CO-WASHING: Putting conditioner first in your natural hair care line-up

Conditioner Only Washing, or co-washing, is meant to give you all the clean without the squeak. All of you clean freaks know what I mean by “the squeak” – that effort we make to cut the grease, or oil factor, in whatever it is we’re trying to get clean.

That may be fine for your dishes, and even your floors, but you need to give your hair a miss when it comes to that. When hair is squeaky clean, you’ve managed to strip away all of your natural oils, leaving your hair depleted and dry.

Part of the no-poo movement, co-washing was suggested to minimize the dry cycle that some shampoos create by eliminating the shampoo phase altogether. Since conditioning has traditionally been viewed as the “loving your hair” phase of hair maintenance, it made sense to apply all of the love and avoid all that dries.

Most often recommended for thirsty-haired curly-cues

If you have thick, dry or coarse curly hair, co-washing may be just what you need to combat what plagues you. Curly hair, whatever size the curl, is naturally dry due to the fact that sebum cannot easily travel through the bends and down the hair shaft. Using conditioner as a cleanser will add the moisture you’ve been missing to your hair care routine.

Fine hair finds its place in the co-wash movement

Whatever your hair type, if thirsty hair is your greatest concern, co-washing may be just what you’re looking for. If you happen to have fine hair, it will require a less heavy application of conditioner and potentially a more thorough rinse.

Fine hair can’t take the weight of heavy conditioners like coarse hair can. Diluting your conditioner with water may also make co-washing fine-hair friendly.

Be sure to read the labels and use the conditioner that is best suited to your hair type. Using the wrong product may give you less than favorable results.

Getting started with co-washing

When you first start co-washing, be prepared for your hair to feel different during wash mode. Due to the nature of conditioner, you’re not going to have the bubbles and suds that you’ve grown accustomed to.

Somehow those suds became a subliminal indicator that your wash cycle was complete when they overtook your tresses. With that missing, you now have to be thorough as you work your fingers through your roots.

Keep in mind that your goal is to remove built up dirt, bacteria and sloughed skin cells. Natural oils are good for you and do not equal dirt, so expect to feel some residue. The more you use this technique, the easier it will be to distinguish between clean and dirty. Here’s what you do:

  • First, you want to thoroughly wet your hair in preparation for the conditioner. You will be using the conditioner like shampoo, so expect to use more than usual.
  • You will want to coat the hair from root to tip and gently massage your scalp to free up any debris.
  • Let it sit on your hair and scalp for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing. Leaving it on for a prolonged period of time is like giving yourself a hair mask. Adjust the time to suit your individual hair needs.
  • Finally, rinse your hair and style as usual. If your hair habit normally includes a leave-in conditioner, you may want to do a light rinse so that you can retain some of the co-wash conditioner.

Be careful of build up

Due to the gentler cleansing agents found in conditioners, there is a distinct possibility that build up may occur with the adoption of this method.

You may be a victim of product pile on if your hair shows signs of the following:

  • a heavy or weighted feeling
  • appears dull or devoid of shine
  • lacks body or fullness
  • is more difficult to style than usual

When you see these signs, it’s time for a clarifying shampoo to rid your hair of the excess.

The pluses and minuses of co-washing natural hair

LIke most things in life, there are positives and negatives. Equally true, what’s good for someone else is not always good for you.

With that in mind, let’s look at the pluses and minuses of co-washing so you know what to expect before you give this a try.

Co-washing Pluses

  • Because conditioner has a more gentle cleansing agent, it will not strip your hair of natural oils and retain more moisture content.
  • Co-washing can make the detangling process easier. With added moisture to your normally dry hair shaft, your hair will become more pliable and thus limit the amount of breakage.
  • This method can encourage more bouncy and voluminous hair.
  • Styling may be easier since it removes that awkward too-clean-to-style phase. It’s often difficult to get your hair to respond the way you want when it’s too clean.

Co-washing Minuses

  • Over-moisturized hair can be prone to breakage. Remember your hair is actually dead once it grows beyond the follicle. If it becomes damaged, there is no regeneration. All you can do is grow it out and replace it with healthier hair. As such, your damaged hair can break with the weight of the product left in or on the shaft.
  • Too much build up can make your hair unresponsive to styling. There is a fine line between that hair that styles like a dream and too dirty hair that continually falls flat.
  • You will need to wash more often because you are no longer using shampoo. For those of you that often experience a time crunch, adding extra wash days into your normal routine may not be ideal.
  • Healthy hair growth requires a clean, unclogged scalp. If you are not diligent in your cleansing, you may negatively affect your hair’s growth cycle.

Co-wash with caution

Co-washing is not for everyone, even if you have moisture-deprived hair. It could be the application of the technique or just the technique itself, but you may discover that co-washing fails to give you the results you crave.

It’s important to listen to your hair and be aware of how it responds to any change in your routine. Finding the right balance in your hair care is key to getting the hair you want.

Let us know your personal experiences with co-washing in the comments below. Share your successes and failures with us.

Does pre-poo perplex you? Minimize the stress on your tresses.

To pre-poo is to perform a restorative treatment on your hair prior to shampooing and keep stress on your hair shaft at bay.

Typical treatments include:

  • oil-based,
  • protein-based, or
  • just plain moisture-enhancing.

Knowing what your hair is lacking prior to wash day will set you on the right path to optimal hair health as you fortify and replenish what is missing.

Assess your tresses.

If your hair is lacking moisture, it will feel dry and brittle. When extended, or elasticity is tested, it will snap off rather than snap back to its original shape.

If your hair is in need of protein, Essence states it will appear limp and dull. Some even say it will have a mushy feel to it. That is the direct result of a moisture/protein imbalance.

