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Holy Humectants, Batman!

natural curly hair_hand in afro

Love these curls!

You probably have noticed that I’ve been doing some research on the science behind our natural hair.

You say: Luuuuccy, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do!

I say (throws hands in the air): But Riiiicky, let me explain!

In case that all went over your head, you gotta catch at least one episode of I Love Lucy–throwback!

Back to my point. I basically wanted to nail down and discuss (in an easily digestible way) some of the key items that affect our hair. This includes all the things that I skipped learning about while I was also learning to embrace my natural hair … for the second time!

Yes, you got that right. A few years ago, I decided to embrace my curly hair (during round two, following straightening addiction), but I overlooked some important elements becaaaause … weeeelllll … there was all this talk about all sorts of scientificy stuff. Ain’t nobody got time for that (folds hands at chest)! Well, at least that’s what I initially thought until I realized that it was taking forrrreeevvvver for my hair to grow! I decided that it couldn’t hurt to do some hair homework.

Between that time and now, I’ve gathered some information, which has been included in my new free, e-book (shameless plug). One of those topics that you need to know about is discussed below–humectants. In case you’re not quite sure how these suckers work, I’ve broken it down for you below. Have no fear, Super Nay is here! ;) Read more after the jump.

illustrated natural hair art

Super Nay (the heroine in my head, ha!). Art by Nay, inspired by Wonder Woman.

What Are Humectants?

Humectants are ingredients and/or products that promote moisture retention. I won’t delve too deeply into compounds and molecules. Just know that these items have a chemical structure that attracts water from the atmosphere and binds it to the molecule. In other words, humectants are attracted to moisture, whether it is in your hair or in the atmosphere, but they work best in moderate climates.

What’s The Impact of High Humidity?

When it is highly humid outside, there is a large amount of water vapor in the air. Dry and damaged hair that is free of products aka porous, thirsty tresses (read more about porosity for detailed information) will naturally seek to absorb the moisture in the air. However, taking in such a large amount of moisture will make your hair full … to the point of swelling and lifting the cuticle layer (the outer layer of hair). This will create frizzy and tangled hair.

Now, if you have a humectant in your thirsty tresses, this will only exasperate the problem. Your hair will become soggy, sticky, and poofy all at once! Recalling a few instances?

What’s The Impact of Low Humidity?

When the humidity is minimal, as seen on most dry, winter days, there isn’t a lot of moisture in the air. If your hair is styled with a product that contains humectants, these items will either:

  1. Hang onto the moisture in your hair and prevent it from evaporating. This may or may not prove to be successful. Your best bet is to stick with moisturizing products, like leave-in conditioners.
  2. Remove moisture from your hair’s cortex and send it into the air. Remember that thing about attraction? Your hair will do this because it so kindly believes that the air needs the moisture, of course. Unfortunately, this will also dry out your hair.

What Are Some Examples of Humectants?

Before you use any product, you should read the ingredients to see whether or not humectants are included. This will help you to better prep your hair for the current humidity levels. In other words, you’ll say “aha!” whenever your hair decides to rise up and become a frizzilicious ball on your head.

Just so you have a heads up, here are a few popular humectants found in hair care products:

  • Agave Nectar
  • Aloe Vera Gel
  • Fructose
  • Glycerin
  • Honey
  • Hydrolyzed silk protein
  • Panthenol

Now that you’ve got it down, are you ready to take on humidity with humectants? Wham! Bang! Zing!

Hair Porosity … What & Why??

color on curly natural hair

Now, I’ve been praising the miracles of moisturizing natural hair with leave-in conditioners and sealing the cuticle layer (the outermost layer of hair) with an oil or butter. Now, I’m throwing a monkey wrench into the mix. Uh, huh. This one must be explained since it affects us all: porosity.

Huh? Confused? I don’t blame ya! I heard sprinkles of information about porosity for a while now but usually covered my ears and clicked next on my screen. I thought it all sounded too scientific for me.

Guess what? I caved (hangs head down) because I found out that we actually need to know this one. Grab a pencil and pad … er, um … an iPad? Let me give you a quick and painless explanation of porosity and its affect on natural hair.

Porosity

Porosity is the measurement of your hair’s ability to absorb moisture. Simple. Your hair’s cuticle layer (the outermost layer) is key to porosity levels. When the cuticle is closed, it lays flat and moisture cannot escape or enter the hair shaft. This often results in moisture being sealed into your hair. However, your natural hair may be too porous, not enough, or juuuust right. Hang in there Goldilocks, let me explain.

Normal Porosity

This one’s easy. Natural, black hair easily retains moisture if your porosity is normal. The cuticle layer will open or close based on normal activities and products, but the actual, shingled layer is healthy and intact.

