Unintentional Hair Enemies

Living the textured life has its perks. Your hair has personality and is resilient. However, because of this, special consideration must be taken when doing what many people take for granted or perform by rote. So, this week, I’ll talk about some natural hair enemies that we unconsciously face and the need to take account of them in our daily life.

warning-sign

Caps & Scarves
Although it is now spring and many of us don’t have to worry about this part of our wardrobe right now, autumn and winter will eventually cycle back around. Many of the fabrics that caps, hats, and scarves are made of have proven to be drying to the hair. When I was growing up, wool ribbons were popular and my beautician grandmother forbade them asserting that “wool will make your hair come out.” What happens is that certain fabrics can leech the moisture out of our hair making it more vulnerable to breakage. Further, the cling can pull on the hair and lend itself to splits. Be aware that cotton can also negatively affect the hair in the same manner.

The workaround: opt for satin-lined caps and hats and satin and silk scarves.

Overstyling
You may remember the blog I wrote a couple of weeks ago about giving your hair a break. Kinky, curly, and coily hair is fun! It can do things that straight hair simply cannot do. This can get us in trouble. Between blow dryers, flat irons, curling irons, braids, brushes (generally a natural hair no-no), twists, bows, bands, clips, and rubber bands (amongst others), our hair can become overtaxed.

The workaround: Give your hair a rest. Know when to take down your protective style. Use simple tools like a wide-tooth comb or your hands.

Long nails
Speaking of using hands as a styling tool, I want to make note of nails. Our nails are pretty and can often accent our look. However, when our nails are long, whether real or acrylic, we risk snagging our strands and causing breakage by simply running our fingers through it or absentmindedly “playing” in our hair. This is also a concern while attempting to perform general hair maintenance. I can attest to having pulled out a strand or two in the process of shampooing, raking conditioner through my hair and twisting. The possibility of damage increases when nails are unkempt (hangnails, too sharp, etc…).

The workaround: Make sure nails are at a manageable length. If you have trouble performing everyday tasks at your current length, consider trimming them and making sure that they are well-maintained. If you can, avoid the impulse to “play” in your hair.

Jewelry
This one is pretty straightforward. I cannot count how many times I’ve had my hair caught in necklaces, on earrings, in watches, bracelets and my wedding rings (ironically while “playing” in my hair). Even embracing someone wearing elaborate earrings can cause unintentional snags.

The workaround: As a fan of jewelry, I cannot and do not advise shunning jewelry. But, I do advise being conscious about the fact that you are wearing jewelry and plan ahead. For example, wear an updo on the days you opt to wear a necklace. If you have a habit of running your fingers through your hair, make sure it’s not the hand with the ring or other jewelry on it.

Furniture
We all work hard and every now and then, we get to lounge around and watch Netflix and do absolutely nothing. Even at work or in the doctor’s office we lean back on cloth covered chairs and couches. As relaxing as this may be, our hair may be baring the brunt of our leisure. In the midst of our lounging, leaning and resting, our hair is rubbing against these surfaces and…(you guessed it)…the moisture is again being leeched from our strands. I’ve personally experienced this issue with wicker furniture as well while wearing my hair down.

The workaround: If you’re lounging on a lazy day at home, go ahead and throw your satin or silk scarf on for extra protection. If you are out in public, be aware of the type of seat in which your are sitting. Personally, I always carry a clip so that in situations I cannot control, I can keep my hair out of harm’s way. If you don’t have a clip with you, or if clipping is not feasible, sit in a way that allows you to keep your head away from the furniture’s cloth but still be comfortable.

Next week, we’ll talk about protein. Until then, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.

A Life-Long Commitment: The Importance of Regular Hair Maintenance

Recently, I spoke with someone who stated that their hair often begins to lock (as in form locs) after a couple of days. Someone within earshot noted that theirs started to lock almost immediately after washing and when they are ready to style, it’s almost impossible to do so.

While listening to these accounts, what came across my mind was that they were likely not engaging in regular hair maintenance. As I noted in a previous blog, maintaining the hair is akin to other routine hygiene activities. Some of us curlies have shake n’ go hair. Many of us do not (at least in its natural state). The first individual is likely going more than two or three days without performing any hair grooming. Locs are a beautiful and meaningful hairstyle but the hair takes much longer than two or three days to lock. What this individual was experiencing is more like tangles.