Lock moisture in with an oil-based pre poo.

If you’re still pro poo, you’re a perfect candidate for pre-poo. Synthetic shampoos strip the hair and scalp of any natural oils (sebum) generated by the hair follicle. The result of this cleansing can leave your hair feeling dry and thirsty.

As curly-cues, our hair is naturally dry. Since gravity drives sebum down the hair shaft, the bends in our curls make that travel impossible without our purposeful intervention.

A pre-poo oil treatment allows you to coat the full length of your hair and provide a temporary shield of defense against drying. The oil coats your hair to lock in moisture and prevents direct access to the cortex, where natural moisture resides.

Try to think of it like wearing a raincoat during a monsoon. It won’t completely lock out the water but it will keep you more dry than if you hadn’t worn one at all.

If we apply that logic to a pre-poo oil treatment, it will prevent shampoo from completely penetrating your hair shaft and stripping away all natural moisture from your hair. There are a number of different natural oils recommended:

Although there are benefits to the application of any of these oil products, extra virgin coconut oil is said to have the most affinity to the chemical makeup of our hair. Because of this, coconut oil will have an easier time penetrating the cuticle and getting to the cortex where it can do its best work.

Give your keratin a kick with a protein-based pre poo.

Based on the symptoms outlined above, if you think you’re short on protein you need to pre-poo with your keratin in mind.

A couple of good natural choices for a protein boost include:

  • Raw egg wash, especially since egg yolks are high in protein and fat. You can find detailed instructions on how to apply an egg wash here. It also identifies which parts of the egg are best for different hair types
  • Beer, specifically the wheat, malt or hops leftover after the liquid has evaporated is high in protein. Woman’s Day has a recipe you can try.

Pre poo to enhance moisture.

Although oil treatments fall into the moisture-enhancing category, most oil’s don’t actually deposit moisture. They work with your hair’s natural moisture production and lock it in so that it doesn’t get lost or washed away.

The moisture-enhancement we look at here involves using products that will inject moisture into the mix. Some natural products you can use to build moisture-enhancing masks at home include:

Which pre poo is for you?

Depending on your pre-poo needs, your process for application will vary.

If your hair is in the healthy spectrum, your pre-poo intention is likely to maintain the balance you fought so hard to achieve. You’re going to want to use an oil pre-poo that locks in your current moisture. You can perform a heated oil application 30 minutes at the beginning of your hair wash day routine.

If your hair falls into the dry end of the scale, you’ll want to enhance your moisture content. Coconut oil does double duty in enhancing the moisture you have while protecting the protein.

You can also refer to any of the natural hair treatments listed above, particularly an avocado mask. Avocado is said to have an oil chemistry that most closely resembles the oils our skin naturally produces. That implies it will be easy to absorb. Follow the directions associated with the hair treatment you select.

If your hair feels overly mushy and limp, you’re probably in the over-moisturized category and require protein to restore balance to the hair shaft. Applying a raw egg wash or beer treatment will give you the boost your hair is craving.

Pre poo positives.

Inserting a pre-poo stage into your hair care routine will ultimately help you to reclaim control of your mane. The benefits include:

  • A conscious diagnosis of your hair health. It’s easy to fall into a rut with our hair and do the same thing from one wash day to the next. Putting pre-poo on your calendar will remind you to take a good look at how your hair is actually responding to your care.
  • Increased manageability. Since you’re actively restoring what’s lacking in your hair, the improved balance will make your hair more pliable.
  • Less breakage or improved strength and resilience. Adding moisture makes black hair more elastic and less prone to breakage, especially when it is done in moderation. You want to be careful not to over-moisturize and throw your balance out of whack.

Use restraint with your pre poo potions.

The one caution all pre-poo’ers need to keep in mind is balance. Balanced moisture and protein is the key to the healthiest, most responsive hair. One way to keep equilibrium at the forefront of your mind is to mark your pre-poos on your calendar. This way you will have a visual reference to what and when your last treatment was.

Co-washers and no poo’ers can pre poo too.

If you’re a co-washer or no poo’er , you’re not excluded from the pre-poo phase. Make your choice of pre-poo dependent on the cleansing method you are currently using.

You’ll want to be diligent as you assess the current state of your hair health. Remember that co-washers and no poos tend to have milder cleansing agents so some of the pre-poo options may not be necessary for your wash day routine.

There’s a particular no poo’er on lulastic.co.uk who appears to advocate supplementing her baking soda and apple cider vinegar routine with a number of pre-poo treatments.

Rather than applying them right before her no poo wash, she tends to follow a wash day routine that cycles through a variety of treatments.

Remember to be attentive to subtle changes in your hair. In all cases, we need to do what works best for our personal hair care needs.

Have you ever tried a pre-poo? How has adding that step to your wash day routine improved your hair health? In the comments below, give us a rundown on your most effective pre-poo treatments.

What are Corn Rows?

Corn rows, Boxer Braids, or KKW Braids? Technically, all three are the same thing. However, when it comes to black hair, there is a tendency to rename styles that have not only been around for centuries, but styles like corn rows have cultural significance attached to them. Fashion heavy hitters like Alexander McQueen and the Kardashian/Jenner clan have been taking heat for adopting corn rows and reclaiming them as their own. Jon Reyman, co-owner of Spoke and Weal salon was quoted saying “Cornrows are moving away from urban, hip-hop to more chic and edgy;” but the only thing that has changed about the style is that a wider group of people are wearing it. Regardless of where you stand on the politics of corn rows, we’ll fill you in on some history, and give a few helpful techniques to achieving this hot style!