Low Porosity

If your hair has low porosity, it will have trouble opening up due to its overly compact cuticle layer. With this firm barrier, your hair will have difficulty absorbing moisture/water and allowing it to escape. As a result, hair will take longer to absorb products, leaving it dry. It will also be susceptible to product build up.

Needs: A lot of moisture. To open up the cuticle, try steamers, hot oil treatments, and products that are a little more alkaline/have a higher pH level. Add moisture to your hair while it’s damp, before the cuticle layer closes up again.

Need to avoid: Products and techniques that further seal the cuticle, including protein treatments, silicones, and mineral oil.

High Porosity

If your hair has high porosity, it’s a little too friendly, as the cuticle layer remains too open! It will let moisture in and out of your hair very easily, resulting in dry hair.  If your hair is very porous, this is often the result of damaged cuticles through excessive direct heat or rough styling. There is no way to repair damaged hair. However, there are a couple of things that can help.

Needs: Oils, butters, apple cider vinegar rinses, cold water rinses, and protein treatments to seal the cuticle layer. Each will temporarily fill in breaks within the cuticle. Products with low pH level (like aloe vera juice) also help.

Needs to avoid: sulfates, direct heat, and harsh chemicals.

How can you determine your hair’s porosity? Try the porosity/float test.

Porosity Test

Grab a strand(s) of hair from your comb or brush and drop it into a cup of water.

  • If your hair floats, you have low porosity. The strand(s) stay at the top since it has difficulty absorbing moisture.
  • If your hair quickly sinks, you have high porosity. It is taking in water fast!
  • If your hair hovers somewhere in the middle, it has normal porosity.

There have been mixed feelings by curlies who have taken this test. Some say that hair has oil on it, so your strand will most likely float. Others have found this to reflect how their hair actually behaves. Junk science?? Hmmm. It couldn’t hurt to try the test or any of these remedies and see.

By the way, I tried the test and my hair floated (see image below), so I apparently have low porosity as well … Hmmm. I’ll keep this in mind as I continue on my hair journey. You should as well. You never know if these remedies will be beneficial to you.

Have you taken the porosity test? Has this helped you with your hair routine and health?

Porosity Test

My Curly Mane underwent the Porosity/Float Test. Photo by Nay.

Products, PH Levels, & Your Natural Hair

A wise woman recognizes when her life is out of balance and summons the courage to act to correct it; she knows the meaning of true generosity. Happiness is the reward for a life lived in harmony, with courage and grace.” ~ Suze Orman

balance-girl new_final

My Curly Mane attempts to balance its pH level. Art by Nay.

Let me guess. You just read this title and are now thinking: Here you go again with more scientificy stuff! Calm down. I’m not trapped here in a lab … (quickly takes off white coat and quietly places beakers in the cabinet). Just think of it as me giving you quick lessons for the week. Sit back and relax. Ready for this one? It’s all about natural hair’s pH balance.

First let’s revisit our hair’s structure. As you may already know, the cuticle layer is the outermost, shingle-like layer of hair made of keratin. It protects the cortex aka your hair’s inner layer that provides strength, texture, and color. It also surrounds the medulla, the innermost layer of the hair that is present in coarse hair textures. When closed, the cuticle seals moisture into hair, as it should.

According to Dr. Neil Persadsingh of The Hair in Black Women, “Soft and shiny hair depends on a smooth and even overlap of the scales on the cuticle.”

The Potential of Hydrogen (pH) in the products you use can affect whether or not your cuticle layer is properly sealed.

PH Strip

A typical pH strip

 

Alkaline Products

You can open the cuticle of your natural hair through heat or by using alkaline products (pH of 8-14). Note: Highly alkaline products open the cuticle too far open, which will make moisture leave your hair and cause breakage.

Acidic Products

You can close your tresses’ cuticle layer through acidic products (pH of 8-14). These products will leave your hair soft and flexible for a longer period of time. Note: Products that are too acidic can also damage hair.

Ideally

Products that are pH balanced have a pH of 7. However, you want to close the cuticle by using slightly acidic products (pH of 4.5-5.5) on hair.  Acidic products are similar to hair’s natural moisturize, sebum. Aloe vera juice (pH of 4) or aloe vera gel (pH of 7) works wonders since they can balance hair’s pH.

Got it down? It is a bit tricky to wrap your head around. To help, try testing the pH levels of a few of your products. You can purchase pH strips from your local beauty supply store. Before doing so, you’ll need to determine your hair’s porosity, since this also needs to be taken into consideration.

Now, I’ve made a mental note to pick up a pH strip during my next hair haul. I’ll keep you posted on how this works as I test it out on a few natural hair care products.

Five Ways To Naturally Color Natural Hair


natural hair bamboo wall

Have you noticed all the ombré hairstyles and other trendy color effects that ladies have been sporting? Well, it goes without saying that summer is the perfect time to experiment with these and other colorful looks. If you’re like me, you love, love color but want to avoid all the drawbacks of commercial hair dyes.

