Update: caring for fine, natural hair, pt. 2

It’s been five months since I started using the Pantene line for fine hair. The results are that my hair has improved quite a bit. Feels stronger and there is a lot less breakage. The verdict is that thickening and/or volumizing products are best for my hair. Now, it’s time to try some other products. I boiled it down to two options:

1. SheaMoisture Yucca and Baobab line

2. Organix Biotin and Collagen line

SheaMoisture is more expensive than Organix, but still affordable. However, I will have to order it online because I haven’t found a local place that sells all of the Y+B line. The one place that I might have luck is Walgreens, but my memory is hazy on what SheaMoisture products they carry. If they have any of the Y+B line, it’s just the shampoo and/or conditioner. I’ve decided to try Organix first, since it was easier to find local and is cheaper. I used it the first time this past Sunday. In between wash days I also started using the Organix Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum on my hair daily. I just put a tiny bit in the palm of my hand and smooth it all over my hair.

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Results

Pretty good, I think. My regimen is: detangle, wash, condition and style.

My detangling conditioner is Tresemme Split Remedy. It has lots of slip and I start on dry hair, pre-wash. For the purposes of detangling, I use a lot of product. I let it sit in my hair, with a cap and towel on while I eat brekkie. Then I detangle with a wide-toothed comb (I’m actually considering trying finger detangling next wash day), then get into the shower and shampoo and condition. I used to wash my hair in sections because I have, like, 90 percent shrinkage and that causes too many tangles and knots. Keeping my hair sectioned until I styled cut down on that. However it seemed like during the shampoo, my scalp never got very clean and it was time consuming to make sure no shampoo remained on my hair. So I now wash my hair loose, put conditioner in, and gently section my hair again, securing with duckbill clips. I never rinse out conditioner, always using it as a leave-in, whether it is technically a leave-in or not. After letting my hair dry slightly (but is still pretty wet), I twisted my hair with Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil Smooth and Hold Pudding.

My hair feels good. I would say it is perfectly moisturized. Soft, yet strong. For the weekend, I’m going to wear a twist-out. Then once that gets old looking, I will twist my hair into large twists nightly, wearing it out during the day, until next wash day. This will be my basic regimen throughout the winter.

I’m beginning to think that the hair typing system is not useful for figuring out what products are best for your hair. I suppose it’s nice to formalize the different hair types, so that people are aware. But you can tell just by looking if your hair is straight, wavy, curly or kinky; it’s not rocket science. I think where a lot of naturals get frustrated is that they stop there and don’t consider if their hair strand diameter is fine, medium, or coarse and if their hair density is high or low. Those areas are where product type matter the most. The finer your hair, the less natural protein is in the strand. If you’re on the fine end of the spectrum and you overuse moisturizing products, loading too much on, your hair will be a mushy mess and be prone to breakage. Coarse hair as a lot of natural protein in the strand. If you’re on that end, overusing protein laden products will make your hair a crispy mess and lead to the same problem: breakage.

I think it is assumed that if your hair is kinky, 4A, B or C, then it’s automatically coarse. And you need to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. There is also a irrational fear of protein, probably based off of some coarse-haired naturals experiences. When one is new to being natural, you are likely to think of fine hair being that less kinky, 3C type. But it does not matter what your curl pattern (or lack of one) is; you can have hair that is anywhere on the fine/medium/coarse continuum. Many naturals also realize their hair isn’t very dense. My hair is fine, but the density is high. Some 4A-C naturals have both fine strands and low density. Which means heavy products, too much moisturizing and not enough protein will eventually damage their hair. Or, in the very least, their hair will seem not to thrive well and length retention is difficult, if not impossible.

In my opinion, it is largely irrelevant how kinky or nappy your hair is. When someone decides to transition from relaxers to natural hair, they should (in my opinion, of course) figure out just two things: hair density and strand thickness. Now, there are definitely major differences between hair on the straight to kinky spectrum. Curlier hair is harder to keep moisturized. But if curly hair is fine, making sure you use enough protein helps your hair retain moisture better.