Corn Rows or Boxer Braids: which came first? #cornrows #bhs #hairtalk Click To Tweet

History Behind Corn Row Braids

Most historians credit the emergence of corn row hair to around 3000 B.C. in the Tassili Plateau of the Sahara. The style is a traditional African style, sometimes denoting tribe and class status. The style has been unisex since the early 19th century. The term “corn row” references the beginning of African-American culture’s adoption of the braiding technique, and the rows of corn crops African slaves tended to in the South. The style may have originated in American culture as a way to protect black hair and to keep the wearer cool, but as time went on, more and more people wore corn rows as a nod to the African culture that began the style.

Corn rows resurged during the 1970’s when being black and proud was the mantra. Popular icons like Allen Iverson and Alicia Keys brought the style into the new millennium.

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How can I learn the technique behind corn row hair?

Although corn rows give off a very effortless vibe, the actual technique behind them takes a lot of focus and practice. If you don’t get it down at the first attempt, don’t give up hope, curl girl.

The very first step in corn rowing is deciding which patterns you would like to follow. Corn rows can range from simple protective styles to intricate designs full of personality and skill. If this is your first time attempting the style, start off simply with four to six evenly parted sections going from the crown of the head to the nape of the neck.

There are two techniques to corn row braids:

  • Overhand Technique: braids sit on the top of the scalp and have a raised appearance
  • Underhand Technique: braids are inverted and do not sit on the top of the scalp

Once you decide your pattern and technique, it’s time to braid.

Some folks braid with damp hair, and some don’t. The key here is low manipulation. Pulling hair tightly might create neat looking braids, but at the end of the day, healthy hair is always the most important thing.

If you’re stumped on how big your sections should be, it really depends on how thick and dense your hair is. Thicker hair might need to be sectioned into smaller and more workable portions, while thinner hair might look better in larger sections. After you’ve parted your hair, pin back the strands you’re not working with so you can focus on making your first row.

  • Separate the first section into three strands.
  • With two hands, take the right piece under the middle, then the left piece under the middle.
  • Continue this process until you have the beginning of a braid.
  • As you move along the section of hair, add even pieces into the middle section, braiding closer and closer to the scalp.

What happens if corn rows are left in too long?

When trying out any new style, always remember healthy hair is the ultimate goal. Corn row braids are still worn primarily as protective styles under weaved or added hair, but if the mainstream natural hair movement has taught us anything, it’s to keep an open mind and explore! As fun as that may sound, no style should stay in your hair for too long. If you’re adding hair to your own, make sure the weight is not so intense that they pull your edges away from the scalp. You can lose your edges to braids that are too heavy and too tight! No style, no matter how cute, is worth all of that! As long as you take care of your real hair by moisturizing and taking the braids down every two weeks, corn rows will be the perfect way to keep your hair stylish and healthy.

Corn Rows are…

…much more than a hairstyle. They represent a diaspora of people. Whether you wear them to pay homage to the Mother Land, or you wear them because they’re hot right now, most black women have a connection to the style that goes way beyond what the eye can see. Corn rows have been passed down from generation to generation, so calling them something other than what they do erases all that. In the words of Solange, if you’re confused on whether you should wear the style, or you’re just admiring from afar, this here is ours.

What do you think about corn rows in today’s fashion world. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Is no poo for you? When eliminating shampoo is the right choice.

The no poo movement is about removing any application of external chemicals from your cleansing routine. In this context, aside from shampoo, it also includes the elimination of conditioner.

The belief is that man-made chemicals are a form of pollution and may actually be carcinogenic or cancer inducing.

Modern society has created a cycle of invention where a specific product is created to solve a problem or fulfill a need. However, that new product comes with its own set of problems, which now need solutions. A perfect example of that can be found within the drug industry, where taking one drug creates a need for taking other drugs to solve new symptoms or side-effects.

When you consider the beauty and personal care industry, the stripping nature of shampoo necessitated the need for conditioner. So there appears to be some truth to this theory.

Does it mean that freeing yourself of shampoo entirely will eliminate the need for conditioner? Not necessarily. Let’s look a little deeper at the no poo movement.

More than one way to go no poo

There are varying degrees of no poo and not all are created equal. Which you choose to use depends on how staunchly you believe in the adverse effects of man-made products. The most popular no poo methods are:

  • Water only
  • Baking soda and apple cider vinegar
  • Organic produce applications
  • Dry “shampoo”
  • Alternative organic products

H 2 Only no poo

The strictest of the no poo movement believes there is no medical reason for humans to wash their hair with anything beyond water. In this context, it is believed that our bodies have a built-in cleansing and maintenance method, not to be messed with.

According to Wikipedia, hair washing routines beyond the exclusive use of water were determined by cultural norms rather than medical necessity. In fact, it is believed that the use of synthetic shampoo removes natural oils produced by the scalp and as a result causes the scalp to produce even more oil to compensate.

Some dermatologists claim that a dependency on the shampoo cycle is said to be created due to the increased production of sebum. They go one step further and claim a weaning process is required to restore normal sebum production and remove shampoo altogether from your routine.

Baking soda beyond baking

Most no poo’ers start their journey with the baking soda/apple cider vinegar (ACV) approach. The baking soda is used as the cleanser, where it acts to remove odor, lift oil from roots, and exfoliate the scalp.

The ACV is used as a conditioner as it clarifies, softens, and gives strands a lustrous shine. The concept behind using these ingredients is simple, natural products that will be very gentle on the hair. It is designed to give the scalp a chance to begin to regenerate its natural oils and heal itself from years of shampoo-related abuse.

When transitioning to this no poo method, your first application of baking soda is used as a clarifier. The intention is to remove the buildup of toxins that you’ve been systematically applying to your hair through periodic maintenance and styling.