What drawbacks, you ask? While the leading commercial hair dye companies provide a variety of color options, hair colorants can change hair’s inner structure and dry it out, especially if bleaching is involved. Frequent coloring can lead to damage (say bye bye!) and/or split ends (snip, snip!). Of course, you can always skip the bleach if you are seeking darker shades.

Even if you do, rumor has it that hair dyes may be connected to cancer causing agents. According to the National Cancer Institute, early hair dye formulations (before 1980) contained cancer causing chemicals. They have since been removed from most brands’ ingredients. However, few studies have been published since then on hair dyes’ link to certain cancers.

Not to mention, pregnant women are advised to avoid coloring since small amounts of the dye penetrate the skin upon use. This may or may not harm a developing baby, although research claims that it does not pose a significant threat.

Risky? Hmmmm maybe.

If you want to switch up your look sans chemicals, you’re in luck. I’ve got five ways that you change your natural hair color by dyeing it … naturally!

1. Cassia

Cassia Obovata is a plant that contains a golden-yellow dye molecule. When used, color is safely deposited on hair’s surface layer as it conditions hair.

I’ve always wanted to try this one. I’m adding it to my to-try list!

Pros: Cassia will permanently turn blond or gray hair a golden color. It also makes hair shiny, healthy, and strong, so it is often used as a conditioning treatment for afro textured hair.

Cons (maybe): You most likely will not notice a difference on darker hair tones. Some people have experienced a loosening effect on their curls, which may or may not be desired.

Directions: You can mix cassia with conditioner and honey, and apply this mix to your hair. For all the deets, visit hennaforhair.com.

2. Coffee

A mean brew works wonders for all-nighters … and for hair! Coffee is great for staining natural hair. It applies color on the surface level of strands, so the results tend to be temporary for most people.

(whips out pen; adds coffee to the list)

Pros: Coffee gives dark hair reddish-brown highlights, more akin to a rinse. Some people have found that coffee darkens their henna results (see below) when added to their mix.

Cons: It won’t provide intense color. The results may be subtle on darker colored hair. It requires repeated weekly applications for best results.

Directions: Mix 1/2 cup of your favorite conditioner with 1/4 cup of instant coffee granules. Add 1/4 cup of coffee or espresso into the mix and stir. Apply the mixture and cover your hair with a cap. Let the mix sit on your hair for an hour. Rinse with cool water and condition to counteract coffee’s acidity.

3. Henna

Henna, a natural colorant which is derived from a flowering plant, has been used throughout centuries for dying skin and hair. It is used by many African-American women with natural hair since it can strengthen our fragile hair type. It is also safer than commercial hair dyes, since color is deposited on hair’s surface layer as opposed to the cortex. Henna’s popularity is evident by the numerous natural hair care forums, communities, and Websites centered on the topic.

Why, oh, why did I not know about henna back in my multi hair coloring days??

Pros: This natural colorant typically turns hair a shade of red, depending on the person’s original hair color. It also adds sheen to hair and can reduce frizz and dandruff.

Cons (maybe): Henna can loosen curl patterns and thicken natural hair, and the color results can be unpredictable. The application process can be a bit intense, since henna must be left on hair for several hours in order to permeate the hair shaft. It can also easily stain materials during the application process.

Directions: This can vary. Lots of curlies have come up with their own formulations. Curly Nikki is a fan of henna and has gotten great results. You can also find tips at hennaforhair.com.

4. Honey

Not only does honey work wonders for colds, but it also conditions and bleaches hair naturally. Honey slowly releases hydrogen peroxide, which is used to lighten hair. With honey, you’ll get results that are a shade lighter than your original color. Raw (unprocessed) honey is reported to work best since it has more hydrogen peroxide. Honey is also a humectant, so it pulls moisture into hair.

I have tried this one, and it did make my hair very soft! Color? I only tried in on occasion, not enough to see a difference.

Pros: Natural highlights and soft, shiny hair.

Cons: Honey lightens hair over time. Multiple applications (at least three) are needed to produce results. It is very sticky if used alone, so a mix is recommended.

Directions: Mix 5 tbsp of honey and 1 cup of yogurt together to make a non-sticky paste. This combo also makes a wicked deep conditioner, especially if combined with oil. Apply the paste and leave it on your hair for at least 2 hours.

5. Lemon Juice

Ever tried Sun-in back in the day? I did, and it worked, mostly because it contains lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide. If you want to skip all the additional chemicals, just try this route. Lemon juice will gradually lighten your natural hair due to the citric acid it contains.

Pros: Lemon juice brings out natural highlights, causing black and dark brown hair to take on a reddish hue. Brown hair will become light brown, and blonds will have golden highlights.

