Monday, 29 April 2013

What's there not to like? Well, many things actually...

So, Zainab told you what she loved about being natural last time. But let’s be honest she’s still in the honeymoon stage, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops! I’ve only been properly natural (no weaves or straightening and all the heat-damaged bits cut off) for a year and have learnt some lessons about being natural! Here’s some stuff I don’t like:

You look about two
Now that I am natural, people constantly think I’m 14 (even with make-up on). I’m not even allowed to buy a lottery ticket without ID anymore! I’m 22! Case in point: my older sister (who is in her late twenties) keeps being asked out by secondary school boys. For some reason, people associate youth with natural hair.

People look at your hair rather than look at you
When I talk to some people, I can see their eyes darting up and down as they look at me then look at my hair then look at me again. I feel like saying ‘Hey! I’m down here! Look at my face! My mouth is lower down!’ Subsequently I get self-conscious that there must be something in my hair, which leads to…

Things get stuck in your hair
Stuff will get stuck in your hair. I am dreading summer purely because of the rise of the insect population. Random bobby pins, bugs, tree branches, umbrellas, Velcro, these are some of the things that have been caught or I have found in my hair. Grr!

Your BF will put his hands in your hair
Talking about things in your hair, for some reason men love to touch women’s scalps. Maybe because they’ve been told for so long that they can’t do it, when they have the opportunity they feel like they have to take it and run. My BF likes to help me (well he thinks he’s helping) fluff my hair in the morning and he likes to touch my hair whenever he can. Forget about having a frizz-free twist out if you have a boyfriend!

On top of that… so will everyone else
Tbh, I don’t mind people touching my hair (if you politely ask first and I know you), I understand that people may not get the opportunity to touch natural afro hair ever again. But DO NOT reach out to touch unannounced (especially if I don’t know you) and DO NOT scrunch my hair from the root (African aunts are particularly fond of the latter- especially whilst exclaiming ‘Your hair is so TOUGH TOUGH TOUGH!’).

Short Hair? They don’t care!
So you’ve decided to go natural, you take the leap of doing the big chop and have super short hair. I’ll tell you this now, no-one will be interested until your hair grows out and is big and long. People will even give back-handed compliments like, ‘You’re so brave! I could NEVER do that’ or ‘You look nice, but I couldn’t go natural, women with natural hair look so… butch.’ Wait about a year then people will start saying, ‘I love your hair!’, ‘I’m gonna go natural too, I want my hair to look like yours!’ 

New things to worry about
I never worried about heat damage before, now I’m too scared to even blow-dry my hair! I’m always worried that I should be doing something to my hair to make it grow or protect the ends or keep it moisturised. I remember when my hair and I used to have a simple relationship :(

You trust NO hairdresser
I haven’t been to a hairdresser since August 2011 and I probably won’t go again for a very very long time (unless I colour my hair, I don’t think I could do that alone :S). 

Always looking the same
When my hair was short (Zainab also has this problem) there were only a handful of styles that I could do, so I always looked the same. However, when I had short hair, I didn’t know about the wealth of information available so always looking the same didn’t really bother me. But now that Zainab has Youtube and there are loads of bloggers and vloggers with super long hair and beautiful hairstyles it makes you so envious. This leads to my next point…

Impatience about hair growth
Before I went natural I was content thinking that my hair would never grow past my shoulders. But now that I know the possibilities, I just want my hair to grow long and now damn it! If my hair isn’t tucked away, I’m always tugging on it to see how long it’s grown. Length checks are my crack cocaine, I just can’t help it!

People not understanding that you don’t relax your hair
I don’t get what’s so difficult for people to understand about going natural. I like my hair like this! For example, this is a conversation I had with someone at work once:

Guy: So, why is your hair like that? Are you in between weaves or something?
Me: …No…This is my natural hair… I stopped getting weaves or relaxing my hair.
Guy: (Looking at me with squinted eyes) So you don’t relax your hair?! Or use a weave?!
Me: No.
Guy: Really?! Never?!
Me: No, I don’t feel the need to.
Guy: (Still squinting) Wow… you must be some special kind of girl…

If that’s not an odd reaction I don’t know what is! I’ve also had people accuse me of being bald (because I was wearing a headscarf, so must be covering something up) and I'm always accosted in a certain high street by hairdressers offering to do my hair. Leave me alone! I like my hair like this! Geez!

