Thursday 28 February 2013

Castor oil for hair growth

When it comes to recovering from hair loss and stimulating growth, castor oil may very well be awarded "magic potion" status. Castor oil is known to heal follicle damage that may occur due to improper weave application, tight cornrows, high tension braids etc. It also stimulates healthy follicles resulting in faster growth. Its anti-fungal, anti-bacterial properties help maintain a healthy scalp which again is necessary for optimal hair growth.

For hair loss:

See below pictures of Loice, a young lady whose hairline was damaged from improper styling. She is now well on the way to reclaiming her hairline using a castor oil based routine. Read her story  here

January 2012 (After taking out her weave)

October 2012 (On the way to recovery)

Here is another young lady who is also seeing results by applying jamaican black castor oil regularly to her edges.

See her tumblr here

For hair growth:

Some participants of the castor oil challenge held on the hairlista and kinkycoilyme websites showed significant growth over the 3 month duration of the challenge. See pictures below:

Photo credits: Hairlista Inc

Photo credits:

That is a looot of growth for 3 months!

How it works:
- First of all, you need to get your hands on some castor oil. Some people insist on jamaican black castor oil (jbco), but in my opinion, any castor oil will do. You will typically find it at the pharmacy in the laxative section (yep, castor oil is a laxative when taken orally). You can find the cold pressed castor oil in most pharmacies in Lagos and jbco here

Jamaican black castor oil

Cold pressed castor oil

- The second step it to apply it to your scalp 3 times a week. Some people apply it to the hair as well but due to the thickness of the oil, I don't recommend this for people with relaxed hair.  In any case, castor oil works by increasing blood flow to the scalp and supplying the hair follicles with nutrients. So for hair growth, the important thing is to apply it to your scalp.

- The last step is to... wait. Hair growth is 50% effort and 50% patience.

Has anyone tried castor oil for hair growth? What was your experience? What kind of castor oil did you use and how did you use it?


Monday 25 February 2013

My hair story... in pictures

My journey in pictures from a chin length bob to waist length hair.

Back in University, I was constantly coloring, blowdrying and flat ironing my hair. This left my hair perpetually at a chin length bob

After frequent visits to the hair forums and blogs, I decided to try to grow my hair out, so I stopped coloring it, cut off the damaged ends and started taking better care of my hair. I started rollersetting instead of blow drying and flat ironing. Stopped using products with petrolatum and mineral oil. Combed and detangled my hair with extreme care. Started co washing, moisturizing and sealing my hair weekly.

6 months after I started my journey
Within 6 months of starting my journey, I had gone from chin length to shoulder length 

Progress pic (April 2010)

Progress pic (April 2011)
In need of a trim

Progress pic (July 2011)

Progress pic (July 2011)

Progress pic (January 2012)

Comparison shot (April 2011 to January 2012)
Just like when trying to lose weight or achieve any other goal, it is important to monitor and track your progress. I made sure to track my progress. I took pictures of my hair monthly (I also made monthly update videos on youtube: my youtube channel). This helped me identify problems on time and make changes to my regimen to address them. 

September 2012

My regimen at the time:

- Co wash my hair once a week with herbal essence's hello hydration shampoo and conditioner (I don't use these any more)

- Seal with Extra virgin coconut oil (I got mine from Health plus at the palms, Lagos)

- Wear my hair in protective styles most of the time (Weaves, wigs and updos)

- Detangle with extreme care using a wide tooth comb and only after my hair has been well conditioned and moisturized

- Eat lots of protein (eggs and fish). I did take supplements on and off (solgars hair skin and nails) but I found it difficult to keep up. Also, it is recommended that you get nutrients from food rather than from supplements so I just tried to incorporate the nutrients that I needed into my diet.

- Retouch my roots using motions relaxer once every 3 months on average. However, I did have periods where I stretched my relaxer for as long as 8 months. I don't recommend this if you are not protective styling 99% of the time because of the amount of breakage you can sustain by merely combing your hair while stretching.

- Use jamaican black castor oil (jbco) on my scalp to stimulate growth. (Even though I stopped using this after a few weeks because it caused my scalp to itch. However, lots of people have had very good results with jbco).

You can watch the video on my hair regimen here (I am wearing one of my favorite protective styles in this video: a lace wig): 

I hope this helps. I will be posting an updated list of products that I use as I am currently in the process of making some changes to my regimen in order to help me address the dryness and frequent tangling that I am currently experiencing. I found the hello hydration shampoo to be too harsh. It was leaving my hair stripped and dried out. I am also changing my conditioner as well to one that has no silicones as those can cause build up and dry out the hair. 

Are there any products that you have used and would recommend? Or any products that you heard good reviews about? Let me know in the comments below...


Saturday 23 February 2013

Green smoothies - Healthy hair from the inside out.

The green smoothie mania is upon us. Every where I go I can't seem to escape it. My instagram timeline is flooded with images of mysterious looking smoothies of varying tints and shades of green captioned 'breakfast smoothie", "brunch smoothie", "post workout smoothie".  At the gym,  the same mysterious liquid seems to be peeking out of everyone's gym bag. As an equal opportunity health fad experimenter, I decided to get on the bandwagon already.

