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Beginner Wednesday – Transitioning from relaxed to natural hair

22 Feb

A few years ago I went through a stint where I kept my hair natural for 4 years.  The reason I chose to go natural at the time was because I was pregnant and decided I would go relaxer free until I had stopped breastfeeding my first baby.  I then became pregnant with my second child and so didn’t relax my hair until I had stopped breastfeeding him.  It was a personal decision where I also gave up other things like coffee.  Unfortunately I did not have any hair care knowledge at the time so all I did was braid and wear weaves back to back for 4 years.  I hardly moisturised and washed my hair irregularly.  I hardly deep conditioned my hair.  The result was that my hair broke and my hairline was seriously damaged.  After a few months I went to a hairdresser and asked her to cut off the relaxed ends so I was fully natural.  After 4 years of being natural I decided to relax my hair again and I have kept it relaxed since.

Many readers of this blog are either in the process of going natural or are thinking about it.  I thought I would dedicate a post to those who are relaxed and have decided to go natural as well as those who are in the process of going natural.

To begin with, I need to explain that relaxing is a chemical process that results in permanent changes to the hair structure.  It cannot be washed out or reversed.  The only way to get rid of relaxed hair is to cut it off.

There are two ways to go from relaxed to natural – a ‘big chop’ (also referred to as BC) or transitioning.  A big chop is simply cutting off all the relaxed hair and remaining with only your natural hair.  This can be quite a sudden change especially if your relaxed hair is long.  Transitioning on the other hand is more gradual.  This post will focus on transitioning.

Like I said above, transitioning to natural hair is a gradual process.  When transitioning you trim your hair regularly and gradually get rid of the relaxed ends until all your hair is natural.  This can take quite a bit of time depending on how much hair you trim and also how often you trim it.  Some women even transition for 2 years.

When transitioning to natural hair there are some things to take note of:

  • Care need to be taken when you have two hair textures i.e. natural hair as well as the relaxed ends.  The line of demarcation where the natural hair meets the relaxed ends is quite fragile.  This is why in some cases you do not cut your hair but over time you realise you have hardly any relaxed ends left.  It’s because they have broken off!
  • Be very gentle with the hair.  Detangle from the ends towards the roots to prevent unnecessary breakage.  Remember that the line of demarcation makes your hair very fragile.  Always detangle with a wide tooth comb when your hair is wet and slippery with conditioner.
  • Make sure your hair is adequately moisturised.  Deep condition the hair regularly, once a week if possible.  If you choose to braid or weave the hair while transitioning, remember that your hair will need moisture even with these styles.
  • Practice more protective styling to help reduce breakage.
  • Use as little heat as possible.  Try and resist the temptation to flat iron your hair to match the two textures.
  • You may find that you need to change your products and use products more suited to natural hair.  Many women find that natural based products work best for natural hair.  Also the focus becomes more on moisturising and softening the natural hair.
  • Once again moisture, moisture moisture!!  Natural hair needs moisture!

Remember the idea is to trim the hair gradually until all the relaxed hair is cut off.  You can trim the hair every few months or whatever suits you.  Look after your hair to prevent unnecessary breakage.

Are you transitioning from relaxed to natural hair?  How is it going?





Beginner Wednesday – Conditioner Washing

14 Dec

Conditioner washing (or co washing) is simply what the name suggests – washing the hair with conditioner.  It is quite a popular practice especially with women with natural hair and those who work out regularly.  Co washing helps the hair retain moisture especially if you like to wash your hair often and want to avoid the drying effects of sulphates in shampoos.  Co washing keeps the hair moisturised while also keeping the scalp clean.

To co wash you simply use the conditioner like a shampoo.  First rinse your hair for a few minutes with water.  Apply the conditioner onto the hair and lather.  Rinse out the conditioner.  If you like, you can apply the conditioner again and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing. Most women use cheaper conditioners to co wash as the conditioner is only left on for a few minutes before rinsing off.  It seems like a waste to use a more expensive conditioner and simply rinse it off after a few minutes.