Are there any things you guys don’t like? Tell me I’m not alone!!

Maz xx 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Oh Yes Curlfriend!

Hiya guys and dolls! I’ve just been loving my natural hair recently so I thought I’d share with you guys the things I’m enjoying about my journey. It feels like so long ago that I went natural when in actual fact; it’s been less than a year! My hair has come so far… (wipes away a tear of pride) and It’s a lot less of a hassle than I thought it would be. Sounds kinda silly doesn’t it?

I’ve really been focusing on combatting the dry texture of my hair and for this, I’ve been trying out a shed load of co-washes ranging from one to three times a week. It’s made all the difference ya know! I thought they’d be such a waste of time. You hear natural bloggers and vloggers talk about them all the time but they really clean and moisturise the strands and can really target the dryness. It seems like a huge task to wash, twist and moisturise your hair three times a week but I’ve started to really enjoy the process. After spending a long portion of my journey with extensions, I found that even when I cleaned my scalp with braids in, it was never as clean as I wanted it. So having my hair out and washing it regularly makes me feel so fresh! I just love that everything I do to it makes a visible difference, whether it affects the texture, dryness or shine, so I try my best (when I have the time :S) to go the extra mile for my hair. After all, it’s doing a pretty good job keeping my ears warm here in chilly London, so I may as well do my bit :P

Here’s something I never thought I’d like, not having to worry about keeping my hair smooth all the bloody time! I’m so glad I finally accepted the fact that my hair is thick, curly and unruly! I leave it to do as it pleases when it comes to the “flyaways”. I have a full blown afro now so extra curly hairs are just part and parcel of the journey. It’s made a huge difference to the way I see my styles now. It doesn’t seem so undone, it just looks like me. It feels odd to say aloud but I never thought natural hair would suit me. I always wanted swishy hair because that was all I ever saw on TV (damn you media!) but I’m Ghanaian, damn it! My hair’s gotta curl sometime – and I love it all the more for it.

I’m also really enjoying trying out new styles on my hair. When I first wrote ‘Get empowered by your afro!’ I had only just taken my braids out and paraded my hair for all to see. Since then, the growth has been wicked (yes, I still say wicked, sorry) and my high-puff’s actually look like real puffs! My roll, tuck and pins are staying in place when I try them out and my hairstyles are all in all, not bad! Seeing the transformation is so much fun, especially since I’ve never had long-ish hair like Mariama. I can actually picture myself with shoulder length hair and it’s a tasty image! (Lol, I really get into it when I talk about my hair.)

One thing I’m enjoying more than anything is being able to share my journey with you guys! When I made it onto Curly Nikki this year I was so proud of myself. It’ll be lovely to look back at all the comments, posts and pictures much later in my journey and have everything logged onto here. I’m glad I took the plunge to cut off all my relaxed ends and step into something new. I’ve learnt so much about myself and I feel so confident! (The boys like it too, just in case you were wondering. ;) ) 

I’m hoping to blog all the things I’m loving (and possibly hating) about the journey every few months, so stay tuned for more of my antics! 

Zee xx

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Tools all naturals need!

Hello. My name is Mariama… and I am a product/hair care tool junkie. You name it, I got it! Flexi-rods (two sets, I didn’t like the first ones – poor quality), Curlformers (also two sets – I had to buy a new set when my hair grew out, luckily they’re not the real ones!), various bottles of oils, bags of decorative hair bands and pins, at least 3 different bottles of conditioners (I can’t resist a conditioner on sale), various shampoos blah, blah, blah… Seriously this list can go on for quite some time! Long story short, I have lots of hair stuff!

Once you start your natural journey, you’ll find it so much fun to try out new stuff – but it can be overwhelming figuring out how to start and what to use. If you don’t want to use all the pennies in your piggy bank, here’s a list of some items that you must have when you’re a newbie!

Detangling stuff
An essential is a wide-tooth comb. There are lots of other detangling aids like the Tangle Teezer or the Denman brush (there’s the normal one or you can get the one designed for thick/afro hair), you can even forgo combs and use your fingers. As a beginner I would suggest just a wide-tooth comb at first. 

