Monday, April 30, 2012

All About The HAIR!!!!!

So it's not like I have an insanely popular blog here.  I mean, let's face it.  Straight up abandoning your blog for what??  8...9...months doesn't exactly make you famous among your readers.  But that's okay, really!  As much as I love blogging, I have had to accept the fact that it needed to take a backseat for a while to focus on my family.  I mean, we've had some pretty huge changes around here lately.  Not all of them I can even go into in a public setting like this...but just know, they've been quite significant for us.

Anywho....excuse my little side story there....what I was GETTING at was that the most popular question I DO get from my readers and adoptive moms (on facebook and from the listserve) is WHAT I use in Cocoa's hair, along with some how-to's!!!  Now....I absolutely don't mind typing a fresh email to each mom and let them in on what works for our family.  But I thought it might be easier to type one BIG post where I can go into great detail.  And as always, if you have additional all means -- ASK!!!

Now -- I just want to share a little about MY history.  I am a professional hairstylist.  I have been licensed since 2004 and worked in a Top 200 Salon from 2004-2008 before I became a full-time stay-at-home-mom.  Yes, I still do hair at home...but currently am limiting it to just family members simply because these two keep me running:

While in the salon I worked predominately on Caucasian and Asian clientele.  But I did a little bit of everything.  I must admit though, when an African American woman (or man) would sit in my chair, I did feel a little out of my element.  That being said, I had an AA instructor in beauty school and he insisted I know EVERYTHING about black hair -- relaxers, hot oil treatments, hot combs, and yes, Jheri curls!  Of course that was just beauty school and there is a difference in book knowledge and mannequin practice versus personal experience.

So in comparison with most adoptive moms, I was not starting from square one with Cocoa's hair.  I had some experience and knowledge of black hair.  That is NOT saying that I knew what I was doing right away...and in fact, I am STILL learning and evolving in my product knowledge and styling abilities.  That is NOT saying I don't have questions -- I have resources that I go to with questions (which I will include a list of at the end of this post), and I often will ask any AA woman who will talk to me about suggestions for products and styles.  I am still learning, and AS I learn, I will share that with you too!  And please understand that by no means do I intend to come across as a know-it-all or have a my-ways-best type of attitude.  This is simply what works for me and my family and my daughter's hair.  What I want to stay focused on is being educated and trying my hardest.  What that looks like for each family will be different because everyone's abilities or time allotment for hair styling will be different.

But before I get into the nitty-gritty of it, I wanted to talk a little about the history of black hair.  You may have noticed -- hair is a HUUUUGE thing for black women.  You may read about weaves and wigs and relaxers and on and on and think...that seems a little over-the-top.  People don't really DO all that, do they? Think again my friend, think again.  Ever seen the movie GOOD HAIR?!?  (Narrated by Chris Rock, so it has some crude humor...but TOTALLY worth watching.  SUCH good information and some hilarious moments, promise!)  Black women are SERIOUS about their locks.  But all these extras (weaves, wigs, and such) -- they're nothing new!  They are ancient practices dating back to even 3400 BCE (before Christian era), just modified to fit the current day, that's all!  

Queen Tiye with the afro

Queen Nofertari with braids

"Anthropological studies have shown that even in the days of Queen Tiye and Nofertari hair communicated your wealth and social status."  (Source)
"Even as far back as ancient Egypt, a woman's hairstyle indicated her age, status, role in society and political importance."  (Source)

In fact, even though some of the reasoning behind it is different, weaves are gaining popularity among white women as well.  From the short-term feather fad, to clip in extensions, to the professional ones you get at salons...weaves are flooding our markets for ALL hair types.

