Camping was a foundational part of my childhood. Every summer, my extended family would plan two to three trips to the beautiful provincial parks of Alberta. We would either stay in our tent trailer, an Alpine Club of Canada hut, or tents depending on how remote our campsite was. Access to water was quite limited and we had to pack light, which meant no room for extraneous items like hair care supplies.
Whether your regimen is minimalist or high maintenance, every naturalista needs her holy grail kit to keep her curls popping. But when you've got to choose between packing camping essentials and your fave styling gel, it's a no-brainer: the hair stuff stays home. This generally wasn't a big deal for our shorter trips. My hair would usually be tucked away in box braids or cornrows ― styles that could survive a weekend without fuss. Longer trips took a bit more planning, though. If we were going away for a week or two, I'd try to get my hair done as close to our departure date as possible to maximize the longevity of the protective style. This way, I wouldn't need to touch it up during the trip and could get away with shampooing just once if necessary.
If you're going camping or travelling for an extended period of time, I recommend sticking to the easiest styles and simplest products you can find. The last thing you want to do is spend hours detangling your hair in the woods when you could be enjoying the gorgeous scenery. Here are some suggestions:
Buns are fantastic for short trips because you don't have to spend any time installing them, and they do a decent job keeping your coils out of the way. Big cornrows, flat twists, and Bantu knots are better options if you don't want to restyle your hair every morning, but because they won't last longer than a few days before getting fuzzy, you should consider medium to small ones for week-long trips. Most naturalistas are able to keep braids, twists, and weaves in for anywhere between two and eight weeks, making them ideal for trips longer than seven nights.
Of course, some lucky people get to travel for months and months at a time. Should you be on the road for over eight weeks, I would suggest braids or twists ― but only with your own hair. Taking down extension hair in the wilderness is very difficult and time-consuming. You can literally shave hours off this process by braiding or twisting your own hair, taking it down after a few weeks, giving it a good wash, and reinstalling the style while sitting by the campfire.
If you're wondering why I haven't mentioned twist outs, braid outs, or wash-and-go's, it's because those styles are wayyyy to high maintenance for camping. Moreover, you'll be in big trouble if it rains or you decide to take a dip in the lake! That said, I'm sure many people have no issues travelling with their afros out and you're certainly welcome to try it if you want, but I prefer to keep the number of things I need to worry about to a minimum.
No matter what you decide, make sure you're doing what you can to keep your hair healthy while you travel. Remember to moisturize regularly and protect it from the elements. And try not to worry about it so much! It'll keep growing no matter what, so just relax and have a fantastic vacation.
How do you keep your hair healthy while travelling? Share with us in a comment below!
Because kinky, coily afro hair is prone to dryness and breakage, it's super important for us to keep it well-oiled and moisturized. Regularly sealing in moisture with oils is critical to any healthy natural hair regimen, and the benefits can be super-charged with weekly or bi-weekly hot oil treatments. But many naturalistas complain that they don't have time for hot oil treatments, which can last anywhere from half-an-hour to overnight. If you're short on time but still want to give your hair a boost, keep reading.
WHAT'S A HOT OIL TREATMENT?
Oils like coconut, castor, and jojoba are fantastic for locking moisture (water) into natural hair. They do this by repelling water molecules, thereby trapping them inside the hair shaft. When oil is heated, it helps the cuticles (scale-like coverings) along the hair shaft open up so the hair can better absorb the water and nutrients in the oils.
WHAT'S THE POINT?
As previously mentioned, hot oil treatments encourage our hair to absorb moisture and nutrients. If you use a light enough oil you might not have to rinse it out after, but one of the main advantages of doing the treatment is that it serves as an excellent pre-poo. A pre-poo is a treatment that's done before shampooing. Many shampoos contain ingredients that are very drying and strip the hair of too much oil, which can weaken the strands and lead to knotting and breakage. A pre-poo, such as a hot oil treatment, ensures enough oil remains in the hair and on the scalp to prevent dryness.
SO HOW DO YOU DO ONE?
There are many different ways you can do a hot oil treatment, but generally you want to use at least one carrier oil and, if you like, one or more essential oils. A carrier oil is necessary to dilute essential oils, which can be so potent they can burn you if used in high concentrations. For this reason, you only need to put a few drops of essential oil into a tablespoon of a carrier oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, etc.
Speaking of burns, be careful to not heat the oil too much. Ten to fifteen seconds in the microwave or 5-10 mins in a hot water bath should be enough. If it's too hot to touch with your fingers, wait for it to cool down. Spritz your hair with a moisturizer like water and/or aloe vera juice, then apply the hot oil treatment to your hair and scalp. Most people typically leave the treatment in for at least 20-30 mins, and some even wait until the next day to rinse it out.
WHAT IF YOU'RE SHORT ON TIME?
