Saturday, June 30, 2012

Curls of Joy Hair Challenge - Wrap Up & Final Check-In

The Curls of Joy "Know Your Hair, Love Your Hair Challenge" officially ended on June 23, 2012.  I must say that it was very informative, a great learning experience.  Although I'm not a "natural newbie", this challenge provided very valuable information, some of which I had seen and/or heard before, but REPETITION IS GOOD!  Especially when it comes to our well-being.  I needed to hear that information again, so it could really sink in this time.

Here's a recap of weeks 9 through 12:

Week 9 - Shedding, Breaking, & Lenth Retention, featured Kimmaytube's video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afpgjYXY3hE&feature=player_detailpage).  While I knew that we all shed hair daily, I'm now more clear on the difference between breaking and shedding.  Normally shed hair has the white bulb on the end, while broken hair does not.  I was relieved to discover, after examining the "fallen" strands of my hair, to see the white bulb on the end.  So, it's good to know that my hair was not breaking (as it did so much before truly going natural/before my big chop), but just shedding, which is completely normal.

Now, a big challenge in my natural hair journey has been length retention.  As Kimmaytube mentioned in her videos, she struggled to retain length for many years.  When the ends of her hair became damaged and "see-through", she would cut them off, and keep going through the same cycle over and over, never seeing any real progress in the length of her hair.  I can TOTALLY identify with that!

As I stated in a previous post, over the past year, I got to the point of having to trim my hair every three weeks, because of knotty ends.  However, with the advice of natural hair experts, after doing more of a "cut" than a trim, to eliminate all of the bad ends, along with tweaking my hair care regimen, the knotting (and the need to trim so often) have been practically eliminated.  As a result, I think I'm retaining length now.

In fact, since cutting my hair on March 3rd, I've done a few "length checks", to gauge my progress.  Comparing lengths from several sections of my hair, (during the Curls of Joy Challenge only) from April 16th to June 26th, I experienced changes in growth ranging from half an inch to an inch and a half.  Whoo hoo!  Progress!  Finally! 

Week 10 - Creating a Hair Regimen:  I definitely needed to tweak my hair care regimen.  I'm still experimenting (with techniques and products), but for the most part, my revised regimen is as follows:
  • Finger detangle (with light oil and/or moisturizer).
  • Pre-poo (pre-shampoo condition) with extra virgin coconut oil, with hair in big twists.
  • Shampoo with sulfate-free shampoo.  When I began the challenge, I used Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo.  I later began using Curl Junkie Curl Assurance Gentle Cleansing Shampoo (another recommendation).  I also like Trader Joe's Nourish Spa Shampoo, which is more pH balanced for hair.
  • Deep condition.  I began the challenge using Shea Moisture's Anti-Breakage Mask and later changed to Deva Curl Heaven In Hair Intense Moisture Treatment (another recommendation).  I think I prefer the latter.
  • Leave-in conditioner, with hair in big twists.  I began the challenge using Koils By Nature Moisturizing Shealoe Leave-In Conditioner and later switched to Curl Junkie Curl Assurance Smoothing Lotion Leave-In Hair Conditioner (another recommendation).  Just from the feel and the "slip" (ease of maneuvering/combing through the hair) of it, I prefer the latter.  Then, this past weekend, I tried Kimmaytube's homemade leave-in conditioner.  I know.  I know.  I just said in my last post that I didn't have the patience to make up homemade hair products.  Well, after watching Kimmaytube's video series on pH balance of hair a couple more times, I changed my mind and decided to give it a try...for my hair's well-being and to see if I'd get better results...the jury's still out on that.  By the way, I ordered the pH strips and went wild, testing all of my hair care products!  Interesting results...
  • Moisturize.  I prefer Entwine Couture's Exotique Butter-Creme Hydrator, but I'm experimenting with some other products, just to see how they work.
  • Seal with oil.  I switch between and/or mix different oils, but I think I prefer Entwine Couture's Total Perfection 100% Raw Moroccan Argan Oil.  I also oil my scalp in the process, either with the argan oil, Doo Gro Mega Thick Growth Oil (the one without mineral oil, etc), or Pooka Pure & Simple Nectar Hair Oil & Treatment (from Whole Foods).
  • Usually style in mini-twists with Entwine Couture's Creme Jelle Styler (one of my favorite products), sometimes combined with Entwine's Creme De La Mold.  Then, eventually/sometimes rock a twist-out!
  • Maintenance:  Since I workout regularly, I usually moisturize and seal my hair (particularly the ends) and/or oil my scalp, afterwards to keep my hair and scalp from getting dry.  (The only drawback is that everything my head touches get greasy/oily).  I sleep in a satin bonnet (or something similar).  If I'm rockin' a twist-out, after about 2-3 days, I've now started putting my hair in big twists at night to make the style last longer.  And while wearing the twist-out, I've been using Pantene Relaxed & Natural Daily Oil Moisturizer or Dark & Lovely Naturally Honey Wave Glaze (a product left over from my TWA (teeny-weeny afro) days).
I know.  That's a long regimen and it does take me, literally, all day to do (down from 2-3 days since I tweaked the process), but this is my reality as I continue to experiment and learn what works best for my hair.  Let's just say, I'm in "natural hair bootcamp" right now...(smile!)  And yes, I admit it!  I've been a serious product junkie!  But I am trying to break free and narrow my collection down to just a few products...once I finally figure out what works best for my hair.  And since I began pH testing my products, I'm in the process of adjusting which products I'll be using and/or the frequency of their use.  Some may be eliminated completely.