Beyond African/American hair culture, Ethiopians have their own hair culture.  Being the only African country never being colonized, Ethiopians have dealt with their hair for thousands of years.  In fact, many black hairstyles that we see in America today have been found in Ethiopia since the ancient Egyptians.  Braids, afros, and dreadlocks have a loooong history. (Source)

Braids and dreadlocks

“By and large, most whites are oblivious to the cultural minefield young black girls are born into, just by virtue of having hair that doesn’t bounce and behave,” one journalist wrote last year. (Source)

So call me shallow, or obsessed, or over-the-top, but that's why my daughter's hair has become my PASSION.  I want her to be proud of her beautiful curls and her culture.  The last thing I want for her, is to grow into an adult with no understanding of where she came from and feel like she doesn't fit in the white community because she is black, or the black community because she was raised in a white family.  I understand there are going to be identity issues we will undeniably be facing with her.  But I feel like if I can raise her with the knowledge and understanding of her unique will be one less issue for her in the future.  This is pure love, folks!!  Love for my daughter, and love of hair!

All real photos take place on instagram nowadays, right?  =)

So let's get down to business.  Your child(ren) is home.  You have a head full of curls staring you down and you don't know where to start.  What's the first thing you need to know?  HAIR TYPE!!!  Curlies have one of three types of curls -- wavy (type 2), curly (type 3), or kinky (type 4).  (Maybe I should mention there is also a type 1 - straight.  That's pretty easy to categorize.  But we're purely talking about curly hair here, mmkay?)  And out of those three types there is an A, B, and C.  Sound confusing?  It's not as bad as you think.  You can use this chart I found to narrow down what type of curls your child has.  (Still feeling confused???  You can also look HERE or HERE too and compare and learn more about your child's hair type.)  Keep in mind that most people have at least two different curl patterns within their head of hair.  My little Cocoa Puff is a mix of 3c/4a.  This hair system, I was told, was created by Andre Walker (a five-time Emmy Award winning stylist) and I think it first became big on Oprah years back (he is her hairstylist too).  He wrote a book about it too called Andre Talks Hair!

When we first received our referral of Cocoa, she had a head full of hair already.  I tried my hardest to determine what type of products I would need based on those photos, but they weren't clear enough for me to know for sure.

But only a week later, I found out it wouldn't matter!  Her head was shaved.  =(

When we met Cocoa for the first time -- WOW her hair had grown!  This mama was so glad.  Although she was adorable even with a shaved head...the curls just enhanced every dainty feature!

When we finally brought her home last July was when I first really got to my get my hands in those curls and test my skill.  I feel pretty thankful I got to start small though and learn her hair AS it was growing.

Knowing your child's hair type will help you narrow down what type of products to choose for them.  There are four basic products that I consider necessary for black hair.  Beyond that is just icing on the cake!  And in my humble opinon -- icing just makes the cake that much BETTER, right?!?  But if you are just getting started, and product selection seems overwhelming to you, this is what I suggest you start with.

Styling Creme

Not so bad right??  After all, how many products do you have for your own hair?  I have shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner (or detangler), root boost, styling creme (or mousse), finishing creme (or serum), hairspray, and shine spray.  Now -- you might think that's a little over-the-top, just remember I do this for a living (or used to), okay?  ;)

So if I have that many products for my OWN hair, how many do I have for my daughter?!?  Well....A LOT!  Before I break down exactly what our products stash looks like, let me share with you how I choose between the bazillion brands that are out there.  For starters, I'm a professional, so I prefer professional products.  Since the selection available in my local beauty supply stores is very limited, I tend to buy online or at Sephora (where I do NOT get a discount, which is a bummer).  Other than that I tend to go with all natural products.  Reason being, I know from my experience in a salon that some of the ingredients in non-professional products create a lot of build-up on hair that not even shampoo can completely remove.  I have seen build-up that even hair color can't break through without melting the hair first (I'm dead serious!).  So needless to say, I steer clear.  If you choose to go that route, whether simply for the cost or whatever other reason, that is FINE by me.  But dear friends, if you recommend a product to me you found at the drugstore and wonder why I don't take you up on it...please know that I have my own reasons for not using it, but I think no less of you for doing so.  I might repeat this a million times in one simple post, but here it goes -- do what works for you and your child's hair!!!  The only time you are ever going to here me veto-ing what products you use in your or your child's hair is if I'm professionally caring for it.  (And even then, it's more of a subtle push in a different direction =)