I have tried co washing before.  I tried it while on holiday in a very hot place.  It was so hot that my hair was feeling dry especially when I went outside.  I decided to try co washing to help keep my hair moisturised.  I used VO5 Moisture Milk Strawberries and Cream Moisturising Conditioner.  I bought this conditioner after looking for reviews on hair boards.  This particular conditioner came highly recommended for co washes.  I must say co washing worked for me then.  I would co wash daily then bun my hair while wet.  It really helped to keep my hair moisturised.

When co washing you may find that you need to shampoo your hair occasionally to get rid of eventual build up especially if the conditioner you use has silicones.

Beginner Wednesday – Why is my hair breaking?

23 Nov

In today’s post I will just list some of the most common reasons why we encounter hair breakage:

  • Overlapping relaxers.  Remember to only relax new growth and wait at least 6 weeks in between relaxers to avoid overlap.  Overlapping relaxers causes over processing which leads to breakage.
  • Dry hair that is not getting enough moisture.  Ensure you are moisturising your hair adequately.  African hair needs moisture to thrive.
  • Styling techniques – Be wary of braids or weaves that are too tight.  These can lead to breakage.  It often becomes a cycle where you get braid or weaves to hide breakage but those same braids and weaves are just worsening the breakage you are experiencing.  Avoid any hairstyle that is too tight.
  • Hair colour can be damaging if used too often especially hair colour that involves bleaching hair and making it lighter.  Remember that lightening your hair involves removing your original colour (called lifting) and then depositing the new colour.  This can be a damaging process.
  • Over manipulation of hair, rough combing or rough brushing can lead to unnecessary breakage.  Use a wide tooth comb to detangle your hair.  It is not necessary to use those ‘tailcombs’ to comb your hair.
  • Excessive heat styling from flat irons, hot blow dryers etc can be damaging to the hair.  Always use a heat protectant when using heat.
  • Medical conditions and various treatment procedures can also lead to hair breakage. In such cases, once you stop the particular treatment or are cured from the ailment, the hair breakage will stop.

Read this post for more on hair breakage

Beginner Wednesday – Have you heard about baggying?

16 Nov

Today I thought I would talk about something I am yet to try.  It’s called ‘baggying’.  Baggying is beneficial when you have really dry hair and are struggling to keep it moisturised.

To baggy you apply a small amount of a water based moisturiser to your hair and then place a shower cap over your hair for a few hours to overnight.  The shower cap adds moisture to your hair by trapping in the heat.  Once you take off the shower cap your hair is moisturised.  Moisturised hair leads to less breakage as well as length retention.  You can also baggy just the ends of your hair.  This is done by gathering your hair into a ponytail, applying moisturiser to the ponytail and then covering the hair in the ponytail with a shower cap or a plastic sandwich bag (hence the term baggying).

Some tips for baggying:

  •  Use a small amount of moisturiser.
  • Use a shower cap, sandwich bag, cling wrap or even a plastic bag from the supermarket.
  • Do not baggy too often as your hair can become over moisturised.  Begin with baggying for a few hours and see how that goes.  Remember the aim is to keep your hair, in particular the ends moist and hydrated.
  • If you do not like the sound a shower cap makes while you sleep, use cling wrap.  It is silent!

If you are suffering from chronic dryness with your hair maybe you can give this a try.

Beginner Wednesday – Length Retention

9 Nov

Today the topic is retention!  Simply put retention refers to retaining / keeping the hair on our heads and minimising breakage.  Everyone’s hair grows (barring a medical condition).  The problem comes in retaining our growth so that we gain length.  Relaxed ladies often complain around 6 weeks post relaxer that they are struggling with the new growth.  This will happen several times a year yet at the end of the year the hair is still the same length as it was at the beginning of the year.  All this new growth does not translate into length.  This is due to a lack of retention.  If you want to increase the length of your hair you have to retain your hair.  The one thing black women with waist length hair have in common is hair retention.  They have retained the hair that they have grown.  Our hair grows on average between 2 and 3 cm a month.  This is often not reflected in our hair length.

