Plans for the New Year including Incorporating the Crown and Glory Technique.

It's that time of the year again when (I hope) we reflect on the year just gone past, pat ourselves on the back for the progress we made, identify and understand the mistakes we made and the reasons why we made those mistakes, and take deliberate steps to improving ourselves. I'm not referring to just hair here, but everything that concerns our person - professionally, spiritually, financially, personally etc.

This year was a very bitter sweet one for me - I lost a lot but gained ground in other areas and have had to learn that sometimes, some of the most beautiful things will grow out of the ashes that remain from our fiery trials: KL's Naturals/KL's Natural Beauty Bar is my beautiful thing and I am most grateful to God.

 I have also learnt that regardless of how bad a situation seems, it is your perspective of that situation that determines whether you are drowned by it, or strengthened by it. The last 2 lines of the poem 'Invictus' have stuck with me:

'I am the Master of my Fate,
I am the Captain of my Soul'

I have made this my mantra and no matter how hard I fall, I will get up, dust myself and with an even greater determination, strive to achieve my dreams.

Hair wise, I realize that in my attempt to be a walking advertisement for the Salon, I have been over- manipulating my hair - particularly in the last 3 months. Furthermore, getting so busy with setting up the store and salon and trying to make sure everything runs smoothly has left me with less time to pamper my hair the way I am used to. I live by and love structure so not being able to be consistent with my regimen (Sunday Wash, Wednesday Ayurvedic deep conditioning and co wash) has often left me frazzled and my hair, none too happy with me.

Eating Your Way To Healthy Hair.

Sometimes we focus so much on what we’re putting on our hair that we forget that great looking hair actually starts from within. Eating a healthy, well balanced diet and drinking a lot of water should be the first step in attaining a healthy, luxurious mane.

Moisturizing our hair shouldn’t start and stop with our moisture based products but should also take into consideration the amount of water we’re ingesting. Drinking lots of water flushes toxins from our bodies and helps keep the hair hydrated from within – properly hydrated hair means less brittle, breakage - prone hair.

I was fascinated to find out that every time we eat, our scalps and our nails are actually the last places in our bodies that nutrients are passed on to during the natural breakdown and distribution process of our digestive system! Therefore if our meals are lacking in abundant nutrients and beneficial minerals; the little nutrients contained in our meals will first be distributed to the vital organs of the body meaning there will be no nutrients left to pass on to the scalp!

Product Review - Elasta QP Mango Oil and Olive Butter Moisturizer.

I've tried this product on both my relaxed and natural hair and I LOVE IT! Like an unfaithful lover, I have at different times in my search for THE perfect daily moisturizer, cheated on this product by going in search of something that I thought surely was better than this; but every time, like a repentant cheat, I'd come back, tail tucked between my proverbial hind legs, head cocked to the side, arms outstretched and I am welcomed back into the creamy folds of this heavenly smelling moisturizer.

I first tried this when I was still relaxed and I was in need of a creamy protein based moisturizer to alternate with my (then) daily moisture based moisturizer (Luster's S Curl No Drip Curl Activator and Moisturizer) and it was love at first touch.

Of course I jumped on every product band wagon there was soon after going natural (who am I kidding? way before I went natural I was already a product junkie) and always wanted to try new stuff that was supposed to be the best thing for natural hair.

Blowouts, Big Hair and My Twisted Updo Using Braiding Hair!

I had planned on going the whole nine yards with straightening my hair (blow dryer and flat iron) so I could do a proper length check but by the time I'd done a blow out with the hand dryer, I was too tired to be bothered with a flat iron to straighten it further, so I just made do with the semi straightening the blow dryer gave.

In preparation for my my blow out, I pre poo'd over night with my Vatika coconut oil, and in the morning shampooed with the Design Essentials Curl Cleanser, Deep conditioned with the Keratin Deep Conditioning Mask from Shea Radiance ( my hair had been in my last style for 2 weeks so I felt the need for a strengthening deep condition).  Applied my leave in (Kinky Curly Knot Today) and let it air dry for about half an hour then applied  my heat protectant and straightening serum ( IC Fantasia Hair Polisher and Heat Protectant).

 I then blow dried on low speed medium heat with a paddle brush and the above picture is the result! As much as I'd hoped to carry the 'big hair' hair look for a while, the impossible humidity made it all shrivel up in a couple of hours!

Rhassoul Clay - The Natural way to Glowing Skin, Cleansed AND Moisturized Hair!