Cons: Lemon juice’s acidic properties can make it drying. Condition, condition, condition!

Directions: Combine 3 tbsp. lemon juice with 2 cups water. Add conditioner for extra moisture. Use a spray bottle or hands to apply the mix. You’ll need heat to activate it. Sit in the sun for 2 hours or under a hard hat dryer.

Any of these natural hair dyes can change your hair’s color, and some of these ingredients can even be found easily in your kitchen. Most importantly, you’ll be able to update your look without ruining your curly mane.

Hard Water, Hardly A Problem?

Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.” ~ Sam Ewing

natural hair on the beach

It was like some strange unsolved mystery. Each and every time I stepped into the shower at my SO’s house, the water gently ran through my hair like silk. I only had to use minimal product to produce a lather, and I could detangle my natural hair practically with just water. Yes, with just water! After styling, I got the best hair day ever!

When I flashed forward a few days and repeated the process at home, my hair was just … average. What was going on? Well, after repeating these cycles, I came to the conclusion. Dum, dum, duuuum! Good ol’ H2O.

Water can have a major impact on your products’ effectiveness as well as on your hair, particularly naturally curly hair. These results are often dependent on whether or not your water is hard or soft. Yes, we’re still talking about water here. Hard water is often known as containing larger amounts of minerals than its softer version. This mineral content varies based on your location and how the water is purified and processed. Minerals also have the potential of building up on natural hair, thereby drying it out.

Telltale Signs That Your Water Is Hard

NaturallyCurly lists a few telltale signs to know whether your water is on the hard side. The effects of hard water on natural hair include: “Cloudy, spotty dishes coming out of the dishwasher; diminished performance of coffeemakers; and clogged or broken pipes and washing machines with an unpleasant odor that don’t work properly and turn clothes and towels dingy grey or a rust-tinged color.” Sounds familiar?

Spotting Soft Water

Unlike hard water, soft water has many benefits for afro hair. It has zero-to-minimal amounts of magnesium and calcium. “It can be soothing to bathe in, but rinsing with it will make you feel like you still have a layer of soap on your skin,” according to Livestrong.

When Faced With Hard Knocks

There are a couple of things you can do to alleviate or eliminate the effects of hard water on your curly mane.

1. Swap out your regular showerhead and replace it with a showerhead water filter. Just like drinking water filters, these showerheads filter out minerals and other substances, thereby softening your water.

I did this with my showerhead at home and noticed a slight improvement. Word for the wise: remember to replace your showerhead filter as needed. It’s easy to forget! I can’t remember the brand I used, but I purchased it from Lowe’s. You can also find them at hardware stores.

However, Aquasana’s showerhead filter is known as one of the best water softeners for African-American hair. It has consistently strong reviews and cost approximately $70. Aquasana is not the most aesthetically pleasing tool, but it’s known to be effective. According to the company, it “removes harmful synthetic chemicals and chlorine in your water to give you softer skin and shinier hair for the cleanest, healthiest showering experience.”

If you want to really improve your water quality and make it truly softer, install a whole house water filter system. These systems claim to remove iron and range in price from $50 to $1,000.

2. Use a chelating shampoo to remove mineral buildup on your hair. These are the best shampoos for hard water. They contain a key ingredient—ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA), which “were developed to counteract the effects of hard water and heavy metal ions in the manufacture of textiles. These metal chelators are widely used in cosmetics and personal care products, in food, and in medicines. By binding with metal ions, these ingredients prevent the metals from being deposited onto the hair, scalp and skin,” according to cosmeticsinfo.org.

Chelating shampoos are pretty harsh and will strip your hair of moisture. Be sure to follow them with a moisturizing conditioner like Hello Hydration and use them no more than every other week, if needed.

I keep hearing rave reviews about Joico K-PAK Chelating Shampoo. “This triple-action chelating shampoo is an intense clarifying shampoo that cleanses the hair, removes mineral deposits and styling product buildup,” according to its package. This shampoo costs approximately $14 and can be found at your local Walgreens, or you can purchase it through my link.

 3. According to a couple of hair forums, coconut and argan oils can chelate iron and copper, once again preventing your hair from losing moisture. Not to mention that applying oils to your curly mane also has several benefits.

showerhead

Photo credit: stevendepolo

Into DIY methods? Many curlies have found success trying the following rinses.