Caring for fine, natural hair

So I’m at a crossroads with my hair. After battling post-partum shedding in 2011-2012, I’ve realized I have seriously neglected my hair by not putting enough protein in it.

Many naturals have gone through this: why are so-and-so’s two-stranded twists so thick and yummy and mine are scalpy and sparse? Come to find out, after researching, you got thin or fine hair. Either low-density, which is the number of hairs per square inch on your head, or fine strands, each strand being thin in diameter.

Some have both. I just have one: my hair is quite dense, but the strands are fine.

There are various breakthroughs each of us go through on our natural hair care journey. Sometimes, it feels melodramatic. But for anyone who isn’t a black woman, you have to understand that hair is an important part of our culture. Unfortunately, those of us that had our hair relaxed from an early age, have absolutely no idea of what our chemical-free hair is like. Hence, all these aha-moments and realizations about our hair every few years.

A year or two ago, I realized I had fine hair. However, I didn’t realize that the diameter of your hair kind of dictates how much protein you should be using in your regimen. The smaller the diameter, the less natural protein you have in your hair. So you have to add some now and again. Or maybe a lot, on the regular, if you have very fine hair. In all the natural hair spaces online, I feel like this information gets lost among the desire to keep our moisturized. In fact, you can damage your hair by over-moisturizing.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done a protein treatment. All things considered, I’m surprised my hair has held up this long. But after the postpartum shedding wasn’t an issue anymore, I was still losing a lot of hair during the detangling process. And it seemed limp and lifeless. I needed to change things up a bit, at least short-term. First thing I did was look for a shampoo and conditioner. I chose these:

Pantene

Pantene’s line for fine hair. It’s inexpensive. Won’t hurt to try. It was somewhat of an epiphany for me to realize that shampoos and conditioners that add volume are probably ok for me. Again, you’re conditioned as a natural to focus on super moisturizing and taming that fro.

Even though I haven’t done a protein treatment in a while, I’ve got a protein conditioner sitting right under my sink, Aubrey’s Rosemary Peppermint. I’m going to use this to detangle tomorrow (wash day!!), wash and condition with Pantene, then moisturize with Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie. I’ve been using this for a while; it has silk protein in it but it’s listed in middle of the ingredient list. I haven’t been super impressed with it. Not sure if my hair likes shea butter. But if I have been dealing with damage from lack of protein, no product is going to do well in my hair.

I’ll do an update soon!

ITYC podcast interview

Michelle McCrary, from Is That Your Child Radio, interviewed me a few weeks ago and it was posted on July 6. I loved it! I had so much fun talking with Michelle about raising mixed kids, interracial relationships, natural hair and being a brown nerd. You can listen to the interview here.

Time was limited, so we didn’t get to talk about nerd stuff as much as I wanted to. As an African-American woman, I don’t fit the usual mold in a lot of areas; for instance I am not religious (I am, in fact, an atheist and secular humanist). And I have always loved science-fiction in any form (books/television/movies) and comics. I can’t think of one girlfriend during my childhood/teen years that shared my interest in any of these things.

Speaking of sci-fi, now that my religious/philosophical leanings have evolved, I’ve come to appreciate even more the creative genius of Gene Roddenberry and the future he imagined in Star Trek. I’m thinking that will be the subject of a future post!

Post-partum hair

I’m coming up on ten months since #2 son arrived and, finally, my hair seems to be entering the recovery phase.

When you’re pregnant, all of the extra hormones circulating in your body cause you to grow more hair and shed less. The result is a thick, luscious mane. The downside? About 3-4 months after baby is born, there is a massive shedding to the point where it seems like your hair is falling out.

With #1 I had dreads, so the only thing I noticed was a thinning hair line. By the time he was a year old, it filled back in. However, I cut my dreads in 2009 and am now a loose nappy. So I expected the shedding, but for a while there it was so bad, I was thinking about doing another big chop! The amount of hair coming out was insane.

Also, I was slacking on my hair routine in the beginning because there just wasn’t time. I’d go quite a while between washings and didn’t really detangle very thoroughly. And I had a lightbulb moment where I realized I needed to keep my hair sectioned during the whole washing process; I washed my hair loose at one point and it tangled up pretty badly.

