Zany Edges Talk and Product Review

Summertime is usually growing season for all types of things, including black and bi-racial hair. Recently I switched to a new shampoo, conditioner and light curl-enhancing system from for Baby, and it’s from Carol’s Daughter. I did it mainly because I was shopping for our family trip to New Orleans (more on that later) and I needed to pick up some quick last-minute items at the mall.

Baby’s hair is responding incredibly well to this “Hair Milk Curl Perfecting” system. The shampoo is gentle and free of sulfates; the conditioner imparts incredible slip and shine; and the light curl booster is a great way to give her a wash & go without too much product buildup.

I might even try this stuff on my hair, just to see if it will take care of this squeaky dryness and 4C madness I have going on. I bought the full-size containers and ones for travel, and they were all shaped like those old-fashioned glass bottles. These days I think the company is selling the stuff in a re-designed package. But I would guess that they haven’t changed the formula. It works too well.

Now, on to that zany talk about edges that I mentioned in the headline. Ladies, I don’t watch trash reality TV, because I’m short on time and I don’t want my smart friends to shun me. BUT if you catch the right video blogger doing a recap, like NothingButTreble1220, I can guarantee you will be just as entertained. If not more. Do yourself a huge favor and watch this segment of her “Trash TV Review-LHHATL.” That’s for Love and Hip Hop Atlanta.

The mere title of that show puts me off and I will never give VH1 any of my hard-earned money for that nonsense. but HER recaps get constant play on my laptop, smart phone, iPod Touch; and I listen to them on the train, in the car whenever Hubby is driving, on the patio at work during my 10-minute personal call break, and in Washington Square Park where I eat lunch in the summer. Skip forward to the 9:57 mark for the best effect.

Lord! This girl is a natural. The camera loves her, and she is obviously comfortable with it. What makes her stand out from the field of YouTubers is her fluency in urban church-speak. The phrases, the quips and the jokes just roll off her tongue, making many a YouTube watcher laugh and hit replay, I’m sure.

So do yourself a favor, and check out her review. No cable bill necessary. LOL!

Rowing Along

Hubby enrolled Baby in swim lessons recently, an activity that will build her confidence and competence in the water. Who knew that this development would also build my confidence and competence about braiding her hair in protective styles? Here are a few shots of the several cute and functional styles I did for her.

Baby’s swim class is in the morning, and because Hubby has more flexibility with his work schedule, he takes her. They needed to stand up to her playtime, shave time getting ready in the morning and be simple enough for Hubby, to deal with before dressing her and bringing her to nursery school.

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As you know, Baby is biracial. Here are a few notes on keeping up her protective style:

• Before canerowing, I moisturized each section with shea butter, and dabbed it with a tiny amount of EcoStyler gel with olive oil for hold.

• each canerow is about as thick as my index finger, and no thinner than my pinky.

• braids can dry the scalp. Combined with swimming in a chlorine pool and winter’s tendency to leave hair  dry and brittle, and scalps become maddeningly itchy and flaky. I frequently moisturize, especially with an anti-itch scalp oil. I also keep Baby’s fingernails trimmed and filed smooth, so she can’t cause abrasions on her scalp if she scratches too hard.

• She won’t let me put a bonnet on her head at night, so she only sleeps on satin pillowcases.

• After four days max, I take down the braids and co-wash with a herbal formula.

For more pictures, check out the post, “Our First Business Trip”.

 

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Our First Business Trip

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I have always seen myself as a working mother. Always. Not once in all my childhood did I ever imagine becoming one of those women lucky enough to leave the hassles and demands of a job behind, so I could focus on the hassles and demands of raising kids and running a household.

For me, this weekend took on a whole new working-mother dynamic, after I took a train up to Boston to attend a financial services conference. I’ll return early in the week, and the trip isn’t arduous. It amounts to a day and a half, all told. But that’s two mornings and two evenings when Hubby will be a single parent, effectively. He can manage meal, bath and play times well, but he’ll have his hands full trying to maintain the pixie-cute styling that I give Baby when I dress her and style her hair. I decided to minimize the guesswork by laying out her clothes for the two mornings I’ll be gone and labeling each outfit ‘Monday’ or ‘Tuesday’. They will do whatever floats their boat, I’m sure, but at least I did my part to make it easier on them.