 So I began searching for recipes. First off, you have to pick your greens: ugwu, bitterleaf (if you can stand it), kale, spinach... basically any leafy green vegetable will do. Then you could add some fruit: apples, pineapples, bananas, mangoes... healthy additions to improve the taste because let's face it, who wants to drink blended spinach? Then there are the super foods, and this is where the fun (or confusion depending on how you look at it) begins. Superfoods are foods of very high nutritious value, beneficial to health and well being while having little or no negative properties. There's maca powder, goji berries, chia seeds, msm, blueberries, cacao powder etc. The list goes on and determining which ones to put in your smoothie can be headache inducing. Your best bet is to decide what your goal is: it may be to slow down/reverse signs of aging, prevent or cure heart disease/diabetes/high blood pressure, improve your skin/hair/nails, aid weight loss etc. Once you have decided, pick the corresponding superfoods. I went with chia seeds (good source of fibre and calcium), msm powder (for skin, hair and nails), camu camu powder (vit c, helps with absorption of msm) and blueberries (antioxidants). So all in all, my recipe was:

- A handful of Kale
- A handful of spinach
- 1 apple
- 1 heaped table spoon of Chia seeds
- A handful of Blueberries
- 1/2 teaspoon MSM Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Camu camu powder

I got the sprouted chia seed powder from the health food store but you can get them online for less

Available at

I put them all in the blender, threw in some ice cubes and blended for a few minutes. It didn't taste nearly as bad as I expected. I've had one everyday since (with minor changes to the recipe: I've used almond milk, plain yoghurt and bananas).

It's been about a month since I started and I feel energetic, my skin is glowy (is that a word?), I have lost some weight (I won't give all the credit to the green smoothies as I have also been working ooout! but it is definitely a contributing factor). I haven't seen any benefits to my hair yet but then, it does takes about 3 months for the effect of your diet to show up in your hair so it's too early to tell. However, glowy skin, more energy and weight loss are definitely good enough reasons to get my green smoothie on. Plus, anything that is good for the skin will more often than not be good for the hair (and nails).

Do you make green smoothies? What are your favourite recipes?

Thursday 21 February 2013

Baking soda washes and ACV rinses

Since my recent setback for which my overzealous lathering up with herbal essences hello hydration shampoo is partially to blame, I have been on the hunt for a gentler way to clean my hair. I have been using the hello hydration shampoo for a little over a year and never noticed the striping effect. Probably because I always washed my hair with a watered down mixture of the shampoo. I'd basically squirt a few drops of the shampoo into a bowl of water and wash my hair with the mixture. However, this time, for some reason I applied the shampoo directly to my hair without diluting, lathered, rinsed and was left with striped, tangled, dried out strands. Even after repeatedly conditioning my hair, it still felt striped, dry and tangled. I was eventually able to detangle my hair using the method described in this post hair woes...

After this experience, I had no intention of using the hello hydration shampoo again... and so began my hunt for a gentle non striping alternative. My search led me to the apparently well known and widely discussed baking soda wash (for cleaning) and apple cider vinegar (for conditioning) routine.

Baking soda does a 3 things: It cleans your hair, 'thickens' it by coating the strands and opens up the cuticle to let moisture in

Apple cider vinegar removes build up, conditions your hair and closes the cuticle (trapping moisture and making your hair smoother and shinier)

So this is how it works:

- Make your baking soda mixture. Different people do this in different ways. Some use a teaspoon of baking soda in 3 cups of water, some use a cup of baking soda in a cup of water. I guess you have to experiment to figure out what works for you. I went with a heaped tablespoon of baking soda in 2 cups of water

- Pour the baking soda mixture on your hair and scalp and gently scrub your scalp

- Rinse thoroughly

- Make your apple cider vinegar mixture. Again, different people use different ratios. I use a mixture that is 1 part ACV and 2 parts water. So a cup of acv and 2 cups of water.

- Pour the mixture on your hair
(I would not recommend detangling at this point because the mixture does not give your hair any slip)

- Rinse thoroughly

- Dry
(I usually air dry)

I found that the smell of the acv disappeared once my hair was dry. My hair appeared thicker, was easier to detangle, easier to comb through and very soft.

- My hair appeared thicker (I know this is faux thickness as the baking soda coats and fills out the strands making them appear thicker... However, it's good enough for me especially as thicker strands = easier detangling)
- My hair was soft and had a sheen to it. (It wasn't super shiny but had a nice lustre)
- Inexpensive

- The time it takes to make the mixtures. (It's a weak con but a con nonetheless)
- Figuring out what to do with my stash of shampoos and conditioners...

Have you tried cleaning and conditioning with baking soda and ACV? What was your experience with it?


