Protective Styles

No Box Braids Extensions for Me

So, yeah.

Hair is closer to waist length than I thought.  My thumb on the right is where my natural waist is.  Should be fully WL by year end.

Hair is closer to waist length than I thought. My thumb on the right is where my natural waist is. Should be fully WL by year end.

Box braids with extensions did not happen.  As much as I really, really wanted them, I simply could NOT bring myself to fork over the insulting price that I was quoted to get them done.  I get it.  I have a lot of hair, and – to my surprise – it is much closer to getting back to waist length than I realized – but c’mon son (a little piece of NYC that came with me to ATL)…more than double what other people are paying?  A naturalista’s version of the buyer’s dilemma…

I was thoroughly disappointed.  But I quickly realized that my hair on its own could rock box braids.  I previously did them on a regular basis when I was pregnant with kiddo #1.  Not sure why I fell off…they led to a lot of length retention.  In addition, its a protective style without the added tension that comes from adding hair.

These are just pulled back and secured with a bobby pin.

These are just pulled back and secured with a bobby pin.

And so, they are back.  Box braids without extensions.  I started with freshly washed and detangled hair.  I spritzed each section with water, then coated strands with Oyin Handmade Honey Dew, and finally sealed with shea butter before braiding.  To preserve, I have been spritzing my hair lightly with plain water, shea butter over the roots, and tying down with a silk scarf at night.  This has kept the frizzes at bey.  I have also made sure to spritz and seal my ends every other night.

Chunky, medium-sized braids.

Chunky, medium-sized braids.

I decided to create my own little protective-style-self-challenge.  In a perfect world I would love to keep these in for about 6 weeks, but realistically speaking, I want to start with keeping in the same set of braids for stretches of 3 weeks, separated by 1 week of rest and deep conditioning.  August 2nd marks the end of a 3 week period.  I might have to make some adjustments as I start a new rotation on August 4th, but for now, I’ll just keep spritzing and sealing.

Anyone rock box braids with their own hair on a regular basis?  How long do you keep them in?  What’s your regimen?



The Key to Understanding Your Natural Hair

If you look at 1000 natural hair blogs, you will get 1,000,000 tips, tricks and regimens for growing your natural hair.  But there are 4 major things:

  1. Look to others with similar naked hair
  2. Know your personal optimal protein:moisture balance
  3. Protect your ends
  4. Get healthy on the inside

That is it, in a nutshell.  There are no miracle potions, secrets to be discovered, or magic vitamins.  I, personally, am not sold on the idea of growth aids.  I truly believe that some of it is simply augmented by the extra TLC that comes along with using these aids.  In my opinion, the most important of these is finding a mentor, hair twin, blogger or whatever whose naked hair looks just like yours.   I will use myself as an example…

My hair is coarse, wiry and dense.  It has sheen, but not shine.  It takes a lot of water to “wet it down” as the water tends to just run off my strands.  It has waves, kinks, curls and only a few true coils.  It grows out before it grows down.  There is really only one other person that I have come across that is a true “hair twin”, and many of my hair explorations have been personal trial and error.  However, this was a learned process.

My hair, when loaded with styler and leave-in conditioner products looks as if it could be silky and not as coarse.  But this simply ain’t so.  In the beginning, when I was trying to figure out my own hair in 2006-2007, I would do a lot of stalking of people whose hair looked like by styled hair.  But I get no benefit from buying products used by someone whose normally hair looks like my styled hair.  The same products that they might use simply do not work on my hair texture.

Over the years, I have gotten the most growth (outside of pregnancy!), when I did protective styles which took care of my ends, had the best balance of moisture and protein, and had the best diet and exercise regimen.  As I have gotten the latter of these back in gear, I do believe that getting back to WL is right around the corner.

So, what do you guys think?  Do you agree or disagree?  Is there something else that you absolutely believe is key to understanding your hair and aiding in natural hair growth?


Getting Back to Protective Styles

Soooo, I’m really contemplating getting some box braids.  Not because it’s the latest trend (especially since most of us long term naturals have been there & done that and are on round 2 of the “trends”), but because I really need to get back to protective styling.  My hair grew and retained the most length when I was dedicated to protecting my ends.  I was past waist length at the end of 2013, an over-the-hill trip to waist length, and I had a stylist beg me to even out my hair, even though I said, “Don’t even out my hair, I don’t care about that.”  Nevertheless, I punked out (to put it nicely) and now I’m hovering between MBL and WL.  Remember, always trust your gut and stick to your guns, especially when it comes to natural hair.

At the moment, I am rocking a 4-day-old twist out, and I’ve been sleeping with a bonnet at night so my ends don’t lose moisture.  But I need something else.  Something different.  Anybody have any suggestions before I go and haggle on pricing for some braids?  I am completely open-minded…sometimes :-/

Shrinkage will always be realCurly on my right.Curly on my left.Length



Turning into Alicia Keys…

Let me clarify…

I’m about to venture into the world of cornrows for the summer.  This pregnancy has sent the thickness of my hair to a world never before experienced.  My hair thickened with my first pregnancy, and then thinned out a little with the postpartum shedding, but never, ever went back to its original density.  Going into pregnancy #2, I was already dealing with a thicker forest, and it is just getting thicker, and thicker, and longer, and thicker.