Well, let's get right into why don't we.  Here is what we CURRENTLY have for Cocoa's hair stash (and I'm including links to where you can find the products...minus the coconut oil where you can find everywhere):





Coconut Oil


Now...what is it I DO with this giganto list of products. That's the question most of you are probably asking, right??  I can guarantee you, we never use all of these in one day.  For a while I was even using purely Carol's Daughter!  But although I LOVE that product line, I found that Cocoa's hair felt weighed down and product built up in her hair fast.  To fix the build up you can easily wash the hair more often...but because it was also feeling weighed down, I knew we had to mix it in with some other product lines.  I am STILL searching for the perfect product combination -- maybe it doesn't even exist, I don't know!  But I know I will always be experimenting with different hair cocktails.  It's a good thing it's fun for me, because as soon as I seem to find the perfect combination -- her hair begins changing again and I am searching once again.  But don't let this discourage you!  Make it fun!  Hair IS fun!!!  And at the very least, I'll keep posting my new finds and you can use my trial and error for your advantage =)

To start you off, I'll explain my product line up on shampoo day, which takes place about once a week (and we always try for Saturday when daddy is home, and so her hair is nice and fresh for church on Sunday.  I will explain my product line up for natural curls (afro) and I'll go into styles in a separate post (this is getting pretty long already, would you agree?).

The Best DC EVER!!!
We start of with a PRE-POO, where I mist down Cocoa's hair with a mixture of water and the CD Tui Oil (just a small squirt in a water bottle and swirl it a little to mix) until damp and then apply some conditioner straight to her hair.  I usually use whichever conditioner I will be washing her hair with...on shampoo days I deep condition afterwards, so I am using CD's Black Vanilla Smoothie.  Usually this step consists of me chasing her around the house with a water bottle and wrangling her into a sitting position while she screams bloody murder to apply the conditioner.  I lightly finger detangle -- focusing on the most matted area, and then leave the rest for the tub when she can't escape {enter maniacal laugh -- buahahaha!!}.  I let that sit in her hair for just a few minutes before I start running the bathwater.  And by "sit", I mean she is running around the house smearing conditioner over every non-washable surface.  (The sad truth.)  The purpose of this step is to keep her ends moisturized while I wash her scalp.  Kinky/curly hair gets dried out VERY easily.  Many curlies opt out of shampooing altogether...haven't quite figured out how that would work yet.  Seems to me you would have a constant product build up...but I haven't researched it all that much either.  When you SHAMPOO black hair you focus on the roots.  You don't suds up all the way to the ends of the hair and pile it on the top of your head like us white mamas do (we all do that...don't we? =).  If you did that their hair would feel like STRAW.  Trust me -- focus on the scalp being clean!  As you rinse the shampoo it will clean the ends as need to lather them!  Most of the time I shampoo I use the CD Hair Milk.  It keeps her hair moisturized...although I won't lie.  I often have to shampoo twice to get all the product out (I might possibly be overdoing the product).  If there's a lot of build-up I use the Purify shampoo.  Before I shampoo I quickly pour some water over her head just to get it fully wet, not to rinse out the conditioner I applied.  After rinsing the shampoo I inspect her scalp to make sure it's nice and clean and feel her ends to make sure there's no build up left.  Then I apply a generous amount of our DC -- DEEP CONDITIONER.  Black Vanilla Smoothie is my preference, but I always have more than one to switch it up every now and then.  With the DC in I use my fingers to detangle her hair.  I used to full on detangle her hair -- wide tooth comb, tangle teezer...all of it!  But she has too much hair now so I save that until post-bath.  I leave it in for 7-10 minutes.  She loooooves bathtime play so there's no argument from her (plus, she's just thankful to get a break from my hands in her hair).