Waiting around for the oils to work their magic can be a deal-breaker for those of us on tight schedules. Here are a few ways you can speed up the process:
This may seem like a lot of steps, but with practice you'll likely be able to do the whole process in under ten minutes. Depending on how your hair is styled, you might even be able to get away with not taking your hair down before applying the treatment. Just make sure you focus on your scalp and your own hair, rather than any extension hair, and rinse it out properly to avoid product build-up.
How do you save time in your regimen? Share your tips in a comment below!
The other day a friend of mine opened up to me about one of her fears. She explained that although her hair is healthy now, she heard it will likely get thinner when she's older. It turns out a lot of people have this concern. Female pattern hair loss isn't uncommon and can occur for many reasons, including natural causes like pregnancy and aging as I covered in a previous post. To some people this may seem like a frivolous thing to worry about, but the state of your hair can actually indicate a lot about your overall health. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to grow stronger hair while taking care of your general wellbeing.
1. Seal with Castor Oil - Many naturalistas swear by the effects of castor oil because of its ability to lock in moisture. Moisture is necessary for both softening hair and strengthening it against breakage. Because it's a thicker oil, it's easier to apply when slightly warmed up. Just make sure you use it only when your hair and scalp are damp in order to maximize its benefits. Castor oil is also known to treat skin problems like acne and dryness. Some people also use it for constipation and menstrual cramps. (HomeRemediesWeb.com)
2. Use Gentle Tools - One of the easiest ways to promote thicker hair is to prevent breakage while detangling and styling. Using your fingers and gentle tools like wide tooth combs and ouchless hair elastics will minimize the amount of tugging and snagging that each strand endures. The less stress your hair is under, the more it will flourish.
3. Practice Protective Styling - Another method of avoiding breakage is to keep your hair tucked away in long-term styles, such as braids, cornrows, and twists. These hairstyles greatly reduce the amount of manipulation your hair undergoes by allowing you to rock the same look for several days or even weeks at a time. Not having to fix your hair each day gives your scalp and strands a much-needed rest, thereby encouraging growth.
4. Get Your Fluids - We're all aware of how crucial it is for mental and physical health to stay hydrated, but did you know drinking water is an easy way to maintain healthy skin and hair? That's because the cells in the hair follicles at your roots require water to function properly. Water also staves off dandruff, itchiness, and other scalp-related issues by keeping the skin moisturized. While you may think it's enough to regularly spritz your hair with a water-based solution, it doesn't hurt to moisturize from the inside out, too, by drinking fluids and eating juicy fruits and vegetables.
5. Eat a Balanced, Protein-Rich Diet - Hair is made of keratin, which is a form of protein. Your body needs to take in protein regularly to grow new hair, and contrary to popular belief, meat isn't your only option. Broccoli, asparagus, kale, almonds and soybeans are all high in protein. (MindBodyGreen.com) You can also opt for fortified foods like soy milk and yogurt that have added protein, or try protein bars or supplements.
How do you keep your hair healthy? Share with us in a comment below!
With all the new regimens, month-long challenges, and novel products constantly being released, we naturalistas are able to enjoy a wealth of hair care knowledge that has never existed before. A few years ago it was impossible to find information online about how to do your own box braids. Now, I can't even count how many braiding tutorial videos are on YouTube. Better access to information about natural hair care has obvious benefits: it allows us to celebrate our natural beauty and indulge in self-love while rocking amazing hairstyles! However, sometimes it can be overwhelming to sift through all the advice －especially when some of it seems contradictory.
Take, for example, the issue of detangling natural hair. For the longest time the afro pick was the universal tool for getting tangles and knots out of kinky/coily hair. In fact I remember my Mom using an afro pick for all sorts of purposes. After detangling, she would use it to create parts, and while she was styling, she would even use it as a clip to keep stray hairs out of her way. Despite the incredible usefulness of the afro pick, it (and other similar combs) face growing competition from another school of thought: the finger detangling method.
Finger detangling is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of passing through your strands with a comb to remove knots and tangles, you instead create small sections of hair and gently pull each apart until, theoretically, every strand has been separated from its neighbours. If done properly the results of combing and finger detangling are pretty much the same, but not everyone agrees that these two methods are perfect substitutes.
As you can see, it's a bit of a tossup between the two. It's up to you to know what your curls need and to decide which option is best to maintain healthy, happy hair. Of course no one is forcing you to pick one, either. Many naturalistas (including me!) alternate methods depending on the circumstances. Regardless of what you choose you'll need the right tools to get started.
TOP DETANGLING COMBS
TOP DETANGLING PRODUCTS
Do you prefer to comb or finger detangle your hair? Why? Share in a comment below!
MORE TIPS FOR YOUR NATURAL HAIR
How to Keep Your Scalp Squeaky Clean Between Washes
How to Find the Best Blow Dryer for Curly Hair
Do You Need a Hair Mask?