The key to a successful transition to this no poo method is a gradual reduction of the amount of baking soda. As your scalp adjusts to the elimination of synthetic shampoos, you will need less and less baking soda to cleanse your hair. This website has outlined a specific process and claims that when done right will not damage the hair.

Nopoomethods.com outlines two different ways of using baking soda as a hair cleanser. They advocate a paste method as well as a dilute in water method for application. Whichever method you choose, the instructions are to apply it to the scalp directly and not the hair shaft.

As with any first time technique, proceed with caution and be mindful of how your hair responds. If in doubt, use less than the recommended baking soda to start.

Raid your kitchen for no poo prospects

Worth mentioning here are a few foods that may be found in your kitchen currently. Many of these are used as part of your baking soda soda/ACV routine and are not presented as independent no poo methods. The following list is not exhaustive and exact directions can be found on nopoomethods:

  • Egg wash as a protein and strengthening conditioner (Must use cool water to avoid “cooking” the egg in your hair)
  • Rye flour wash as a vitamin, mineral and nutrient boost
  • Applesauce mask to remove waxy buildup. Also a great solution for hard water buildup
  • Milk kefir and kombucha have probiotics for conditioning your scalp
  • Mashed banana or avocado for moisturizing hair mask

Try a dry no poo

Waterless no poos are designed to absorb excess oils from your roots while freshening up the rest of your hair. Some no poo’ers will use dry shampoo to extend the time between wash days. For a more detailed look at dry poos, read Dry Shampoo – Your Secret Water-free Weapon.

If you visit thecrunchymoose.com you’ll find a list of dry shampoo recipes you can make yourself.

Organic solutions beyond the kitchen

There are a variety of organic products that go beyond the kitchen. Details of recipes and how to use them can all be found on The No Poo Method website (link above):

  • Epsom salts and aloe vera, where epsom salts add volume and aloe vera brings added moisture.
  • Kaolin clay wash, good for sensitive scalp, stimulates circulation, gently exfoliates, while cleansing. Good for dry, curly hair.
  • Rhassoul clay wash contains minerals that are good for the hair. It improves elasticity, moisturizes, exfoliates, and detoxes. Best for dry, curly hair.
  • Bentonite clay wash works like a sponge and attracts excess metals, hydrogen, toxins, and impurities, pulling them out of your hair & scalp. Best for oily hair.
  • Soap nuts are grown on a tree and actually contain soap. When converted into a liquid soap, they are good for cleaning just about anything, including skin, hair and scalp.

To poo or not to poo. Does no poo make sense for you?

The biggest benefit to going no poo is the removal or reduction of toxins from your personal care routines. The movement sheds light on the fact that we may be unknowingly applying toxic substances to our hair and body.

Pollutants come in many forms today and complete avoidance of pollution is not entirely possible. If you want to reduce any negative effects that toxic substances have on your life, going no poo may be the choice for you.

Exploring the no poo method can be as complicated or as simple as you would like it to be. If you follow the method outlined on lulastic.co.uk, you may feel overwhelmed with all of the steps she includes in her maintenance routine. You may even feel deterred from ever giving it a try.

However, if simplifying your products to the natural baking soda and ACV method is appealing to you, it may be worth it. This writer managed to navigate all of the negative consequences involved during a six month transition phase and come out the other side a winner.

She claims to only use baking soda and ACV now, which seems to suggest that all of the interim washes outlined by lulastic.co.uk may be unnecessary.

After reading her story and accepting that it will take six months to get conclusive positive results, you may decide to take up the no poo challenge yourself. (It’s important to note her hair type is not typical of black women and results may vary.)

Have you ever considered going no poo? What method of no poo have you tried? We’d love to hear your results in the comments below.

What is Natural Hair?

Everyone you ask will have a different answer to “what is natural hair?” To some, being natural just means wearing your natural curly hair. To others, it is an elite community and a complete lifestyle change. No matter how you define it, it is undeniable how much love the natural hair movement has been getting lately.

Natural hair may be on trend today, thanks to festivals like Afropunk and Curl Fest and celebrity influencers, but it hasn’t always been. It’s been a long road from being seen as unprofessional and unkempt to picturesque and appreciated. As much as naturals love all of this extra attention, it’s important to know where we come from.

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History of Natural Hair

First off: the natural hair movement is far from new. Marcus Garvey used natural hair as the main speaking point in his Back to Africa Movement of the 1920s.

Black hair trends of the 1920s were uniformed, sleek, and processed. The goal was to define black culture as unique, but equal to whiteness. It makes sense that black women would look to the popular styles as well. Getting curls and coils straight took a lot of work, but the payoff was smooth and kink-free.

In the 1950s, the perm, otherwise known as “creamy crack,” was introduced to the black community and the rest was history. It wasn’t until the 1970s when political movements inspired more to slowly ease back into traditional African inspired styles.

Although today’s natural hair movement is not specifically rooted in politics, there is no shortage of controversy in the community. There is a clear divide in what is considered good and bad natural hair. You might be wondering, well, what type of natural hair do I have?

The truth is, not all curls slay the same way. Knowing your unique curl pattern can help make product decisions and hair styles a lot easier, but there is no such thing as bad natural hair.

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What Happens If You Never Put Products in Natural Hair?

Product snobs are real out here! Does going natural mean you must not use any products in your hair? It depends on what you mean by “products.” There are large scale brands, like Shea Moisture, that became popular for marketing toward black hair, but does that mean they actually work?

