Saturday, April 28, 2012

Curls of Joy "Know Your Hair, Love Your Hair" Challenge - Week 4 Update

I'm back for my Week 4 Update for the Curls of Joy "Know Your Hair, Love Your Hair" Challenge! (http://curlsofjoy.blogspot.com)  As I stated in my last post, I'm actually participating in two hair challenges.  Along with the Curls of Joy challenge, I'm doing my own "Healthy Growth & Length Retention Challenge", which I begin in March. 

Week 1 of the Curls of Joy Challenge involved setting goals.  In my last post, I stated that my goals are to grow and maintain healthy hair, achieve/retain and increase the length of the hair I grow, learn how and why my hair responds to different methods and products, learn to love my hair again and go back to enjoying my natural hair journey.  I also listed the issues I was having with my hair...knotty/tangled ends, lack of length retention (from excessive trimming due to knotty ends), roughness/hardness of my hair, and increased difficulty managing my hair.

Some of the tools/methods I began using (in March) to achieve these goals are tips/advice I received from well-known natural hairstylist, Felicia Leatherwood of Loving Your Hair with Natural Care Workshop (http://www.lovingyourhairworkshop.com) and Jc of The Natural Haven (http://www.thenaturalhavenbloom.com/).

After describing my issues to her, Felicia recommended that I try the following products:
  • Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo
  • Shea Moisture Anti-Breakage Mask
  • Koils By Nature Moisturizing Shealoe Leave-In Conditioner
  • Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Reconstructive Elixir
She also recommended trimming the remainder of the bad ends off.  Yikes!  (I ended up cutting quite a bit of hair off, BUT the raggedy ends are gone!)

Jc, in a post on Black Girl with Long Hair, http://blackgirllonghair.com/2011/10/5-reasons-youre-not-gaining-length/, suggested that I try finger detangling my hair, instead of combing (when I take my mini two-strand twists loose to prep for washing).  She recommended a tutorial on finger detangling by chery818 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOwuT3vzxP0).  Using this method has already made a BIG difference.  It takes a long time and a lot of patience, but the amount of hair lost has greatly decreased and I have had very little, if any, tangling and knotting on the ends.  Yippee!
 
In addition to the above regimens, I've also begun using extra virgin coconut oil as a "pre-poo" (pre-shampoo) conditioner, twisting the hair in big two-strand twists, covering with a plastic cap, and letting it (coconut oil) sit for no less than 30 minutes (sometimes overnight).   The result - very soft, detangled hair!  Whoo hoo!
 
Another method I've incorporated is twisting my hair in big twists after applying the Koils By Nature Moisturizing Shealoe Leave-In Conditioner.  So far, it hasn't necessarily made my hair softer, but by twisting the hair with the leave-in and leaving it twisted until I get ready to do my regular mini-twist style, it decreases shrinkage and prevents tangling and knotting.  This keeps me from fighting to tear my way (literally, tearing hair out) through a dry, rough, tangled, knotted, shrunken mess that used to take me a couple of days to twist (and my hair's not even long yet).  Now, I can do my hair, from start (finger detangling) to finish (mini twists), in one day!  Yeah!

I've also learned that there's a difference between moisturizing and sealing.  So, I've tweaked my regimen by moisturizing my hair, preferably with a water-based moisturizer, then sealing the moisture into the hair, particularly the ends, with natural oil(s).  I've learned the importance of paying special attention to the ends (the oldest part of the hair).  I like the way one blogger puts it, "Treat your ends like your elders."  Make sure they're well taken care of.  :-)

Week 2 - "The Anatomy and Science of Hair", http://curlsofjoy.blogspot.com/2012/04/week-two-anatomy-and-science-of-hair.html, features links to some great videos and articles breaking the subject down.  Kimmaytube does an awesome job in her video series on the structure and pH of hair! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-i3MC4d-HmY).  There's also a video by LaBellaNatural that gives a great, basic explanation of the anatomy of hair:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fxg_qzHFC0.

Week 3 - "Vitamins, Lifestyle, & Diet", http://curlsofjoy.blogspot.com/2012/04/week-three-vitamins-lifestyle-diet.html, includes some very informative articles on vitamins and minerals, as well as the foods that contain them, that are vital for the health of hair.  While I do eat a pretty healthy diet with foods that contain almost all, if not all, of these necessary nutrients, I know I could do better.  I've definitely got to do something about that "sweet tooth" that has been rearing its ugly head from time to time. Sugar is not my friend!

Lately, I've being hearing from a couple of different sources that since our bodies are automatically programmed for survival, the most vital organs, i.e. heart, lungs, thyroid, etc., draw from the the body's supply of vitamins and minerals first.  Then, whatever's left over is what's available for "less vital" organs, such as hair, skin, and nails.  That's why we could be eating a so-called "healthy" diet, and wonder why our hair, skin, nails, or other "less vital" organs are not functioning properly or not responding to those nutrients the way we think they should.  We're often getting the nutrients, but not enough for all of the organs that need them.  With that said, I'm going to make sure that I continue and/or increase the intake of foods necessary for healthy hair, continue taking my multivitamin, as well as add additional supplements that are vital for healthy hair.

Water and exercise are also vital for the hair.  According to one of the articles listed under Week 3, 13 Nutrients That Promote Hair Growth, "Water makes up one-fourth of the weight of a strand of hair...Eight to ten glasses of water a day are absolutely necessary to nourish healthy hair."  Lack of water is also a cause of dry hair.  Exercise increases blood flow, therefore, increasing the oxygen supply to the hair and scalp.  In addition, when we sweat, we release toxins from the body.  Thus, less toxins in the hair and scalp.  I'm getting plenty of water and exercise.  So, I'll make sure I keep it up and don't let either of those slip, and even increase both, as necessary.  As exercise increases, so does the necessity for water.