It's so easy to find a good hair dryer these days. A quick search on Amazon will result in thousands of matches, each boasting an array of attractive benefits. However, if you're specifically looking for hair dryers designed with curls and coils in mind, the hunt becomes a bit tricky. When shopping for a hair drier for your natural hair, you should consider the following:
Now that you know how to choose a proper blow dryer, here's a list of some of the best hair driers for natural hair (you're welcome!).
What's your favourite hairstyling tool? Share in a comment below!
If you think Nicki Minaj is to thank (or blame) for the growing popularity of wigs, you'll be interested to learn that humans have been actually been wearing wigs for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians were known to shave their heads and instead wear wigs to protect their scalps from the blazing sun (Encyclopedia). In the 1600s, men of status donned enormous powdered wigs to signify their wealth and virility (Cracked).
While the wig once symbolized power and prestige, today it's mostly considered a costume item. People don't really take wigs seriously anymore, and the practice of doing so has even become contentious in the natural hair community. Some people argue that wigs shouldn't be considered natural because they mask the wearer's true curls much like a relaxer does. Conversely, others state that if the wearer's hair is unprocessed and free of chemicals underneath, then s/he is natural regardless. No matter which side of the debate you fall on there are indisputable benefits to wearing a wig.
In order to enjoy these benefits, though, you've got to make sure your wig is installed and maintained correctly. Here are some tips:
What's your stance on wigs? Are they a staple in your wardrobe or just a Halloween accessory?
Share your thoughts in a comment below!
If you've ever researched ways to grow long, healthy, and strong hair, you've probably come across advice suggesting you try a hair mask. In the past few years they've become an increasingly popular addition to hair care regimens for people with all hair types. Essentially, a hair mask is a blend of moisture-rich ingredients that is designed to deliver nutrients to your hair by penetrating the strands for a period of time.
There are a number of benefits to doing weekly(ish) hair masks. First, they're extremely easy to make. If you've got access to a fridge or a pantry, you can make a hair mask. Common ingredients include honey, eggs, avocado, coconut oil, mayonnaise, and banana. Here are some great DIY hair treatment recipes I've found. Hair masks are also quite simple to apply. Unlike other treatments that require professional expertise, hair masks can be made without non-toxic ingredients, which makes them much healthier and safer for you to try by yourself. Hair masks are also a great excuse to feel pampered! Many women in particular find the experience rather luxurious because it allows them time to soak in a warm bath or paint their nails while the mask sits. Lastly, but arguably most importantly, the results of hair masks can be seen pretty quickly. I personally have noticed that my hair feels softer right after rinsing out a hair mask. This means my hair is easier to detangle and comb after washing, which leads to fewer knots and split ends over time.
Regardless of whether or not your hair is damaged, hair masks are a great way to promote health and encourage growth. If you don't have the time or energy to mix your own hair mask you can find plenty of pre-made options in stores and online. In fact there are so many options out there the choice can be daunting, so I've done a little homework to give you a head start.
FOR HEALTHIER HAIR
Curl Therapy Softening Hair Mask by Carol's Daughter
Essential Shea Mask by Fekkai
Nourishing Mask by amika
DRY HAIR SOLUTIONS
Hydrating Argan Oil Hair Mask and Deep Conditioner by Arvazallia
Deep Repair Mask by Macadamia Oil
Salon Grade Hair Mask and Deep Conditioner by Rio Cabello
OILY HAIR SOLUTIONS
Argan Oil Treatment by Agadir
Miracle Hair Mask by It's A 10
You Are Beautiful Fine Conditioning Mask by Ken Paves
FOR COLOUR-TREATED HAIR
Colorcaretherapie Color Bloom Masque by Matrix Biolage
Argan Oil 7 Moisture Healing Mask by Nelson j Beverly Hills
Do you have a favourite hair mask product or recipe? Share with us in a comment below!
I don't like to make generalizations, but I must say that Black women (and some Black men) really don't like to get their hair wet. Regardless of whether we're relaxed or natural, water simply doesn't play well with our kinks and coils. Even a humid day can wreak havoc on our painstakingly-achieved curl definition, not to mention the extreme shrinkage many of us experience if our hair gets completely drenched in the shower. When you consider how devastatingly quickly moisture can undo hours of hairstyling it's pretty easy to understand why people with afro-textured hair try to wash their hair as infrequently as possible. Of course there are other reasons we postpone wash day, including the fact that our scalps don't readily accumulate oil or dirt. We can't leave our hair unwashed forever, though. At some point we have to give in and get it wet... or do we?
Enter dry shampoo. Even though dry shampoo seems to have taken off in the last couple of years the concept has actually been around for centuries! According to Toni&Guy, Asians were applying clay powder to their tresses back in the 1400s. Dry shampoo has been commercially available for decades and has become popular as more people discover the convenience and styling advantages it provides. However, many of the people who love it so much tend to have type one or two hair (meaning their hair is quite straight). I Googled to see if I could find any curlier-haired people who have tried dry shampoo, and the results were interesting. While many ladies said they liked the product, I noticed four issues with the way it's supposed to be used and how it actually works.
