**Oops, wrote this a few weeks ago but forgot to publish it so my blog is out of chronological order, don't be confused**
First off my apologies for the pictures- most of them were taken on my webcam
(which is possibly the worst webcam in the world) straight after I took my braids out and the exposure on the others is crazy, buuuuuuut I didn't plan this post in advance and it's pretty text heavy so I thought I should throw some pictures in...
Well i've never really joined in on blogging about natural haircare, transitioning etc, mainly because it's not really my area of expertise so I didn't really feel I had anything to say that hasn't already been said 100 times already. However I do get a lot of e-mails about my natural hair in terms of growth etc so i've decided to address some of the most commonly asked questions here...
(my hair fresh out of braids, 10 full months unrelaxed)
So as old readers will know, i've spent most of the last 18 months or so with my hair in various box braids styles about 90% of the time. I started mainly because I love the look of braids, even though they're not my own hair I think they have a certain cultural swag about them which suggests pride, they're pretty low maintenance and easy to style. Also, when I first started, my hair had just grown long enough to be able to hold braids (I'd big chopped and was waiting for my hair to be long enough for braids for a few months) so it seemed like a good protective style as an alternative to weaves, which i've never really been a fan of. So over the last couple of years with a lot of trial and error these are the points I find most important about caring for your natural hair whilst it's in braids. A lot of this is really common sense so I hope no one feels i'm being patronising, but it's often the most obvious things we're not doing enough which make all the difference...
- Moisture is your best friend- when your hair is in braids, it's still out!! It's not like a full head weave where your hair is completely tucked away. It's out, battling the weather, rubbing on pillows and the backs of chairs, being exposed to water in the shower. OK so it might not be as exposed as simply having your own hair out loose, but you see my point. If you want your hair to stay in good condition whilst it's in braids you need to moisturise. I use olive oil on my scalp which is prone to dryness- even more so with the added weight of braids. It's not a good idea to use too much product as you'll end up with build up but I also rub a small amount of carrot oil and shea butter over my braids up until the point where my natural hair ends once or twice a week.
- WRAP. YOUR. HAIR.- As much as your friends, family, boyfriend whatever might tease you about it, a head wrap is essential at night and you should aim for every night without exception. People always ask me how I wrap my braids cos they're so long. Well I don't wrap the entire length of the braid, my only concern is the top part where my natural hair is so I just use an ordinary fitted satin cap. You need to make sure it's something that's not going to slide of your head in the middle of the night. Satin or silk scarves or doo rags do the trick. Also satin pillowcases for even less abrasion.
- If your head feels swollen, your braids are too tight!!- Sometimes I feel like black women are just far too used to having sore heads: When you're growing up you have the heck yanked out of you every time your mother, aunty, grandma combs your hair, when you get a relaxer you feel like your brain is sizzling and weaves tug you in all the wrong places for a good 24 hours. Well not that any of these are right, but with braids the old tender head is most certainly wrong... If you allow your braids to be done too tight you will cause breakage from the root and if you continually do it it can even cause tension alopecia. So if you're having your hair braided ask the stylist not to plait them tightly which is what they tend to do. I always try to make sure my braids aren't pulling on my scalp at all when I plait them. I've had tight braids before and they've pulled quite a few hairs out from the root, not pleasant and not worth it.
- Wear a shower cap when bathing or showering- steam is not your friend when your hair is in braids- for one thing if your hair is in the 4 category like mine (kinky, coily) the overall appearance of your hair is gonna frizz up faster because it will absorb evaporation from the hot water. Also if you allow moisture into your hair like this and then don't seal it in your hair will get super dry-as you wont be slathering lots of leave in conditioner or anything through your braids afterwards the moisture wont be sealed and your hair will be vulnerable and therefore easier for you to get split ends. When I shower I wrap my hair in a big, high cone/bun thing, secure it with a scarf and pull a shower cap over it. It looks insane but it's easy and it works.
- Keep hair washing to a minimal- whether in or out of braids I don't wash my hair that often anyway but even though braids are washable it's not something i'd recommend doing too often because it leads to a faster deterioration of the appearance of your braids and can cause build up around the attachments of your braids. If you do wash it focus your attention on your scalp. If you use shampoo use it sparingly, do not work it through your braids and make sure you rinse it out thoroughly I'm personally looking to completely remove shampoo from my haircare regime but i've not yet found a replacement i'm fully satisfied with. (Recommendations for good natural alternatives would be appreciated).
- Dry shampoo- every couple of days i'll spritz my hair with a little dry shampoo around the mid section of where my natural hair is and a little around the roots too. Just seems to keep things cleaner.
(A day later- oiled, conditioned and combed out with fingers)
(After washing, deep conditioning, combing with a wide tooth comb whilst hair still wet, gently pat dried and dry finger combed out and oiled)
(If anyone reposts this picture on tumblr, or anywhere for that matter, imma be pissed!! Ha)
When you take your hair out of braids:
- Resist the urge to comb it!!!!- Even though your hair will be stretched because of the braids I don't recommend combing it straight away... Around your roots there will probably be some build up, a few tangles and it'll probably be a little tight and fragile, combing it at this point will not only be quite sore but it will also likely break some of your hair very unnecessarily. Instead-
- Wash your hair- you can gently remove tangles when your hair is wet with your fingers. When washing my hair for the first time without my braids in I take a lot of time gently going through removing tangles and loosening up my hair without my roots.
