Saturday 30 March 2013

To relax or to go natural... Know your hair.

Hi Everyone,

I am so sorry I have been gone for so long. I haven't deserted you, I promise! I hope everyone's journey is going well.

So I have received a lot of questions about natural hair versus relaxed hair and how each affects our ability to grow long hair. This debate has been raging for a few years now. There are various opinions on relaxing versus not relaxing and the impact it has on the health of your hair and its ability to retain length. Some people believe that relaxed hair does not grow, some believe natural hair is difficult to manage, relaxed hair is damaged and weak, natural hair is dry, tangles easily and prone to breakage.... Like I said, various opinions. Today, I thought I'd weigh in on this.

While these claims may have some element of truth in them, they can be very misleading.

If you look around the blogsphere, you will find lots of relaxed heads with long, healthy hair. You will find natural heads with easy regimens.  Relaxed hair does infact grow (I can attest to that :) and natural hair is not necessarily difficult to manage. The important thing is knowing what works for your hair, the effects of the environment on your hair and  what your lifestyle can accommodate. I love the quote from the book 'The art of war' that goes: "Know your enemy, know yourself and in a hundred battles you will always be victorious". Relating this to hair, if you know your self (your hair) and you know your enemy (external factors - heat, relaxers, manipulation etc), you will be successful in your healthy hair journey.

That said, if the weather is humid and you insist on wearing your natural hair straight, you may find natural hair "difficult to manage",  if you have natural 4c hair  with no defined curl pattern and you are trying to wear a Kelis type high definition curly fro, you may find natural hair "difficult to manage". Alternatively, if you wear your 4c natural hair in 2 strand twists, braids, cornrows, updos, braid outs etc you may find that natural hair  is a lot easier to manage than is portrayed. Same goes with relaxed hair. Yes, relaxed hair will NOT grow if you don't know how to treat it. If you don't deep condition your hair regularly to restore lost moisture and proteins, your hair wont grow. If you flat iron your hair, every other day, your hair wont grow and it's not because relaxed hair doesn't grow it's because you don't know your hair. Some people can use heat once a week, some people can't. Know  your hair and half the 'battle' is won.
4c Hair

Kelis' and her curly fro

When my sister relaxes her hair, it looks good for a month and then starts to fall out in clumps. I relax my hair and my hair thrives. Her hair just can't deal with the damage caused by relaxers and yes relaxed hair is damaged hair, controlled damage but damage nonetheless. So while my hair can deal with the damage, hers can't, so she went natural. She now has gorgeous thick healthy hair. My point? While you can be inspired by others, we are all unique and figuring out what works for you while taking into consideration your hair type, your lifestyle, your taste, style preference, the weather, environment etc will help you set and achieve realistic goals.

We know that there are some staples that everyone should adher to: moisturizing, conditioning, gentle combing, protecting etc. These are pretty much standard and apply to everyone but when it comes to details like how often to wash  your hair, how often to condition, how much heat your hair can take, whether or not to relax etc don't believe everything you hear/read. There is a bit of trial and error required to determine what works for you specifically. So get on it. You wont know until you try.

The reason why a lot of us struggle to achieve the hair we want is because we haven't come to understand what our hair really wants. Hopefully, this hair growth challenge will be a journey of self discovery as we learn more about our hair and how to get the best out of it.

I know we are only 2 weeks into the challenge. Have your learnt anything new about your hair so far? Let me know in the comment section. Also, if you have any questions or comments, suggestions on what my next post should be. Let me know.


Sunday 17 March 2013

Weaveology 101 - Caring for your hair underneath a weave

Hi Ladies!

The journey to gain 6 inches by March 2014 has begun...


If you are a weave wearer, there are a few things you have to do to make sure that when you take down your weave, your hair doesn't break off from being dry and brittle. To retain your length, you have to keep your hair moisturized and healthy underneath the weave. Here are some tips on how to care for your hair while wearing a weave.

Before and during weave installation:
1. Before installing your weave, make sure to wash and deep condition your hair
2. Installing your weave requires a bit of manipulation so have a conversation with your stylist about how they manipulate your hair. Make sure they are not ripping through your hair as they put in the cornrows and make sure that the cornrows are not too tight. You can make it easier on your stylist by ensuring that your hair is well detangled before going to the salon, that way it's easier for her to manipulate without causing any breakage.
3. Do not use glue. It is difficult to remove and will prevent you from caring for your hair adequately while wearing the weave. Sew ins are a healthier option.