No matter what curl pattern you have, all natural hair needs moisture. Whether you take the “au naturale” route and make your own hair care products (DIY is so hot right now), or you buy trusted brands, the key to healthy natural hair is dryness prevention. Buying crèmes, pomeades, and oils won’t solidify your seat at the natural curly hair table any more than anyone else. The key is to explore, expand, and empower!

Do you know a real life product snob? What products are a must for natural hair? #SheaMoisture… Click To Tweet

What’s the deal about texture?

A lot of people are obsessed with texture in the natural hair community. So much so, some go through great lengths wondering if they can change or manipulate texture. Hate to burst the bubble, but unless your body has gone through some sort of hormonal change like pregnancy or puberty, it is not likely your hair texture has changed. Sometimes the addition of a new product into your normal hair care regime, or a different protective style can give the appearance of a new curl pattern or texture.

The bottom line is that it shouldn’t matter! As long as you and your hair are happy, fitting into a curl pattern or texture is secondary. Sometimes all that glitters isn’t gold! Every curly girl has her own set of unique challenges and rewards that makes their natural hair special and just for them.

What’s your curl pattern? When did you first find out? #bhs Click To Tweet

What does natural hair mean to you?

Unraveled: All You Need to Know About Curl Definers

If there’s one thing girls with curly hair dream of, it’s hair that slays and curls that pop.

But as us natural girls know, our hair sometimes pops in the all the wrong places with frizz, split ends and annoying knots getting in the way.

For those days when your curly style could use some serious help, you may find it useful to reach for a curl defining cream, jelly or custard to help bring out your hair’s natural coily beauty.

These products can help define and manage the curls you already have making it a perfect way to appreciate your hair in its natural state. But before you go out frantically searching for products that will hopefully get you the curls you desire, we’ve taken some time to explain the basics of curl definers and what to look for when buying them.

Curl Definers Unraveled

Curl definers are products that help intensify your natural curl pattern, making curls bouncier and fuller. There are many curl defining products out there, but buying the right one depends on your hair’s type and needs. At the end of the day the best curl definers help you achieve the ultimate curly look while keeping hair moisturized and healthy.

What is the Difference Between Curl Defining Creams & Gels?

Thicker products such as creams and custards are great for moisturizing hair. For example, if you have thicker curls you may find custards more useful than gels. Because of their dense nature they provide a lot more coverage, congealing hair strands together in order to produce lush curls that stand out.

Curl defining gels or jelly are generally known for providing great hold. This means that hair stays in a defined curl pattern for longer. If you have looser type 3 curls, you will want to use a curl defining gel that won’t weigh down your hair. Many curlies like to use a combination of gels and creams for the added moisture.

The downside to using gel as a curl definer may seem pretty obvious. While keeping curls in place, defining gels can also make hair stiff to the touch. Not to mention the sea of flakes it can send cascading down your shoulder and back. If using a gel is the route you want to take when defining your curls look for products with zero alcohol and moisturizing ingredients like aloe to reduce dryness.

Do Curl Definers Help Protect My hair?

While we love letting our curls hang loose every once in awhile – constantly wearing a curly style may cause your hair to dry out and turn into a knotty mess, eventually leading to breakage. Twisting or braiding your hair over-night is a great way to keep your curls fresh while preventing damage. To refresh curls you can always add more curl defining products.

How Do I Know Which Curl Definer to Buy?

Finding the right curl definer is all about finding out what your hair needs to be its healthiest. Generally speaking a great curl definer contains these three things:

  1. Moisturizing Ingredients

    The best curl defining products are made with moisturizing ingredients that make your hair subtle and soft while creating defined curls. Look for ingredients such as coconut oil and avocado oil in your curl definer. These oils contain fatty acids that make them able to enter the hair shaft and retain moisture. Other ingredients such as aloe and shea butter, are also known for their moisturizing properties.

  2. Tight hold

    To lock your coils into ringlets of curly glory, you’ll need a product with great hold. Typically, finding the right hold means matching the thickness of the product to the thickness of your hair. If you have thick 4c hair for example, you might find it helpful to use a thicker custard or jelly with a denser texture than gel. Gel is useful for those with looser curl patterns.

  3. Controls frizz and fly-a-ways

    Anyone with curly hair knows the struggle of trying to keep strands in place. Curl definers are meant to take care of this problem by congealing hair together and reducing stray hair so curls can stand-out. But as we also know, not all products are created equal.

    When looking for a curl definer to tackle your frizzy hair, look for something designed to tackle the problem. For example, look for a product that has ‘frizz control’ in its title.

How Have Curl Definers Helped You?

What are Hair Twists?

Photo source: https://hairstylecamp.com/havana-twist-hairstyles/

Black hair has gone through many cultural shifts and evolutions over the years but it continues to be a symbol of our identity and a response to the culture around us. In the 80’s and 90’s a rising cultural awareness of black power and beauty spurred the need for diversity in hair styles in the black community. Black women began embracing textured styles such as braids, twists and locs; borrowing from the cultural freedom of the 60’s to create styles that showcased black hair in unique ways. Twists became increasingly popular in the 90’s and 2000’s and have recently made a come back with even more options available with crochet styling methods.

Hair Twists: Simple Yet Beautiful

Twists are created by a process of wrapping two strands of hair around each other until hair resembles a rope (hence the term ‘rope twists’.) The nature of black hair and the ability for kinky strands to wrap themselves around each other, prevents the twist from unravelling when done properly. Extensions with a coarse texture can be used to install twists if you have silky or chemically processed hair. In many cases, single twists are more versatile than single braids because they are easier to manipulate into various styles.The thickness, texture and style of your twist can also vary depending on the type of hair you use to install them.