Friday 15 February 2013

The L.O.C Method - Moisture for days

Your hair journey has no greater enemy than dryness (Ok, there are scissor happy stylists, chemical over processing, poor hair handling etc but dryness is definitely up there with them). Dryness is a lack of moisture (i.e. water) not oil. I stress this because of the numerous times I have heard people say "my hair is so dry" and then reach for the jar of grease or bottle of oil to 'moisturize'. You really should be reaching for the spray bottle of water instead because water is the true moisturizer. This begs the question: Are those of us who need daily moisturizing required to wet our hair daily? While this may work for some people (natural heads sporting wash and go styles, braids, cornrows etc), daily wetting will not work for a number of us. Enter the L.O.C method for retaining moisture. This method spares you the hassle of daily moisturizing by helping retain water within the shaft of your hair for days. So here is how is works:

The acronym L.O.C stands for:
L - Liquid
O - Oil
C- Cream

 It basically means applying products to your hair in layers. Each layer seals in the previous one. So the first product you would apply is the liquid which would be water or a water based product. The second product would be an oil. Oil acts as a barrier, it traps the water within the hair's shaft and seals it in. The third layer is the cream which seals in both the oil and water making it even more difficult for the water to escape.

I suppose you could say in trying to combat the dryness from harmattan and winter by co washing and oiling every other day, I have been applying the first 2 layers of the LOC method (i.e. water and oil). I recently tried the LOC method by adding elasta qp mango butter as the last layer (cream) and I loved it. My hair stayed moisturized until my next co wash which was not the case prior to using this method.

For L.O.C, you can use whatever products work for you. Here are the products I am using:

Liquid - Water

Oil - Olive oil

Cream - Elasta QP mango butter

I feel that the cream was quite heavy and weighed my hair down, so I plan to either switch to a lighter cream or practice the LOC method only when I am protective styling.

If you are combating dryness, you should definitely try this method. I've heard rave reviews from relaxed and naturals alike. Let me know how it works for you if you do get around to trying it.


Wednesday 6 February 2013

Hair update - Perils of Harmattan and Winter

In the past few months, my hair has suffered and I mean SUFFERED. First was harmattan in Lagos. This years harmattan was brutal for me. My skin was constantly dry, I was moisturizing every hour on the hour and by the top of the hour, my skin was dry again. My hair was dry too... well, at least, I imagine so, but that's one of the potential perils of protective/low manipulation styling. Your hair is hidden, no body sees it and you can kind of get away with neglecting it... and neglect I did. Then I came to Ottawa (Canada) to visit. Why I felt the need to wear my hair out in the dead of winter is beyond me but I took out my cornrows, my hair was breaking from being neglected, I washed and deep conditioned it, a few days later, I touched up my roots. Who does that?  My scalp burned, my hair broke. I spent the whole day and night detangling my hair. My guess is that I will have to cut off a good 4 or 5 inches. Sigh. I don't know for sure yet but right now, I am just focusing on giving my hair as much TLC as I possibly can. Here is what I have been doing:

- Co washing every other day with VO5
 I love that it doesn't have any silicones especially because I have been co washing only and don't plan to shampoo wash for a while. (silicones generally need to be shampooed out or they would cause build up)

- Applying olive oil after co washing

- Braiding in pigtails and tucking away under a lace wig, safe and away from the elements

 Braid while wet to reduce volume
Tuck under wig cap

Wear Lace wig

This is my plan until I get back to Nigeria. Kind of unfortunate because there are so many products that are currently not available in Lagos that I wanted to try out while I am here. But right now, I need to just treat my hair with staple products that I know she loves and leave her alone to recover as much as possible... And yes, I just referred to my hair in the third person. Don't you? :-)


Sunday 3 February 2013

Protective style - Calabarizing

This morning I undid my cornrows, oiled and detangled my hair as much as I could, washed, conditioned, air dried and detangled again. Contrary to popular opinion, I am finding that I suffer much less breakage when I detangle my hair dry as opposed to wet and saturated with conditioner (but that's a discussion for another day). Anywho, I air dried and was a bit confused as to what to do with my hair. So far, I have stretched for 4 months. My last relaxer was in September, so as you can imagine, I had several inches of new growth. I considered flat ironing and wearing my hair straight and out but the thought of the amount of work that would go into that and the fact that I am currently in Canada, in the dead of winter deterred me. I thought of just putting my wig back on but that would require putting my hair in tiny cornrows because that's the only way to get my hair to lay flat under my wig and that again was a little too much effort than I was willing to make. Finally, I opted for some old school 'calabarizing' reminiscent of my boarding school days. I basically put my hair in about 10 braids and held them up in a top knot.  Here's is what it looked like:

Back view

Front view

It took me all of 10mins to do this and I quite like it. Seriously, protective styling is heaven sent isn't it? I just love styling my hair and leaving it alone to just do its thing and grow happily without all the daily combing, curling, brushing, ironing etc. But look at those roots though, I have about 2 inches of them. I kind of like it when I have lots of new growth, I always scrutinize my roots, trying to figure out what my hair would look like if I went natural (again, thats a discussion for another day). Anyways, I think I have stretched long enough..Next stop, getting my relaxer... wish me luck!



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