After installing the weave:
Moisturize at least 3 times a week:
1. Put your moisturizer (glycerin and water or a water based leave in or aloe vera juice and water or just plain ol water... whatever works for you) in a spray bottle, lift the weave and spray unto the cornrows
2. Put some oil of your choice in an applicator or spray bottle and spritz some unto your hair to seal in the moisture

Clean and condition:
Wash and condition your hair every week or two
1. Mix your shampoo with water, put in a spray bottle or applicator, lift the weave and apply the shampoo mixture to your scalp
2. Massage your scalp
3. Rinse thoroughly
4. Mix your conditioner with water, put in a spray bottle or applicator, lift the weave and apply the conditioner mixture to your hair
5. Leave the conditioner in your hair for a few minutes
6. Rinse thoroughly
7. To blend your leave out with the weave, opt to roller set if possible rather than flat ironing. If your weave is curly you can set your leave out with small rollers or even straws depending on how tight a curl you want (this is better than using direct heat: flatirons/hot combs/curling irons on your hair).

After taking the weave out:
1. After removing the weave, loosen your cornrows, detangle carefully with your fingers and pull out the shed hairs.
2. Detangle using your fingers only, don't comb your hair with a comb until it is washed and saturated with conditioner
3. After finger detangling, wash, apply condition and comb through
4. Apply a protein treatment to help strengthen your hair
3. Wait at least a week to get your relaxer (if you are relaxed)

I know it sounds like a lot but it really isn't. It'll take you less than 10mins to moisturize daily - Ok maybe a little more but not that much. If shampooing every week doesn't work for you, you can adjust to 2 weeks or more but make sure that you are moisturizing and sealing frequently.

So that's it! Let me know in the comment section if you have any questions or if you have any additional tips on caring for your hair while wearing a weave.


Monday 11 March 2013

Protective/low manipulation styling

If I had to pick the two things that helped me achieve my goal, I would say:
- Proper combing and
- Protective styling

Before talking about the benefits of protective styling, let's look at some of the reasons we struggle with growing our hair long:

- Frequent combing:
Almost every time  you comb your hair, you cause damage. When you look at the teeth of your comb after combing your hair what do you see?  Hair. Some of the strands are from normal healthy shedding which is okay but more often than not majority of the strands caught in the teeth of your comb are broken strands. Broken strands are bad for more than one reason. First is the obvious fact that your once long strand is now shorter. Second is the fact that the hair strands left behind after breakage have ripped/jagged ends which causes them to eventually split. These split strands then wrap around other strands causing knots and tangles. Guess what happens the next time you comb your hair? Well, because of the knots and tangles, you break more strands, cause more split ends, more tangles... and the cycle continues.

- The elements
Wind, heat, cold weather, dry air etc affect the moisture levels of our hair. The number one requirement for preventing breakage in naturally curly/kinky/coily hair is MOISTURE. So keeping your hair from "blowing in the wind" on a dry day is a step in the right direction.

- Friction:
For those of us who have shoulder length hair or longer. Friction between our hair and our skin/shoulders/clothes causes wear on the ends of our hair (remember that the ends of our hair are the oldest part of our hair and more susceptible to damage). Excessive exposure of your ends will cause them to dry out and break.

The easiest way to address all of these is to wear your hair in a protective/low manipulation style. This would be any style where your ends are hidden and protected from the elements and where you are not required to comb your hair everyday.

For inspiration, here are some pictures of protective styles you can rock as we begin this challenge:



Box braids

Senegalese twists


Be careful that you are not taking down, combing your hair and redoing your updo daily. Even though your ends are tucked in and protected, combing your hair daily would be too much manipulation.

Weaves (Sew in):

Sew in weaves are a great way to protect your hair but be sure to care for your own hair underneath the weave.

Wigs (Full wigs, half wigs, glueless lace wigs):

Anyone who knows me knows that this is my thang! Lol. I just like the fact that it takes away my dependency on hairdressers (too many bad salon experiences...I can't shout!) . It takes 5mins to apply and I just wear it and go.

This is not by any means an exhaustive list of protective styles. There are lots of options out there. Take your pick.

