accept that and keep working with what I’ve got rather than wearing something to hide what I’ve done.

My hair may not be growing as fast as I’d like, but it IS growing, and I learn things everyday about how to properly care for it and get it to look the way I want it to look. Hiding it under a wig, weave, or extensions keeps me from learning how to rock my TWA at every stage, from buzz cut short to twist-out length. So in the end, no matter how tempting it is at times, I think I’m going to leave the wigs alone for now and stick with what I’ve got. Wasn’t this whole journey about loving myself as I am, anyway?

What’s your opinion on wigs/weaves/extensions/etc.? Does it impede the natural hair process, or help it?