Knowing Your Ingredients, Part Deux

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When we last left off, we were discussing the different ingredients commonly found in hair products: WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?! Well, here we have one of the most unavoidable ingredients: silicone, which comes in many forms. Basically look on the back of the bottle and read anything that ends in “cone” as a silicone.Many will advise you to steer clear of such ingredients all together. This is not necessary if you know what you’re dealing with. (Yes, Mummy, I know I just ended a sentence with a preposition.) Generally, you do not want too many silicones for the same reason you do not want too many petroleum products (grease, mineral oil). They cause build-up that is hard to wash off. (Those damn prepositions!) There are many lists of water-soluble silicones that you can wash away and many ‘cone-by-‘cone break-downs of which ones are safest to use. With all this confusing info, why would you not just avoid ‘cones all together? Wouldn’t that be easier? Because no matter  what anyone says, ‘cones are great for keeping your hair smooth and protecting your hair from heat. Many use oils as a more “natural” heat protector. This is a very bad idea, as I have discussed in previous posts. Here is some basic info on silicones. I use them in moderation…or like…never since I do not straighten my hair…one day I will!

Here’s another one: Alcohol. We are told alcohol can be drying and this is true– if they are short-chain alcohols. These are the quick-drying alcohols commonly found in hairsprays and some gels and include ethanol, SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, Alcohol denat, Propanol, Propyl alcohol and Isopropyl alcohol. You probably see these names in common household products too. The good alcohols, the ones that hydrate are Lauryl alcohol, Cetyl alcohol, Myristyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol and Behenyl alcohol. You see these in the more trusted, curl-friendly brands, especially Cetyl, Stearyl and Cetearyl alcohols. The way they act similar to lipids (oils and fats) so they moisturise your hair but be careful: If you have looser, thinner curls they can quickly make your hair look greasy.

Phthalates– WTF IS A PHTHALATE?! Don’t even ask me how to pronounce that word but apparently, not having them is a good thing. According to the FDA, they are used to make products more plastic: i.e. firm but flexible. They are used in everything from household products to hairsprays and are toxic in large amounts.  According to Web MD, “Two studies suggest phthalate exposure during pregnancy may lead to abnormal development in male infants, including low hormone levels and small genital size.” Products containing them include anything with the name “phthlate” (dibutylphthalate, dimethylphthalate, diethylphthalate, etc.) as well as butyl ester, or plasticizer. Generally, the amount in a drugstore product is negligible and there is no proof that they are dangerous for your health. This is not one of the more commonly spotted ingredients anyway, (hairspray is past its prime) so I would not worry about it.

Finally, let’s talk Parabens: They seem to be in everything but WHAT are they? Well, they do not do a thing for your hair. What they do is preserve the ingredients. This is the reason I do not use Hollywood Beauty hair oils anymore, they are filled with parabens and only so much of the oil advertised. Parabens MAY be linked to cancer but research is inconclusive. I avoid them because they dry the scalp. Safer preservatives include vitamins C and E (which, btw, is great for your scalp.)

There are tonnes of other ingredients that we are taught to avoid and like I say, everything in moderation. The best way to judge  a product’s safety is to see how far down the list an ingredient is. The closer it is to the top, the more concentrated. Next time we will get to the good stuff in your hair products: Yummy butters, oils and extracts.

Until next time!

D &A

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Winter Switch-up Part 2

Hey guys so as promised, here is part 2 of my winter hair repertoire. This time I will be focused on products and applications. However, I forgot to mention in my previous post one more protective technique. Sleeping in a satin bonnet. Now, usually I don’t bother wrapping my hair because I like my ‘fro to be free and I already sleep on satin pillows and sheets. However, In winter I’m not just protecting my head from sheets but also from the dry, hot air in my apartment so I cover up. Before I do this, I usually put my into hair as many or as few twists (not very neatly) as I feel like. This helps them fit under the cap more easily and stretches them somewhat so they can be more easily pulled into protective styles the next day. I moisturize them before doing so in a method I’ll explain shortly. So now for products.

I read on naturallycurly.com that not varying your shampoo can diminish or even reverse its positive effects. Is this without-a-doubt true? I don’t know for sure. I do not always agree with even the most reputable sites, however, I decided to be safe and bought a second shampoo/conditioner set to alternate in every other week. I chose L’oreal Ever Sleek mainly for the price and because I didn’t realise it was for straightened hair. Oh well! I don’t think that really matters. It’s cheaper than most natural products since it’s one of the drugstore brands getting in on the natural game and it was 7.99 a Duane Reade as opposed to Shea Moisture’s 10.99 ( I later realised that it’s only 8.5 oz in a bottle so per oz. the price is about the same.)