- Avoid using heat- I used to blow my hair quite regularly- because it was just a comb and dryer I didn't really think about it as doing damage to my hair but at the end of the day, heat damages hair. All hair. So if the use of heat is ill advised even for European hair types our hair stands no chance at all. As much as I understand that heat can create certain styles, if retention of length is a big priority to you it's best to cut down on heat as much as you can. I'm planning to stop using it all together.
- Braid your hair- I was shocked to find out that some people sleep with their hair out. Growing up I rarely wore my hair out on a day to day basis. My mum always put it into some sorta braided style- usually with those colourful bobbles and clips we coo over so much in the black community. Having my hair out was something that was saved for special occasions like birthday parties, where all the parents would ooh and aah over my hair like it was from another planet (most of our friendship group were white) and all my friends would try and touch it and tell me it felt like a pillow. Anyway, my original point was that you must braid your hair at night or use some other form of protective styling (like twists) for sleep. I usually just spray my hair with p.m. nightime oil, put in like 6 dumpy braids and stick my satin cap over it. Make sure the ends of your braids stay in your cap. If your hair is too short to braid still condition it and cover it with a cap.
And now, general points that we tell ourselves but are more comforting when someone else says them-
- Accept your hair for what it is!!!- My hair is kinky. It is thick, with a combination of coily bits and frizzy bits. It grows outwards... I will never ever have wavy, curly hair that grows down and needs very little maintenance to retain length like my little sister. That is a fact. There is no natural hair product in the world that will make my hair look like that or behave that way. And it's absolutely nothing for me to be sad about... So many times people have made patronsing or derogatory remarks when making comparisons between the hair of my sister and I. And as gorgeous as she is God did not bless her with 'good hair' and me with 'bad hair', we simply have DIFFERENT hair. That whole thinking really needs to be kicked out of the black psyche, both spoken and unspoken it is a major problem. Hair envy of any type is completely detrimental to fulfilling your own hair goals. In the natural hair world we're bombarded with images of naturals with big, spiralling bouncy curls and a lot of people damage their own hair trying to imitate these looks. Now i'm not speaking against anyone with curly hair, I love all hair types, i'm just saying that ALL natural hair is beautiful and deserving of the same positive attention. The only times I really see pictures of hair in the 4s celebrated on the internet is when it's in twist outs or super, super long. So often I receive messages about if people can change the natural texture of their hair and I find it quite upsetting. As cliché as it will sound- there is absolutely no such thing as bad hair, only bad understanding of how to manage your own hair. We are not born with unmanageable hair but sometimes we're taught our hair is difficult because it is too coarse, has major shrinkage, is fragile etc. Instead of bitching about these things I think we just need to re-educate ourselves on how to care for our hair properly and get the best out of it instead of coveting this we don't have.
- Following on from this, don't become obsessed with hair types- hair typing is useful in so much as that knowing what kind of hair you have makes it easier to tailor a regime around your hair and get advice and learn from people with similar hair but that is where it's importance ends as far as i'm concerned. People get far too concerned with trying to define their hair as certain things and it all seems to have gotten a bit out of hand. Your hair is unique at the end of the day whether it is 3B or 4C really shouldn't matter, if your hair is healthy and loved it will look good regardless.
- BE PATIENT- I'm sure a lot of you have seen the video below. It's true, patience is the key. Sometimes when you see someone with long hair you don't really think how many years it will have taken them to get it to that length. I'm extremely impatient, which is another reason I like having my hair in braids- only seeing the length of my hair during braids intervals gives me a better grasp on the fact that it actually is growing. However the main thing is to focus on maintaining the condition of your hair and not getting completely obsessed with length goals etc. You really have to put the care in to see results and if you're determined to set goals make them realistic and set them in years and not months.
- Don't be a natural hair nazi- Expressing your views is fine and it's your right but that doesn't mean you have the right to talk down to people. Some people like their hair natural, some people perm their hair, some people keep it in weaves all the time etc etc. Whatever the reasons behind why we wear the hair the way we wear it in terms of history, slavery, Westernisation, fashion and everything else, no one likes a natural hair nazi. Whilst you might be embracing going natural or maybe have been natural your whole life, not everyone cares. So express yourself, be kinky/curly/wavy/coily whatever but respect that not everyone is in the same place as you and not everyone gives a shit. Sorry but it's true.
(More fresh out of braids pics... Because I ran out of pics :p)
There are so many things I want to improve on when it comes to my hair regime in the coming year and I think the most important thing is to be more realistic as I touched on before. I wasn't gutsy enough to chop it all off in one go but now that i've gotten rid of about 80% of my permed hair (through gradual grow out and trimming) i'm going to have to pay a lot closer attention to my ends so that i'll be able to retain length. I think sometimes I take how resilient my hair is for granted and it probably lacks a few inches because of it. I've already come up with quite a good moisture sealing routine thanks to a little research and a few creative ideas of my own. Cipriana from the fantastic UrbanBushBabes is definitely going to be my hairspiration, she has such a good regimen and of course her hair is absolutely stunning!
Also i'm considering whether or not to transition out of this hairstyle as far as the shaved sides go... What do you think??... Should I continue to grow the top and keep the sides shaved or do you think I should start to grow my sides out so that I have a fully covered head of hair this time next year??... I keep changing my mind, there are pros and cons for both lol.
Does anyone else have big plans for their hair in 2013 or New Year's Hair Resolutions????
Toodles to you bitches xx
(P.S. Title = Lyrics to 'Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe' by Kendrick Lamar)