When I tell people that I use clay to wash my hair sometimes, I always get the same look. You know, the one that's a mixture of incredulity and doubt with some eye rolling thrown in for good measure. But as I always tell them - don't knock it till you've tried it!

I've only ever used two kinds of clay to treat my hair and skin - Bentonite and Rhassoul - and in my opinion, Rhassoul is the better clay, hands down. Bentonite is more of a detoxifying clay, drawing impurities from the hair (and skin) so I find it to be a little bit drying and will only use a few times a year to get rid of gunk.

One of the most intense at home facials I've ever done was Bentonite Clay mixed with Apple Cider Vinegar - I swear it felt like someone had affixed the hose of a vacuum cleaner to my face and was sucking everything out of it!! Even my mouth will be puckered for the period the mask is on because of the tightness of the mask. (The brand of Bentonite clay I use does say 'Feel your face pulsate' and ' World's most powerful facial' - they weren't joking!)

After I'd done a couple of bentonite clay masks for my hair, I found out about Rhassoul clay, tried it and could immediately tell the difference between both clays - seriously every knot and tangle in  my hair literally melted apart when I used Rhassoul clay. It was AMAZING!

Okay so what exactly is Rhassoul clay? According to Wikipedia, it is a natural mineral clay mined in the Atlas mountains of Morocco and has been used for centuries by Moroccan women to cleanse their hair and skin. If you've ever gone for one of those popular and intensely satisfying Moroccan spa treatments (Hammam) where dead layers of skin are literally sloughed off  your body leaving you seemingly a shade or two lighter and your cellulite is reduced leaving you with more toned skin ? Well, the clay used in this spa treatment is Rhassoul!

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinses For Healthy, Shiny Hair!

I must confess the first time I heard about using vinegar in hair I thought: surely, it aint that serious?! But as with everything else, I was intrigued, tried it out and (on this occasion) was sold!

To explain why Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is so beneficial to our hair, we first need to understand the pH balance in our hair, in the products we use and how they interact with one another.

Think of those 12 inch rulers we used in primary/secondary school and imagine it to be a scale (but make it 14 inch) - with the first half of the scale being acidic and the last half of the scale being alkaline while the middle is neutral. Healthy hair (and skin) has a low acidic pH of 4.5 - 5 meaning ideally, products that we use in our hair should fall into this range. The lower the acid pH range of the product we use (but not the extreme end of the acidic spectrum), the more tightly closed the cuticles become - protecting the inner cortex of the hair strand, preventing damage and giving the hair a sheen as the tightly closed cuticles reflect light.

Now when we use products with a high pH (where they now fall into the alkaline range) they cause the scales on the hair's cuticle to lift, swell and open - leaving the inner cortex unprotected and vulnerable to damage. Relaxers and permanent color fall in the very high 10 - 13 range and this is why a 'neutralizing' shampoo is used after relaxer application to get the hair back to it's normal 4.5 - 5 pH range.

NITC 7, My Funky Updo and Overcoming My Fear of Public Speaking!

Phew! The last couple of days have been hectic and loooong but so rewarding! The 7th edition of Naturals In The City held yesterday the 30th of November at the lovely Omenka Gallery in Ikoyi: it was my first time at the meet up and not only did we have a stand to showcase and sell our products but I had been given the honor of speaking to the lovely ladies present about Ayurveda in Natural hair care (thanks again Natural Nigerian!)

Now, I am FRIGHTENED when it comes to speaking in front of a crowd of people and I had worried myself silly right before I went up to speak. This fear is one I'm determined to conquer and late last year I took steps towards that by enrolling and participating in a public speaking course at the Lagos Business School. I believe it's helped me because I was able to calm my nerves and speak as clearly as possible (yay!) When I recall some horrendous episodes in the past when I literally melted when I got in front of a group of people, I just cringe in embarrassment - maybe one day I'll be brave enough to recount some episodes here for your enjoyment :)

What's In Your Spritz Bottle?

Spritz bottles mixes are such a quick and easy way to quench your hair's thirst on a daily basis without the manual process of moisturizing and sealing where you take your hair section by section and apply product and an oil.

 Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the latter process should be completely done away with - I'm just saying for those times your hair is in twists, braids or even if you have a weave (raise your weave and spritz the tracks), you still have an effective and quick way of moisturizing and sealing your hair so your hair's health is not neglected.

Moreover since the contents will be something you have control over, you can get as adventurous as your mind will let you!

Natural Hair Tips For Beginners.