  • Club soda rinses are effective and should be rinsed out of your hair once the fizzing stops. Not into using soda? Heck, bottoms up!
  • Apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinses remove buildup, restores your pH balance, treats dandruff, and closes the cuticle. Just be careful not to overdo it, as ACV is highly acidic, which can actually damage your hair with excessive use. On its own, ACV smells … deadly, but the smell does fade once washed out of your hair. Combine 1tbsp of ACV to every cup of distilled water. After shampooing, apply the rise. Wait a few seconds before rinsing with cold water, which will further help to seal the cuticles of your hair. Want a bit more moisturizing brew? Add honey and/or aloe vera gel.
  • Water and baking soda rinses cleanse and remove buildup from the hair. Baking soda aka sodium bicarbonate works great as a replacement for shampoos. Combine 2 tablespoons of Baking Soda with a cup of water, pour the mix onto your hair, wait a few minutes, and rinse. You’re good to go!

Some curlies have tried baking soda washes followed by vinegar rinses. Just be careful. Too much of anything is overkill, especially for your natural hair. For me, I’ll seize each and every moment to use soft water as I get it!

Loving Your Hair: What Every Natural Needs To Know

Love is always bestowed as a gift – freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

Clear Mind, Full Heart.

Photo Credit: Nastassia Davis

Does this sound familiar? You big chopped or grew it out. Either way, you finally learned to embrace your curly mane. Heart racing with excitement, you couldn’t wait to explore the infinite possibilities that lay ahead on your head. Suddenly, along the way, you hit a bump in the road. You found yourself getting frustrated with knots, dry hair, and breakage. The level of joy you once had at the beginning of your adventure dips and dives into frustration, and you nearly forget the love you once had for your natural hair.

Like personal bonds, the relationship we have with our curls can hit a rut, causing us to forget what we once cherished. Take a seat. I’m going to share with you some timely tips on loving your natural hair. Hope you had a Happy Valentine’s Hair Day!

Keep Committed

Let’s face it. Sometimes the latest styles don’t come out as expected, and we can’t seem to give our hair just what it needs. There are challenges that come with being natural, but let’s not forget that similar challenges exist for relaxed or straightened hair. The grass isn’t always greener. The secret is to stay committed. Don’t give up on your curls and waves. Instead, give yourself time to figure out and rediscover your hair. Hang in there.

Communication Is Key

I say this time and time and time again. *Spins head round and round* Communication is critical! You have to take time to listen and look closely at your curls in order to identify its needs. Whether it basks in your latest conditioner by snuggling curling up tightly or rejects a styler by splitting ends, your hair will let you know! If you pay attention to the signs and gently address your hair’s concerns, it will reward you in return.

‘Do Dates

Friday nights or Saturday mornings may be prime time for tuning into Housewives … or heck, being a real-life housewife, but you can also use that time to give your hair a little TLC. Set aside at least 30 minutes of “me-time,” to explore the many ways to care for your curls. Try a new style; test a product; or indulge in a deep treatment. By experimenting and setting aside playtime, you will take your curls to the next level.

Fight Fair

Are you roughing-up your hair with harsh combs, brushes, and scraggly nails? If so, stoooooop! Never abuse your hair. You will always get better results by handling your hair with kid gloves aka treating it like it’s your first and only pair of Manolos. The gentler the care, the sweeter the results will be.  Have patience.

Cherish Curls

Stop commanding your hair to pop and twirl like the next one. Remember that your curly mane is unique. It isn’t fair for you to demand it to look or behave like anyone else’s. Look back at why you originally decided to embrace your tresses and how happy it can make you feel. Keep your “mane” love in the forefront.

We all go through ups and downs throughout our relationship with our hair. You just have to remember that it’s all a part of the course and worth it in the end. Got some more tips? Share them below.

The Secrets Behind Scalp Massages

scalp massage

Your toes will curl up tighter than a house landing on the Wicked Witch of the West. Your eyes will sloooowly roll to the back of your head. “What’s this crazy curlie talking about now?” you ask. Scalp massages!

Come back. Don’t walk away. Trust me! You may just want to consider adding scalp massages to your hair ritual. Scalp massages open up the blood vessels in your head, increasing the flow of blood to the hair follicles. This increased flow strengthens your roots and helps your hair to grow. Yes, you heard correctly. Want long locks that you can whip back and forth? Try regular scalp massages.¹

Oh, but wait. There’s more! Scalp massages not only feel good, but they have physical benefits as well. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the act of soothing your scalp can increase production of endorphins and serotonin, thereby putting you in a relaxed mood. It also reduces muscle tension, helping to relieve pain brought on from migraines.²

Are you now sold? Here are some tips you can use to enhance your results.

1.    Add oil. You already know that I swear by the use of oils for natural hair. In my previous post on winter-proofing your poof, I mentioned that oiling your scalp can prevent dandruff. Did you know that regular scalp massages using oil can increase the strength of your roots, making your curls less prone to breakage?¹ Oh, yes, it does. For greater penetration, try warming the oil before applying it to your scalp.