Week 11 - Styling Methods & Tools:  My primary style is mini two-strand twists, to serve as a protective style, to avoid over manipulating my hair.  It lasts a long time and is easier to manage with my workout schedule.  I occasionally wear a twist-out or an afro puff in a headband.

My tools of choice include my fingers (since I recently began finger detangling), a wide-tooth comb (the wider the better) and sometimes a denman brush, now that I've learned how to use it without tearing my hair out.  I also use a very soft bristle brush to brush the "baby hair" around the edges, if necessary. 

I no longer try to comb through my hair when it's dry (it tears the hair out) and of course, I only comb/finger detangle from the ends and work my way up toward the roots.  Over the past several months, I've decided to avoid using heat on my hair, except for occasional deep conditioning/coloring under a hooded dryer. 

The ony hair accessory I've been using so far is the occasional headband, but eventually, as I begin venturing into new styles, I'd like to try decorative hair pins, flowers, scarves, etc.

Week 12 - Wrap Up & Final Check-In, asks the following questions:
  1. What was your favorite weekly lesson?  My favorite was the lesson on moisture and sealing.
  2. What have you learned throughout these twelve weeks?  Oh wow!  What didn't I learn?  It was very helpful to learn about the anatomy and science of hair, as well as the vitamins/nutrients necessary for maintaining healthy hair.  It was also beneficial to have some info that I'd heard/read before be reiterated.  It actually sunk in this time, particularly the topics on pH balance and moisturizing and sealing.  I learned to be a "scientist", testing the pH balance of products and making a homemade leave-in conditioner, something I thought I'd never do.
  3. What have you accomplished? Length? Moisture?  I tweaked my hair care regimen based on much of the info presented during the challenge.  As a result of my revised, more organized, hair care regimen, I think I've maintained moisture better, length, and overall healthier looking hair.
  4. How have you grown as a natural?  I feel more in control of my hair.  Even after five (consecutive) years of being natural, as my hair goes through its next phase, I'm still learning and experimenting, to find the best products for it, but I feel more confident about managing and rockin' my natural hair again.  I'm truly getting to know my hair better and how to show it more love, so we (my hair & I) can both be happier.
Well, that's it for the Curls of Joy Challenge, but I'll be continuing my own "healthy growth and length retention" challenge that I began in March, so I'm excited to see more and more phenomenal results!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Curls of Joy Hair Challenge Update (for Week 8)

I know.  I know.  I'm wayyyy past the date for my Week 8 update in the Curls of Joy Know Your Hair, Love Your Hair Challenge.  (We're now at about Week 11 of this 12-week challenge, but I'll go ahead and do my Week 8 update anyway.)

Just to recap and pick up where I left off from my last update, Week 5 was the Ingredients Roll Call, discussing certain ingredients found in hair care products that are not the best products for natural hair, such as sulfates and silicones.  Sulfates can dry and strip natural hair of necessary moisture.  I try to avoid these ingredients by choosing sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners.  Silicones can sometimes be used to smooth and protect hair during heat styling.  However, silicones can sometimes cause buildup in the hair and prevent the hair from retaining moisture.  I've decided, particularly since beginning these hair growth challenges, to avoid heat as much as possible, so I really have no need to use the silicones.

Week 6 covers the pH of hair and features an excellent video by Kimmaytube on the subject (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3T7AjyDtbY).  She demonstrates two options.  In option 1, because hair is slightly acidic, she prefers to use products with a pH balance ranging between 4.0 and 5.5, to seal the cuticles, retain moisture and help the ends of the hair curl and grow better.  In option 2, she uses products with a pH balance between 6.0 and 7.0. for fuller, stretched, bushier hair.  Thus, more acidic products (with a lower pH) give the hair a curlier, more "controlled" look, while products with a more neutral pH (closer to 7.0 - by the way, pure water has a pH of 7.0) have less effect and the result is fuller, bushier hair.  Well...these were the results for her hair.  I'll have to do some experimenting to see if I get the same results.