*I originally wrote this piece as a contributor on another blog but I've decided to re - post here*

Going natural can be a liberating, exciting and enjoyable experience as you discover your real texture(s), learn what it likes and doesn't, and explore new ways to wear your hair. As enjoyable as it can be, it can also be a daunting task because let's face it - how many of us were taught how to care for our hair when we were growing up?

A lot of our mothers were frustrated taking care of our hair and it is that feeling of frustration that most of us have associated with our natural hair. The reason most of us got relaxers was to escape the ‘unmanageability’ of our natural hair as the general belief was that the only way we could look pretty and/or manage our hair was if it was relaxed bone straight. Back then having natural hair (or being ‘natchie’) was seen as uncool and even local.

Thankfully, with awareness, information and more ladies rocking their natural tresses and growing it to previously unheard of lengths; more women are beginning to embrace their own hair, discovering that all it takes is patience and learning. 

So with that in mind, I've put together a few things that I believe will help if you've recently become natural, are transitioning, just thinking about the idea or if you need some extra tips to help you on your healthy hair journey.

Henna Time!

*Doing the MC Hammer typewriter* oh oh oh oh oh oh oh! Here come's the Henna! lol!

From the moment I learnt about the many benefits of henna, I've been hooked - like, literally. At a point, I would henna weekly (it's that good) but these days, there doesn't seem to be enough hours in a day to get everything I want, done!

So what's the fuss about Henna? Well, henna is a natural dye and because it doesn't contain any of the chemicals used to bleach or color hair, it is safe to use on natural, relaxed or colored hair. Quite apart from its dyeing properties, henna also strengthens, adds shine and volume and coats hair strands thereby keeping it from any damage (or further damage).

Pure henna looks green to brown and will give your hair a red/auburn tinge. Should the package purport to give you any other color then it is not pure  henna and has probably been mixed with something else. While there are other very good natural plants that condition and dye hair black (Cassia Obovata a.k.a 'neutral henna' and Indigo respectively) they are completely different from henna even though they are normally grouped along with henna.

Finally Found The Best Accessory for Puffs - Pantyhose!

For the longest time, I've been struggling to get my puff to look sleek and tidy without whatever accessory I'm using, poking out from under the puff. 

Recently, I was watching a YouTube video ( I forget which one now) and the lady there spoke of how she uses pantyhose to get her hair up in a puff and I thought - why not?

The Exciting World Of Natural Oils And Their Benefits in Hair Care Part 2.

So in the last post, I'd started talking about the various types of natural oils there are and how beneficial they are not just in hair care but in skin care as well.  While the list of carrier oils in my last post is by no means exhaustive, those are the more popular oils used in hair care so I'll be moving on to those wonderful, aromatic, power packed things called essential oils.

Now, as I'd mentioned in my last post, essential oils should NEVER be used directly on the skin or scalp as they are very potent and can cause irritations, headaches and other adverse reactions.

Because of their natural potency and healing benefits, many essential oils are important and beneficial in stimulating hair growth, the treatment of hair loss and damage, relieving and treating scalp conditions (dandruff, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, alopecia areata etc).

Essential oils should always be diluted with carrier oils and a general guide is 6 - 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil - this can be adjusted to suit each person's need and sensitivity levels.

The Exciting World Of Natural Oils And Their Benefits In Hair Care - Part 1.

Before the 'revolution' in  black hair care began, a lot of hair products specifically targeted towards the care of our hair, were laden with mineral oil a.k.a parrafin liquidum and petroleum oil a.k.a Petrolatum (some of them still are actually). Now while these emollients are not 'bad' in of themselves, the effect they have on our strands in the long run is where the problem lies.

We know now that moisturizing our hair daily with a water based moisturizer and using a deep conditioning treatment weekly is a key factor in making our hair supple, well elasticized and breakage free. When we apply these moisturizers, it's like giving our hair a 'drink of water' - effectively quenching its thirst.

Now think of petroleum jelly - if you smear some on your hand and then pour water on that portion of hand, what happens? The water glides off as the petroleum jelly has created a 'barrier'.

The same thing happens with our hair! When we apply products laden with these substances, they create an un - permeable barrier and any moisture we try to apply subsequently, just sits on top of the strands instead of penetrating through and 'quenching' the hair's thirst. Result? Hair gets dry, brittle and eventually breaks off. This is even more pronounced for those who wash very rarely yet load these products on their hair and scalp very frequently.

Hair Growth, Length Retention and Good Hair Regimens: A Three Way Love Affair!

"I want something that will make my hair grow longer " is probably one of the most popular requests I get when people come into the store. With a smile, I always say to them that our hair is always growing so if you're not seeing length, the issue is not that the hair isn't growing but that length is not being retained.