So this past weekend I washed my hair and it went very smoothly. No major knots and less shed hair than last time. A few thoughts hair-wise:

1. I finally bought Trader Joe’s Nourishing Spa shampoo and conditioner ( I did not buy it on Amazon, not sure why it is so much, At the store, it’s $2.99/bottle). Many naturals rave about these products, especially the conditioner. I used the later as a deep conditioner that I left on for maybe an hour or so (I had to eat brekkie and do mama stuff) and then detangled with the Denman. WOW. Loved it. It just glided through my hair and it took maybe 30 minutes to completely detangle. The shampoo was nice too. Didn’t leave my hair feeling stripped at all.

2. I bought Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Conditioner a while back to use as a detangler but I was not very impressed with it. However, I started using it as a leave-in and I love it. At night, I’d spritz my hair with water, add the conditioner to my ends and seal with a mixture of Qhemet Biologics Amla+Olive Heavy Cream, Olive Hydrating Balm and a bit of castor oil. My hair was soft and not oily at all. So I did this after my wash on Saturday, adding the GFTN conditioner and sealing with my mix. My hair is still braided up now, but I will wear it down at the end of the week and see if the results are the same.

Some may have issues using a regular conditioner as a leave-in. But it has been my experience that marketed leave-ins do not work well for my hair. They are not heavy enough. I just make sure that I am okay with the first 5 or so ingredients.

3. I’ve fallen back in love with my Denman brush. When I had a TWA (teeny weeny afro), it was great. Then I had that in-between phase and it didn’t seem to work as well. But the last two times I detangled, I used it and it was lovely. I have a Tangle Teezer that I thought I liked, but I think it’s too rough. For me, it’s been good for smoothing my edges if I am wearing my hair up or back.

I didn’t have time to do a length check, but the hair in the back reached past my collarbone and the hair up front reached down to my upper lip. When I take my hair down at the end of the week, I will do some measurements.

Natural hair care in Oregon

There is a petition floating around seeking support for a change in state regulations for natural hair stylists Oregon. Currently, if you want to do hair in most states, including Oregon, you have to go to cosmetology school. However, almost all of the course work is geared toward chemically or heat straightening the hair and you learn very little (if at all) about how to do African-American hair in its natural state.

For years, I’ve thought going to beauty schools (as they are currently set up) was a waste of time and money for individuals who just want to braid, loc, two-strand twist, deep condition or style hair sans chemicals and heat. It makes sense to have a separate certification procedure, like they do for barbers. I hope the petitioner gets the signatures she needs (yours truly signed of course). Not only would this open up more small business opportunities, but it will perhaps create a need for natural hair care schools that can provide the license or certification needed.

More Garnier products I like

Finally got around to washing my hair and it went a lot easier this time. I detangled (Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Conditioner), washed and moisturized while keeping my hair sectioned.

DH has a lot less hair than I do (read: bald), but nevertheless likes to borrow my shampoo. And never return it. The current bottle he’s taken hostage is the Whole Foods brand lavender shampoo for dry hair. So I bought another one: Garnier Fruictis Moisture Works.

This is the most moisturizing shampoo I’ve ever used. Didn’t leave my hair with that squeaky, “too clean” feeling. For moisturizing and setting, I used the Qhemet Biologics Amla+Olive Heavy Cream and the Garnier Fructis Pure+Clean gel.

Qhemet is fairly expensive (although it lasts a long time) and not convenient to get (no stores near me sell it). I’m looking for some less expensive and easier to get products I can use when I run out of Qhemet (I won’t abandon them, just taking a break), and I’m seriously considering Garnier. The other product I want to try is their Sleek and Shine leave-in conditioning cream.

Trying out a new hair gel

I’ve been on the hunt for a new gel to use for styling my hair. Right now, the only style I have time for is a chunky fro or twist-out. Sometimes, I want more definition. The Honeybush tea gel from Qhemet Biologics that I’ve been using for a while is ok, but the hold is very weak. And of course most other gels leave residue or make your hair hard and crunchy.