The second individual was simply waiting too long between washing and styling. I know from experience that after a wash session, even if I’m opting for a “wash n’ go,” I must go ahead and moisturize my hair, at least finger comb and add my accessories. If I just leave the towel wrapped around my hair and get busy doing other things, when it is time to style, I will have more work to do.

Even those of us who like to protective style must give our hair regular attention. We still must make sure our scalps are cleaned, the hair moisturized, and fuzzy spots are touched up. The normal daily shedding we all experience can cause the ends of twists and braids to look less than fresh sometimes giving way to single strand knots. Therefore they must be attended to.

What is evident is that we cannot neglect our hair for days at a time and expect that the next encounter will go well. Although many people equate returning to natural to less work, there is still work involved. The nature of tightly curled and coily hair does not allow the ability to be non-committal about basic maintenance.

Remember that the state of our hair is directly proportional to the quality of care we put into it.

Until next time, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free….

Give It A Rest: Sometimes It’s Best To Leave It Alone

People often inquire why they are beset with certain hair woes. Be it thinning edges, breakage, or a receding hair line, there seems to be a two-step process that individuals who are experiencing hair troubles go through. The first is wondering what’s wrong followed by doing everything they can to reverse or avert the continuance of the issue.

Although human inclination tells us that when there is a problem, we should do what we need to solve it, oftentimes, the “remedies” we turn to will do more harm than good. Recently, I spoke with a woman who, after years of tight extensions began to experience thinning in the crown area. In a quest to cover up her thinning crown, she began to pull her hair back into a ponytail and add a hairpiece. She wore this style for several months; often neglecting to cleanse her hair and scalp for fear that it would encourage more breakage. Not only did this make the balding crown worse, but her edges suffered severely.

Now, I am not a doctor and would not venture to offer a diagnosis to anyone. What I will offer is the possibility that her hair just needed a break from being tugged, pulled and tightly held in place for years and years on end.  She is not alone, as I speak with several people on a regular basis that are experiencing problems related to overuse of wigs, weaves and even chemical processes. Similar to how our muscles need rest so that we can avoid injury, our hair needs some let-up every now and then.

I know that returning to natural can be a learning curve and many times, women get frustrated and turn to natural protective styles (which I am a fan of), extensions, weaves, and wigs. As the ace número uno fan of the high bun, I also know how addictive a style can be when you feel it really suits your overall look well. These methods can be a plain old fun way to spice up our look. While these styles have their place, overuse can turn out to be disastrous for the hair because, no matter what the texture, hair can only take so much. Our hair, because it is largely exposed, already has the stress of pollutants and climate; the things we attempt to do to and/or with it, even with the best of intentions, can overstress our locks and leave us with strands that seem to rebel against us.

So what do I mean by “leave it alone?” Of course I am not suggesting to anyone that they abandon the grooming process altogether. Hair maintenance is important and (in my estimation) to do so would be the equivalent of not brushing one’s teeth or showering. What I am suggesting is that after a week or two of wearing a certain style, you let your hair take a breather. If you are wearing extensions, like braids, never braid too tightly. After they are taken out, wait at least two weeks before re-installation. In that two weeks, make sure hair is well-cleansed, conditioned and moisturized and avoid overly-involved styles or styles that place more tension on the scalp. If you like to bun or wear your hair in ponytails, switch the positioning often so that one spot does not get too much wear and (consequently) tear. If you like to protective style with twists or braids, variance and rest is equally important.

Until next week…

What’s It All Worth? Price v. Value

The desire to return to natural, like most things, has become big business. Something that, for most of us, has a deep-rooted personal meaning and even philosophical implications is now being marketed and even companies that previously showed no interest in ethnic hair are packaging new brands to claim their share of the market.

Oftentimes, I hear naturals comment on the fact that many of the leading brands of natural hair products are very costly. When going through the testing phase to see what works best for your hair and your hair goals, it may not be feasible to spend $25, $30, and more; especially when many brands are indistinguishable in terms of their ingredient profile and  include the same ineffective ingredients that ethnic hair products have included for decades.

This week’s blog has to do with being a value-conscious consumer while shopping for your hair care needs. To start, I want to make some delineations. Price, has to do with the cost of an item. At a “dollar store”, the price of the items is $1. There are many situations in which price, for any given item, is key for consumers. Value, on the other hand, has to do with the benefits of an item in relation to the price paid. The easiest way to illustrate this is to use a food analogy.