See how HAPPY she is?!?

I use this thingy from Amazon to rinse her hair!
When its time to get Miss out of the bath, I rinse her conditioner.  When you rinse, you want the hair to feel soft and slippery, but not slimey.  Its a fine line because if you over-rinse you are going to have a challenge detangling because you just got rid of all that conditioner.  But if you don't rinse enough, you'll be pouring water over your child's head in the sink.  Hair does NOT look pretty with half-rinsed conditioner!  After rinsing, I lightly squeeze excess moisture out of her curls and I am careful not to rub it with the towel.  When I dry her off, I (again) squeeze out moisture....but apparently they make special towels that don't cause too much friction with curly hair.  May need to invest in one of those eventually...

***I should mention that I find it easier to be in the bath WITH her during the shampoo/detangle period!

Yay -- all done!!! (or so she thinks...DUM DUM DUUUUUM!!!)

Tangle Teezer
Okay now comes the real DETANGLING!  I either sit Cocoa in her bumbo on the bathroom counter facing the mirror or in her bumbo on my styling chair in front of the tv.  Either way, I make sure she has something to distract herself, whether its her toothbrush, a bottle, cartoons, or snacks (and sometimes a combination of those).  Now it's time to get to work.  It's better to detangle the hair when it is wet whether than dry, because if you pull on the hair when it is dry there is a great chance it will break.  Wet hair has more elasticity, so I keep my trusty water bottle (with a little CD Tui Oil in it) next to me to mist down when necessary.  I apply a liberal of Redken Anti-Snap to her hair and start detangling with the wide-tooth comb. Once I get the major knots are out, I switch to the Tangle Teezer and work at it until it glides through easily. Mama's, if you have not heard of the Tangle Teezer yet, you have GOT to get your hands on one!!!!  It's a miracle brush!!!  I use it in my hair as detangles WAY faster and you lose less hair.  AMAZING!!!  Pictured on the left is the one we use and THIS is where you can find it.

Curly Q Custard
Once she is fully de- tangled, I apply an MOIST- URIZING OILto her hair.  On shampoo day I tend to like CD Hair Balm because it's nice and thick (need to warm it up in your hands to liquify it) and creates that shine that keeps on lasting! But with daily use I found it caused build-up in M's hair.  Now if you had a kinkier hair type you are dealing with -- it might be great for daily use!  Like I said...this is what works for US!  After the oil, it's time for the STYLING CREME.  I mix a little Curly Q Custard and CD Hair Milk in my hands (this is my "hair cocktail" for those of you wondering) and apply that to her locks, focusing on her fuzziest areas first (like her hairline, and the nape).  Once it is evenly distributed I begin forming her 'fro the way I want it that day and twist little sections around my fingers to create some thicker coils within the 'fro.  But our BIGGEST and BEST afro happens when we take some time and pop a few puffs in her hair with loosely banded scrunchies and let it dry part of the way.  This helps to loosen up her curl (shrinkage is real, ya'll!).  When her hair still feels damp but not soaked, we pull the scrunchies out and fluff!  Again, I twist little sections around my fingers, with a little curl creme on them if needed.  When it's all said and done, I spritz a little CD Tui Hair Sheen over it all and we're good to go!!!

A little Ethiopian attitude to SPARE!
Divaesque...I know!

Shine Spray -- my go-to refresher! is styled, that's that, right?!  WRONG!  It may take some refreshing during the day, especially if you have a napper on your hands.  Sometimes all I have time for is misting it with my water/oil misture, or maybe a little shine spray and scrunch it with my fingers.  Some days she naps harder than others and her curls are smashed to her scalp...then I need to mist and add in a little more creme.  Regardless of what you choose to do for "touch-ups", at the very least please make sure their hair is moisturized.  If you remember while we were talking about elasticity during detangling....dry hair breaks easier??  If your child's hair is looking and feeling dry and they are tumbling on the carpet, or throwing blankets over their head, or rough housing with their siblings -- the friction COULD cause breakage.  Why risk that, right?  Take care of those beautiful curls and keep them MOISTURIZED!!!