I think Iv’e found a winner. Garnier Fructis Pure and Clean Gel.

The ingredients are “98% naturally derived” with no silicones, parabens or dyes. So I applied it to the 6 large twists I usually put my hair in nightly. However, I’ve yet to take them down since I haven’t gone anywhere this week yet. BUT, I did notice that there is no residue and my hair is not hard. Good signs. We’ll see how defined my chunky twist-out is when I take them out.

Hair Knots!

The last time I washed my hair, I got a mutant knot in it. In fact, I got quite a few mutant knots.

The mistake? I did all the work of detangling my hair with loads of conditioner, but when I washed it I neglected to keep it in sections.

Ugh, it was horrid. The sound of ripping hair is not pretty. In fact, I decided to just leave the knots alone and pretend they aren’t there. They’ll come out when they are ready to.

Since #2 was born, I have considered, on many occasions, cutting all of my hair off again. It would be much easier to maintain. And all this post-baby shedding is worrisome. But I like my chunky fro too much. Although it’s basically the only hairstyle I have time to do nowadays. Sitting down and leisurely putting my hair in two-stranded twists? Can’t be done at this juncture.

Hair touching = racism?

I’ve worn my hair natural (i.e. no chemical alteration) for over ten years, and I’ve always heard about black women encountering random strangers, usually white people, who have an uncontrollable urge to touch their natural hair.

A recent CNN article, ” ‘Can I touch it?’ The fascination with natural, African-American hair “, talks about this phenomenon. Some claim the hair fondling is a remnant of attitudes prevalent during slavery and just plain racist.

But maybe it has nothing to do with racism. For the most part. It’s a general lack of respect, plus a genuine curiosity.

Don’t make it right, of course.

Most whites don’t understand how different our hair can be when it is not chemically straightened. They are truly fascinated with the kinks, spirals and curls. They probably can barely wrap their brains around the concept of shrinkage.

So, they are just…in awe of it.

Now, a normal person, a person that is 98 percent emotionally healthy, would compliment you on your hair and if they knew you fairly well…would probably not even ask to touch your hair. Because that is just weird.

Anyone that would ask or just haul off and do it? Disrespectful. And then actually get mad when you try to erect boundaries? A crazy person.

Could all that be tied to racism? Maybe. I do think racism is a form of insanity. But what I find the most disturbing are the comments opposing the very idea that someone would not want their hair touched by a stranger. Like, I’m supposed to just be okay with people touching me.

Again, this could be tied to racism. But it could also be tied to emotionally unstable people who want you to have boundaries as thin as their own, so everyone can trade kudos and be needy together; the white person can feel good because they like nappy hair, and the black person is supposed to like this attention because they feel kind of insecure about their nappy hair.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

A few months ago, I came upon this web series, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” that has me absolutely in stitches every episode.

The series chronicles the life of “J”, a black woman who has to navigate countless awkward situations in both her personal and work lives, minus the stereotypical neck-snapping and “urban” attitude. Some of her favorite pastimes includes secretly writing violent rap lyrics to help her cope and pining over Fred, a co-worker on whom she has a serious crush, but who may or may not like her back. A plus for me, is that J is natural. Yay! Watch the very first episode and see how her then boyfriend responds to her big chop.

During the latest episode, “The Stapler”, she runs into “White Boy J”, a guy she met at Fred’s birthday party. White Boy J clearly thinks she is cute, but she was so caught up in getting Fred to notice her, it kind of goes over her head. Or maybe she noticed and didn’t want to go there. In either case, at the end of this episode she ends up considering a date with White Boy J.

The two J’s have a few things in common; 1) they have the same name, 2) liking Single Ladies and 3), probably the most important, being awkward. It’s fun when  J connects with fellow awkwardites (her co-worker Cece is one) so it should be interesting to see how their relationship unfolds.

However, even after this episode Fred’s feelings for J are still a bit of a mystery to me; perhaps he will realize he likes her after finding out she is seeing White Boy J.