Wednesday, May 15, 2013

At the end of it's all about habits

Hello there everybody. Y'all over the hump yet?

Excellence strives forth from people who have healthy habits, habits they don't break. It's not a compulsion, it's a routine. They get up an hour earlier, or stay at the office an hour longer. They do extra research. They run an extra 5 minutes on the treadmill, they are punctual, they eat their vegetables and drink 8 glasses of water a day. They read every word on a report and they remember it. These are habits, and the people who are most consistent are the ones yielding the most favorable results.

Now, when it comes to a hair journey, the first I get asked is "how do you do it?" and the second thing is "what do you do? Honestly, when I started off on this sometimes crazy little yellow paved road, I did a LOT of research. What struck me most is that the ladies who have been yeilding the most favorable results are the ones who have their regimens and routines down pat! The second thing that I noticed about these hairlistas, is that they are very careful with regard to product choices, taking into account the ingredients and each component's effect on their hair. So, all of them are little scientists at heart and I took that with me as I set off to the beauty supply store.

And man oh man, did I turn into a product junkie!! I bought and tried everything! If it was part of the ORS line last year, it is part of my stash. I read ingredient labels, I figured out what they meant, Blackberry and Google always at my fingertips as I stroll through the isles. I could not enter ANY store and not check out what they have to offer in the hair isles. I think that I did become a little obsessed, but then again, obsession is simply passion sans knowledge and experience.

As time moved on, things became simpler. I became a bit more aware of what I am DOING, as opposed to what I'm buying. I realised that I could have the most brilliant conditioner on earth, but it would not matter diddly if I did not apply it carefully and properly to my entire head of hair, root to tip. I realised that I could have the gentlest shampoo on the planet but it would matter squat if I shampooed my hair like the girl in those Herbal Essence commercials. (Remember those?? If y'all don't, I'm giving away my age here, lol) All that would accomplish with my 3c/4a hair is a lot of matting, knotting, tangling and ultimately breakage city. I could have an arsenal of amazing products and it would be money down the drain if my HABITS weren't hair friendly.

So, you may ask, what habits have I formed since the start of my journey which have assisted me in retaining length? And in my humble opinion, my best habits so far are the following:
  • Sleeping with a satin wrap, satin scarf and satin bonnet, sometimes all at the same time. Material like cotton and linen, found in most beddingclothes are NOT hair friendly. They zap moisture from the hair, leaving it dry and frayed, and NOT pretty. If push comes to shove, go to a fabric store and get yourself some on sale silk or satin and make your own hair covers for bed time. The worst habit I kicked was sleeping with an uncovered head.
  • Moisturizing and sealing on a regualr basis. It is the simploest thing you can do. I simply spritz my hair with a water and cheapy conditioner mix and when it's sliglty damp, seal with coconut oil. Then I wrap them up (I'm not a fan of reversion) and chill like that through the night.
  • Getting a wide tooth comb. I'm planning on getting a comb with even wider teeth, that's a bit of a rake. Wide tooth combs are our friends, especially when it comes to detangling. Smaal tooth combs WANT to rip the hair right out of your skull, so personally, I avoid them like the plague.
  • Protective styling. Thank you Ebony!! Even though the challenge is finished, I still pin up my hair, french plait it, basically protect it. it is now officially a habit.
  • Wash day is MY time. Whether I decide to dedicate 2 hours, or 12, it's MY time, and I make it very clear to everyone. The reason that it is MY time - your hair does not thank you if you rush through the wash day process. I mean think about it!! Pre-poo(at least 15 minutes after application of oily conditioner mix) and detangle, rinse, shampoo, rinse, instant condition, rinse, deep condition (no less than 30minutes!), rinse, airdry for 10 minutes, apply leave in, detangle, roller set (which takes me 45 minutes these day, having so much MORE hair) and then wait to dry, sometimes using the dryer on cold setting to help it along. THAT is a LOT of effort, and must thus not be rushed. If rushed, you will regret it later.
  • BE GENTLE! I think the biggest habit I've gotten into is being gentle and not trying to force my hair to do thimgs it doesn't want to do.
One of the biggest thigs I've learned is that I must LISTEN to my hair and realise what it needs. At the same time, building up these hair healthy habits have made me go from ear length to full shoulder length in a little over a year. Soooooo, at the end of it all, it's all about HABITS.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Stretching ain't for sissies!