PROBLEM #1: Dry Shampoo is Designed to Cause Dryness
The whole point of dry shampoo is to remove excess oil. This is a huge benefit for those whose hair gets oily quickly. However, the curlier your hair is the less likely it is to get oily, especially if your hair is long. This is because sebum, the nutrient-filled oil produced by your scalp, has a harder time sliding down the hair shaft. Applying dry shampoo to tresses that are already dried out will consequently strip them of what little protective oil they do have. I should mention there are dry shampoos that might work for people with dry hair, but I would only consider it if I had a tonne of product build-up and absolutely could not wash my hair.
PROBLEM #2: Dry Shampoo Must be Brushed or Blowdried Out
Because our hair is so dry, it's also quite brittle. It's a good idea to avoid manipulating it too often so it grows healthy and strong. Manipulation involves anything from braiding and brushing to twirling your hair out of boredom. Any kind of tension or friction exposes the hair shaft to the risk of breaking. That's why you should be careful about how often you change your hairstyles and the tools you use. The trouble with dry shampoo is that it can't just sit on top of your hair. It works best when evenly distributed by either brushing or blowdrying. Even if your hair has been straightened, brushing your hair too regularly or applying heat through a blowdryer can cause irreversible damage over time.
PROBLEM #3: Dry Shampoo Can Cause Itchiness
Your scalp might get agitated and itchy if you accidentally spray dry shampoo too close to your roots. Some people say their scalps get itchy if they apply excessive amounts of dry shampoo to their hair, too. One way to alleviate the itching is to massage your scalp with a light oil, but ironically, the best solution for a super agitated scalp is to actually wash it with water and conditioner!
PROBLEM #4: Dry Shampoo is Supposed to Add Volume and Hold
This is less of an issue and more of an undesired feature, in my honest opinion. My hair grows upwards and outwards instead of downwards because it's so kinky. You've probably noticed that your hair has a natural tendency to grow large if you also have type four curls. Unless you have very fine strands or you want even bigger, badder hair, you probably don't need a product to add more volume to your afro. Similarly, our hair texture is fabulous for holding styles without requiring much product. Whereas people with straight hair need cans and cans of hairspray and a million bobby pins to hold their hair up, ours pretty much stays put wherever we leave it. As such, I think the volume and hold dry shampoo provides are wasted benefits.
With all this in mind, dry shampoo doesn't seem ideal for afro-textured hair. I'm not a hair expert, though, and I'm not trying to refute any existing reviews of dry shampoo; if it works for you, great! I just wanted to write this post because there isn't a lot of information online about how dry shampoo truly works on kinkier hair and drier scalps. If you still really want to avoid washing your hair, check out my other post on how to keep your hair and scalp clean between washes.
Have you used dry shampoo before? Share your experience in a comment below!
It can be really tough to find a natural hair stylist. Depending on where you live, there simply aren't enough professionals who understand natural hair to go around. On top of that, getting your hair done by an expert can be hella pricey and time-consuming. If you're thinking of taking matters into your own hands, here are some pointers:
1. THE STYLE IS ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR PARTS - It might be time for you to purchase a rat-tail comb if you don't have one already. They make it so much easier to create straight lines and precise sections, which will help your final look seem more polished and professional. You can definitely still part your hair using your hands or a pick instead, but you may not get the same results.
2. KNOW HOW MUCH HAIR YOU NEED - This goes hand-in-hand with the quality of your parting. If you use too much extension hair for each section, you'll put too much strain on your follicles, which could cause hair loss. On the other hand, using too little extension hair can make it tricky to make your natural hair blend in.
3. THERE'S ALWAYS AN ALTERNATIVE - When I first started, I tried to mimic everything I'd seen my hairstylists do, from fluffing out and sectioning strands of extension hair to applying oil on my scalp as I went along. All these tricks proved invaluable for the most part, but YouTube quickly showed me that there are several different approaches and none is necessarily right or wrong. This was welcome news, as I was growing increasingly frustrated with one method of starting a braid that seemed physically impossible for me to achieve. The technique I eventually settled on was far simpler and more intuitive than the first, yet garnered the same results.
4. DETANGLED AND MOISTURIZED HAIR BEHAVES BEST - I'm not a newb. The day before commencing this entire endeavour, I luxuriated in a hot oil treatment, cleansed thoroughly with shampoo and conditioner, t-shirt dried, detangled, and spritzed with a mix of aloe vera juice and oils. In other words, my hair was in prime condition to be styled... but this wasn't enough! As I broke each section into smaller and smaller sections, it became clear that more detangling and moisturizing needed to be done. A good chunk of my first braids were a hot mess. Giant puffs of hair poked out every which way as if the style was pushing six weeks. Unfortunately it wasn't until I reached my ears that I remembered the sight of my beloved hairstylist in Edmonton, Loius, running a fine-toothed comb over each tiny section of hair before wrapping the synthetic hair around it. Before that she would moisturize my hair with some sort of oil, which I now realize is what kept my ends from popping out like a ghost in the night.
