Hair: Length Check and Bantu Knots

Note: My hair type is 4a-z, nappy, kinky, coily, cottony, soft, fine, moderately thick, and very very delicate.

Time to check the hair length again!

It grows so slow now-a-days. I’m still trying to figure out where that growth spurt a couple of years ago was due to.

I had to cut off 1/2 an inch to 1 inch on the ends, because I was getting irritated with knotting. I have to stay away from small two-strand twists; they are the cause of a lot of single strand knots for me.

This summer, I am doing the following for health and hair:

  • Eating a lot of fish, I’ve been consuming a lot of Japanese food too. I know not to eat too much, because of mercury concerns (among other pollutants / poisons).
  • The weather has been too cool for my stomach, but I hope I can start making my morning drinks again with carrots, bananas, yogurt, and flax seeds. Right now, all I eat is a banana for breakfast.
  • Taking vitamins roughly every other day. I’ve included a separate supplement of D3 and powdered C.
  • Working out (longer / harder). I’m working up to jogging longer than 10 minutes at a time; this is in addition to my walking and weight lifting.
  • Co-washing, which is washing with conditioners. Sometimes, I’ll shampoo.
  • No more flat ironing, although I itch, and ache, to every time I wash! I blow dry on a reasonable and comfortable heat setting. I always use a heat protectant!
  • I like to keep my hair completely covered under a scarf and /or in a protective style. If I do wear my hair “out”, I style it to look less than shoulder length.


I suppose if I flat iron, it would appear longer.

My standard routine, the changes are always minute:

  1. Saturate hair with White Rain Conditioner Coconut. I couldn’t resist buying it from the dollar store. I love this stuff cheap.
  2. Part hair into 4 sections – just the hands, no comb! – braid the root, and twist to the ends.
  3. Apply castor oil to ends of hair, around the hairline (edges), and the crown where I always part the hair, which is prone to dryness and breakage.
  4. Put on plastic cap, cover with scarf. Sleep on it, overnight.
  5. Exercise.
  6. Wash hair. Open each section at a time, wash scalp thoroughly, comb gently with fingers, re-braid and re-twist.
  7. Wrap tightly with a towel. No rubbing.
  8. Open each section at a time, apply heat protectant, make smaller sections, and blow dry hair.
  9. Bantu knot each section.
  10. Done.

I tried to do a silk wrap (sitting under the dryer with a plastic wrap around smoothed hair), but my hair laughed at my efforts.

I think it will be next year, before I do this again.

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Hair Again: Rough and Dry Ends

Please note: I dislike tagging my personal pictures, but I’ve discovered they are being used. I was never asked about it. I never gave permission.

These are my hair ends. I’ve flat ironed a few times. I blow dry my hair nearly all the time, and I am pleased to see the teeny-tiny-itty-bitty curls come back. However, even with tons of conditioning, heat protectant(s), I am still paying the price of those luxuries. My ends are very delicate, and they’ve been feeling rough and knotty for a while.

After I blow dry, or flat-iron, I check my ends. For some reason, my left side (in the front) is always rough, tough, knotty, and harder to manage. I don’t know, in general, how many inches I retain each year, but last year it had to be zero to 1 inch – if I was lucky. I hate doing it, but I had to get the scissors out. (No!!!)

As recently as the last two times I’ve washed my hair I had to cut. Not trim, cut. I took off inches. Several times. I don’t like doing it, because it’s hard to judge if I’m chopping off too much on one side or the other. And who wants lopsided hair?

I deep condition religiously, but it wasn’t enough. Damn. This time I decided to add something new. I warmed up a bottle of Tea Tree / Carrot Oil, drenched my ends in it, added heavy conditioner, bagged the plaits on each side of my head, and kept it on overnight.

Well, I give complete credit to hair web sites, because people have mentioned doing this a million times, but I never did it before with this sort of intensity. I usually put it in, and immediately wash it out.