L-R: Beautiful Textures Rapid Repair DC (doubles as a leave in), Dr Bronner's, Giovanni, Cantu Shea Butter
If you find your hair is unbearably dry, a good leave-in conditioner may be what you need! It can make all the difference to dry strands! The best leave-in conditioners have water (aqua) as their first ingredient, this means they can penetrate the cuticle and moisturise the strand from within. Good cheap ones that both Zainab and I have tried are pictured above.

L-R: Herbal Essences Hello Hydration, Frizz Ease, L'Oreal Hair Expertise, Tresemme Naturals
Secondly, a rinse-out conditioner will be your new best friend! Find a good conditioner and stick with it. It should be able to cleanse your hair like a shampoo (lots of naturals use just conditioner to wash their hair), make your hair slippery, soft and smooth.

L-R: L'Oreal Hair Expertise, Hawaiian Silky, Aussie Miracle Moist
Not all naturals use shampoos, but it’s the only thing that keeps my scalp clean. You may read or see other people totally refusing to use shampoos with sulphates in them, but I say you should try it first. I have used shampoos with and without sulphates, and to be honest the shampoos with sulphates clean my scalp the best. I have also used clay and whilst it did make my hair soft, I felt it wasn’t very cleansing (plus it made Zainab’s hair incredibly dry).

Creams and Oils
You use these to seal in the moisture (the water and leave-in). They act as a barrier to prevent the water from diffusing out of the strand. You can use a butter and an oil depending on the thickness of your hair or just one of them.
  • Butter – There are lots of different types: Shea (which Zainab and I use), Mango, Avocado. Or you can buy a cream (which is probably easier) instead of making your own.
  • Oil – Once again you can buy an already made mixture or make your own. You can use one or make a mix: Olive, Grapeseed, Jojoba, Argan, Almond, Coconut, Castor… I would suggest buying one or two cheap ones like coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil.
As I always say to Zainab, ‘stick a headband on it!’ A headband will save your hair do when it’s looking (let’s be honest) a bit crap. Stick it on your head –*poof* you have a high puff or *poof* you have a bun. I have had my hair tie since I was 12 and she hasn’t let me down yet. She may just be a scrap of black satin that I wrap around my head but she’s better than anything else!
If you’re buying an elasticated headband make sure it’s snag free (so doesn’t have a metal bit) and fits your head, there’s no point in a too tight headband (your hair will break around the band) or too loose (it won’t hold your hair).

Hair bands
I don’t use hair bands very often (my hair is too big so they always snap) but they can be very useful for sectioning, buns and puffs. You want plain snag free ones, just keep a couple on hand.

Bobby Pins
Get good quality bobby pins, not the cheap 100 for £1! You want quality ones that won’t bend up out of shape or flake at just a touch. 

Silk Scarf/Pillowcase
To sleep with, and once again you want a good quality real silk scarf and/or pillowcase. It’s worth it believe me, you’re going to be using it for (probably) the rest of your life, so don’t be afraid to spend a little money. I got mine from the Topshop sale but you can check eBay, ASOS and other retailers. If you still wanna be cheap, Primark sell sateen scarves that feel kinda the same (but after a wash or two they don’t really hold up well).

Hair clips
For sectioning when detangling and styling, try and get ones without teeth so your hair won’t get caught on them. The best ones are the butterfly clips.

Buy a pair of hair scissors and do not use them for anything else! Hair shears are extremely sharp so they actually make a clean cut through the hair, rather than splitting the strands. If you use them to cut other materials, like paper, the blades will become duller with each snip. So if you catch your Dad trying to use your scissors to descale fish (sigh – yes this is my life), snatch them and run!

So that’s all you need! Take this list to your local shop and demand for a shop assistant to help you build up your hair collection!

Maz xx

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Third time's the charm!