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And then there is Baby’s hair. She started swim lessons a couple of weeks ago, and readers, I realized just how completely reckless and plain clueless other people can be with Black children’s hair. As if the incident with the office supplies wasn’t enough, we ran into another mishap after her first swim lesson. I trusted Hubby to change Baby after her swim lesson, spray her hair, brush it back and put in a simple headband or ponytail for the rest of the day. It didn’t work out. Somehow, her hair ended in THE BIGGEST afro I’ve ever seen on a child her size. Oh, don’t get it wrong: She loved it and rocked it. But when it came to taming that puff, I wished Hubby (and at least one of her teachers, all female) had taken more care.

This time I decided to canerow (you full-fledged Americans say ‘cornrow’) her hair as her protective style for several days. I did not have the time to put all of Baby’s hair in canerows. She did not have the patience to sit still for that process, either. So I just braided the top and sides, and styled the back with a chiny bump-out (or Bantu knot-out). I just pray Hubby follows my instructions on doing a conditioning rinse for Baby after her lesson, and I hope he can twist and secure Baby’s hair into chiny bumps the way I showed him.

So for two days I will be listening to sessions, conducting interviews and writing and emailing stories. It will be like riding a bicycle, because I’ve done all of that before. This time, though, I’ll be pedaling along on a tandem model with a kiddie sidecar. 

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My Homemade Shea Butter Hair Cream

Folks, I am not a beautician or a magician. Nor do I claim any special expertise or talent in the area of styling natural hair. I am, as I pointed out in “Waste Not, Want Not!” a little careful about what hair products I buy and how much.

Oh, it’s not like I’m indifferent to the prettily colored tubs of styling cremes, gels and lotions that seem to multiply every time I go to the drug store or beauty supply store. Let’s not even mention the butters, meringues, souffles and whips that are so tantalizing they have me thinking about the dessert course, not hair-grooming rituals. These wonderful looking and expertly marketed products are tempting, which is why I need to give myself a few reasons not to give in and buy them. If I did that, I’d have an episode akin to “The Trouble with Tribbles” on my hands.

In any case, I decided to save myself a beauty product junkie meltdown by buying some pure African shea butter (my hoard comes from Ghana), and mixing up a couple of batches for myself and Baby. It saves money. One 8 oz. tub of my favorite Mizani coconut hair souffle costs almost $19, and an 8 oz. tub of the excellent Amla & Olive Heavy Creme from Qhemet Biologics is pricier  at around $32. So I need to pare down costs. Take a look at how I fared in this video, posted to YouTube.

Although I loved the final results, I don’t think I’ll broaden my concoction repertoire to include conditioners, leave-ins, pomades, holding gels or spritzes anytime soon.  I mixed a spritz with some of the whole-leaf aloe vera juice, and I found that after a few days it started to smell poorly on my hair. This still happened after I stored it in the fridge. Maybe I’ll try again with a second batch, and add a few drops of tea tree oil as a preservative, but don’t be surprised if I stop at the hair souffle.

I told Hubby what I was doing one night a few weekends ago, when I was pulling a stand mixer down from its place in our kitchen. He said maybe that’s our road to fame and fortune, to which I rolled my eyes and thought about all the puddings and hair whips that are already crowding store shelves. The farthest that Paige Turner’s Homemade Hair Souffle will go is into Christmas stockings, if that.

And folks, in case you had the misfortune of opening a brokerage or investment account statement in the last week, you’ll know that stock markets everywhere just endured a thrashing. I’m not tempted to think these are the end of days. You won’t find me stocking up on gold bullion, cash or guns, or brushing up on my survival skills. Just give me my tub of African shea butter, my essential oils and my stand mixer, and I’ll plane down a few rough edges in the family budget.

Must-See TV: The Good, the Bad, but Never Ugly

Readers will remember that I announced my intention to go natural a couple of weeks ago. I’ve worn natural hair before, after a long stint of texturizing my short hair, which followed braiding my hair, which followed a period of wearing the cutest darn permed boyish haircut you ever did see!