Remember to take care of your own hair while protective styling. Neglecting your hair while protective styling defeats the whole purpose:
- Keep your braids or cornrows (worn out or under your weave/wig) for 6 to 8 weeks at a time.
- Moisturize at least 3 times a week. More if necessary
- Shampoo your hair once every week or two
- Deep  condition your hair after shampooing

When you eventually take down your protective style remember to comb and detangle gently. The less hair you have in the comb the better.


Friday 8 March 2013

2013 Hair growth challenge - Building your regimen

The first thing to do when starting a healthy hair journey is to build your regimen. There is so much information out there and a lot of them conflicting. Some people use mineral oil, some people don't. Some people owe their long locks to their use of only natural products, others claim that their use of silicones and other unnatural products ease the detangling process and help them retain length.  You really can't tell what will work for you until you try it. So today, we will sort through all this information and come up with a jumping off point from which to start determining what works for our hair and what doesn't.

First off, every good regimen should have the following elements:

- Cleaning
- Conditioning
- Styling/grooming
- Protecting
- Altering (optional)


Having a clean scalp is necessary for optimal hair growth. However shampoos can be drying. To avoid drying out and tangling your hair, focus on your scalp when washing. Don't worry about your hair, when you rinse out the shampoo from your scalp it will run down the length of your hair and clean your hair too.

What to look for in a shampoo:
- Avoid shampoos labelled as volumizing as they tend to strip your hair of moisture
- Look for shampoos that promote moisture, hydration or claim to maintain/define curls
- Avoid shampoos that contain multiple sulphates

Some products to try:
Elasta qp creme conditioning shampoo
Design essentials moisture retention conditioning shampoo
Motions lavish conditioning shampoo
Keracare hydrating detangling shampoo
Creme of nature detangling conditioning shampoo


Conditioning your hair helps keep moisture inside your cuticle, coats your hair to smoothen it and makes it easier to detangle. In some cases it repairs and temporarily fills in holes and gaps caused by chemical damage or daily wear. Conditioners can be classified as either moisturizing i.e. they help retain moisture in your hair or Protein enriched i.e. they help repair damaged hair and strengthen weakened strands. Protein conditioners are especially recommended if you have chemically treated hair.

What to look for in a moisturizing conditioner:
Look for conditioners that contain water, fats ( cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, and myristyl alcohol) and humectants (glycerin, propylene glycol, sodium lactate, sodium PCA)

Some products to try:
Kenra Moisturizing Conditioner 
Elucence Moisture Benefits conditioner 
Creme of Nature Nourishing Conditioner
Herbal Essences Replenishing conditioner
Dove Intense Moisture Conditioner
KeraCare Humecto Conditioner
Infusium Moisturizing conditioner.

Some moisturizing conditioners

What to look for in a protein conditioner:
Look for products that have amino acid, silk, collagen, keratin. Protein treatments can make your hair hard so always follow with a moisturizing treatment.

Some protein conditioners to try:
Organics Hair Mayonnaise Treatment for Damaged Hair 
Aphogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor 
Affirm 5 in 1 Reconstructor 
Creme Of Nature Conditioning Reconstructor 
Organic Root Stimulator Hair Mayaonnaise 

Some mild protein treatments

Leave ins, daily moisturizing and conditioning:
 Use these to tide you over and keep your hair moisturized until your next wash. If your style allows it moisturize your hair by spritzing water or any water based leave in like infusium 23, Neutrogena triple moisture silk touch or any other leave in available to you then seal in the moisture by applying some oil to the ends of your hair.


- As much as possible, avoid using heat in your hair. Opt for heat free styles.
- For a sleek look, instead of blow drying and flat ironing, opt to roller set, dry slowly under a hooded dryer and then wrap (doobie)
- Rather than blow drying with heat, opt to air dry or blow dry on cool
- Rather than combing opt to finger comb when possible (combing=breakage and you really don't have to comb every day. Discussion for another day:)
- As much as possible, opt for low manipulation protective styles e.g cornrows, braids, wigs, sew in weaves etc


Always tie your hair up at night with a silk or satin scarf. If you are one of those who  wake up and find your scarf on the other side of the bed, you can get silk/satin pillow cases instead.