The price of a meal for one at an average fast food place is about $7. The price of the ingredients needed to make a homemade grilled chicken salad is about $20 (chicken breasts, lettuce, tomatoes, low-fat cheese, and any other assortment of vegetables) and could be more. At first glance, the fast food meal is the better option. At only $7, you can eat, get full and it tastes good as well; but it will only feed you once and isn’t the healthiest option. However, the $20+ for the salad ingredients can feed you for several meals, has a stronger vitamin and mineral profile, and won’t leave you with the debilitating “itis,”

While the fast food has a more attractive price point at first glance, the salad offers more value because of the benefits it offers.The nourishment that you receive from the salad is worth the $20+ price point.

So should it be with your choice of hair care products. You must remember that these choices are not just about looking nice in public. This is about the health of your hair and your body overall, as we know that our cosmetic products are penetrative.  It is much more beneficial to take a value-conscious stance when deciding and purchasing what works for you.

“But, Kristen. All I have is $20 to spend on my hair care regimen!” What I suggest is that you get the best products you can get for $20. No matter how much money you have, you don’t have to settle for cheap (in terms of quality) products just because of a limited budget. You can have healthy hair without going broke.

Until next week, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.

 

 

 

First Things First: Positive Self-Image & Its Role In Hair Health

We at Cute & Kinky get to do a lot of traveling and we meet a lot of individuals from different walks of life. They all have specific hair concerns and needs. They inquire and we try, as best we can, to answer their questions. The most prevalent question we get pertains to hair growth. They ask questions about when and how long it will take them to grow hair down their back. They ask why their hair is short or why their hair “won’t grow.” They ask if the product will make their hair grow. They ask how they can make their curls look more curly and less coiled. They ask how they can make their hair “lay down” around the edges. They await my response with wide eyes and baited breath that soon fade when I tell them the truth about hair growth or the fact that the moisturizer won’t make their coils look like Shirley Temple. Then, some say that they are “afraid” to go natural (although it’s more like a return to natural) or let their real hair be seen and proceed to use all kinds of negative adjectives for their hair to explain why. This happens across age groups and even genders.

Besides the interactions that I have with customers, I came across a post this week on my personal Facebook feed that made me upset first, but sad soon after. The plot was that a father  wanted his 1 year-old daughter to get a relaxer.

You’ve probably guessed by the title that this blog will be a little different from the last two and you’d be right. If you’ve read the “About Us” section of the site, you’ll see that we are a company that is based on the belief that self-acceptance is the best thing that anyone can do for themselves. This message follows in our choice of imaging online and in person. The reasoning for this is that how you feel about yourself plays out in how you treat yourself. What you love, you nurture. What you love, you give time and effort.

Oftentimes, we find that many individuals have damaged hair as a result of their desire to try to disavow, hide, or transform their hair in unhealthy and hasty ways. Most of the time, the issues they face are easily remedied with a consistent regimen of safe hair care practices. However, what concerns me more are the negative images they’ve embraced as standards that brought them to the place of wanting to escape who they are.

While I completely stand by any individual’s choice to wear their hair the way they want, I want it to be a choice that they made because it makes them happy; not because it is an effort to dismiss themselves or be someone or something they are not. I don’t want it to be a choice that was born out of the need to shroud who they are or what they look like to be more socially acceptable.

Don’t get me wrong, at some point, most, if not all, of us put a towel, blanket or shirt over our heads and pretended to have long hair . At one point, we innocently pranced around the house flipping that blanket or towel or blouse from side to side in a quest to fulfill the desire to be like the images we were exposed to like Barbies, Disney princesses, models and television game show eye candy. We wanted to have some semblance of what many of us were told, either explicitly or implicitly, was not an attainable goal for us (either in length or texture). As we grew older, it was apparent that those images were emblazoned on our minds and we did everything we could to attain our desired looks with real adult tools and methods. Most of us can attest to the fact that grace is likely the only reason we have any hair at all after the teenage experimentation we conducted on our heads. However, many individuals get caught in an enduring cycle and several years past adolescence, they continue to grapple with their own image and the images in their mind that tell them they are not enough as they are.

So what does this have to do with hair health?

I’m not into hair typing (I’ll explain why in a later blog) but I don’t care if you have type 2, 3, or 4 hair. In order to have healthy type 2, 3, or 4 hair, you have to take care of your hair as it is. Treating your 4 like a 3, 3 like a 2, or 2 like a 4 will cause your hair more stress than it is built for and always leave you unhappy about who you are and how you look. Trying to turn your hair into something it wasn’t built for will be equally unsuccessful. Show your hair that you love it as it is by spending more time truly nurturing it and less time trying to make it do something that it’s not designed to do. Leave the quick fixes alone because your hair is a part of a living, breathing, functional entity: YOU!