Morning hair....which we LOVE!! =)  But needs some moisture, for sure!

Bedtime is a biggie here.  The only time I ever just mist her and put her down is when I know we are washing the next day.  But even then I cringe doing so.  I wet her down (not soaking or anything, just damp) and apply some oil (like CD Tui or Mimosa Curl Elixer) and put her hair in a few puffs or twists.  And YES -- this girl wear's a silk sleep cap.  EVERY night, EVERY nap, no exceptions.  Yes, she pulls it off sometimes, but we also have a silk pillow case over her pillow.  Yep -- my daughter sleeps with a pillow...and while we're at it, she also has crib bumpers and I swaddle her and throw another fleece blanket on top of her!  Breaking ALL the rules now!  But you know what??  Our social worker AND pediatrician both know about it and still allow me to parent her.  So deal with it!  =)  We've come a loooooong way from a blanket over the face at HH!

Contortionist, right?!?  ;)

So sleeping cap....we love our silk one we got from Pretty AnntoiNet's Silk Hair Lingerie.  We have the pink one and the purple one and yes, they are breathable!  Shoved one straight over my nose and mouth to make sure.  We love that it has encased elastic (so that the elastic doesn't rub against their fragile hair) AND a ribbon tie so that I can make it fit my toddler's head.  I double knotted the bow to keep it to the tightness I want and also so she can't pull the bow apart day after day after day.  They are pretty stinkin' cute if I may say so myself!  I think I might even pick one up for myself!!!

So that is pretty much Cocoa's hair routine.  I do about a week of natural hair and then I do some fun styles the next week to keep switching it up.  More than one week of an afro style makes for some pretty dry and matted hair so for US it is essential to do some protective styles at least every other week.  Less kinky textures might be able to let loose a little more, I'm not sure.  For the rest of the week, I touch up her hair each morning.  I start by picking out all the fuzzies that inevitably make their way into those curls and then misting with water/oil mix.  I apply leave in conditioner and finger detangle (more so then when you are refreshing a style after a nap, but not quite as thorough as I would do in the bath, make sense?).  I then use the custard/hair milk cocktail, applied liberally to the hairline and nape and then distribute through the rest of her hair and mist shine spray!  Every few days we'll wet her down for a CO-WASH (conditioner only wash) in the bath and fully detangle.  When hair gets matted it starts locing so you want to be sure to stay on top of detangling!  I would rather do too much and risk a little frizz than too little and risk locs....but maybe that's just me ;)

NOW -- are there any products out there I have tried that I DON"T like??  Certainly.  In fact, I currently still have the Curls Peek-a-boo shampoo, but I really don't like it.  I was kind of using it up just because I hate to waste product, but I've given up.  My biggest complaint?  It doesn't rinse out easily.  No matter WHAT I do there are suds left, and I was feeling frustrated.  I think the reason it wouldn't rinse out easily is because it was designed for baby locks.  Within two months of Cocoa coming home, you could no longer see her scalp (as you can in the picture of when we first met her).  She had a THICK head of curls!  I had no issues when she first came I have a hard time knowing if it was because her hair changed, or because my preference changed....or maybe something else?!  In fact the whole baby line from wasn't my favorite.  But I used it because I had it and spent money on it.  That's kind of how I roll!  I HATE to waste stuff, so I just mix it with other stuff and MAKE it work.

Let me think -- I know there are others!  OH!  The CD Black Vanilla Leave-In isn't my favorite.  Maybe it's just too watery of a leave-in for me....but I didn't feel like it softened her hair OR made it easier to detangle. So that's why I tend to stick with the Redken Anti-Snap.

