Have you ever wondered how your hairstylist got so good at what she does? Regardless of whether she went to cosmetology school or learned to do hair by observing friends and relatives, at the end of the day she definitely put in endless hours of practice to perfect her skills. Many hairstylists practice for years before taking on their first client because it takes a long time to develop speed and muscle memory while maintaining a high standard of quality. When you think about the amount of effort required to master a relatively complex style like tree braids or crochet braids it's easy to get discouraged and resort to helplessly depending on your stylist.
Admittedly, I've been relying on stylists for most of my life. It's just always seemed more convenient to let someone else deal with my hair while I watched TV or got some studying done. However, it wasn't until last week that I discovered a foolproof way of practicing tricky hairstyles without sacrificing a tonne of time or money. Using this new method I've been able to improve my braiding skills while keeping my hair looking great. I stumbled upon this trick when one of my box braids fell out the other day. Normally I detangle the newly-exposed section of hair, coat it with a moisturizing cream, and then twist it. This time, though, I found myself with some spare time and an extra pack of synthetic braiding hair - and I was feeling adventurous.
Instead of leaving my hair out, I took a shot at redoing the extension braid myself. I only had one tiny section to braid, so I wasn't stressed out by the idea of having to finish it quickly and move on to the next one. I could just concentrate on getting the technique down, and if I messed up it was easy to undo the braid and start over. Having the professionally-done braids right there for comparison was also a huge help. I knew immediately when my braid was too loose or too fat because I could hold it up against the other braids. This meant the final product was always nearly perfect; a vast improvement from when I tried to braid my whole head from scratch!
Another benefit of this method is that it keeps your style looking fresh longer. As more braids become loose over time, I've been able to replace them with new, clean braids that suddenly make the style look like it was recently installed. This allows me to continually improve my braiding skills while boosting the lifespan of my protective style. And the longer my hairstyle lasts, the more money I save! Seriously, the benefits just keep piling up.
To summarize, if you want to become a protective styling guru the secret is to maintain your hairstyle incrementally. Replace individual braids or twists as they loosen and not only will you find yourself saving a bunch of time and money, but you'll also always look like you've just come from the salon!
What's your secret to improving your hairstyling skills? Share in a comment below!
Dude, I've had it up to here trying to find time for someone to do my hair. In a previous post I mentioned that I would give myself a break from extensions, but with midterms starting at school and summer around the corner I think it's time for more long-term styling. But every time I look at my schedule I'm overcome with the desire to magically warp the calendar so that Monday morning can be adjacent to Wednesday night and then maybe, just maybe, I'll have enough free hours to have a protective style installed. I know there are stylists who generously offer to return the next day to finish the job, but I've never taken anyone up on that because it seems so cruel! So after agonizing over my schedule, I recently found myself at the local beauty supply store. I was originally hunting for grapeseed oil, but ended up walking out with several packs of Kanekalon hair instead (I know it's the cheap stuff, but I'm a beginner so cut me some slack!). That's right. Then and there, I decided I was going to take matters into my own hands and do my own darn hair.
When I got home I immediately Googled "fast, easy protective style tutorial" and variations thereof. Bless the naturals on YouTube for there was no shortage of helpful videos. After skimming through a few I figured box braids would be the easiest (my twists always unravel prematurely) and resolved to spend the next few hours putting them in. I was armed with conviction, the right tools, and a good window of time in which I could feasibly finish half my head, but even this amount of diligence could not prepare me for the lessons I was about to learn.
1. THE STYLE IS ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR PARTS - Even though I have a metal rat-tail comb, I still suck at parting. Maybe it's because my hair is short, or maybe it's just that I need more practice. Whatever the reason, I must get better because my ridiculous parting job caused my box braids to look unkempt and haphazard.
2. KNOW HOW MUCH HAIR YOU NEED - This goes hand-in-hand with the quality of your parting. If you use too much 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 hair (as I did because I was scared of running out) will make it tricky to blend your natural hair in with the extension hair.
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're far better off paying someone who knows how to glam you up. That being said, 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 3.22 decades on it, I'm already looking forward to my next go-around so I can apply everything I learned.
Have you ever tried putting in your own extensions? Tell me how it went in a comment below!
Celebrity hairstylist Janet Jackson admitted she's all about the weave life because of the ease and effortlessness it affords her. She cited the difficulty of managing her own natural hair (which extends past her shoulders) when she has to be up as early as 3:00 AM for work, and that weaves are the best way for her to save time in her busy schedule and still look professional. Even though I've never had anything against weaves (I've been known to rock one on occasion), hearing what she had to say gave me a new appreciation for what other naturalistas go through.