What did I think? Let’s start with the sulphate-free shampoo. It made my hair squeaky clean. It actually squeaked. It was clear and not rich and creamy like the SM shampoo at all. It felt…fine. I was neither here nor there with it. To be fair, I also realised the products were really for smoothing straight hair. It’s important, curls, to go off of research when buying products and not just price.  Still, even when you’re 3c/4a curly, you don’t want frizz so smoothing is a nice effect. The conditioner is the most important part to a curly in my opinion. It was extremely thick and creamy. It felt more like a curl-defining cream than a conditioner and did not give me the slippage I wanted. It took a lot of conditioner and work to detangle and ithe smell was nothing special, just like unscented body lotion. Afterwards I will say that my hair felt very smooth. However, that could also be attributed in part to the yoghurt deep conditioner.

That’s the other thing I am doing for winter: focusing on different conditioners. Normally I alternate between my Greek yoghurt conditioner and my caramel treatment. Now I may use the caramel Tx (treatment) occasionally still but am concerned that it contains honey, a humectant. Humectants are great for the summer because they draw moisture from the air to your curls. However in the winter they can have the opposite effect. Greek yoghurt is great for your scalp but rich in protein, which, in the winter, can make hair brittle. I use plain regular yoghurt mixed with olive, tea tree and peppermint oil. The two latter oils are great for a winter-dry scalp.
I just eyeball the proportions and I use plain yoghurt since sugary flavours can encourage fungus that can lead to dandruff. Yoghurt is good for fighting scalp fungus, the lactic acid is very good for your skin. Yoghurt also moisturizes the hair and the skin on your scalp and balances the pH of your hair, creating a shiny seal to the cuticle.

plain-yogurt

After washing, I recommend rubbing oils such as tea tree, peppermint or jojoba on the scalp, but a clean scalp only. Oil and dirt can cause buildup that makes a dry scalp worse. Ensure the oils you use are paraben-free because those ingredients also dry the scalp.

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Lastly, remember to use the LOC method on your hair: Liquid, Oil, Cream.
Spray your hair with whatever moisturizing sprigs you use, water, conditioner spray or whatever your personal mix. Not too much, as I said in my last post we don’t want to leave the house with wet hair. Next, add an oil of your choice for a light conditioning seal. I like coconut oil. Last, add a heavier cream or butter to seal, paying special attention to the ends of your hair, which may rub up against the rough, winter fabric of your clothes. Some bloggers recommend coating your ends in conditioner and sealing with a non-alcoholic gel. I can’t vouch for it personally. My LOC is an EVOO-condish-water mix followed by coconut oil followed by Shea moisture curl-enhancing smoothie.

Next post, I will take you through my routine for Trinidad. That’s right: no place like home for the holidays. Xox.
Daria & Angela

Winter switch up!

Hey curls! Miss me much? I’ve got a few updates and tips for the winter season. It’s my first winter in NYC and as my friend wisely said “In this city, you have to be an all-terrain-person!
So how do you make your hair all-terrain? Here are my thoughts. They will be coming to you in two installments.

1) Protective styling. Can’t stress this enough. Here are some looks I’ve tried out recently.

20121210-201011.jpg here’s a tutorial link. I couldn’t figure out how to do a horizontal French braid so I did more of a flat twist. I need to practice this look. I call it my “hat hair”

Here’s another

20121210-201622.jpg borrowed from naptural85’s infinity twist tutorial
Here’s another tutorial I like but don’t have a picture of myself in it.
And here’s me just messin’ around with an old twist out.

20121210-202320.jpg That’s really just a loose side bun.