Unfortunately, the images that tell us what we should be in order to be more acceptable will never end. We will never be able to dictate what Madison Ave. wants to bombard mass media with. We cannot control what even some Black hair companies present to us in terms of imaging. However, what we can do is make sure that we keep a grasp on who we are and treat ourselves accordingly.

You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Sweat It: How To Maintain Hair Health While Working Out

Exercise is inarguably one of the best things you can do for yourself. As I mentioned in last week’s post, exercise helps transport blood, oxygen and nutrients all over your body. These are all things that you need to live a healthy life…and maintain a healthy head of hair.

However, when we exercise at a certain level, we begin to sweat (which, BTW, is good for us). Have you ever noticed that after a strong sweat session, your hair may feel and look a lifeless or your style just isn’t holding up as well (for me, my twists get fuzzy)? This is likely because sweat leaves a film of salt on our hair and scalp that can clog pores, zaps the hair’s moisture and negatively affect our hair’s health if not attended to properly and regularly.

We realize that the feasibility of shampooing our hair every day is low and this is especially so if you are exercising every day (or even every other day). Further, for us kinky-curly types, a daily shampoo isn’t the best thing for our hair. Therefore, you should, at the least, make an effort to rinse the scalp with lukewarm water while you are in the shower. Doing this helps remove the salt deposits and restore some equilibrium to the hair and scalp. Although this may seem like a chore, I have found that wearing a low maintenance style like twists makes this task easier because it allows me to keep my hair in sections and prevents me from having to do the work of a marathon post-wash detangling session.

After washing, make sure to thoroughly moisturize your hair. Not only does the sweat zap the moisture out of your hair, but after rinsing the scalp, you want to replenish and seal in moisture that may have been lost.

As a general rule, I recommend making sure that hair gets a thorough wash (as opposed to a rinse), each week because even if you are not exercising, your body produces sweat every day all over your body. A Cute & Kinky shampoo is coming but until then, make sure the shampoo you use is strong enough to cleanse, but not so strong that it strips your hair.

Above all, never neglect the gift of movement in favor of stylish locks. As long as you know how to manage your locks while undertaking an exercise regime, you will be a cute and kinky masterpiece at all times.

Until next week, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.

 

 

Hair Growth: It’s Within You

Here goes…*drumroll*…there is nothing you can put on your head/hair to make your hair grow. I know there are tons of products in the ethnic hair care market that implicitly or explicitly promise long locks if you use their product. I am sorry to report that those are merely enticing words. Your hair grows in cycles and there is a mixture of hormonal, genetic, and lifestyle factors that will ultimately determine the length of your hair.

Hair growth is a product of internal bodily functions. Similar to the way that your heart beats, your lungs inhale and exhale and your eyes blink without the assistance of outside factors, your hair has a growth cycle that results (on average) in about 6 inches of hair growth each year (breaks down to about ½” each month).

Therefore, the things that we do to ourselves internally can affect our hair growth cycles. For example, telogen effluvium, where more follicles than usual enter into the resting phase at one time, often happens when we go on extreme or crash diets for an extended period of time. This problem is usually reversed once we return to more balanced eating. In other words, the things we put (or do not put) into our bodies can affect the hair growth cycle. In situations where hair is lost due to illness or disease, it is still an internal process.

Other factors that can be problematic for our hair are the chemicals that seep in through the pores that are all over our body, including our scalp. Dyes and bleaches penetrate the cuticle layer which is there to protect the innermost layers of the hair structure. Perms and relaxers break the bonds of the hair and then re-form them in a different manner thereby making the hair weaker.

If you want to make sure that your scalp is conducive to hair growth, make sure that you are getting the nutrition you need. This should entail plenty of protein (as your hair is mostly protein), vitamins (studies suggest that vitamin D is important) and minerals, like iron. Healthy fats are also important, as several members of the Cute & Kinky team will attest to the fact that low-fat diets have often left their hair brittle and dull. Exercise is also important. It helps reduce stress (another hair enemy), helps carry blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout your body including your scalp, and nothing goes better with healthy hair than an energized and well-functioning physique.

You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.