Altering (Chemical processing with a relaxer)

Natural hair is healthier than relaxed hair. However,  use the following guidelines to maintain healthy hair even when chemically processed:

- Don't relax your hair too frequently
- Don't relax your hair bone straight. Relax your hair to loosen the curl but not to get it bone straight. This is called 'texlaxing'. Your hair should still have a lot of texture to it when air dried. You can however still get it silky straight by roller setting or flat ironing. Texlaxing helps you maintain healthy hair despite having it chemically treated.

My texlaxed hair.

I plan to transition to a more textured look. Like this:
Jenny from

- Stretch your relaxer only if you are protective styling. If you are manipulating your hair daily while stretching you will cause breakage at the line of demarcation where your relaxed hair and new growth meet
- Depending on the rate of hair growth, aim to relax no frequently than every 2 months
- Do a protein treatment several days before and after relaxing to repair your hair and remember to use a moisturizing conditioner afterwards.

These are just guidelines. If you have difficulty finding products that you want, you may be able to work with the products that are available locally. Just check the ingredients in the products and check online for reviews so you can make an informed decision. Bear in mind that good ingredients and good reviews do not guarantee that a product will work for you so you have to monitor your hair to be sure that the products and techniques you are using are working and make necessary changes if they aren't.

If you happen to be in lagos, you can check out casabella at the palms and yinka bodyline on awolowo road (ikoyi), they both have a good selection of hair products.

If you have had a good experience with a product that I haven't mentioned please share in the comment section. Let me know if you have any questions!


Edited to add:
Blacksoap has been suggested as a good alternative to a sulphate free shampoo. It is gentle, sulphate free and readily available. Here is a post on how to make your own black soap shampoo:

Wednesday 6 March 2013

2013 Hair growth challenge!

Hi Ladies,

I have received soo many messages from ladies struggling to grow their hair out. Trying to figure out how to stop the breakage, speed up growth, thicken strands etc.  Lots of people going natural in the quest for healthier hair, searching for healthier styling options etc so I thought it would be awesome to start a hair growth challenge. Embarking on a hair growth challenge tends to make you put in a little more effort into taking care of your hair and the results are often phenomenal. Here are some ladies who have benefitted from embarking on a healthy hair journey and putting in a conscious effort to get healthier hair:

Photo credits:

ChubbyYeti from the Blackhairmedia forum
Yours truly

I know being part of a hair growth challenge in 2011 really helped me achieve my hair goals. We can learn from and encourage each other on this journey.

So I came up with the following rules:

- The journey will begin on March 15th, 2013 and will end on March 15th, 2014
- The goal is to achieve at least 6 inches of growth in this period. (Hair grows at an average rate of 1/2 an inch every month, so for most people 6 inches in one year is achievable)
- There will be sub challenges during the course of the hair growth challenge (such as a castor oil challenge, protective styling challenge, heat free challenge etc). These challenges are aimed at improving your chances of meeting the main goal of 6 inches in one year
- You should take a picture of  your hair before you start the journey. (optional but recommended)
- You should take pictures of your hair periodically during the course of the journey, preferably 3 months apart so that you can compare, monitor your progress and adjust your regimen accordingly
- You are not required to share your pictures with the group but if you have pictures that show progress, we will appreciate if you share them as a way to encourage others. You can share pictures in the following ways:
   - Tweet with hashtag  #lushstrands2013
   - Post to instagram with hashtag lushstrands2013 or
   - Post to the facebook group

The first task is to come up with your regimen. Then go out and get your products, get your vitamins, throw out your fine toothed comb, hide your flat iron and get ready... March 15th is right around the corner.

I have already come up with my regimen. Here are the products I will be using:

L'Oreal EverPure Sulphate free shampoo

Extra virgin olive oil

Castor oil (Cold pressed)

Vo5 Moisture milks

Macadamia deep repair masque

My regimen is as follows:

- Co wash once a week with Vo5 conditioner
- Seal with Olive oil
- Massage castor oil into my hairline and nape to address breakage in those areas
- Wear a protective style (Bun, flat twists or wig)
- Shampoo wash with l'oreal sulphate free shampoo once a month
- Deep condition with macadamia nut repair masque once a month

What products will you be using? What is your regimen? If you are having difficulty finding the products that you want locally, please post in the facebook group. Someone may be able to help.


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