Here’s me making an ugly sad face in this look from naptural85

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All these looks are there to protect my hair by minimizing its exposure to the elements but they are also designed to fit better under my hats, which brings me to tip 2…

2) Cover your head. There are many reasons you should do this- to keep warm, to keep protect your hair from the elements. Winter air can be drying and damp hair can freeze in the cold, expanding and disfiguring the hair shaft. (Think about when you put a full water bottle in the freezer) also, the heat of indoors and the drastic temperature shift from indoors to outdoors can also dry your hair. That said, you should cover up but most winter hats are made of coarse materials like wool and fleece that cause friction and rub against the hair, resulting in damage and frizz. There are solutions to this.
A) buy winter hats with satin lining. The good thing about this is that the satin is sure to stay in place as a smooth, non absorbent barrier between your hat and your head. The cons are that they are not always easy to find and you are limiting the kinds of hats you can wear if you ONLY buy those kinds. They can be hard to come by too. Also the lining may not stretch all the way to the edge of the hat, leaving you with some exposure to harsher fabric.
B) Wrap your hair in satin and then put the hat on. This is pretty simple and protective. The problem with this is that it can be hard to get all my hair under the scarf if I don’t twist/ bun it. And the scarf and hat can start slipping off your head, making you look silly. Bobby pinning may help with this.
C) Pin a satin bonnet to the inside of your hat. I haven’t tried this one but it seems good because you can remove the bonnet as you change hats. But I think it can look clunky and not as seamless depending on your hair and your hat.
D) Fabric glue your bonnet at the rim to inside your hat rim. Again, I haven’t tried it but it could be great or it could get messy and again look like a clunky fit. Look for a washable fabric glue at your local Walmart.
E) Sew your own lining. Here is a YouTube tutorial for sewing in a fleece lining. I imagine you could do the same with satin. Haven’t done it but it seems like a good plan. Of course, it’s a little more work and skill involved but I have a friend who has done it and says it hasn’t taken her too much time or skill since she is not a sewer.

So there is part one. In part two I will be telling you about what products I am using and the right application techniques. Hasta luego!
Daria and Angela

I’m HOOOOMMEEE!

Hello Hello Hello!

from sunny (well, more rainy these days) Trinidad. I got in Tuesday the 10th and I’ve been doing some hardcore relaxing so not much to report. A few things:

I think my Mum is scared of Angela. We went out to run a few errands and I had Angela out at her fullest.  This is the convo that followed

Mum: Daria you ent comb your hair?

Me: Yes Mummy I combed it. This is how it looks

Mum: But you walk out the house with it just so?

Me: Well since we’re driving I was going to pull it back (My fro has been known to obstruct a driver’s view, mine included)

Mum: well you mustn’t leave the house with it looking unkempt.

Me: sigh…okay Mummy (pulls back hair. I did not come on vacay to argue with Mum) It’s just an afro like the wig you used to wear in the 70’s

Mum: (indignant) no mine used to be neat. We kept it short.

What I don’t think she gets is that styles, even as they recur, evolve so the afro of yesteryear, while still cute, might seem a bit dated. Also, while natural hair is fairly common in Trinidad, it is generally worn in protective styling. Trini style tends to veer away from things that are too bold. We are really jeans and t-shirt people.

Later my Mum spotted a lady and laughed saying her hair looked like mine “That’s not an Afro that is an A-FRAID!” I had to laugh. Oh Mother.

Anyway I at least wore it in a puff for her. Surprisingly my father who once LITERALLY did not notice an elephant in the room* observed the change right away (no positive or negative opinion, he just observed it) I have been rocking a top-knot mostly and have been wearing Shea Moisture conditioner and gel in my hair. I did try out this one look to take a new visa photo. In visa pics, your hair cannot obstruct your face, which Angela tends to do…

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I achieved it by leaving conditioner (silicone free!) in my hair to loosen the curl pattern. I used gel to hold it and then side parted my hair, rolling the wider side inward and securing the front of my hair into a half pony. Simple! Note: I stress using silicone-free conditioner because leaving conditioner with “cones” in your hair too long can stop moisture from getting in and eventually drive out your hair.

Other fun observation: Maybe it’s because this has been a particularly humid summer in DC, maybe it’s because my hair is not as dry as it used to be or maybe it’s because my hair is now natural: maybe it’s a combination- but when I had a perm I would feel the texture of my hair change the second I touched down in T&T but this time when I came home I noticed no great shift. It was interesting!

I will let you guys know more about my adventures in style as my holiday continues.