Taking Care of Twists

This hairstyle is also great because it’s easy to maintain and can last up to 6 weeks or more. But beware of the tendency to completely ignore your hair just because it’s in a protective hair style. To ensure your hair is healthy and strong after removing your twists follow these maintenance tips:

Washing Twists

Don’t be afraid to get in there and wash your twists if you feel that there is a buildup of product and dirt. To avoid your hair getting frizzy part your hair into sections and let warm water run through it. When shampooing run hands down your twists gently letting the water do most of the work. Afterwards wrap your hair with a warm towel to seal hair strands and prevent any additional fraying caused by excessive rubbing. You can also take the dry-shampoo route to be on the safe side.

Different twists may require a slightly different maintenance routine. For example, wearing twists in your natural hair may make it easier for you to wash and moisturize. If you have extensions or crochet twists you may need to use dry-shampoo or spray moisturizers to maintain hair.

Moisturizing Twists

Find a great penetrating oil to moisturize your hair while it’s in twists. This will ensure that moisture is retained in your hair shaft which will make your hair soft and easier to manage when you take out the twists. It will also help with hair growth and reducing breakage. The ultimate goal of any protective style is not just to look cute, but to make hair stronger and healthier. You can also use leave-in conditioner on your twists by coating strands beginning at the roots.

Sleep with a Satin/Silk Scarf

If you want your twists to stay neat you’ll need to tie your hair down with a silk-scarf or bonnet each night before going to sleep. This protects your hair from fraying when rubbed against your pillow and sheets.

Wearing Twists – Different Hairstyles

There are many different ways to install and style twists, making them as diverse and resilient as black hair itself. Twists can also be styled in virtually every way you wear your own hair; you can wear them as a mohawk, up-do or ponytail – the options are limitless. There is so much to this simple hair style it’s no wonder it’s a favourite of women of all hair types.

Here are some examples of the different ways you can rock your twists:

Senegalese/Rope Twists

Photo source: https://hairmotive.com/senegalese-twist/

Senegalese twists or ‘rope twists,’ are named after the West African country of Senegal where they originated. This style is typically achieved using Kanekalon (synthetic) braiding hair which gives it a smooth, silky look. The downside to this however is that the hair is easier to unravel if not done correctly.

Marley Twists

Marley twists are coarser than Senegalese twists, resembling the dreadlocked hair style of Mr. Bob Marley himself. Because of its coarse texture, Marley twists are a lot easier to install on your own. A simple two strand method is all you need to create this look.

Havana Twists

Photo source: https://hairstylecamp.com/havana-twist-hairstyles/

Havana twists are often confused with Marley twists because both looks are created with the Marley braiding hair. The difference is in the thickness, with Havana twist being almost twice the size of Marley twists.

What are your favourite twisted hairstyles?

Protective Styling: Taking A Break from Breakage

It seems that human beings, universally, are in a battle for control. Whether it’s control of your time, control of your beliefs, control of your wallet, or just control of the remote, we want it!

The best thing you can ever do for someone who is exhibiting signs of submission to the status quo is to tell them they can’t do something. Guaranteed, they will then move heaven and earth to prove you wrong.

We hate being subjected to imposed limitations. Never has that been better demonstrated than with black hair.

Black women were told they couldn’t naturally grow their hair beyond a certain length because of its fragile nature. Told that breakage was a definite and not merely a possibility, some women got the lengthy locks they were craving by wearing wigs and weaves.

With protective styling, you can increase the odds of growing your own luscious mane of hair.

What is Protective Hair Styling?

Protective styling is the practice of protecting your hair from self-inflicted harm as well as from the sun, wind, heat and rain. It involves safely tucking away your ends into a protective cocoon and giving them a vacation from the daily contortions we call styling.

Do no harm

In a broad sense, protective styling includes all of the good things that we do to our hair to promote hair health and growth while minimizing damage.

  • Sleeping on silk pillowcases
  • Silk head wraps
  • Routine deep moisture treatments
  • Scheduled protein treatments
  • Regular gentle combing and detangling of hair
  • Consistent use of leave-in conditioners
  • Applied natural oils
  • Natural bristle brushes used

If only my hair would…

Black hair is incredibly fragile due to the elemental bonds that fuse together to create the curl pattern. The tighter the curl, the more points of weakness along the shaft. Those weak points are the source of its fragile nature.

But despite that, we refuse to take no for an answer and push our hair to its literal breaking point.

Hey, I’m happy for the hair pioneers amongst us who’ve shown us that our hair is capable of so much more. Nevertheless, after all the plumping, sculpting, ironing, weaving, relaxing, recurling, pulling, teasing and so on, our hair will sometimes choose to abandon ship. That’s right, breakage.

How to break the cycle of breakage

There is a scientific term, weathering, that is applied to hair damage.

Weathering is used to describe progressive deterioration of your hair.

Firstly the cuticle layer is worn down, then eventually the cortex. This is caused by personal grooming habits that create manual wear and tear, but also includes exposure to environmental factors beyond our control.

It’s in your best interest to send your hair on a vacay, or maybe it should be stay-cay, since it’s not actually leaving your head, and tuck in those ends for a rest.

Before selecting your protective style, there is some prep work you need to do so you can achieve optimal results.

  • Be sure your hair is nap free. Gently comb through your hair from root to tip to remove any naps or tangles. This will release any hair that has already shed and may be trapped in your curls.
  • Trim your ends. Get rid of any split ends. Once the strand is split, it will not magically glue itself back together. May as well cut the dead weight and leave room for healthy hair. This will save you from wasting product.
  • Apply a protein treatment. Protein will help maintain or improve the strength of your hair. Coconut oil has the ability to penetrate the hair shaft due to its affinity to our natural protein. Healthy hair protein naturally retains moisture.
  • Moisturize. Giving your thirsty hair a boost in moisture prior to protective styling will improve the elasticity of your hair as you lock it into position. Black hair gains moisture through the application of oils that seal in the existing moisture and block out environmental moistures with a film. Again, coconut oil really likes human hair protein and will work with it rather than against it.