I had a trim, which ended up being a mini-cut a few weeks ago, and I would say I’m about BSL at the moment.  Which is fine with me.  My ends needed it.  But I am seriously at my wit’s end.  Styling crazy thick, and relatively long, natural hair is a chore.  No way around it.  For those of you that do it on a daily basis, I’d love for you to chime in with comments so we can share options with each other.  The more the merrier!

As for me, here are the options I was facing and my thoughts on each:

  1. Buns, buns and more buns.  I was doing this for a while.  But I have a big head y’all.  I don’t have hair that easily slicks back into an elegant chignon.  I have THICK hair that I have to beat into submission in order to get anything that remotely resembles a smooth bun, without having humps and lumps that work against what I’m trying to achieve.  My buns tend to make my head look that much bigger because my hair is so thick.  Needless to say, it’s been my fallback style, with a scarf or headband added.  It still takes me about 20-30 minutes of wrestling to get it looking decent, at best.  But I feel the tension I have to create to get it all back is just not good for the hair line.
  2. Mini twists or braids that would last about a week to 10 days that I could turn into a twist out.  These were good for a while.  But I just don’t have the 4 hours it takes for me to put them in.  End of story.
  3. Wash-n-gos. Ha!  The last time I did a wash and go was in my last post…how many months ago was that?  I choose not to do styles that “bring out my curls” because it requires a lot of product and manipulation on my part.  I’m okay with my fuzzy kinks.  The time factor (washing, conditioning, detangling and styling) combined with complete acceptance (I just don’t need to prove to the world that my hair has waves and curls) leads me to just not really prefer this option.  Sure, it’s okay to throw it in there every now and then as an alternative/switch it up…it’s just not the go to.
  4. Relax it. Not really an option for me.  But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t something I hadn’t considered from time to time.  That’s just real talk right there.  No frontin’ on these pages.

So, after lots and lots of deliberation, I came to realize I was tired of every option I had ever given myself.  But then I opened my eyes to an option that had always been there that I never really considered.  Cornrows.

I live in Harlem.  Without fail, like clockwork, every single day when I come home, I am greeted on 125th street with the songs of West African Braiders.  “Hair braided Miss?  Hair braided?”  I usually reply, “No thank you.  Not today.  But have a nice day.”  To which I get smiles and “Take my card for next time.”  And I do and I put it in my bag and never really think about it again.

Then yesterday, as I was digging around looking for my keys, I realized I had at least a dozen cards from hair braiders in my bag.  On the front of one was a picture of a woman was really small cornrows that were quite beautiful.  I took the card to my DH and asked what he thought of the style, and he said “That’s kinda hot” and I smiled because I thought the same.

— Side note…it’s amazing how we always look to others to validate our thoughts, ways and moods.  I kinda feel no matter how independent you are, you often go to an outside party for comments.  Is that a matter of validation, scrutiny, etc?  Don’t know.  Just came to me.  But anyway —

So, I started scouring the internet for pics of cornrows.  And all I could find were larger sets or styles with extensions.  None of which appeal to me.  And then I came across A. Keys.  And I found the style I want to [try to] have replicated.  I’m getting it done with no hair added, no feed in, just my good old thick, natural hair.  They quoted my $60, which I thought was a great price.  If it comes out nice, I’ll probably throw in another $20 for appreciation.  Getting it done this evening after work and I’ll report back with the final product.

The plan is to get them done once a month.  But, you know how I am with plans…

Twisting out the winter…

Over the past three years, I’ve had the typical love-hate relationship with protective styles for my natural hair.  I love what they have to offer, but I hate putting in the time to make them happen.  But I’ve recently stumbled upon an amazingly simple and healthy routine that keeps me natural to the fullest, makes my tresses super succulent and requires a couple of hours a week of invested time.

The result is a kick-ass twist out (click on each pic to enlarge).

This is seriously the first time I have *loved* my twist out.  Usually, I just roll with it because I took the time to do the twists and just try to get the most out of the by-product.  But now, I think I’m going to stick with this as my winter routine.

So, here’s the skinny:

1. Deep cleanse hair – more on this to come.  I’ve upped my bentonite clay deep cleansing game and I’m in love all over again.

2. Condition and detangle – I just used Herbal Essences Long Term Relationship.  Concentrate most of the conditioner on the ends of my hair and detangle with my denman.

3. Blot hair to remove drippies.

4. Twist with moisturizer on slightly damp hair.  I’ve been making my own moisturizer infused with all kinds of goodies and I don’t think I’ll ever go commercial again!!

5. Keep those ends moisturized nightly for each day the twists are in.  Every night I apply my moisturizer to my ends and each night I think I’m gonna be a greasy mess.  But I wake up every morning with the softest, touchable hair.

6. Sleep with a silk/satin scarf/pillowcase.  I end up skipping the scarf from time to time, so the pillowcase is a MUST for me.

I put these in on Friday night, and took them out Tuesday morning.  I am IN LOVE.