2.    Use your fingertips … not nails. I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll say it again. I’ve been guilty of using my nails to wash my scalp … but they’re short. I promise! When kneading your scalp, use your fingertips to ensure that you do not damage your hair follicles. You don’t want to end up losing hairs!

3.    Use tools. If you want to ramp up the tingly sensation, use a Tangle Teezer or scalp massager. Those pins and prongs can hit just the right acupressure points to make Calgon take you away! Remember that one?

Ah ha! Caught ya! I see your fingers creeping to your scalp. Before you begin dozing off from relaxation, let me know if you indulge in regular scalp massages.

[sources: Livestrong¹ ,  Mayo Clinic² ]

How To Winter-Proof Your Poof

Winter Proof Natural Hair

For the last week, boxes of tissues have become my best friend along with good ol’ Robitussin and chicken noodle soup. Yes, I’ve been hit by a baaad cold … and thankfully not the flu! You too? This winter has been up and down, which is why you not only need to care for your body, but you also need to give added TLC to your curly mane.  During these colder months, your hair will be on an endless quest for moisture. Let me point you in the right direction (musters up strength to raise pointer finger and lead the charge)! Here are a couple of ways in which you can winter-proof your poof.

“I’m itchy and dry. I can’t stop flaking,” says Your Scalp.

If your scalp is suffering, apply tea tree oil directly onto it daily. You can also warm the oil before massaging it onto your scalp. According to the Mayo Clinic, tea tree oil “comes from the leaves of the Australian tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) and has been used for centuries as an antiseptic, antibiotic, and antifungal agent. It’s now included in a number of shampoos found in natural foods stores.”

According to WebMD, the Aboriginal people in Australia have used tea tree oil as a topical scalp treatment for centuries. Centuries?! Something tells me that they’re onto something! Just be careful, as tea tree oil may cause allergic reactions.

Bonus: Got leftover oil? You can use it to treat toenail fungus. Yes, ladies. Let’s get it together for the summer. ;)

In addition to tea tree oil, you should adjust your shampoo by either:

  1. Replacing it with a moisturizing shampoo (if you aren’t already using one)
  2. Adding a bit of oil to your shampoo. I recommend adding jojoba, coconut, Vatika, and/or tea tree oil. Click here to read my post on the benefits of oils for natural hair and how to use them.
  3. Cutting down or stop shampooing altogether. Instead, just use conditioner to wash your hair aka co-washing.

“I’m so thirsty; I may just break off and die,” says Your Curly Mane.

  • Condition. Condition. Condition! I can’t stress enough the importance of using conditioner during the winter. Traditional conditioner and leave-in conditioner will fortify your strands and prevent them from breaking. Your hair will need this more than ever, so use a conditioner/leave-in each time you wash your hair. Don’t forget to apply extra conditioner to the ends of your hair to prevent them from splitting. These old timers are easily weakened by winter weather, so give ‘em a little lovin’.
  • Seal The Deal. All of your conditioning will be in vain if you don’t seal in your hair’s moisture with oil. It’s hard enough for sebum (natural oils from your scalp that moisturize your hair) to travel down your hair, so you’ll need to add oils instead. Just note that if you do get second, third, fourth, etc. day hair, you may need to rehydrate your curls by spritzing with water/a water mix and sealing your strands yet again. Sealing will also help smooth your hair’s cuticles, reducing frizz.
  • Try A Protective Style. This is the perfect season to try to perfect your braid-outs and twist-outs. Protective styles are just as they are called. They help keep strands and delicate ends protected at night or all day, depending on the style.
  • Top It Off With A Satin-lined Hat. Any hat will help protect your hair from harsh winds, but satin-lined hats will protect your hair, help retain moisture, and secure your style! It’s a win-win all around! If you’re seeking a satin-lined hat for your curly mane, check out my review of Threadmill hats.

“I’m thirsty and have flakes. What’s a curl to do?” asks Your Curly Mane & Scalp.

winter curly hairGet thee regular deep conditioning treatments! Your best bet is to make your own concoction that includes a combination of your favorite conditioner (nourishment) and oils (softens and protects) as a basis. I suggest:

For an extra boost, add any of the following to your mix:

  • Honey – Retains moisture (It is a humectant) and adds shine
  • Eggs – Adds protein and nourishes your hair
  • Banana – Aids in hydration
  • Avocado – Truly deep conditions. “It’s high in vitamins B and E, which work at the cellular level to protect and strengthen hair,” according to LIVESTRONG.
  • Mayo (eggs, vinegar, and oil) – Moisturizes hair
  • Shea Butter – Moisturizes hair

Tapping into your inner mixtress, apply the deep conditioner to your hair and cover it with a plastic cap. Leave this on for at least 30 minutes. For greater hydration, sit under a hooded dryer or apply a heat cap for at least 30 minutes.

“I’ve found a thing or two, and now I’m passing it on to you,” says My Curly Mane.