Right now my hair is longer than it’s ever been.  In the past my hair would never grow past my shoulders.  When I began taking care of my hair, I went from shoulder length (SL) to arm pit length (APL) which is the length my hair is now.  Right now, my goal is to grow my hair to bra strap length (BSL).  I am doing everything I can to make this happen!!  I estimate I am about 10cm away.

So what can you do to retain your hairs length?  Read on…

  • Use minimal heat.  Try and use as little direct heat (flat iron, blow dryers) as possible.  Wherever possible air dry your hair.  You can wrap your hair to straighten it or you can air dry it in braids if it natural in order to loosen the curl.  When you do use heat make sure to use a heat protectant.  Roller sets are also a great way of straightening the hair without heat.
  • Use low manipulation.  If possible finger comb / style your hair.  Be gentle when combing the hair.  Being rough on the hair only leads to excess and unnecessary breakage.  A wide tooth comb is a great tool to have.  If your hair is natural do not comb it while it is dry, wet or moisturise the hair first.  Comb hair from the ends towards the roots.  This will also minimise breakage.
  • Keep hair moisturised.  African hair thrives on moisture and dry hair is susceptible to breakage.    When moisturising make sure you concentrate on the ends.  The ends are the oldest part of the hair and are also prone to breakage.  Keeping the ends moisturised will prevent the ends drying out and breaking.  If you are not seeing an increase in your hairs length it is most likely that your ends are breaking.  If you want to see an increase in length, hold on to those ends.
  • You can seal the ends of your hair with a natural oil or butter after moisturising.
  • Let go of split and damaged ends.  If you have split and damaged ends, they will need to be trimmed.  They cannot be repaired contrary to what some products claim.  You can trim them gradually by cutting a bit over a length of time.  On the other hand you can cut the damage out completely in one go.  Do not be scissor happy though!  This will eliminate the length you are trying to achieve.  Only trim when there is a need.
  • Practice protective styling.  Some women see great results with protective styling.  This is when you protect the ends of your hair with styles like buns, wigs, braids, weaves.  Protective styles are only beneficial where no damage is inflicted on the hair or hairline.
  • A good diet is essential to optimal hair health.  Where your diet is not great you can take multivitamins to supplement your nutrition.

Remember good hair practices are only as effective as the techniques you use to retain length.  You can look after your hair very well but if you comb it roughly and it breaks then all the hair care is in vain.

So what do you do to retain length?

Beginner Wednesday – Lets talk about sealing

2 Nov

The topic this week is ‘sealing’.  The purpose behind sealing the hair is to prevent the escape of moisture from the hair shaft.  Sealing also protects the hair from splitting at the ends.  The most popular products to seal are natural oils as well as butters.  Hair oils and butters slow down water loss from the hair when used to seal.  They form a barrier preventing the water from escaping as fast.  Some women even choose to use petroleum based products.  The whole idea is to prevent moisture loss from the hair strand.  The hair needs to have moisture to begin with.  You can use a leave in conditioner, a water based moisturiser or simply wet / damp your hair with water.

So how do you go about sealing your hair –:

  • Wash and deep condition your hair as usual (see articles on washing and deep conditioning for more information)
  • Apply a water based leave in or a water based moisturiser to the hair. (see this article on choosing a moisturiser)
  • Apply the oil or hair butter to seal in the moisture.  There are many oils to choose from e.g. jojoba, castor, coconut, sweet almond, grapeseed, flaxseed.  I could fill a whole page with a list of oils.  It all depends on preference.  Some women like heavy oils while some prefer light oils.  Some hair brands sell a mix of several oils.  Some women mix their own oils to get their preferred blend.  There are many options.  Hair butters include Shea Butter and Mango Butter.  Some hair brands make hair butters too.  Applying the oils or butters keeps the moisturising products within the hair strands.
  • Proceed to style your hair as usual

The idea behind the above is to apply the moisturiser and oils in layers to the length of the hair, concentrating on the ends.  Seal you hair on the days that you wash it.  You can moisturise and seal every day if you prefer.  Find what works for you. Some choose to seal only on wash days and just moisturise on other days.  I moisturise and seal each day.