To make a long story short: my ends were tamed. They were smooth, silky, and no rough stuff. It made my modest bit of combing after I washed a true snap and blow drying was much easier. It did nothing to cut down on the time it takes to do my hair, but that’s something else I have to work on.

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Hair A Few More: Leave-In Conditioners


Hair Length Goal

I did not have a particular hair length goal before. I simply wanted to know how to treat my hair well, and to be satisfied with the results. I’ve worn my hair natural (without relaxers, perms, or any other kind of toxic chemicals) most of my life. My styling and treatment of it was hit and mostly miss. Now-a-days, I plait my hair (10 braids), and keep it in a bun. I can no longer two-strand twist, that makes it knotty. I will wash it while it is in braids, including the use of shampoo about once a month.

Currently, my hair reaches bra-strap and I have a medium length torso. I am aiming for mid-back or waist-length by February 2010. I wont stress myself to reach that goal. If I make it fine, if not, no big deal. My hair grows fastest and strongest, when I get into an exercise routine and wash weekly. I noticed that my vitamin and breakfast drink mixes made a big difference. I can only drink my concoction in the summer, because I can’t take cold food or drink unless it is boiling hot outside.

I really like this period of time we are in. The best hair products are available for curly, textured, kinky, nappy hair. It’s no longer about using grease as the solution to every hair problem. My hair issues used to be dryness, a lack of moisture, and fighting with the comb – yanking out fistfuls of it – after washing it.

Holy Grail of Moisture

I’m not on any search for a Holy Grail of great products. However, it’s great not to be dependent on any one company or product. I’ve found three new moisturizing staples to go along with my favorite Garnier Fructis Leave-In Conditioner. One is Organics Olive Oil Leave-In Conditioner and their other product is Shea Butter Detangling Moisturizing Hair Lotion.

My hair drinks these two products. They feel a bit sticky on the hands, especially the Shea Butter. I am already in love with the Organics Olive Oil Leave-In Conditioner. It is light, doesn’t go on heavy or greasy, and best of it all, it does make the hair easier to comb. Not that I am into combing my hair anymore, but it’s handy to have.

I use the BioInfusion Leave-In Conditioner right after I wash my hair. It is definitely not sticky. It’s suitable. I’m not sure how great it is. My hair drinks this product also. It doesn’t leave my hair dry, so right now, I consider myself satisfied with my entire collection of Leave-In Conditioners.

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Turn I Loose: Afro, Locs, and other Styles

Note: This is just my opinion, people are free to wear their hair as they please, of course. All personal choices are valid.

I rarely wear my hair loose. Is that a sign of shame? I was wondering if I hide my hair based on subconscious dislike of it. I wore it straight (flat ironed) for Christmas. I felt overwhelmed and uncomfortable with all that hair. It’s unmanageable to me. I love shrinkage. It is a gift: I can get a reduction in volume, length, and change in texture without a haircut.

Kinky, coily, nappy, cottony, textured, natural 4a-4z hair is soooo awesome!

Natural

I don’t get caught up worrying about what natural or natural hair is supposed to mean. There are people who are anti-heat, anti-straightening, Afro-puffs-only, anti-styling(?), and completely absorbed into natural products (no silicones, parabens, mineral oil, petroleum, etc).

That’s great – for them. Hair rules can be so dogmatic they hurt the people it is supposed to help. Not everyone’s head of hair will respond alike to the same treatment.

Outside of not using a relaxer, lye or no-lye, curly perm, or anything toxic like that, I’m wholeheartedly for the use of anything that temporarily changes my hair. If there was a product that altered my hair texture, straightened it, or loosened the kinky coil for a couple of days, weeks, or months, and I could wash it out – I’d use it. As long as it is not permanent.