Of all my styles, I got the most compliments and felt the most confident about my texturized hair. After my braiding stint, I reaped a head of thick, black, shoulder-length hair. I loved the length, and the fact that it was all mine! But I didn’t know how to take care of natural hair. I also had a demanding job. Being perpetually short on time, I kept pressing it. Without proper maintenance, it quickly became unhealthy and broke off.

As a matter of fact, the only reason I permed my natural hair  three years ago was because—once again—I had a demanding job, had just had a baby, and couldn’t dedicate the time to reading blogs, forums, watching videos and meandering through the aisles at natural food stores to find the essential oils that my natural roots like so much. As for texturizing and going bone straight, the knowledgeable stylists I relied on to help me maintain strong, thick hair became unavailable to me, either because they moved on, or I moved out of town. Same thing with the braids. My favorite stylist was harder to get to, once I moved out of her town, and I couldn’t find a replacement as talented as her within an easy distance of me.

I was actually inspired to explore natural Black hair care after a white woman told me about naturallycurly.com, which I used as a resource to find out why my biracial daughter’s hair was falling out. Otherwise, I had resigned myself to being one of the unlucky Black women with ‘bad’ hair. Hard to grow, dry like chip, impossible to maintain, just ‘cream it and done’ hair as Jamaicans might say!

It is different now. There is an amazing wealth of natural hair care resources on the Internet, ranging from dark-skinned Black women working it with their teeny weeny pretty Afros to dark-skinned, no-I’m-not-mixed, in fact I’m Nigerian, women with hair past their shoulders and damned near their waists.

Most of them are committed to growing and grooming natural hair for the foreseeable future, even if it requires putting in tons of time and effort. Of course, you have the bandwagon-jumpers on the natural kick, who go grow out their unpermed roots mainly to experiment for a few years. Some are quite enamored with seeing themselves in Web videos, but have little to offer in the way of concise, instructive well-edited videos. They get bored and perm again, and they are perfectly entitled to do that, enough said. I steer toward the women with hair textures in the 4 grouping, because my hair is similar. Not ‘a one’ of them has expressed the slightest intention of going back to perms. JoStylin’ the YouTuber, even posted a clever rant (mild as rants go) about her natural hair fatigue. She’s not about relapse into using the creamy crack, but her admonition that maintaining natural hair—long natural hair—requires a lot of work was refreshing.

So, after a day at work, settling Baby for bed, maybe a little work I’ve brought home, or writing out checks for bills, I click onto my favorite blogs and YouTube pages to see what some of these ingenious women have come up with next. At this point, I am voracious for information, so I check the Internet almost daily to get the tips and information I want to sustain my coming leap back into natural.

One last thing: Big ups to you talented artists, fashion designers, and hair stylists whose information I’ve sopped up with a biscuit these last five months! Not only does your hair look amazing, but your generosity of spirit has vastly expanded my knowledge of and appreciation for holistic and purpose-driven living. TruKinks for instance, has started a charity to help provide easy access to clean potable water to citizens of developing countries. TruWater is a worthy humanitarian cause that I encourage other naturalistas to check it out at: http://www.youtube.com/user/TruKinks#p/u/4/jsLn7zDI0m4

Also, treat your eyes and senses to Fourborne Art’s blog. The link is in my blogroll. I supported TruKinks’ charity, and I’ll support the small Black women-owned businesses I’ve stumbled across as I’ve explored this option for my hair. Some might scoff at the notion that it took something superficial like hair care to enlighten me to all of the small Black businesses out there, but here is my comeback: Our hair, this fine-stranded, thickly cropped fiber we are just coming to fully appreciate is not frivolous. Neither are we. Our hair, like us, been misunderstood, called course and uncivil, enslaved in a Euro-Asian beauty standard, and written off in some cases. Actually, it is as shiny, bright, fine, and delicate as hair—and women—you’ll find anywhere else in the world. Quite natural that it would bind us, too, no?