Good morning lovelies, and happy Moanday, lol!

So, I've decided to talk a bit about the fact that I am currently stretching my relaxer a little bit. To get everybody on the up and up, here's a definition of relaxer stretching:

Traditionally hair stylists have encouraged women to relax their hair every 4 to 6 weeks. Stretching your relaxer means lengthening the period between your touch ups, so instead of 4 to 6 weeks, you wait for 8 to 10 weeks or more.

Now, before I started my journey, I consistently touched up my relaxer every 6-8 weeks, always feeling that less than 6 weeks is just too short. Since the start of my journey I started stretching my relaxer, my longest stretch so far having been 13 weeks. This is one practice that has proven to be very beneficial to my hair and to my goal of retaining as much length as possible. My hair is currently the longest it has ever been. Granted, it's not the only practice that I have employed in the arsenal of my journey. 

Now, there are pros and cons when it comes to stretching, and if one wishes to attempt it, one must be aware. Like Maya Angelou says - if one knows better, you do better! 


  • Preventing over-processing of previously relaxed hair. Relaxing one's hair is a process of "controlled damage". The relaxer breaks down the protein bonds within the hair, allowing for the curls and coils and kinks to become smoother and straighter. Now, said hair can be maintained at an optimum health, BUT if one rushes one's touch ups, you are in danger off applying the relaxing not only on the new growth, but overlapping it onto already previously relaxed hair, further weakening those protein bonds and bringing you within danger of serious breakage. Stretching your relaxer allows for a decent amount of new growth which will make touch up day easier for you (or your stylist) and less damaging to the rest of your hair. 
  • A thicker head of hair, with more volume. This in itself is also a benefit of not over processing previously relaxed hair as hair becomes thinner when you overlap the relaxer. 
  • Your scalp gets a break from the chemicals in the relaxer. Anyone who's ever had a relaxer, and especially everyone who has a bad relaxer experience, can testify that those chemicals can BURN your scalp. By stretching your relaxer (and of course nourishing your scalp during the stretch) one's scalp gets time to return to optimal health after being exposed to the relaxer chemicals. 
  • Lots of new growth. Technically speaking this isn't a con. However, if you don't know how to care for your new growth, you will experience breakage, tangles and knots due to the fact that you're working with two distinctly different textures. Which brings us to our next point...
  • Demarcation line breakage. The line of demarcation is the point where the new growth and relaxed hair meet. Due to the difference in textures and the protein bond breaking process of a relaxer, this is also the weakest point in the hair shaft, and if one is not careful and mindful of this - hello breakage!
Now, long stretches aren't for everyone, especially if you're new to the process. When I started stretching I started adding a week with every stretch as to enable myself to judge which point is my optimal stretching time. So far, as I'm only a year and a bit into my journey I have determined that 11-12 weeks is my optimum time. Currently I'm 13 weeks post and as my schedule is currently, I don't see myself being able to touch up for another 2 weeks, and at 15 weeks post, it will be my longest stretch ever. I'm already struggling a little bit with my new growth, but I did pick up quite a few nice tips which helps me deal with the new growth and prevent breakage. The best ones that help me with working with two distinct textures are the following:

  • Finger detangling and a WIDE tooth comb are your friends! The best thing anyone can do for their hair whilst stretching is to be GENTLE whilst handling it. Fine tooth combs and brushes will land you in Breakage City. 
  • Keep new growth moisturized. Regardless of what kind of moisturizer works best for your hair, make sure that you keep your hair soft and manageable. Personally I have found the best way to do this - to moisturize my hair in the evening before bed, sealing it with coconut oil and tying it down with a satin wrap and satin scarf as to prevent reversion. 
  • Deep condition regularly, and make sure to alternate between protein and moisturizing conditioners. Protein makes hair stronger, moisture makes it pliable and manageable. You want to maintain the balance, especially considering that you're working with two textures. In addition, I have found it best to, when applying the deep conditioner, to apply it little section by section, in the same manner that you would apply a relaxer. This would ensure that your new growth and the line of demarcation gets as much conditioning as the length and ends of the hair. 
  • Stretch gradually. If you've been touching up religiously at 6 weeks all your life, add one week and touch up at seven weeks the next time. Then at 8 weeks, then 9 weeks, and so on and so forth, until you have found your optimal stretching period. 
  • Personally I keep my new growth pretty stretched and straight. However I do this in a heat free manner by doing roller sets. By keeping my new growth relatively straight, the amount of manipulation when combing, washing and detangling your hair becomes much less, which will attribute to less breakage. However, hair styles that blend the two textures, such as braid outs and bantu knot outs and twist outs, are also great for stretching (especially for first time stretchers). If you are focused on how straight your new growth isn't, stretching is going to seem like a seemingly impossible task.(Great tip from Sharday of The Awkward Stage)
  • On wash day, and if you're relatively deep in a stretch, try and wash your hair in sections. Personally I've started to section off my hair whilst doing my prepoo. It eases up the ENTIRE wash day process, as the hair gets less of an opportunity to kink and tangle up on you. 
  • Protective styling and low manipulation hairstyles are also beneficial when stretching your relaxer, as it means that you handle your hair less, which means less breakage, which is always the primary aim. Try braids, weaves, buns, roller sets, rod sets, etc. until you find what works best for you and your crown.
Lastly, you know YOUR hair best. I know that I'm taking a risk waiting another two weeks before touching up, which is also why I am going to be EXTRA GENTLE whilst handing my hair, whether this means washing, styling, moisturizing and sealing or wrapping. 

Anyone else have some nice tips for stretching?

On that note, have a great day everyone and a blessed week!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Final challenge check in!

Hello there everybody.

I am very glad to report that the Longing 4 Length Protective Styling Challenge was just what the doctor ordered for my tresses. I have retained quite a bit of growth. My hair and I are still locked in a bit of a battle though. I'm 13 weeks post, and I don't know when I'll be able to touch up my hair. So, I'm trying to be as gentle as possible, while my new growth is extremely stubborn, even though I keep them nice and soft and moisturized. My hair's pretty strong at the moment, I've managed to reduce my breakage rate. However, I'm still struggling a bit with shedding. I'm considering infusing garlic into my coconut oil for my next wash day, hopefully reducing the shedding. 

L4L Protective Styling Challenge

But enough about my current hair issues, especially in the light of how HAPPY I am with my progress. When we started this challenge, I was grazing shoulder length, as in I wasn't quite there, but I could taste it. Here's a little reminder of where I was at the beginning of the challenge:

Sorry for the crappy quality of the pics, but if you look closely - the ends are grazing the top of my tattoo and the side layers have not yet reached the shoulders. 

Side view at start of challenge - not SL yet. 

And here ladies (and gentlemen) is where I am now after three whole months of protective styling, of up do's and french plaits, of 1950 style pin ups and buns, practically no heat use (just once), deep conditioning religiously, sometimes more than twice a month, only wearing my hair out and about twice, and then also only for a few hours (ended up being pinned up later). 

Drum roll please................................


I am planning to trim my ends when I touch up my roots but as y'all can see, another month of protective styling and my tattoo would be covered by hair. But yes, this is me claiming SL, and as far as I can tell from the top pic, I'm about 3 inches away from APL, so THAT is where I am heading now. In the meantime, my heart is aching for that Pebco dryer, so guys, go to and if you're also of the opinion that the protective styling gave me an edge, vote, vote vote. 

PS A very good friend of mine has told me that she has started her own personal hair journey and she's picking up helpful tips from my blog. And I am seeing very positive changes in her hair's health and length. It makes me feel very honored, and humbled, considering that I've only been doing this for a little over a year. So, to her, and to all my other readers out there, thank you, and let's keep growing and taking care of our crowns!

PSS I hope that I have now finally fixed and solved the picture visibility issues.