Even if there was some magic pill or potion that would make the hair grow 3 inches or more a month, if the hair isn't being properly taken care of  and it is breaking off at pretty much the same rate at which it is growing, then it would seem like the hair isn't growing at all!

Building a good hair regimen is key in getting hair past any length plateaus one may have experienced in the past and also in getting hair healthy and strong. It's just like trying to get that dream body - no matter what miracle diet or pill is being touted, ultimately one discovers that a CONSISTENT regime of burning more calories than is being consumed is healthier and more sustainable.

Our hair grows on average about half an inch per month which means at the end of the year, we should be rocking 6 inches of extra length - thing is most times, we never get to see those extra inches because we either have no healthy hair regimens that ensure that our length is being retained or we have regimens that are actually counterproductive to our hair goals.

Porosity, Hygral Fatigue and Coconut Oil.

Since we opened up the Salon, one recurring problem I've noticed with a number of naturalistas is a high level of porosity - as easily as their hair sucks up moisture, it gives it back into the atmosphere, leaving them with dry strands. While a lot of times it could be genetic, it is further aggravated by external factors such as heat styling, chemical processes and even too much exposure to sunlight!

*Porosity is the hairs ability to absorb and hold moisture. The flexible, outer layer of the hair called the cuticle determines how easily water enters or leaves the hair. The easier it is for the hair to absorb and lose moisture, the higher the porosity of that head of hair and the more difficult it is for the hair to absorb moisture but better retain the absorbed moisture; the lower the porosity.*

When I was still relaxed, I'd wash my hair and leave it to air dry - all I'd need to do is walk around for about 10 or so minutes and my hair would be dry. I used to think it was such a blessing till I discovered that my damaged strands couldn't hold moisture for long!

Style Throwback!

So, my mum just recently moved houses and that meant a LOT of packing, determining stuff that was important and throwing away a lot of stuff that just had to go.

I am ashamed to say that this move exposed the fact that I have some pack rat tendencies - the sheer amount of stuff I had accumulated over the years and refused to dispose of was a little.... amusing actually. I mean I had notes that my best friend in QC then had passed to me in class, invitations to parties from secondary school through University, letters, slum books, cards, knick knacks - you name it. It definitely brought back a lot of memories but a lot of them just had to go.

The one thing that for sure was going nowhere were the pictures! Lawd! I had fits of laughter just seeing some pictures - some of which will NEVER be shown anywhere for as long as I live if I can help it.  Azzz innn! My goodness!

Then of course the pictures triggered memories of other best forgotten incidents. One that easily comes to mind was once in SS1 when a group of us in class decided that we were all going to do the same hair style for the following week. The style? 2 Shukus (yep, like 1 Shuku was not bad enough)

Shrinkage, Stretching and Sexy Styling! (Plus my Curlformers FAIL!)

If I was asked to name the one thing that I love most about being natural, I'd have to say the versatility of the textures and the styles one can wear. I can go from tight curls to loose curls to straight hair in a matter of hours if I so choose!

As my hair has grown, my texture has evolved to the point where every time I wash my hair, I stare in fascination at the springy coils that just form of their own volition - and the shrinkage? I love it! Some people have a love hate relationship with their shrinkage but I definitely have a LURV relationship with mine :)

 I particularly enjoy it when people get confused as to whether I have extensions in my hair or worse still, if I cut my hair - one day  they see me with shrunken hair that looks like a short Afro and then a few days later,they see longer twists (or the other way round). All I say is - it's water baby!

Silicone's And Sulfates - To Be Or Not To Be?

When I started my healthy hair journey, I spent fascinated hour upon hour, reading through as many hair forums and blogs that I could find (I still do) learning about products, ingredients and other people’s experiences before quickly running to the store to buy some product which was ‘good’ or running to my bathroom to bin some product which was ‘bad’ – safe to say I was a bandwagon jumper and had to learn the hard way when I started losing hair.

*Hair tip - Try not to jump on every hair bandwagon that comes up; apart from getting dizzy with confusion, your hair might just give you an 'askor' and refuse to respond to products or worse still, start breaking off*

Case in point:
‘Sulfate free shampoos are a gentler way to cleanse your hair as they don’t strip your strands and dry out your hair the way shampoos with sulfates will’. 

This was something I saw on every blog and immediately invested in some sulfate free shampoos. Now prior to this, I had fallen in love with the Neutrogena Triple Moisture Silk Touch Leave In Cream as it made my hair oh so soft and silky! I was co washing quite often (with the Aussie Moist Moisturizing conditioner which I adore) and also using the leave – in quite often while shampooing less often with a sulfate free shampoo.