Remember that post I wrote about the importance of surrounding yourself with other naturalistas as you embark on your hair journey? Well, on Sunday I practiced what I preached and attended a meetup hosted by Toronto Naturals called The Politics of Black Hair. The discussion of the day centred around the question "Is protective styling political or simply a style choice?" Needless to say, the conversation got pretty colourful! Monique London of London Ivy Products led the event by posing a series of questions to a panel of five naturalistas who have each found great success in the realms of vlogging, blogging, hairstyling, jewelry design, and wig making, to name a few. Because of their varied backgrounds, every panelist was able to bring a fascinating and unique perspective to the table.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have experienced the event at all because despite arriving twenty minutes early, I was too late to buy tickets at the door! I know, I know... I should have purchased an advanced ticket, but this event was so hot even those had sold out the week prior. It was disappointing to be turned away, but then someone piped up suggesting I stick around just in case there was a no-show at the last minute. I could hear upstairs that the venue was getting pretty full already, but I had a feeling it would be worth the wait. After all one of my favourite YouTubers, Toni Daley, was on the panel and I was pumped to see her in person. Luckily the event organizers were able to squeeze me in literally at the last second, and they even had some free lipbalm left!
When I got upstairs, I was pleasantly surprised by how funky the venue was. Harlem Restaurant (on Richmond and Church) has an eclectic and casual vibe to it. The stage area looks a bit like Graffiti Alley -vibrant hues of different paints, random cables strewn on door hooks, and exposed brick walls. Much to everyone's enjoyment the bar was fully stocked and there were original paintings of natural hair hung around the room for us to feast our eyes on.
The panel itself was lighthearted yet thought-provoking. Monique (or Mo for short) did an awesome job of gently guiding the conversation from general subjects like what constitutes a protective style to more serious issues about hair envy, hair type discrimination, and self-love. It was enlightening to hear the panelists describe their personal experiences. Some views I could identify with, others I hadn't considered before. At one point the discussion turned to whether or not women who wear weaves 24/7 are purposefully hiding their natural hair out of shame or embarrassment. This was particularly interesting to me, because lately I've been trying to avoid using extension hair and instead celebrate what my Mama gave me. To this, Toni Daley made a solid point. She paralleled the use of weaves to wearing makeup.
[Paraphrased] Some people wear makeup only to fancy occasions. Others wear it whenever they leave the house. And then there are those who wear makeup even when they're in their house all day. It's a personal choice. You can't say I don't love my skin just because I wear makeup, just as you can't say I don't love my hair if I wear weaves all the time.
One of the best things about the panel was -- as far as I could tell -- no two ladies had the exact same curl pattern. There was everything from famous vlogger Natural Neiicey's luscious, loose curls to the wonderfully kinkier coils of curly hair specialists Keina Morgan and Nicky Splinta. That variety gave a definite credibility and approachability to the event. It felt inclusive and honest, which I think is crucial for the natural hair community.
Then came the best part: FREE PRIZES! I was impressed by how many goodie bags Toronto Naturals had sourced for the prize draws. There were so many sponsors the giveaways just kept rolling. For once in my life I had a winning ticket in hand and landed a highly coveted gift basket from Rainbow Kisses Cosmetics! It contained two striking lipsticks (one in plum, the other a deep metallic turquoise) and a gift card. Hilariously enough, after collecting my prize two different people come up to me asking if I really wanted to keep the lipstick and if we could work out some sort of trade! Rainbow Kisses is just that good!
Despite lasting about three hours, the meetup seemed to fly by. Before I knew it the panel had concluded and everyone was encouraged to network around the room. I was glad to have the opportunity to catch up with my hairstylist Glenna Sandy who has had my back since I moved to Toronto and was helpless managing my own hair. I also got to fangirl Toni Daley and chat with her about the amazing movement she started, the #SupportASista campaign that encourages people to shop locally and support women-led, Black-owned companies. Janet Murphy of Roots to Curls was there too. She explained to me how exciting the last few months have been as she and her long-time friend and business partner have worked hard to get Roots to Curls off the ground.
Overall, it was really inspiring to be surrounded by so many independent, successful, and forward-thinking Black women! Big thanks to Toronto Naturals for continuing to host events like this. Can't wait for the next one!
Have you attended any natural hair events lately? Share your experience with me in a comment below!
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