This winter, I’ve been wearing my hair in wash and gos the majority of the time … although I thought I would do more braid-outs. Although I’m doing more wash and gos, my hair is actually washed every 3-4 days. I’m also co-washing much more often. In addition, when I use a moisturizing shampoo, I only apply this to my scalp. This routine has been helping to keep my hair moisturized. So far. So good.

How are you winter-proofing your poof? Drop a tip or two below … and don’t forget to bundle up!

Faux Color, Real Appeal

I’ve got color; yes, I do! I’ve got color; how about you?!

I just love hair color. I think it’s a great way to accent our curls, particularly in the form of highlights. Warning! As much as I love coloring my hair, it was one of the evil culprits that caused damage. Sit back and relax for a quick recap!

History Lesson

Years ago, I would embark on weekly adventures with color, changing my hair from red to blond and back again. That was until my curly mane had enough. It drop-kicked my bottles of developer and dyes and played dead on my head … well, hair is naturally dead (ha!), but this was something entirely different. Over processing my hair through bleach and dyes left it in a limp state.

Just when I began to rehab my curls, I once again decided to get color in the form of highlights. I figured this would be less damaging, particularly since I was seeking the help of a professional stylist. Mistake! The hairdresser, who between breaks of nibbling on her lunch, over processed the front, left section of my hair. This area stopped curling as well, not to mention it was completely colored instead of highlighted! Needless to say, these and other experiences made me walk away from hair coloring.

Still, I just can’t help drooling over other curlies’ expert highlights. It makes me pause and briefly consider another bout with dyes. Fortunately, natural hair blogger Curly Nikki recently flagged a sneaky way in which we can get faux hair color by using cream eye shadow. Boing! That’s the sound of your head rattling. I know. I know. You must be thinking that us natural ladies have lost it again. Here comes another crazy concoction or method of styling. No, actually this one is quick and easy. It’s also a fun way to mix up your look.

Tools:

Instructions

I literally dug my fingers into this creamy eye shadow (frowning and naysaying along the way), and randomly smoothed it down my strands, twirling it around my finger. I concentrate more of the product on the hairs around my face. I had to use a generous amount since it wasn’t initially apparent on my dark hair. You’ll need to wash and scrub this from your hands and nails. Not too bad, but it can be a little messy.

Appearance

The eye shadow gave my hair a slight shimmer and gold highlights! I was pleasantly surprised. Although the shadow itself is marketed as lasting 24 hours, hence its name as a tattoo, this faded out of my hair throughout the night.

When I woke up in the morning, it was gone! I had to check my pics to remember that I applied it! The only evidence is slight traces of shimmer. This worked perfectly for styling my hair (and eyes) before I headed out to a reggae concert. I think the rocker look is perfect for heading out on the town, but it may be too much for conservative office environments. The choice is yours.

If you give this look a go, please comment and share pics below! You can also view this post and join the conversation over at Curly Nikki.

Safe Straightening & Grown Lady Lessons

Straightened and Curled Natural Hair

My natural hair was straightened and curled. This look lasts for 3-5 days (for my mane).

Attention dear friends. Recently I celebrated my birthday! Yes, curlies. My curly mane and I are literally older … and hopefully wiser! To celebrate this milestone (no, I won’t reveal the numbers as yet … gulp!), I straightened my mane! Believe it or not; I actually departed from curls to sport straightened locks. First, I wanted to mix it up for a few, celebratory days. Second, I wanted to conduct a length check.

You see. For about a year, I swore that my hair wasn’t budging past near mid-back/bra-strap length, but I now know that my hair needs less direct heat aka flat ironing in order for it to thrive. At the start of the summer, I made a commitment to reduce the amount of time in which I’d straighten my hair and experiment more with my natural hair. In doing so, my hair has gotten even healthier than before and longer!

That being said, it was time to straighten my hair the safer way—roller settting and then lightly flat ironing. Here are a few steps (as well as grown lady tips!) in which you can follow to capture this look.

Tools:

  • Clarifying or Moisturizing Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Leave-in conditioner (I use Silicon Mix Intensive Leave in Hair Shine and Conditioner since the silicones it contains help to trap moisture into the hair and prevent frizz )
  • Oil (I love my Vatika Oil mix)
  • Regular tooth comb (not wide or fine, just right and easy to use)
  • Snap-on, hard, magnetic rollers aka rolos :) You can also use flexi rods if this is easier.
  • Soft rollers covered in satin
  • Spray Bottle (fill with water)
  • Hard hat dryer (I have a Pibbs but Belson Elite Ionic Tourmaline Rollabout Dryer works well)
  • Setting lotion = optional. I don’t use it, but if you want more hold then use this.
  • Heat protectant spray (always recommended, but I tend to skip this in favor of an oil or butter)
  • Flat iron (I use a Maxiglide)
Roller setting Natural Hair

Tools of the trade and steps needed in order to roller set natural hair.