What's THAT on your head?!

Ah! To have a thousand naira for every time I've had that said to me, I'd have... erm a few thousand bucks maybe? lol  Seriously though, when I began wearing my natural hair out, I did get a few odd looks and raised brows, but for the most part, I got and still get a lot of curious, interested and even complimentary questions.

Even when I get the odd screech from a friend ' what is this one again on your head' I laugh and take it all in stride - I am loving my hair journey and for me, the good, bad and scandalous comments all make it that much more interesting.

The worst of the comments have probably come from my mum who one day after seeing my 'wash n go' which I'd painstakingly arranged and picked out; stuck her fingers in my hair and pushed my head back saying 'why in the world have you forgotten to comb your hair! O da bi Kunta Kinte!

Ayurvedic Hairgasm!

I absolutely loooooove Wednesdays! For about a year now, Wednesdays have been my Ayurvedic hair spa days - I look forward to them, revel in them and pamper my hair without feeling a shred of guilt. And Lord knows this Wednesday, I needed pampering after the kind of days I'd been having.

*Begin rant*
Sooo, the store/salon has been doing great since we opened a few weeks ago - a few teething problems but nothing out of this world EXCEPT, the BRAND NEW generator I got, decided it had a completely different vision for the store and it was on a mission to bring that vision to pass.

After it had gone off one too many times last Friday, I called the dude I bought it from and informed him it wasn't werking for me and we needed to do an exchange - luckily he accepts (come to think of it, he didn't put up too much of a fight! hmmmmm....he must have known exactly what I was buying right at the beginning!).

LASAA then seizes my roll up banner right in front of the store and  my male stylist decides he has to travel and doesn't show up for days.

As if generator, Lagos State Agency and staff problems weren't bad enough, my laptop does the unthinkable and crashes! Let's just say I've been 'baptized' into the realm of running a business in Nigeria.
*End rant*

Vaginal Cream For Hair Growth?

So I was at the local supermarket doing some 'quick fix' shopping for my bare fridge - I pick up a couple of pineapples and head to the counter to pay so I can head home and gorge on what I can tell will be juicy, succulent pineapples (yum!).

At the counter, is an old classmate with whom I'd just had a conversation while shopping earlier - she'd commented on my natural hair and we'd had a little chat. I set my pineapples down and she looks at them and asks quite innocently 'So is that for your hair?'.

Now those who know me, know how hard and loud I can laugh and I truly let go at this point. I mean I know 'Naturalistas' are as adventurous as they come - using everything from Palm Oil  to baby food all in a bid to get perfectly moisturized curls; but pineapples?! loll heck, who am I kidding, there's probably somebody somewhere who's tried pineapple juice as an elixir of sorts.

Which kind of brings me to my topic today - using vaginal cream (Monistat) to boost hair growth.

My 'Accidental' Transition from Relaxed to Natural Hair.

Accidental because it really wasn't planned (cross my heart). As I'd said in my last post, I stumbled upon a video which opened up my eyes to the immense growth potential 'black' hair had - eroding years of doubt and unbelief in my own hair's potential.

I was also at a point where I needed something to consume my mind and this discovery couldn't have come at a better time.

When I discovered Sunshyne at Hairlicious and consequently various hair blogs, forums and sites; my hair was about neck length, scraggly, had broken bits all over, was overly porous, and was just a right old mess really. I was determined from the pictures and videos I'd seen, to make a 'magical' turnaround with my hair and so, armed with the information I was feeding my mind with, my master card and all the excitement of a 5 year old at Disneyland, I got to work.

Now, the one point that was stressed over and over again in pretty much all the blogs et all was 'stretching' your relaxer i.e. extending the time frames between touch ups. This really wasn't  a problem for me as I'd already cut down on my touch ups till I was doing them about 4 times a year.

Hair We Go!

Right from the time I was a little girl, I'd always wanted long beautiful hair - the kind I saw in Indian movies and the glossy magazines my mum brought home; but no matter how hard I wished or how deeply I yearned, it just didn't seem to want to happen.

I distinctly remember an incident from when I was about 6 or 7 years old which was so heart breaking for me then but which is so rib crackingly funny to me today. My mum came home with a jar of  Dax pomade which had a picture of a lady with long hair parted down the side - one half of her hair was past her shoulders while the other was just by her ear; the unspoken selling point being that with Dax your hair could grow from ear length to past shoulder length.