Erm... this is only the half of it :P

There are so many products out on the market and with the growth of the natural hair community via sites such as YouTube, it makes buying products difficult! So what’s our solution? We buy everything that’s out there until our cupboards overflow. It ain’t easy and it’s anything but gentle on our pockets! I decided one day after seeing Jane Carter Solution Hydrating Invigorating Shampoo that it was worth really testing how it worked. (A product review will be coming soon!) I began trying new products at least 3 times to see how my hair reacted. It’s really important to try new products, but at the same time, what works for one naturalista may not work for another. No two people are the same and in that sense, no two hair types are either. There are a few things people may look for when buying and testing a new product and these will be the same few things I will use to review my products along the way. So this is my guide to trying a product before you give it away, sell it or bin it.
  1. Consistency – Is it what you expected? When I buy a conditioner I avoid the overly watery ones. They never seem to penetrate the hair shaft meaning my hair is dry and my money is wasted. Instead, I opt for the thicker and creamier types. By shaking the bottle, I can decide whether the product will be thick enough to really make a difference to my dry 4c hair.
  2. Scent – I like fruity and fresh smells so anything too perfumed is a massive put off. The scent is important because if you like to layer products (the whole leave-in, oil and butter method) you may end up with a scent that is overpowering and slightly sickly.  :S
  3. Moisturisationess -  (A bit of a made up one lol) How does your hair feel after using it? Your main aim is to make sure it keeps your hair moisturised. If your hair is like mine you want to ensure the overall texture has improved. No your hair won’t become like a 3a natural, but it should become softer and more manageable if the product is doing its job.
  4. Slip – Is the product able to really remove knots whilst adding moisture? I find that majority of the cheaper conditioners don’t have enough slip until oil is added to enhance the product. Basically, you shouldn’t have to add something to it before it does its job) I usually go with the idea that what feels good for my skin, feels good for my hair. This is my general consensus as usually after a long detangling process, my fingertips feel “buttery” (I like making up words lol) if the product is doing a good job on my tresses.
  5. Price – A very important point! Is the product worth the price? No matter how cheap it is, I feel cheated if it ends up not working. Especially when I know I was broke when I paid for it, haha! Hair products like Moroccan oil are expensive but if they do the job, it’s fine by me!
These are the only things I wanna look for when I buy something and then I re-evaluate these points after every use. Smelling the product is kinda hard with shop assistants staring at you but get in, get out and it’s alright! Stay tuned for a few product reviews guys and dolls.

Zee xx

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Curl Class 8: Porosity & Density

So this is the final Curl Class *sob sob* - me? I’m not crying! It’s just a hair in my eye! In this final class I’ll tell you a bit about two more properties of your hair: density & porosity!

Density refers to the actual number of hairs growing from your scalp and partly influences if your hair is ‘thick’ or ‘thin’. It varies according to hair colour so blondes tend to have the highest number of strands followed by brunettes (black hair is brown - no hair is completely black unless artificially coloured that way) then redheads. I know you’re thinking ‘but redheads always seem to have such big bouncy hair!’ This is also true, because our clever body uses our strand thickness to balance out the density; as the strand number decreases, the thickness of each strand is increased1. So whilst redheads may tend to have fewer follicles, their strands are coarser and vice versa with blondes who usually have fine hair but lots of it. Brunettes are in the middle so can have a mixture of fine and coarse hair (which is true of my hair). Alternatively they can have fine thin hair, coarse thick hair, fine thick hair or coarse thin hair.

Having less hair on your head also means that you have fewer follicles so produce less sebum. This and the difficulty sebum has traveling down the strand, means coarse afro hair ends has to be moisturised often to reduce breakage. Fine afro hair has to be cleaned (preferably with a conditioner) more often to prevent the build up of sebum on the scalp.

Tyra Banks has thin and fine hair (although you'll never really know as her hair is relaxed - I think!)
Solange Knowles has hair that is thick but a mix of strands so when straightened is 'normal'
Oprah Winfrey has voluminous hair when straightened or curly so has thick, coarse hair
Unfortunately for afro hair there is no easy way to determine whether it is thick or thin as it forms such tight kinky curls giving the appearance of having lots of volume. (Even some hair stylists don’t know, evident from the fact that in an episode of Extreme Makeover a hairdresser thought a woman’s natural hair was too thick so he cut it off in rows at the root! It was coily so of course it looked thick!) The only advice I can give is to learn for yourself (crap advice, I know) and you won’t truly know if you are relaxed, because afro hair isn’t made to be straight so will always look thinner when straightened. Zainab used to think her hair was thin when she was relaxed, but when she went natural found out she has A LOT of coarse hair.