With love

Daria & Angela

* My mother collects elephant stuatues and one day we were shopping and fell in love with this majestic white piece. It was probably 2 feet tall and had a flat load on it’s back so we could add a glass table top and make it a centrepiece in the living room. I don’t remember the price but my Mum wasn’t sure how my Dad would feel about the purchase. She asked me how long I thought it would be before my father noticed this white elephant sitting in our living room. I guessed about 2 weeks. Well, fourteen days later my father comes home in the evening and quite confused goes to my mother “BUT HOW LONG WE HAD DAT ELEPHANT IN DE LIVING ROOM?!” and that is my father, bless his heart.

Rock n Roll- Tuck N Roll

Here’s a style I have seen a lot of people rocking from celebs like Solange to Rosie the Riveter so I have decided to try it out for myself.

1- Comb your hair so it is knot-free
2- Using a parting comb, section off a portion of your hair at the front. This should be on one side of your head.
3-Roll the hair section under (into your forehead) using your index finger. Hold it there with your finger.
4- Pin the hair section in place on either side.
5- Place the remaining hair in a side bun for a fun but polished finish.
6- Place a barrette/bandeau/scarf to the side of your new “poof” to accentuate the look. Et Voila! Easy Peasy Japanesey!

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If you want to go full on retro, pair it with a cute vintage outfit and/or some retro sunglasses, which are big this season. Like these. (glasses from Forever 21)

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A new way to wash?

It’s a wet day in Prince George’s county, MD. I hope I remembered the veggie glycerine last time I filled up the spray bottle.

Lately, I have been washing and deep treating my hair less and less. This time of year, I am not sweating too much and the dry flaky scalp of winter is gone so I can go longer between washes for a little bit, at least.

Going longer between washes is fine. It’s certainly cheaper. However, Angela misses her deep conditioning. When I have washed, the last few times I have either just shampooed and conditioned or used the condition-wash-condition method.

Last night I decided enough was enough. Despite my best efforts to moisturise and seal, when I put my water/EVOO spritz on my hair the water seemed to be quickly absorbed by my thirsty strands, leaving them with nothing but an oily feeling. My scalp was also feeling a bit dry so I decided to put my EVOO, Greek yoghurt mix on (with a little tea tree oil for the scalp).

What I did differently was braid each section of hair after I applied the yoghurt mix. I had about five or six thick plaits sitting under a warm cap for half an hour.

In the shower, I unbraided a section, shampooed it, conditioned it, ran a comb thru and braided it back. I repeated the steps all around my head and let the conditioner sit in my plaits a few minutes. Then I took them out and rinsed.

This method is widely known among natural hair bloggers. The pros of it? Manageability. I combed through my sections in one or two sweeps, no single strand knots- Angela’s greatest known enemy- and less hair being pulled out, which makes for less mess in my shower. The manageability could, however, be due to my detangling before adding the yoghurt, though. Who knows?

The cons? This was time consuming. I felt like I was racing to get out of my shower before the hot water ran out. Usually I turn the water off if I am shampooing or soaping my skin but if it’s off for too long I get cold. Next time I will try fewer plaits and see if that helps.

My hair feels great now. Yoghurt always makes my strands smoother. It dried more quickly, indicating it had enough moisture. It was also much more manageable due to both the deep treatment and the braiding. Angela is BACK!

Fellow curlies, do you shampoo in sections?

Wedding Bells!

Fun things are happening for my friends in the world of hair. First up, my bestie from college just big chopped and went all natural! Hopefully I can get her permission to show you guys a pic. She looks great (IMHO).

Second, my bestie from middle/ highschool just got engaged. She and her fiancé are making the wise decision to have a longer engagement since they are in the midst of moving back to Trinidad and job hunting. So it will likely be a year or two before I get to be a bridesmaid but I am already looking up dresses and hair with her. I’ve found some great inspiration already on Afrobella These may be of help to some of you since it is wedding season.

The look I choose will largely depend on the dress, however and it will be a while before we pick one, I’m sure. My bestie is someone I trust to not make me look like a clown and I am going to be experimenting with different up-do’s and wedding styles! So look out for those on my blog and my twitter.

Still to come: info on an upcoming play on natural hair. If you are an actress in the Washington DC area and are of African descent (doesn’t matter your hair texture) this may be for you!

Ciao for now,
D&A

Side Braid

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Today I took to protective styling in the form of a side braid. Using my hair’s natural side-part I divided my hair in two. Plaiting my hair from the part’s side and rolling it (like you do your hair before you put it in a bun) on the other side. Then I put those sections in one ponytail and braided the pony for a boho look. To improve this style I will probably use a warm blow dryer to stretch my hair slightly before hand. It was difficult to plait my hair at this length and thickness. Ah well, I’m learning.
I polished off this look with Urban Decay big fatty mascara and some earrings from Eastern Market. You will hear more on my adventures in make-up soon.