Afro

As for hairstyles, I do not like the Afro. It was cool to wear as a nearly bald-headed kid, but even if I could sport a big-ass-Afro (BAA), I would not. It’s too much work. I remember all those years of picking (which was cutting) my hair out, then patting it into shape. I was always worried about it being lopsided, dirty, dusty and dry. Way too much effort.

A tiny Afro is fine. A medium sized one is reasonable, anything longer than a pinky or index finger is a problem. My hair couldn’t stand up anyway – it’s not dense enough. It would require a ton of hair spray – that’s not happening.

I know there are people who love the shrunken Afro, which is different from very short hair picked out. As someone with some of the softest, fragile, thin, and zig-zagged shaped strands around, I could never wear my hair in one. It would get so knotty, I would have to spend hours de-tangling. I don’t see how that helps the hair.

I’ve seen the rough treatment people put their hair through when they pick out their Afro. Picking is cutting, regardless of whether it is damp, wet, or dry. Loose hair is lost hair. I wonder why people believe it helps their hair grow.

Locs

Years ago, I wanted to try locs, but then I realized I dislike them. I’ve rarely seen a head of hair that looks good with locs, regardless of whatever fancy styling, coloring, or name, like Sistalocks, they are given.

There are people who believe this hairstyle helps their hair grow. The truth is, I think locs provide people with an excuse not to touch their hair. That’s not all bad, especially if it’s religiously inspired.

However, broken off locs, thick locs hanging by a few strands, large and growing parts, prove that this style doesn’t work for everyone. I see very few heads of hair that don’t have these balding spots between parts, which is due to traction alopecia. Every extreme twist – in order to look “neat” – pulls out the hair, and those few strands are left holding up a heavier loc of growing and shed hair.

Turn I Loose: Stress Testing

I do want to wear my hair loose: come this Spring, I will see what I can do. I will use bantu knots and two-strand twists to prep my hair. I do not lack for decent leave-in conditioners, so I think I should be able to manage without fear of “The Knots.” Maybe I will be able to wear it out for a week and see what happens.

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Fantasia IC Hair Polisher Styling Gel


I don’t hype products; that’s not the purpose of this blog. However, I am a happy woman when I find something that works. And Fantasia IC Hair Polisher Styling Gel works!

My hair is kinky, not in the least curly. Outside of an old school jherri curl, I didn’t think I could have any.

Well, this product helps my 4a-z hair show some curl! Small waves and itty bitty curls! I am astounded. I get a curl when I put a deep conditioner in my hair. This stuff does it without a strong scent, stickiness, and it doesn’t dry hard or crispy.

Nice.

How I apply: after I wash my hair. While it is still damp, I take a section – like for a medium-sized plait about an inch or more – and work in the product from root to tip. The hair gets wavy / curly. To keep the style and my hair moist, I wear a perforated shower cap. I also re-wet my hair and re-apply product. I wash out the product by day three. Too much build-up is no good.

By far, the easiest hairstyle of all: loose, lovely and low-maintenance. It’s almost completely wash and go.

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Garnier Fructis

Dry Hair

Everyone has different hair requirements. I am a 4a-z with hair that is fine, medium density, kinky, coily, textured, cottony, or nappy. It is rarely hard and never coarse.

Did I mention how fragile and delicate my hair is?

I envy people who can comb, flat iron, and blow dry nearly every day. It’s hard keeping my hands out of my hair. At a minimum, I let three days pass before I comb it again.

What I want from a hair product is that it leaves my hair feeling soft, moisturized, and easy to comb. It’s amazing how many products do the first two and not the last one!

Research

Periodically, I must switch products.

I read hair boards, searching for conditioners and gels with the best reviews. I evaluate based on hair type. I don’t ignore other hair types. I note those with similar problems: dry hair, often brittle, which leads to breakage.

Garnier Fructis Moisture Works Fortifying Cream Conditioner

For now, this product works. I love the smell, and I can comb my hair after I’ve washed with it.

Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Leave-In Conditioning Cream

The first time I used this product it left my hair a sticky, clumpy mess with a lot of white residue. I don’t know if I finally figured out how to use it or what, but I love this stuff now.

It is excellent for helping me unravel my twists or plaits. The drier my hair is the tighter it gets. This product makes my hair slide apart wonderfully and easily. There’s no snapping plaits apart with this.

Overall, I’m satisfied with Garnier Fructis for now.

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Hair Matters: Don’t Do it Again

Trying Something New

I went against my own credo to leave my hair alone and stop experimenting. Out of curiosity – because I’m always curious – I decided to try something new: leave conditioner in my hair.

Now, I’m asking myself: Why did I do that?

I did it, because I wanted to see if I could emulate a loose curl, kinda wavy look for my hair that I get when I put in conditioner. I may still seek out a product that does it, but I don’t want a sopping wet, heavy mess that feels like a jherri curl.

What I Learned

I’ve been seeing breakage on the ends I haven’t seen in years. It’s not as bad as used to be in the past, but any little amount is alarming to me.

So, I will note to myself: never leave conditioner in the hair again. Sometimes one can overdo it and I have to keep it simple. My hair doesn’t want more of anything, it requires less.

Wet Two-Stand Twists

Recently, I’ve discovered that I can’t twist my hair while it’s damp anymore. That used to be the fastest way for me to take care of my hair. I’m not big on detangling, or combing hair. I don’t see the point. I don’t trim my hair either, unless there’s a knot I can’t undo.

My hair knots up in twists so bad, I can’t open the twists without cutting the ends or snapping the hair apart. It’s horrible. I don’t know why. It doesn’t matter what I put in my hair. I just know I can’t twist or braid it while damp. I have to wait for it to dry.

That sucks.

At a current length of being an inch or so from bra-strap, or between shoulder blades, my styling options are being challenged. I have to stick with big plaits, but not too big. At the moment, eight plaits work.

The oil of choice, right now, is castor oil. But since I can’t wet my hair at the moment unless I’m going to wash it, this is the product that softens my hair.

Maybe it’s the weather and come the Spring / Summer the dryness and tightness will go away.

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Hair Confession: Nappy Head Check vs Relaxed

I do not believe that black women who do not relax / perm their hair are more politically or socially aware, or even nicer / friendlier than those who do. Nope.

People are complex, complicated beings. A hair style doesn’t tell me anything about them.

I think a number of people do make interesting assumptions. Think of the evening news after a mass murder has been committed.

What do the people usually say? “But he was such a nice, normal guy.” My favorite is, “That doesn’t happen in this kind of neighborhood.” I always want to slap the person who utters that kind of nonsense. They are so caught up in their idea of specialness. Anything can happen in any neighborhood. Sheesh.

I do, however, make assumptions with regards to relaxed versus natural hair styles. My thoughts relate to health and normalcy.

I read my share of magazines, and the first thing I do is seek out pictures of black women. I’m always curious as to how the media is portraying us lately.

I’m moderately pleased to see that natural hair is quite popular. The hair styles range from nappy kinky coily curls in Afros to twist outs big or small. All of which I regard as normal.

Yeah, I said it, normal. My internal programming says that a black woman with a natural hair style is normal. Whenever I see relaxed hair, I regard it as abnormal. I’ll explain why.

A relaxed hair style makes me think: Wow, I hope she’s okay.

I know that may be out of the norm thinking. In fact, a hair study shows that relaxers don’t make black women sick. In an age where coffee is good for you one day and bad the next, I’ll take that report with a truckload of salt.

This report comes about because researchers have found that a particularly aggressive breast cancer targets black women more than white women.

I’m not making any assertions that relaxers cause breast cancer in black women.

I automatically think there is a connection: I can’t help myself.

To recap my hair fixation, if I see a natural hair style I think: she looks normal. If I see a relaxed hair style, in the back of my mind, I’m hoping that the woman lives a long and productive life.

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