The last hair characteristic you should know about is porosity! Porosity is the number of pores located on your hair shaft. Remember when I told you about the scaly nature of the cuticle? (No! Well read it here then!) The scales can either lay parallel to the strand over one another or open up and expose the medulla. The more ‘open’ your cuticle is the more porous it is. This affects how well you can absorb and lose water and other helpful (or not so helpful) chemicals.

Low porosity hair finds it difficult to absorb molecules as the scales are closed, so when applying conditioner or creams it may seem to resist the product. To open up the cuticle and aid absorption you’ll have to leave the product on for a longer time and possibly use heat in the form of double (or triple) shower caps and hair dryers. But once the product is absorbed it’s locked in for good!

High porosity hair easily absorbs anything. Because the scales are open, products can easily pass into the hair shaft so the hair is easily moisturised. But this also causes the hair shaft to easily lose moisture as it leaves just as easily as it came in. Therefore high porosity hair will need to be moisturised more often to retain that soft feeling.
A damaged strand of hair with very high porosity
Straightened, relaxed or dyed hair is much more porous than natural hair as the disulphide bonds holding the layers of the cuticle down have been broken. This means they need to be deep conditioned more often to retain moisture and stop breakage – especially dyed hair if it has been bleached!2,3 This also indicates that you won’t know your natural porosity state until you grow out the altered part of your hair.

Some people believe that you can find out how porous your hair is by placing clean hair in water and seeing if sinks or floats, however this is a myth. Even shampoo and conditioner changes the porosity of your hair (as does combing during detangling) and it changes from the top of the strand to the bottom and between individual hairs3. So how do you find out if your hair is porous? With an electron microscope of course! Wait… you don’t own an electron microscope?! Oh… well the other option is to just figure it out throughout your journey. (Once again, not amazing advice.)

Maz xx

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Curl Class 7: The LOIS Hair Typing System

The LOIS system is simpler than the Andre Walker system. I personally prefer this system just because it causes fewer arguments (yes, people actually argue about hair types! Who cares that much?!) as it is based on the individual strand which is pretty much set and easily visible.

It uses several properties to work out your hair type (or whose hair ‘daughter’ you are):
  • The pattern of your strands 
  • The thickness of your strands 
  • Hair texture 
  • Sheen or shine.
Hair Pattern
The LOIS system R-L: L-type (the L is in purple), O type is coily, I is straight, S is wavy
Take a couple of shed hairs (rather than just pulling a hair out of your head) after washing and place them on a surface where they’re visible and just compare it to the chart. Your hair can be a mixture of any of these shapes - my hair is mainly O with some L and a teeny bit of S in the front. So I am daughter LOS.

Hair Thickness
The best way to determine your hair thickness is to compare the strands of hair of your head to other parts of your body that have coarse, medullated hair. Unfortunately the main places include down… there (I’m talking about your fanny, just in case you don’t get hints!) or your armpits. If it’s as thick as the strands down there, you have coarse hair. You can also compare it to your arm hair, as they’re very thin, if the strand is about the same size you have thin hair. If it’s in between both of these it’s normal. Once again you can have a mixture of various thicknesses on your head.

The difference between shine (L) and sheen (R)
There are other properties that also may be helpful in your hair journey:
  • Hair should be shiny when it is pulled straight (or straightened with heat or a relaxer) as it reflects light along the length of the strand. This is what all those hair adverts show when they have the models swishing around their locks. All healthy hair should have a shine, whether low or high; if it doesn’t your hair is dry.
  • Sheen is the sparkly effect hair produces in the light.
  • Thready hair has low sheen but high shine when straight and doesn’t really frizz. Thready hair quickly gets wet and dry.
  • Wiry hair has high sheen, low shine and low frizz. Wiry hair reflects water so never seems to be fully wet when washing.
  • Cottony hair has low sheen but high shine when straight and easily gets frizzy. It absorbs water quickly but because the water goes into the strand it doesn’t seem to get wet quickly.
  • Spongy hair has a high sheen but low shine and frizzes in parts (so when you twist it over the week it will frizz but stay in sections). The strands absorb water before becoming thoroughly wet.
  • Silky hair has low sheen and very high shine. The frizz varies from high to low and it easily gets wet.
Next time, I’ll be talking about porosity and density and then the Curl Classes will be finished. Wahey!

Maz xx