As this 80 degree DC day shows, summer is near! My favourite time! But before we slip into those bikinis I have to ask every naturalista’s favourite question: What hair products should I use? The only difference is….now I’m not talking about the hair on my head…

before i get sued: I am not saying Selita Ebanks uses this product…but she could!

Here’s a product with a naughty name and nice results. It’s called Coochy after-shave protection mist. It is an after-shave spray that I use on my bikini area, underarms-anywhere I shave-to prevent bumps and irritation and let me tell you, this product is the truth! Here’s a sad fact: curly-haired people are more prone to razor bumps and irritation.This is because instead of growing out, the hair curls back into the skin causing it to become inflamed much like it does when we have a splinter. For straight hair, however, it is easier to penetrate the skin’s surface as it grows. Think of a nail versus a screw: which one can push through a piece of wood more smoothly?

I have been using Coochy spray after shaving and waxing for about two years now to prevent and soothe inflammation and irritation. From the first use I noticed my bumps becoming fewer, smaller and further between. Now, after two years I use the spray less and less. I no longer have to use it after every shave. And who doesn’t love smoother skin? I once had a doctor compliment me on my wax. (Sorry am I oversharing? lol!) Coochy also has a shaving cream, which, I am told can also be used as a conditioner. The cream in my opinion is better than The Art of Shaving’s fancy creams but not as good as my trusty Aveeno. Coochy’s makers also now have a men’s cream (I haven’t tried) called Evolution, which I am pretty sure is just the same cream with a different scent and name because no guy wants to put some floral thing called “Coochy” on his face. Now you can recommend it to boyfriend, hubby, brother or dad. Otherwise could  you imagine? “Hey Dad try this Coochy on your face.” *awwwwwkwarddd*

Disclaimer: before you click the link to buy this product, I warn you, the website is not for the faint of heart. However there are a number of legitimate beauty products on this site as well. (Stripper dust anyone? lol.)

Ok curlies, now that you know the secret: click, like, buy and please keep the dirty jokes to a minimum. My family sometimes reads this.

xoxo. Daria and Angela.

Mini (well kinda…)twists: Part 1

Angela is getting a little unruly. She’s too long for a fro. She gets in my face and is really floppy so when my hair is out I look like the guy from LMFAO. BUT I don’t want to cut her. I want to see how long she can grow and I want to try different things. I did some research on the great scientific resource that is YouTube and looked at some styles. I thought about a blowout but DC in Spring is a very damp place. I didn’t want to do all that straightening for nothing. I turned to one of my favourite vloggers, naptural85 and revisited her mini twist videos.

I had tried to little avail to twist my hair in the past: They unravelled. They were too thick and puffed up. They didn’t fall the way I wanted… Sigh. But I checked out a few videos and got a pretty good idea of how to do it.

First thing I needed was to blow out my curls just a little. Just to stretch them. This would stop them from puffing up so much in the twists. This was pretty simple. I had washed my hair Monday night and worn my hair in my go-to protective style that Tuesday (bun with a flat-twist across the front) so my hair wasn’t completely dried and was somewhat stretched already. It’s best I detangle your hair with a wide toothed comb before blow drying. Then, for the first time ever I used the comb attachment on my blowdryer. I started on cool and high settings and went to warm and high settings- NEVER hot. I also started at the ends and went to the roots just like I would if I were combing. I discovered my hair had some good length with just a little bit of stretching.

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Hair all blown out

Then I parted my hair into four sections (front to back and side to side) and followed the video instructions, parting each section into tiny rows and being careful to make clean, tiny parts. The main product I used was my Shea Moisture curling soufflé.

I only did the front half of my head and it took just over 2 hours ( I could hear housemates watching SVU in the background.lol.) I tried to do my hair in a cool half-up/half-down look that looked great until I stepped outside. I had put vegetable glycerine in my hair before I decided to twist and it was misty outside so the combination of a humectant product and the moisture in the air had my nicely stretched hair proofing up in 2 seconds! I put it into a bun.

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Will have to blow it out again tonight.

I anticipate the second half will take longer because the back is harder to reach and I can’t see what I’m doing. Wish me luck!
To be continued…