That’s IT! I’m Going (Back to) Natural

In early Spring, my friend down the street hosted an Easter Egg Hunt for the neighborhood kids at her house. One of the mothers caught my eye because her hair was shorter, curlier and more vibrant looking than I had ever seen it previously.

“Kyle,” I said looking at her neat, glossy twists. “You’re going natural?”

“Oh yes,” she said, he left arm akimbo. “And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

We got into an animated conversation, with me telling her how great her hair looked, and her telling me how freeing it was to be on this new journey. I think the word “journey” pulled another mom into the discussion. In just a few short minutes, us three grown women were standing around in our friend’s kitchen, extolling the virtues and beauty of natural hair. Natural curls were widely under-appreciated, we said, especially by Black women, whose hair is naturally curly. Kyle talked about how great her hair feels to the touch, without being fried and slicked down by straightening chemicals. Ann has a little boy, but she was still interested in talking about her own routine. And there I was, outwardly talking and complementing both of them, inwardly wondering whether I should make that leap once again into wearing natural hair.

Maybe that conversation was a one-off thing, you say. After all, I wore texturized hair for years before going “bone straight” as my stylist called it.

Well, the natural hair trend is not going away for now, and we’re not talking about a bunch of left-leaning, vegan 20-somethings with their hair blogs and YouTube channels, either. During a block party in July, I ran into another neighborhood mom who also sported a natural style. She dons a suit everyday for her job at a Big Four accounting firm. She doesn’t do any kind of chemical or heat straightening on her two beautiful daughters, who are actively involved in sports, and are also naturalistas. What about Melinda and Sharon, my cousins, who also hold professional jobs and rock the curls everyday? Let’s not forget my friends at work, who at turns inspire and infuriate me with how their thick, black, rich hair of different lengths and textures get longer and seemingly healthier everyday. Loads of people are ditching perms and letting their natural hair grow out.

I’m running out of lame excuses, especially at home, and especially now that Hubby is more educated about Black hair. About two months ago, he stopped by the Dominican salon I frequent, just as the stylist was nearing the end of my session. He happened to listen in on a lengthy discussion between me, the stylist, and the owner about the damage that a chemical burn did to my scalp. Then he became Mr. Let’s Look It Up. A few evenings afterward, he researched the harsh chemicals that go into hair straightening creams. He grimaced in abject horror as he described a demonstration of what perming chemicals did to raw meat. He reads the labels on the products I order for Baby. He sometimes watches me as I style her hair and groans when it’s his turn to practice pony-tailing. (Hey, I’m going to have to travel for work again, eventually. He needs to know how.) He once asked me why God gave Black women hair that requires so much work, and talks about how relieved he is that I haven’t permed my hair in a while and have switched to products with natural ingredients.

I was thinking of perming my hair again, just once to cover up all the uneven lengths, tame my new growth and try to correct the drastic shedding and breakage that has been happening for months. But I think it might be a lost cause. There has been a massive profusion of products, styles and management techniques on caring for natural hair in the last three years alone. Not to mention natural hair care shows and exhibits. So I’m going back to natural. Just as soon as I can book an appointment with a stylist who can help me through that first year of growing it out.

In the meantime, I’m passing along word about the World Natural Hair Health & Beauty Show. It’s happening in Atlanta in September. Doubtless, attendees will find enough products, styles and tips to help them stick to their natural care routines. I won’t be able to make it to this one. But who knows: maybe I’ll make it to the next show, whenever that is!

Big Play for Naturalistas

I grew up in a Jamaican Pentecostal church, as I’ve mentioned before. After one particular service, a female minister accosted me, demanding to know why I was wearing extensions and braids. My childhood church was—is, actually— very conservative, and I remember perennial debates over how women should wear their hair. To the female minister, I answered frankly that I braided my hair to manage it more easily, in return she flashed: “Comb whe’ God gi’ you fi’ comb!” An overly simplistic and nonsensical response, to be sure. We didn’t have much to say to each other after that, and the controversy fizzled out.