After you’ve completed this regimen, select a protective style. Be mindful of your hair thickness and density. Some styles may not work the way that you expect. For example, thin hair may not hold twists for the length of time that you require if they are not applied correctly. Determine the best method for your hair type. One size definitely does NOT fit all.

Protective styles don’t have to be plain

When choosing a protective style, take into account the following:

  • Texture of your hair
  • Density of your hair
  • How long you want the style to last
  • Your expected outcome or goal

Some examples of protective styles include:

  • Plaits


  • Braids

  • Twists

  • Weaves

  • Buns

    , as long as ends are concealed and not floating loose

  • Various

    Updos


  • Wigs

It’s not just for growing. It’s also for showing

There is more than one reason to use protective styling:

  • Grow out natural hair or retain length.
  • Increase softness and reduce appearance of dryness.
  • Reduce maintenance. It’s low maintenance not NO maintenance.
  • Versatile applications and looks.
  • Saves time in your day.

When over-protection turns into abuse

It is possible to overdo protective styling and negate any benefits you might otherwise achieve. For example, tugging too hard on the hair or applying too much stress to the scalp when getting braids or weaves can leave you with patches of baldness or hair broken off at the scalp line.

At one time it was believed the tighter you are to the scalp, the more time you have for the braid to loosen up and thus increase its lifespan—aka, save you money. If you find yourself in this scenario, you are not actually applying protective styling. You’ve effectively removed all of the protective element by adding undue stress to your scalp and hairline. Not a good practice.

Failure to give your hair a rest between long-term protective styles is a no no. Going back-to-back with braids or twists or anything that strains the hairline can start to become detrimental. On the one hand, you’re not pulling, tugging, ironing on a daily basis but on the other hand, you are applying a specific and constant pull on your hairline for a prescribed length of time. Be mindful of that.

Must-do maintenance for black hair

Even though your hair is on stay-cay, there are a few items of upkeep you need to include:

  • wash your hair. Yes, you still have to. Maybe not as frequently but definitely not to be skipped completely.
  • apply oil to your scalp and hairline. Keep moisturizing. Use a natural oil like coconut oil or olive oil to keep dryness at bay and prevent breakage.
  • protect your style from surface frizz by wrapping at night or sleeping on a silk pillowcase.

Try it. Test it.

If you have never done a protective style before, or possibly didn’t know what one was, maybe it’s time to give it a try. You can start with some short-term ones, such as buns or updos and take note of the change it makes to your hair.

When you are mindful of your hair goals at the beginning, you can structure your protective style to suit. Whether it’s to gain length, minimize everyday breakage or just reduce your hair workload, protective styling may be just what you are looking for.

Have you applied protective styling to your hair routine? How has it changed the health of your hair? Better or worse, we want to know. Leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

Wash day today for attention-getting hair tomorrow

Ahhhhhh wash day. The day we black women set aside to treat, clean and groom our locks. For some, the wash day ritual is a trip to the salon, where you gather with friends, discuss life’s challenges, and wait for your turn in the chair.

For others, wash day is your pre-determined day of self-haircare. Your chance to apply the techniques that best suit your hair type. (If you haven’t determined your hair type yet, consult our articles on the Andre Walker hair typing systemLOIS  or FIA hair typing systems.

I don’t know about you, but my wash day tends to be just that—a day with my hands in my hair. From detangling, to washing, to conditioning, oiling, drying and sometimes setting, my hair is definitely of the high-maintenance variety.

Aside from providing an excuse to stay in, introducing wash day into your routine will be the first step to your healthiest hair ever. It will help you to minimize dryness, maximize moisture retention and keep breakage at bay.

Say, “No way,” to every day hair washing

Black hair has a unique set of challenges. Because it tends to be drier than hair of other races, it should not be washed daily. Traditional hair washing can strip your hair of the natural oils, or sebum, your follicles produce and lead to dryness.

If your hair type is naturally dry, like mine, frequent washing will increase this dryness and lead to damage. If your hair is gasping for moisture, it will be less pliable and more likely to break from manual manipulation. Not enough washing and your hair may experience increased matting and tangling.

Photo source: https://www.sciencealert.com/how-often-you-should-wash-your-hair-according-to-science

Hair Moisture: It’s a balancing act

Between retaining moisture and injecting moisture, striking a balance is key to optimal hair health and growth.

The sebum that is produced in the hair follicle is your built-in moisture center. Sebum not only conditions the hair and skin on the surface; it also, blocks moisture loss internally.

Unfortunately, the nature of curly hair prevents sebum from easily spreading down the shaft of your hair, leaving the majority of the hair shaft dry. I wish I had known this years ago!

Adding moisture to your hair externally is only effective if you apply a moisture-locking product to your newly washed hair. Understanding the porosity of your hair is part of the process. The more porous your hair is, the more externally applied moisture will simply run out of it.

Some advocate increased water consumption and change of diet to improve hair moisture and health.

Others suggest finding and applying products that are the most similar to the chemical makeup of sebum, since sebum is 50% water.

Coconut oil has an affinity for the keratin protein found in the hair shaft. Because of that, coconut oil will naturally penetrate the hair cuticle and lock in moisture.

Wash Day: Make it personal

How often you wash your hair is entirely dependent on your hair type, not to mention your genetics. The more that your hair is washed, the more your scalp gets dried out. This leads to more oil production than before, thus negating what you’re trying to do in the first place.