Take a look at this video by Sunshyne of Hairlista.  It’s an old video but it shows how she moisturises and seals her hair.  I learnt to moisturise and seal from this video and I have adapted this to suit me.

The oils I use to seal are:

  • Organic Root Stimulator Nature’s Shine
  • African Pride Maximum Strengthening Growth Oil (I like this one because it has some protein in it)
  • Wheatgerm Oil
  • Castor Oil
  • Coconut Oil

So do you seal?  How do you do it and what do you use?

Beginner Wednesday – Moisturisers 101

26 Oct

This week we focus on moisturisers.  When you wash and deep condition your hair you follow this up with a moisturiser (some use a leave in conditioner).   You then use an oil / butter to seal in the moisture from the wash, deep condition and moisturiser.  There are some oils that penetrate the hair shaft (e.g. coconut oil).  These have the added benefit that they will nourish the hair as well.

As I have often said before, African hair thrives on moisture.  It needs moisture for it to be healthy.  Most of the steps in African hair care including washing and deep conditioning are done with the aim of adding moisture to the hair.   A mistake that is often made is thinking that grease (that old school hair food!) is moisturising.  Grease cannot moisturise your hair.  Some women have success with it for sealing in moisture but grease by itself cannot moisturise.  If you are relying on grease to moisturise your hair you find that you end up having greasy, oily hair but it still feels dry.  Also it is prone to breakage and you do not retain any length.  You need a proper moisturiser.

You need to be consistent when it comes to moisturising hair.  It needs to be incorporated into a regular hair care regimen.  I moisturise my hair every morning.  Sometimes, if the weather is extremely hot or if I have spent a lot of time outdoors then I will moisturise it again before bed.  There are some women who moisturise their hair twice a day, every day.  As with all things that are hair related, find what works for you and your hair. 

There are two types of moisturisers available for hair:

1.          Water based moisturisers

In these moisturisers water is the first ingredient.  Water is the best moisturiser there is!

2.          Oil based moisturisers

In these moisturisers, oils are the first ingredients and water is lower down the list.  They are popular with women who have straightened their natural hair as water based moisturisers can cause the straightened natural hair to revert.   To use them properly, you need to make sure that you have already moisturised your hair with washing as well as conditioning. 

You can make your own moisturiser spritz by mixing water with any combination of other ingredients like glycerin, aloe vera, rose water, natural oils and  a few drops of essential oils.  You can even add a bit of conditioner to the spritz.  These spritzes are especially beneficial to those that wear their hair natural as they soften while they moisturise.  Braid sprays are also great moisturisers too.

Many women (including myself) get good results with moisturisers that contain humectants (ingredients that attract water from the atmosphere) like glycerin.  There are several available but I use Scurl Activator Moisturiser.  I know Revlon and Easy Waves also make glycerin based moisturisers.  These moisturisers were popular years ago for curly permed hair but their popularity has moved to women with relaxed and natural hair.

Avoid moisturisers that contain mineral oil or any other petroleum based product in the first few ingredients. Mineral oil does nothing but coat the hair leaving it shiny but dry.  Some have no problem with mineral oil low down the ingredient list.  I personally avoid mineral oil in the first 3 ingredients.  Such products do nothing for me. Also avoid excessive silicones which can cause buildup.

Right now I have the following moisturisers which I use interchangeably depending on how my hair is feeling:

  •         Scurl Activator Moisturiser
  •         Organic Root Stimulator Carrot Oil (the name is misleading, it’s a moisturiser!)
  •         Elasta QP Olive Oil and Mango Butter
  •         Organic Root Stimulator Oil Moisturising Hair Lotion
  •         Yes To Cucumbers Leave In Conditioner