5. TIME IS MONEY - The last thing I learned is that the longer you spend doing your hair, the more it would've made more sense to just have it professionally styled. I spent a few hours over the span of three days installing my braids, and admittedly they look terrible. If you're trying to save money by doing your own hair and you haven't got much experience, trust me, you might be better off paying someone who knows how to glam you up.
That's not to say there's no value in learning to do it yourself. While your results may not be ideal in the short run, knowing how to do simple styles like twists, cornrows, and bantu knots can be a lifesaver once you get the hang of it. As for me, I don't mind walking around for the next couple of weeks with this semi-disaster on my head because A) my hair actually is being protected, and B) I'm proud of what I was able to accomplish. Even though it feels like I spent a decade on it, I'm already looking forward to my next attempt so I can apply everything I learned.
Have you ever tried putting in your own extensions? Tell us how it went in a comment below!
My hair was inexplicably lush when I was a child. Each individual strand was imposing in its thickness, and they were all so densely packed together that my hot-combed afro was nothing if not newsworthy. Unfortunately, that's not the case today. While it's still a total jungle at the crown, my nape looks like it's been weed-whacked and my temples are in even worse shape. It's taken me a while to piece together what has changed in my life to transform my hair so drastically. I didn't pick up any bad habits in adolescence or adulthood, so I can't point to the usual lifestyle red flags as potential indications. So if it wasn't binge drinking or harsh narcotics that messed up my mane, what was the problem?
In a previous post I discovered that one of my fatal mistakes was over-manipulating my hair. Towards the end of the year 2013, I ignorantly and daily combed my hair without respecting the laws of moisture retention. Although this hair loss was relatively recent, it shed some light on what might've been at least a couple of ongoing issues. Fortunately the hair faithfully grew back just in time for my partner's brother's wedding and I was able to have gorgeous Marley twists installed for the big event.
I was super pumped to check out how much my hair had grown after taking down the twists a few weeks later, but to my horror it seemed to have stayed the exact same length! #BreakageAlert. I had been moisturizing it religiously and obviously there was zero manipulation going on, but alas, something more sinister was afoot.
In despair, I thought back to how I had cared for my hair while it was in extensions over the past decade (which was pretty much 99% of the time) and made the following realizations:
With all this in mind, the answer to my hair loss woes was suddenly apparent. My hair was at its healthiest during my childhood because that was the only time I absolutely never wore extensions! Without all these potential issues to worry about, it was able to flourish with relatively little care. It hadn't had a break like that since the days when I collected Pokemon cards. Don't get me wrong; I still think protective styling with synthetic hair extensions is perfectly fine. In fact, I've heard many people say their hair grows best when it's in extensions. But to be honest my hair is thriving now, and so instead of relying on extensions (as I have for the majority of my life) I'm going to start celebrating and nurturing my natural hair.
Have hair extensions been more helpful or harmful in your experience? Share your thoughts in a comment below!
Chapping and windburn and frostbite ﹣ oh my! If these are the effects winter can have on your skin, imagine what it's doing to your hair. Fortunately there are easy ways to avoid incurring any serious damage, and the first step is knowing what the causes are. In my experience, natural hair has had to fight against three enemies in particular:
1. DRYNESS - I've got a relatively thirsty head of hair. Daily spritzing has done it wonders, even with high humidity during the summer. If your 'fro shares the same personality, then moisturizing in winter is especially crucial. Denying it the hydration it needs leaves it more susceptible to splitting and breakage. This is because moisture boosts the strength and elasticity of each hair strand. Dry hair is especially vulnerable to the next two enemies, so don't skimp on the deep conditioning!
2. COLD TEMPERATURES - While the lower temperatures in and of themselves probably don't hurt my hair, I have noticed that many of the products I use function differently in cold weather. The best example I can think of is liquid coconut oil. It melts gloriously into my locks if I apply it while it's warm. However, if I don't stay indoors long enough for the oil to properly moisturize my hair, it slowly begins to solidify and become more like a gel! I sidestep this by making sure I only use coconut oil at night in the winter so that by the time I awaken, pretty much all of it has been gobbled up by my hair. Some of the products you use may also be temperature-sensitive, so it's important to tweak how you use them in the winter in order to continue achieving optimal results.
3. FRICTION - I'm wearing a toque as I write this blog post knowing full well that it could be breaking my hair. This is because wool, cotton, and other fibres that make hats and earmuffs warm are also notorious for tugging at kinky hair. The friction these cozy accessories cause by rubbing against our strands dries out and weakens our hair. If you like chunky cable knit scarves like I do, be sure to protect the hairs at the nape of your neck by hiding them away in braids or twists. Right now I'm wearing my hair in flat twists and I've got them wrapped up in a silk scarf underneath my toque ﹣ just to be safe!