Wash day doesn’t have to be groundhog day

Every wash day does not have to be the same. On the one hand, it’s nice to incorporate a routine. You can effectively zone out and turn wash day into a zen experience.

On the other hand, your wash day can potentially be a cycling through of different scheduled repair treatments.

Depending on how frequently you wash plus the overall condition of your hair, you may want to add deep conditioning, protein treatments, or even hot oil applications to your rotation.

Make washday a treat not a chore

With wash day on the calendar, remember that this day is not meant to be a chore. Treat it as an invitation to pamper yourself and call it a spa day. Aside from trying different hairstyles from one wash day to the next, you have the opportunity to enhance your spa experience while you’re in the drying phase:

  • Include a manicure or pedicure,
  • Indulge in a good book,
  • Catch up on your favorite romantic comedy, or
  • Exfoliate from head to toe and soak in a scented bath.

Approach it head first

Different hairstyles may require different products for best results, and we don’t just mean finishing products. Because of this, first determine the finished style you are trying to achieve and make sure you have an adequate supply of product on hand.

When you look good, you feel good. Your hair is ultimately a statement of your style, personality and identity.

How has scheduling wash day changed your hair health? Do you feel like you have more control and less frustration? Share your haircare routines with us in the comments below.

L.O.I.S. Hair Typing: Beautiful Black Hair Simplified

As black women, our hair is either our triumph or our tragedy. There is rarely a viewpoint that involves complacency or settling. We want the best and we deserve it.

There are three main hair typing systems in use today:

It’s the L.O.I.S. system that has been earmarked as the one true champion for black women and their hair.

There are some in the black community that believe the numbering system applied by both the Andre Walker and FIA systems promotes a “less than” status for the curliest of coifs.

If you see these charts as hierarchies, then that thinking makes sense. However, sometimes a number is just a number.

The L.O.I.S. Hair Typing System was created to remove any negative undertones from the equation.

Curl patterns in control

I’m a visual person so I like the idea of the LOIS system and its use of the shapes of the letters to define your curl pattern and hair type. It’s simple to understand and easy to apply to your own hair.

Photo source: http://themafrosisters.blogspot.com/2013/04/curl-class-7-lois-hair-typing-system.html

It’s foundation is built upon four main hair types as:

  • L represents the hard angles found in a ‘Z’ or zig-zag pattern
  • O represents spirals or coils
  • I is bone straight or absent of curl
  • S represents a wavy pattern or ‘S’ curl

Source: https://auntlucysfolksense.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/hair-types-hair-typing-systems-and-you/

Once you’ve identified your letters, you then move on to the second component, which involves a strand test.

Feeling shafted? Your hair strand thickness is a vital part of your hair plan

Unlike the Andre Walker system, L.O.I.S. leaves the door open for the possibility of unique variations within a hair type. It includes hair strand testing in its assessment process.

Examining a representative strand of your hair (or maybe a few if you’ve got combination hair like me) will show you if you’ve got thin, average or thick hair. Do not confuse thickness of your hair with density. Density is how closely placed together your hair strands are as they grow out of your scalp.

A common strand thickness test is to use sewing thread as a comparison. If your hair looks thinner than the piece of thread, you have thin hair. If it’s thicker, obviously you have thick hair.

Another hair strand test I stumbled across used hair from different parts of your body for comparison. For example, underarm hair is considered to be thick. If the hair on your head matches the thickness of your underarm hair then you know you’re thick. Arm hair is used to fairly represent the thin version of your hair sample.

The follicles on your scalp determine the thickness of your strands. You can have thin strands of hair with a dense covering on your scalp or thick hair with a sparse covering on your scalp. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation.

***

Interesting fact, thick and thin strands of different curl patterns look different when looking at a cross-section. Check out this image:

Photo source: https://www.britishcurlies.co.uk/2015/02/curly-girl-not-just-a-teenage-transformation-part-2/

Black hair typing beyond the curl

The final component of the LOIS system is about identifying your hair’s porosity and flatness of the cuticle layer.

Porosity refers to the rate that water is able to penetrate your hair shaft. The health of your cuticle layer will not only affect the amount of shine you can achieve, but also affect your hair’s response to water. Be warned: Some porosity is the direct result of our personal grooming habits.

Each of the following categories is identified with the name of a texture. That texture is then defined using visual reference points as well as behavioral characteristics pertaining to its ability to absorb or retain water.

  • Thready hair has a low sheen but high shine if held taut (like in a braid). It tends to be low frizz. It will wet easily but also dries quickly.
  • Wiry hair has a sparkly sheen, but low shine and low frizz. Water will bead up or bounce off the hair strands. Hair never seems to get fully wet, thus absorption is a problem.
  • Cottony hair has low sheen but high shine if held taut. It usually has high frizz and does not get thoroughly wet very fast. It takes time for water to be absorbed.
  • Spongy hair has high sheen but low shine with a compacted looking frizz. It absorbs a lot of water before it gets thoroughly wet.
  • Silky hair has low sheen and a very high shine. Due to the variable nature, it can have low or high frizz. This hair gets thoroughly wet very easily.

Knowing more allows you to do more

The L.O.I.S. system will give you a fairly well-rounded diagnosis of your hair situation, without any of that “less than” stigma.

Obviously, some hair textures will face more challenges than others when trying to achieve certain styles. Understanding the natural tendencies of your hair type will give you the ammunition you need to tame any hair dramas.

Are you a fan of the L.O.I.S.? Have you created your own hair profile to help you deal with the challenges of caring for and styling your hair? Let us know in the comments below.