The CD Loc Butter has an awful my humble opinion.  But apparently some out there LOVE it.  I thankfully didn't purchase it, I just sampled it at Sephora (if you are feeling hesitant -- visit your local Sephora and ask for SAMPLES!!!  They give them out like candy, they are GREAT!).

The Curly Q Custard on it's own doesn't do much for curl definition, but I love that it elongates the curls and adds sheen.  Whereas the CD Hair Milk is a GREAT curl booster, but not very shiny....that's why they are my perfect hair cocktail!!!  What one is lacking I add from the other!!!  So mix and play with your products!  Before I found the Curly Q Custard, I was adding Mimosa Curly Q Elixer to the Hair Milk and that worked pretty well too!

The CD Tui Moisturizing Oil is a GREAT product -- you can see I add it to my water for a great spritzer.  But on it's own it's not quite enough for Cocoa's hair.  I prefer the texture of the Mimosa Curly Q dunno GLIDES more?!?

And to add to the products I DO like....I tried the CD Kids line....don't even remember what it was called but it was Princess and the Frog themed packaging -- SOOO CUTE!  But I'm pretty sure they discontinued it because it's not even on their site.  Sephora never carried it and that's why I didn't continue using it in the first place.  I also tried a Moroccan Oil Leave-In that was GREAT but I guess I just forgot about it until now!!  May need to go pick some up!  The CD Black Vanilla Shampoo was also awesome.  I grabbed a sample of that one and the Hair Milk Shampoo to decide which would be better.....the hair milk felt just a little more moisturizing in Cocoa's hair.  But try them out and see for yourself!

PHEW!!!  You exhausted???  I am!!!  But then again, I just spent HOURS putting this together.  Seriously. I have never gone into this much detail before.  Part 2 will come soon -- protective styles and such...but that will be much shorter, I think...  Sometimes once I get going on the subject of hair, I just can't stop!

PLEASE mama's....don't be overwhelmed!  I know this is a lot of information, just take it one step at a time...and know I am here for you!!!  I want to open myself up to questions, comments, emails...even maybe something I missed!!  You name it -- don't be shy!  Why?!?  Because part 2 is coming and I want to answer your questions as much as possible.  I'm not claiming I'll have all the answers...but I will at least try to point you to someone who does.  Knowledge is power!!  Whatever you do -- DON'T give up on your child's hair!  Whether you want to believe it or not, it is an important part of their identity.  And if you can't do it, ask for help!  And don't forget to tell them how BEAUTIFUL their curls are!!!

I will leave you with some links to my favorite black hair resources, and please be sure to share your faves with me as well!  Good luck ya'll!!!!  Let's keep learning TOGETHER!!!



Sarah said...

The way poo-less works is if you are only using products with water-soluble ingredients. Which means, no silicones! If you aren't using silicone based products then they can be washed out with water alone. That is how poo-less works. :-)

Alison said...

I LOVE this post!!! I can't wait to look back at it when Caroline Faith gets home and we know what type hair she has! :) Lots of helpful info! I am sure that I will have LOTS of questions! :) And thanks for your sweet encouragement the other day! It means so much! :)

Erin said...

Great post! We have two Ethiopian daughters that have been home for four months. I have to say, I was nervous about the hair. But, I've found it easier than I thought and fun! My girls curl pattern is pretty similar to yours and I have an entire cupboard of products!! Still finding my favs. :). Excited to try some of your favorites. My favorite right now is kinky curly knot today detangler.

Elena said...

Thanks for sharing! This is very valuable information. I've spent tons of money on hair products since I went natural/relaxer-free in 2010. My daughter (who has never had chemicals in her hair, thank GOD) and I have different hair types so we often need different products. It can get really expensive, as you know. I, too, often visit Sephora to samples products before buying them.

Sacha♥ said...

oh my god, she has grow up so fast... she is so gorgeous xoxo

Kimberly said...

OK - where's part 2??? :) I'm pretty sure our girl has a similar hair type to yours. And now that's almost 10 months (seriously - already????) I'm thinking about hair styles now! :)