Got a winter hair care tip? Share in a comment below!
If you live in the northern hemisphere of this beautiful planet, it's time to get serious about your winter hair routine. It's never too late to ramp up your hair care regimen -- even if the snow has already begun to fall -- but the earlier you prepare the better. Last winter was something fierce here in Toronto. I was introduced to a chilling phenomenon called a polar vortex (they couldn't have come up with a scarier name) in which the frozen air chewed vigorously on my delicate tresses. Temperatures were often below -30ºC (-22ºF) and humidity was high, which meant moisture could easily seep into each hair strand... and then freeze! Having never heard of deep conditioning back then, it's no wonder I experienced so much breakage. This year I am older and wiser. Here's a list of preventative measures I'm taking to keep my hair strong this winter.
How do you prep your hair for cold weather? Share in a comment below!
Happy Halloween! Today's festivities have inspired me to write about something scary: the damaging effects long and/or unkempt nails can have on your natural hair. Of course this photo is a gross exaggeration, but the truth is nails that have been allowed to grow unchecked can pose a great risk to the health of your hair. Whenever you wash, detangle, or style, your nails are making constant contact with your hair. This isn't an issue if your nails are in good shape, but if they're cracked, splitting, or cut at sharp angles they could snag onto and pull out your hair strand by strand! Fortunately, there are ways to have pretty nails without impeding hair growth.
How do you keep your nails healthy? Share your tricks in a comment below!
I accidentally broke a glass while washing the dishes yesterday. As I scooped up the shards, an odd thought occurred to me: these little pieces of glass are just like my natural hair! First of all naturally kinky, coily, and curly hair is very fragile. It can break and snap under myriad conditions, most notably when it's very wet or very dry. Furthermore, when natural hair gets dehydrated it can feel straw-like... almost sharp. Of course it's not sharp enough to draw blood or anything, but when it's super dry or caked in product build-up it eventually develops a texture similar to steel wool.
It's not all negative, though. Like tempered glass, natural hair can be strengthened through specific treatments. For instance when you apply a hot oil treatment or use an effective leave-in conditioner, you're reinforcing each strand of hair. Breakage can also be avoided by handling with care and minimizing manipulation. Protective styling is an awesome method of reducing manipulation because it keeps your strands safely tucked away. So if you want stronger, healthier hair, treat it like glass!
We're always hearing about how fragile our natural hair is. "Don't comb it when it's wet or it'll break." "Don't comb it when it's dry or it'll break." "Don't comb it at all — only finger detangling can truly prevent breakage!" Everyone's talking about all the "don't"s, so I decided to make a list of "do's" to help you on your path to stronger hair.
1. Hot Oil Treatments and Clay/Powder Masks - This is one of the easiest ways to fortify your tresses. By administering hot oil treatments and/or masks routinely, you ensure that your natural hair is receiving the nutrients and moisture that it requires to thrive.
2. Regular Trimming - The ends of your hair are the oldest and therefore the weakest. This is compounded by the fact that the natural oil your scalp produces to protect your hair has a harder time reaching your ends, especially if you have very kinky hair like I do. The best way to keep your hair strong is to trim your ends as soon as you notice any knots or splitting. This will prevent these problems from getting worse and causing hair loss.
3. Quality Conditioner - Regardless of whether you're riding the pre-poo bus or the no-poo train, conditioning your hair is very important. Good quality conditioners will minimize frizz and assist in detangling, which will save your hair from damage.
4. Protective Styling - I can't say enough about the benefits of reducing manipulation through protective styling. Keeping your hair in braids, twists, etc gives your strands a much-needed break from daily pulling and tugging, which in turn prevents breakage.
5. Drink Water - Moisture is essential to the health of your hair and scalp. Daily spritzing and the LOC/LCO method are great ways of preventing dryness. However, did you know you can also deliver moisture to your follicles by drinking water? That's right: what you put inside your body is just as important as what you put on it, so be sure to stay hydrated in order to guarantee your natural hair is receiving as much moisture as possible!
What do you do to grow healthier hair? Share in a comment below!
It was a cold November afternoon when I decided I no longer wanted to depend on other people to manage my natural hair. Before this moment, I had never braided, twisted, or even straightened my hair without someone's help. Embarrassingly enough, all I knew how to do was wash and detangle. I was a complete novice, and I had no idea what I was in for when I decided to wear my hair "out" for a few weeks. Fortunately I wasn't completely ignorant; I remembered my parents stressing the importance of coconut oil and regular moisturizing, and so I implemented their advice. However, there is one thing I failed to consider that caused me more damage than I ever could've imagined: I over-manipulated my hair.