The article also lists things to avoid if you want healthy hair.  "Eating dead food can lead to lifeless hair.  These are sugars, chocolate, cakes, cookies, starches, soft drinks, snacks, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and recreational drugs...destroy important hair growing nutrients."  Omg!  Not only does sugar contribute to obesity, premature aging, joint problems, tooth decay, and all kinds of other health issues, but now I see that it's even bad for hair!  I have got to keep reminding myself...SUGAR IS NOT MY FRIEND!

Week 4 - "Learn to Analyze Your Hair & First Check In!" explains porosity and hair typing systems, as well as how to determine one's own porosity, hair type and pattern.  I'm unsure of my hair's porosity right now.  I'll do the porosity test the next time I wash my hair.  As far as my hair type and pattern goes, I've always assumed that my hair was type 4c and/or 4b, because of its "kinkiness" and the way it felt (rough).  According to the hair typing systems, type 4 has a "Z" pattern.  I'm pretty certain that my hair, for the most part, fits into that category, with an occasional corkscrew pattern (only slightly resembling type 3) here and there.  And according to the tightness of the curl and degree of shrinkage, I'm still pretty convinced of the "c" curl, maybe with a mixture of "b".  Regardless, other than the purpose of determining how the hair may or may not respond to certain products or methods, hair type is not that big of a deal to me, because essentially, what matters is having a healthy head of hair and knowing how to properly manage it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Curls of Joy "Know Your Hair, Love Your Hair" Challenge


April 1st was the kickoff of Curls of Joy's "Know Your Hair, Love Your Hair" Challenge (http://curlsofjoy.blogspot.com) and I decided to participate. This was right on time, coinciding with my own personal challenge, which I titled my "Healthy Growth & Length Retention Challenge", which I began on March 2nd.

My overall goal is to achieve growth/length retention and overall healthy hair. I want to learn more about my hair and truly become more acquainted with it, learning what the best methods and products are for it. And last, but certainly not least, I want to go back to enjoying my natural hair journey, as I did...well, even more than I did, in the earlier days of the journey. As a part of my "dual challenge", I'll be tracking my progress through pictures, keeping a hair diary, and blogging.

Now, some of you may be wondering why I'm saying I need to get more acquainted with my hair, after all these years of being natural. (I was back and forth between natural and relaxed hair since 1999 or 2000. I've been relaxer-free since 2004 (except for that brief stint with a texturizer in '07), and publicly natural since 2007). "So, shouldn't you know your hair and how to handle it by now?" you may ask.

Well, I've discovered (and I'm sure many of you have, as well) that as our natural hair grows, much like a child, it goes through different phases, demanding different treatment, different products, and different methods in each phase, taking on its own personality, often misbehaving, not doing what you want it to do, trying to get its own way. You love it, because it's yours, but...well...sometimes, you enjoy the journey and sometimes you don't. But, the more you get to know it and what makes it tick, the better you're able to gauge exactly what you need to do to keep it in line and make it respect and obey you. And ultimately, you want to find that "happy medium", where you're both happy and have a drama-free relationship. That's what I want!

I felt I needed to do these hair challenges, because I had reached a crossroad with my hair. It was getting thicker and fuller, and that's great! I'm very grateful to have a head full of hair. But it didn't seem to be growing as long as I thought it should be. And it was becoming harder to manage.

It's interesting that I really took notice of the lack of (visible) growth when a male cousin of mine mentioned (in late 2010) that I had been wearing twists ("these things", as he called them) for a while, and that it seemed like my hair should've been alot longer by then. I say "visible" growth, because, as many of us naturals have noticed, we often experience significant shrinkage (when the hair draws up, appearing much shorter than it actually is). Anyway, I explained the shrinkage issue to my cousin, but I really had to think about it myself after that...why isn't my hair longer by now?

I'm not saying that my hair wasn't growing at all, because it was, but it just wasn't as visible or happening as fast as I thought it should have. Granted, a lot of things have happened in the past couple of years that may have affected the state and wellness of my hair...long bouts of unemployment and/or underemployment, financial difficulties, deaths in my family, minor yet relevant health issues, relocation, disappointments, etc... These things may have affected its growth...I don't know. I did have some breakage over a year ago, but only in the top/crown of my head (something I've mentioned in previous blog posts that occurred during stressful times in my life), but as I mentioned above, my hair has continued to grow thicker and fuller.

I digress. Sorry! Back to my pre-challenge issues...I cut my hair in early 2011, because of all the knotting on the ends. And for the past several months, I found myself having to trim my ends every three or four weeks, because of knotting and raggedy ends. I was also having a really hard time combing through my hair, unless it was wet. It seemed that no matter how much I trimmed my ends, they kept knotting up. Obviously, with all of that trimming, my hair didn't have much chance to show its growth. In addition to these issues, after washing my hair, when it dried, it often felt hard and rough, especially if I wore it loose, in an afro.

A couple of months ago, I sought the advice of a couple of well-known natural hair experts, as well as reading natural hair blogs regarding the issues I was having, and watching YouTube videos. I'll include the advice/new knowledge I received and details about products and methods in separate posts, as I track my progress. But, I will say, the new-found wisdom I received has made a tremendous difference and has made maintenance of my hair much less of a headache. Stay tuned! :-)