Steps

  1. Start with a clean slate. Wash and condition your curly mane as you normally do. I like to clarify my hair, so it is completely clear of other products, particularly those that work with my natural curls but not with straight tresses.
  2. Apply leave-in conditioner. I tend to add a lot of product to the ends of my hair, since I will be using a flat iron, and I don’t want to dry out my ends. Calling all bandits! Split ends will rob you of length retention.
  3. Keep hard rollers (for drying under the hard hat) at your side, and section your hair from the back to the front of your head. Create sections at the appropriate size of each hard roller. If your section is too large for the roller, your hair will take much longer to dry.
  4. Comb out each section of hair, spritz to keep it moist, and roll it with a roller. Apply tension to your hair as you roll, so your hair is as straight as possible. If you want more hold, spritz setting lotion onto the hair as you roll it. Warning: I am absolutely the worst at roller setting! If you’re in this club, it’s okay. You want to focus on getting the hair smooth and simply roll it as close to the scalp as possible. When you flat iron, it will work out the kinks. I also do not create neat rows. I haven’t gotten this down, so I roll my hair in the same sections I use for braid outs.
  5. After roller setting your entire head of hair, sit under a hard hat dryer for at least 30 minutes. Please gauge this according to your hair length and drying needs. Your hair must be completely dry to avoid frizz.
  6. Undo your rollers. You’ll notice that your roots may still be poofy. Ah, our curly manes win again! Once again this is okay. See my photo. My hair length may not be as kinky curly as it was originally, but my roots are still poofy. Once again, no need to fret.
  7. Apply oil all over your hair. This works as a heat protectant and adds sheen.
  8. Dust off your flat iron. My Maxiglide felt a little foreign in my hands. It took me a minute to remember how to use it! Anyhoo, grab your flat iron and straightened your hair, working in small sections from the back to the front of your head. I apply a minimal amount of heat needed to straighten it. I also like to bump (curl) the ends for body.Diane Snap-On Magnetic Rollers 1 3/4

That’s it! You now have straight hair!

Optional: Do you want beachy, bouncy curls? If so, as you flat iron each section, roll it with a soft, satin roller. Leave the soft rollers in your hair for at least an hour. When removed, you will have large, curls and waves.

Runway Styling & Nighttime Maintenance

While I like to have straight hair for the first day. Each day afterwards, I like to rock that Victoria’s Secret-esk, beachy look. Lol! This protects my ends and doesn’t require flat irons to maintain the look. To capture this look, I begin by oiling my entire hair, particularly the ends, each night. Afterwards, I use the soft, satin rollers to roll my hair. I apply a satin cap over the rollers for extra protection and to keep the positioning of the rollers. Off to bed you go! In the morning, remove all and voilá! Repeat each night for a hot look and simple, safe upkeep.

Straight and reverted natural hair

On the first day, my straightened mane easily reverted (on right). This tends to happen when natural hair hasn’t been straightened for a while. I applied a minimal amount of heat that night and roller set my hair with soft, satin rollers.

Grown Lady Lessons

As I mentioned prior, the clock is ticking and tocking. Sigh. You may have guessed it. I am one of those gals who hit a birthday and had a bit of the blues followed by the highs of all the lessons learned. I am blessed to blow out another candle, and in doing so, want to share a few lessons with you. As always, each one teach one.

On Hair (of course!) …

  1. Slow and steady wins the race. Chances are you will not figure out your hair overnight … and that’s okay! I’m still discovering my hair’s capabilities.
  2. The best manes are the result of gentle care and healthy hair. These tips are underrated but produce the best results. Healthy hair that’s treated kindly will always look good.
  3. It’s okay to keep the same style until you master your hair and other looks. Don’t feel pressured to have the same results as other curlies. Focus on your own progress. Remember #1: slow and steady wins the race!

On Life …

  1. It’s okay to be different. It’s everyone else’s problem if you do not fit into a mold. Seize the opportunity to enlighten them. If they don’t get it, keep it moving!
  2. Not everyone will like you. Ugh! “But why?” you say. “I am so kind and God-fearing.” Sadly, even the best of us will get shunned or bullied once in our lives. I know. It isn’t right. It’s just human nature. You just have to remember to be above it. Once again, it’s their problem. Keep it moving!
  3. There’s nothing better than being kind to yourself. Woooah there, lioness! Go easy. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Even if you believe you haven’t accomplished as much as you’d like to by your age, note the many lessons learned (I hope!), adventures undertaken (even the minis), and plain ol’ fashioned growing up that you’ve done. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it. If you’ve had a b’day or you’re approaching one, happy you day to you!

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