By this, I mean that I combed, washed, and styled my hair WAY too often during that period. I assumed my hair could be treated the same as looser textures, so I haphazardly wore a bun one day, twists the next, and so on. It also never occurred to me that I couldn't comb my hair everyday. My thought process was that if other people could do it, I could too. But by manipulating my hair so frequently with unnecessary combing and styling, I put so much stress on my hair that it began to break severely. At least three inches of my hair broke off in those few weeks, and it didn't help that I was using a COTTON headscarf at night! (Cotton is extremely absorbent and will rob your hair of moisture overnight, resulting in dryness and even breakage over time.)
It wasn't until I went back home in December that I discovered the true extent of the damage. When my Mom saw the back of my head she exclaimed, "You have lost so much hair!" She proceeded to give me a crash course in natural hair management, stressing that our kinky, coily hair can't handle being styled more than about once a week. She recommended braiding over two-strand twists because braids hold longer and therefore limit manipulation. I began sifting through YouTube for tutorials and eventually started to get the hang of protective styling. The cotton headscarf was also promptly replaced with satin, and I'm pleased to say my hair has been on the road to recovery ever since!
To avoid making the same mistake I did, check out these awesome headwraps by Toni Daley!
Having grown up in the hot, dry Canadian prairies, I know firsthand what it's like to struggle with dryness. If you're living in a desert-like climate with high temperatures, relentless sun, and limited humidity, this post is for you! Years of experimentation have revealed to me three main tricks to keeping natural hair moisturized in dry summers.
1. Spritz Regularly
You can't afford to cut corners on this one, even if you're worried about shrinkage. You don't need to douse your hair completely, but applying a mixture of water and aloe vera juice with a spray bottle every so often will definitely help quench your hair's thirst. I do this once a day to every other day because my hair dries out fairly quickly. You may only need to spritz once or twice a week if your hair more readily holds onto moisture.
2. Use Light Oils
As I mentioned in The Best Natural Hair Oils for Hot Weather, you should opt for runnier oils during the warmest months of the year. Coconut and jojoba oil are two examples of light oils that are great at sealing in moisture without weighing your hair down. In the heat, thick oils like castor oil will feel heavy on your scalp and clog your pores. (Remember to apply a small amount of oil after every spritz, otherwise the water will simply evaporate leaving your hair as dry as it was before!)
3. Avoid Humectants
Humectants are products like vegetable glycerin and honey, which absorb moisture from the air and release it into your hair. Sounds good, right? Usually yes, but when humidity is low it can spell disaster. This is because humectants also transfer moisture from your hair into the atmosphere if humidity is low. They do this to create balance, shifting moisture from an area of high water content to an area with less. That's why humectants can be your worst enemy in dry weather － they can literally suck the moisture right out of your hair!
How do you combat dryness in the summertime? Tell us in a comment below!
Hair balls may be unsightly, but taking a closer look at them can tell you a lot about the health of your natural hair. Is there a lot of hair caught in your comb? Is the hair dry? Taking note of these characteristics will help you figure out what your hair needs to be as healthy as possible.
First off, let's talk about why hair falls out in the first place. It typically boils down to either breakage or shedding. How can you tell which is which? Examine the ends of a single strand of hair. If you see a white bulb at one end, that hair has been shed. (The white bulb is from the hair root and came out of your scalp.) Shedding is a natural process that occurs in order to make room for new hair growth. You'll probably shed around one hundred hairs on any given day! If you think you're shedding significantly more than that, start by improving your diet. Drink lots of water, make sure you're eating enough protein, and exercise regularly. Hopefully that does the trick, but you might also want to visit your doctor to rule out other underlying reasons for the excessive shedding.
And now for the big bad B-word: breakage. The absence of a white bulb at the end of a hair indicates that the hair broke somewhere along the shaft. There are many reasons for which this might have happened, including:
These are the three things you can control to prevent breakage. By keeping manipulation to a minimum, you reduce the number of times your strands are subject to pulling and tugging forces, as well as friction. Since hair is composed of the protein keratin, it's also imperative that you eat enough protein. Even if you're a vegetarian, you can still stock up on nuts and greens that are packed with protein, such as almonds, cashews, broccoli, and spinach. Lastly, don't forget to moisturize your natural hair as needed. When it dries out it snaps like a twig, so keep those strands hydrated. Avoiding breakage will keep split ends at bay and ultimately allow you to grow longer, healthier, and stronger hair!
What's your secret to preventing breakage? Share it in a comment below!
In the last post, we learned the basics of what constitutes a protective style. Now that you're familiar with the concept, you're probably wondering which style is best suited for you. Before you spend nine hours in a chair getting a hairdo that you'll be committed to for the next six weeks, first ask yourself the following:
If you're running on a tight schedule, a protective style that takes a full day to install (such as micro-braids) is an unwise choice. Unless your stylist is able to do a portion of your hair over the course of several days, it simply may not be realistic without taking time off work, finding a babysitter, etc. Instead, opt for less time-intensive styles such as jumbo twists and crochet braids.
Not all stylists and salons charge the same price for the same service. Do your research and ensure that you stay within budget. Typically the longer a style takes to install, the more it costs, and independent stylists tend to charge less than brick-and-mortar salons.