Week 6 also features a video by MsVCharles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0l0XEzOBDZM) on jojoba oil and its many benefits, such as balancing the pH of the scalp.  There are also other links for articles listing the pH of some popular shampoos and conditioners.

Week 7 covers deep conditioners and treatments.  It is recommended that we use a deep conditioner weekly and a protein treatment every four to six weeks.  Of course, this isn't etched in stone, as each of us must figure out what's best for our own hair and flow with that.  Week 7 also features videos demonstrating homemade conditioner mixtures.  To avoid any mishaps from experiments gone wrong, I, personally, prefer to use products already mixed and ready for use.  Honestly, the natural hair journey and trying to find the right products and methods to use is enough of an experiment for me.  But, to each her own.  I applaud those willing to take the time and effort to make their own conditioners and hair treatments.  Who knows, one day I may give it a try, but for now, I'd rather just go to the store, get what I need and keep the process as simple as possible.

As far as deep conditioners go, I began this challenge using the Shea Moisture Antibreakage Mask, which I guess did a fairly decent job and probably did eventually soften my hair, while it was on my hair.  However, I didn't notice any significant difference from using other deep conditioners.  After week 8, I did change deep conditioners.  But since this is a "belated" Week 8 update, I'll give those details in a later update.

Week 8 covers moisure and sealing, featuring an EXCELLENT video by IslandGurl3601 on moisture (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alqhhpvgz5E), as well as links to helpful articles from Black Girl with Long Hair.  As I mentioned in my last update, moisturizing natural hair is a two-step process involving the use of a water-based moisturizer or water itself (many natural hair enthusiasts have stated that water is the best moisturizer), followed by natural oils for sealing the moisture in, particularly on the ends (the oldest part of our hair).

For the most part, I was using Entwine's Exotique Butter Creme Hydrator as a moisturizer and Entwine Total Perfection Raw Vegan Argan Oil as a sealant.  When I ran out of both products, I began using Simply Healthy's Grapeseed Oil Hydrating & Growth Shine Creme as a (temporary) moisturizer and extra virgin coconut oil as a sealant.  I did notice that the Simply Healthy Grapeseed moisturizer was lighter and didn't feel as heavy as the Entwine Moisturizer, which is a good thing.  My hair didn't feel as weighed down.  (IslandGurl3601 mentions in her video that grapeseed oil is a lighter oil.)  However, I'm unsure if my hair retained moisture as long as it did with Entwine.  Just a side note, the Simply Healthy moisturizer does contain some ingredients that are not recommended, such as petrolatum and parabens.

Within this update period, I also experimented with wearing my "twist-out" for a longer period of time.  My twist-outs have been looking better (probably from cutting off those knotty/damaged ends) and lasting longer, even through workouts!  Another thing I did differently, to make the twist-out last longer, is sometimes twisting my hair in bigger twists at night, then untwisting the next day, when I'm about to go somewhere.  When I wear my twist-outs, I use Pantene Relaxed & Natural Daily Oil Cream Moisturizer as my moisturizer.  Although it also contains some "non-recommended" ingredients (silicone and parabens), it does contain coconut and jojoba oils.  And as a confessed "product junkie", I have pulled an old product, that I used when I wore my TWA (teeny weeny afro), out of the archives (from 2007/2008), Dark & Lovely Naturally-Honey Wave Glaze.  I apply it to my twist-out and it seems to keep it together, with a softer look...maybe?  I think that product is supposed to create a soft hold for textured hair.  How 'bout that?  A styling product that actually works on this hair of mine!

I also gave myself a permanent color, using the Naturatint brand (sold at Whole Foods and other health food stores).  Although it does contain peroxide, it does not contain some other harmful ingredients, such as ammonia, that other "less natural" hair colors contain.  I wasn't completely satisfied with the color (Light Copper Chestnut), although I've worn this color before.  Also, because the instructions said to apply the color to dry hair, I didn't do my coconut oil pre-poo conditioner.  As a result of that and probably from using a permanent color, I did notice that my hair, particularly my ends, felt drier afterwards.  But, I'll get into the aftermath of that in my next update.

Well, that's all for now.  I'll be back with another Curls of Joy Hair Challenge update.  Have any of you decided to participate in the Curls of Joy Challenge or any other challenges?