Well, a lot of Black women are wearing their hair natural these days. Most want to break away from corrosive chemical treatments, and damaging weaves. The discussion about wearing natural hair and styling “what God gave you,” is no longer exclusively church terrain, or that of our ultra-progressive, dread lock wearing, left-leaning sistren. Those of you who are on a hair journey, or contemplating one, might want to check out this article in The New York Times. It’s about African-American bloggers and video bloggers dishing out advice on caring for natural hair. It ran in the newspaper last week. Looks like there might be a few more additions to the blog roll!

Before CurlyNikki, MopTopMaven, Naptural85 or any other hair bloggers came on the scene, the women in my church were passing around this book by Lonnice Brittenum Bonner. You might recall “Good Hair” yourself, or maybe you’ve read Brittenum Bonner’s other books.  She had been a reporter for the Oakland Tribune, but I think being a “hair memoirist” and forerunner to a hip new wave of hair bloggers makes her even more interesting.

As for me, I wear my hair chemically straightened. And I attend a different church, where no one really gives my head a second glance. I still keep in touch with a lot of my friends from my old church, and occasionally visit. But I try to blend quietly into the background and not draw any attention to myself. (Yeah. Good luck with that, with the mixed family and all.) And besides. Considering that the Bible offers no compelling clues or absolute doctrine on this issue—it preferred to admonish adherents to love their wives and parents not to provoke their children to anger—I never jumped on the natural hair movements that occasionally bubbled up at our church. Besides, I really wanted to spend my time writing stories, reading the classics, plotting my route away from home. That sort of thing. So whenever a minister rapped the back of my hand for cutting my hair into a super short boyish style, I politely explain that I chose the cut because it suited my perfectly shaped head. One woman minister glared at me and my braids—judgmentally, I presumed—from the rostrum during a service. I directed my gaze right back at her until she wilted. She’s probably off somewhere with the woman minister I mentioned earlier, the one who tried to jack me up in the pew after a service. Maybe they are praying for me right now.

Easter & Post-Trim Dos

I think Baby and I are actually becoming reconciled to her hair-care routine.  :)   For the past few weeks, she has actually sat still for, oh, 20 minutes while I raced to style her hair. Even though we were always short on time, I think we pulled off a few cute styles. In the first two pictures, I gave her a sock-bun updo. In the second two, after her trim in a previous blog, I found a style to suit her shorter—and growing—hair.

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All dressed up ...

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... and off to church.

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Shorter hair ...

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... means smaller sections, and more of them.

Trimming Baby’s Ends

I trimmed Baby’s hair a few weeks ago, because her ends were getting rough and they seemed to be splitting. Here’s how I did it.

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After detangling, I smooth each section between my fingers, feeling for rough ends.

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Once I feel the rough, split ends I know where to snip.

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I'll divide this into two smaller sections.

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It is not as bad as it looks. Her hair will grow in as quickly as she does! The locks near the bottom of the picture look browner because they were dry when I snipped. Never again.

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'I'll take it from here, Mommy. '

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The tools. A pair of shears from a beauty supply store; a pin-tail comb; brush for gentle detangling; Shea butter cream and water to mist and moisturize each section.

The Candy Store

When I was in high school and college, going natural wasn’t all that common among Black women. It was a luxury for those with wavy or responsive, easy to manage hair, be they racially mixed or just plain lucky enough not to need a perm to manage their hair in a reasonable amount of time. The women at my childhood church, where modest attire was the requirement and wearing wigs was considered overdoing things, put relaxers in their hair.

Shopping for natural hair care products wasn’t easy, 20 years ago, either. Back then, women would “greez” their scalps, instead of frequently moisturizing with water and light oils. And if a black woman wanted to buy products that were beneficial to her, she would have to order the products, mix them herself, or hunt down a local natural food store to find what she wanted. Maybe the store would be in some hole-in-the-wall place off of a high street in an urban neighborhood. Not these days. Bruising the hair care aisles now looks like this:

The Twisted Sista Line

It’s so much easier now to find good (or passable) products. Word is out that women with curly hairy don’t have to subject their locks to overheating and harsh chemicals to look good. Information and resources about holistic living have proliferated, and are now wisely accessible. I think it’s one more incentive to take my hair natural again. Or at least ditch the bone-straight routine.

Treading carefully into Shea Moisture.

Familiar stand-bys