Some protective styles are a lot more work to maintain than others. I'm lazy, so box braids and Senegalese twists are my go-to's. Even though they take far longer to install than, say, a weave, I can wake up in the morning and head out the door without touching my hair at all. This is because those styles incorporate all of my natural hair; not a single strand is left loose. If you get a weave done, odds are you'll have to re-straighten your own hair every few days. You'll also have to comb out the weave itself so it doesn't get tangled. If you're prepared for daily maintenance, though, these styles can be fabulous too!
Even though I'm low maintenance I still like to put my hair into different styles from time to time. Again, that's what makes box braids / twists so perfect: they can be worn up in a bun or ponytail, down to the shoulders, and anywhere in between! On the other hand, more static styles like cornrows are great for when you don't have a lot of time to fix your hair (hello, final exams!).
Not all protective styles can be left in for the same amount of time. If you're getting extensions (synthetic/human hair added in), they will likely hold longer than if the style only incorporates your own hair. Similarly, a hairdo that utilizes smaller sections of your hair, such as small box braids, will survive longer than large cornrows. Think about your lifestyle and your finances. If you can afford to be redoing your hair every couple of weeks, go for the shorter-term looks.
6. TAKE DOWN
Removing a protective style can be tedious, especially if it involves extensions. Do you know how to take down a weave by yourself, or will you need help? How much time do you have? Some stylists charge a fee for taking out a style, and many more flat out refuse to do it. One trick I've learned is that you don't need to finish it all in one night. Strategically start from the back and sides, then work your way in toward the middle. If you need to stop, you can always leave the remainder down to hide what's gone. Another alternative is to simply use a headwrap -- no one has to know what's going on underneath!
This is the most critical component of your choice to protectively style your hair. Make sure your stylist doesn't install the hairdo too tightly and refrains from placing undue stress on your hairline. This will lead to breakage and even baldness over time. If you're getting a weave, learn how to cleanse and moisturize your hair underneath. Many people assume they can abandon their hair regimen if they have a protective style, but the truth is your natural hair is still growing and needs to be cared for!
One last thing you might want to consider is how appropriate the style is for your work or school environment. Hopefully they're open-minded enough to realize that the way a person chooses to style her hair has nothing to do with her competence and ability, but unfortunately not all employers are that considerate. For instance, there has been a lot of press lately surrounding the US armed forces and their racists regulations pertaining to natural hair. If the rules in your workplace are unreasonable, I encourage you to stand up for your natural hair! Show your employer that when done properly, dreadlocks can - and do - look professional. Wear your cornrows neatly, and work hard so the company has absolutely no reason to fire you.
What factors do you consider when protective styling? Let us know in a comment below!
With #TeamNatural taking the Internet by storm, the term "protective styling" has started to get bounced around quite a bit. In case you're still fuzzy on the definition, a protective style refers to any hairdo that helps to safeguard your tresses against the following:
Some examples of protective styles include braids, twists, cornrows, and buns. All of these hairstyles minimize tangling by keeping your strands neatly arranged next to one another. When your hair is loose the strands are free to intermingle, and the friction between them and anything you are wearing (hats, sweaters, etc) will eventually lead to split ends and knots.
Because kinky, coily, and curly natural hair is so brittle, it's best to not over-manipulate it. Many people (including myself, sometimes!) have what has jokingly been termed Hand-in-Hair Syndrome -- they simply can't resist touching their hair! The problem with this is that every time you touch your hair, you're putting a slight force on the strands and follicles. Our hair isn't strong enough to be combed, washed, or styled every single day, so protective styling is a really effective way to cut down on that manipulation and prevent breakage.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post protective styles are fantastic for days spent on the beach, but don't just reserve them for sunny days! A good set of braids or twists will save your natural hair from wind, rain, and snow, too. Again, this is because your strands are tucked safely away from the elements.
What's your favourite protective style? Let us know in a comment below!
Did you know that most of the damage your hair sustains is likely caused by UV radiation? Natural hair is pretty susceptible to the elements. Even under the best conditions it still requires a lot of TLC, and if you live in a sunny clime you must take extra precautions to avoid frizz, dryness, and even bleaching (unless you're striving for that look, in which case a hair coloring product might be a healthier option).
Ultraviolet radiation weakens the external part of the hair shaft, which is made of a protein called keratin. Keratin is sensitive to UVB rays and thus begins to degrade when overly exposed. You might notice your hair isn't as shiny anymore, and it may seem less elastic. Not only is this bad news for the structural integrity of each hair strand (hello split ends!), but the accompanying UVA rays can also strip the hair of melanin, which is responsible for giving hair its colour. The ultimate result is dry, brittle hair that looks fried.
Luckily this damage can be avoided. Here are a few tips to keep your hair safe while you have fun in the sun:
How do you keep your hair sun safe? Tell us about it in a comment below!